Although most people associated LSD with the hippie counterculture of the 1960’s, before it was outlawed psychiatrists had been studying the use of LSD for the treatment of various mental problems.
In one such study, R. Denson and D. Sydiaha of the University of Saskatchewan conducted a controlled experiment to investigate the effectiveness of LSD for the treatment of alcoholism and a variety of other mental disorders.
The study was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 1970.
In their study, Denson and Sydiaha recruited 51 patients that were diagnosed with either alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive reaction, anxiety state, phobia, hysteria, character disorder, psychoneurosis with somatic symptoms, or sexual neurosis.
Most of these diagnoses are no longer included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or have been replaced by newer diagnoses.
All of the patients received standard treatment, but half of these patients were randomly assigned to a control group that did not receive any LSD. The other half of the patients received “a total of 79 LSD experiences” as part of their treatment.
“The only area in which positive results were obtained was in a question related to general health,” as Denson and Sydiaha explained.
Those who did not receive LSD along with their psychiatric treatment were less likely to report having good health than those who did receive LSD.
Although Denson and Sydiaha were unable to find any significant differences between the control group and the group receiving LSD, except the one difference mentioned, this may be due to the methodological limitations of their study.
For instance, in their study there were a large proportion of patients who “did not keep their test appointments or failed to return the self-rating forms.” As Denson and Sydiaha note, at the completion of their study, there were only 16 patients in the control group and 13 in the LSD treatment group.
In addition, the inclusion of a variety of mental disorders in both the LSD treatment group and the control group may have made it difficult to truly examine the effectiveness of LSD, especially in a small group of patients.
Denson, R. & Sydiaha, D. (1970). A controlled study of LSD treatment in alcoholism and neurosis. British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 116: 443-445.