Before being outlawed as a drug of abuse in the United States, psychiatrists had been investigating the use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) as an aid to psychological therapy.
Back in 1966, for instance, three psychiatrists from the New Jersey Bureau of Research in Neurology and Psychiatry in Princeton conducted a study to investigate the effectiveness of LSD-assisted therapy in the treatment of alcoholism.
The psychiatrists who conducted this study were Mary Sarett, Frances Cheek, and Humphry Osmond.
By the time Sarett and her colleagues conducted this study the use of LSD for the treatment of alcoholism had already been studied for over ten years, but questions remained about the long-term potential of such treatments.
Since there had already been a large amount of information collected from those who had themselves received LSD-assisted treatment, Sarett and her colleagues investigated how much the wives of men who had received treatment thought their husbands had changed.
“It seemed important to us to find out what kinds of changes these ladies perceived in their husbands,” Sarett and her colleagues explained, “whether they felt that they had also changed in response, and what problems, if any, they felt had emerged as a result of the treatment.”
In their study, Sarett and her colleagues interviewed 15 wives of men who had received LSD-assisted treatment and compared them to 11 wives of men who had received non-LSD-assisted treatment for their alcohol problems. All of the interviews occurred six months after the husbands’ finished their treatment.
Both groups of women reported improvements in their husbands behaviors.
“In every area, however, the LSD husbands were seen to improve markedly more than those in the comparison group.”
For those who received LSD-assisted treatment, “over 60% were rated not only more responsible, truthful, dependable, and less wasting of money, but as more talkative and understanding, less critical of others, less resentful, changeable, or moody, as well as more accepting of themselves.”
The group of husbands who received non-LSD-assisted therapy, on the other hand, mainly showed a decline in negative traits. They were reported by their wives to be “more tolerant, and less easily hurt, dissatisfied, critical of others, hostile, quarrelsome, and discouraged” after receiving treatment for their alcoholism.
Both groups of wives reported that the initial effects of the treatment their husbands received greatly diminished after a period of six months, suggesting that the improvements from both types of therapy were temporary. However, “at the six-month follow-up the LSD husbands still showed a marked advantage over the comparison group husbands,” according to Sarett and her colleagues.
Furthermore, although twelve of the 15 wives who had husbands who received LSD-assisted therapy reported no negative changes in their husbands, three of the wives did report negative changes in their husband. One husband is reported to have become more depressed and irritable, another is reported by his wife to have become more remote, and the third, who was the only husband in the study to remain sober for six months, is reported to have become withdrawn from his wife and uncommunicative.
Sarett, M., Cheek, F. & Osmond, H. (1966). Reports of wives of alcoholics of effects of LSD-25 treatment of their husbands. Archives of General Psychiatry, Vol 14, No 2: 171-178.