LSD Shows Promise as Treatment for Psychiatric Conditions

Microdoses of LSD could treat conditions such as autism and anxiety.
Fabienne Lang

In a first, scientists have discovered that taking microdoses of LSD could increase social interaction in people with certain psychiatric conditions. The study has the potential to open up avenues for treatments of conditions such as autism, anxiety, as well as drinking disorders. 

The study was run by McGill University researchers, and it was published in the journal PNAS.

From popular psychedelic to medical drug

LSD, officially called lysergic acid diethylamide, is a psychedelic drug that grew in popularity in the 1970s. Lately, young professionals have reportedly been taking the drug in microdoses to boost productivity, empathy, and creativity. But how LSD works on the brain hasn't been fully looked into, until now. 

The McGill University team carried out tests on mice who were given a low dose of LSD over a week, ultimately noticing the mice became more social as the week went on. As Danilo De Gregorio, a postdoctoral fellow in the Neurobiological Psychiatry Unit at McGill, said, this is due to three factors: serotonin receptors and AMPA receptors are triggered in the brain, as is a cellular protein in the prefrontal cortex, mTORC 1.

These three factors led to high social interaction in mice, which De Gregorio explained was the equivalent of higher empathy levels and social behavior in humans.

The researchers pointed out that the novelty of their study is the fact that it describes the underlying behavioral effects of LSD that lead to empathy and social interaction, at least in mice. 

The team's next steps are to see what effects microdoses of LSD create in mutant mice that have behavioral challenges similar to the ones humans face, such as autism and anxiety. 

Psychedelics are being looked into as a possible method for treating or reducing other psychiatric and psychological conditions such as depression. And the goal of the McGill researchers is to ultimately find and develop treatments for more of these conditions.

Update: A previous version of this article referred to mental health conditions as "diseases." Such terms are subjective and do not align with our editorial policy. This word has been updated throughout. IE regrets this error. 

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