LSD was federally prohibited in the United States in 1968 after becoming a recreational drug.
The study was conducted by Betty Grover Eisner and Sidney Cohen, both psychiatrists from the Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Los Angeles.
In their study, Eisner and Cohen administered LSD to twenty-two patients weekly for an average of four or five weeks, although some patients received as many as sixteen LSD sessions. These patients were diagnosed with a variety of mental disorders, including neurotic depression, anxiety disorders, and borderline schizophrenia.
As Eisner and Cohen explain, after being administered LSD, their patients received psychodynamic psychotherapy while laying or sitting in a comfortable room for six to eight hours.
“During most of this time the patient lay on a couch in a pleasant room with the therapist constantly in attendance. Lunch was available if the patient became hungry. Records were played initially to aid in relaxation. After repeated observations that music seemed to potentiate the drug action, it was used when there was no verbal exchange.”
Besides music, Eisner and Cohen found that a number of other objects seemed to become useful therapeutic tools during the LSD session.
“A mirror was helpful when difficult problems of self identification were being considered. Not infrequently the patient projected his unconscious concept of himself onto the reflection in the mirror. Family photographs, especially of spouse, parents and siblings, enabled the subject to externalize associated conflicts and to re-experience repressed events with such vividness and force that they were repeatedly described as being relived.”
Of the twenty-two patients that received LSD assisted psychotherapy, Eisner and Cohen report that sixteen showed improvements after a six to seventeen week follow-up.
They believe LSD assisted psychotherapy can be beneficial because of the symbolic nature of the experience. As they note, LSD seems to “aid in the abreaction of traumatic events, whether suppressed or repressed” and that “the ability of the patient to follow his own associations along with the interpretations of the therapist permits a dramatic opportunity to trace a problem to its origin.”
Eisner, B.G. & Cohen, S. (1958). Psychotherapy with lysergic acid diethylamide. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol 127: 528-539.