We currently find few studies that assess changes in psychological variables after first use of psychedelics. This is due, among other things, to the fact that it is extremely difficult to find people who will start using drugs.
In general, the samples used already have a lot of experience or, if not, are carefully selected, ensuring the total and absolute absence of any psychopathological trait, Thus decreasing the external validity of the results. In other words, the possibility of extrapolating the results to the whole population.
With the aim of obtaining information on these first consumptions, the psychologist Genís Oña, researcher at the Center for Research in Medical Anthropology of the University Rovira i Virgili and the recently deceased psychologist Joan Spuch, launched a research project in mid -2014. The preliminary results of this project were presented at the International Breaking Convention, held at the University of Greenwich, London.
In context: the therapeutic potential of psychedelics
Recently, psychedelic drugs such as LSD or psilocybin have been featured in many journal or popular articles, in which possible therapeutic applications are discussed.
And it is that after several decades of prohibition during which all attempts at scientific research were ipso facto canceled, laboratories, hospitals and universities around the world are carrying out new studies on these substances. with the aim of developing new pharmacological therapies.
Despite this prolonged “scientific vacuum”, many users have turned to these substances and continue to turn to them for medical reasons. Few consumers have noticed beneficial effects, often unexpected. about their anxiety, mood or illness like grape headaches after using psychedelic drugs. Due to the needs of these patients and so many others likely to improve their situation, institutions as important as Scientific American or the British Journal of Psychiatry, have launched in recent years express requests to reactivate this “psychedelic research”.
Until now, some were already known therapeutic potential of some of these substancesHowever, new studies have emerged that have raised new questions. The first is, for example, what happens when a person who has never taken this type of drug has their first use? We could easily return to this situation in the future should these treatments be approved, as many potential patients would never have tried these drugs, and we need to know exactly what the effects of this first contact are.
How the research on the effects of LSD has been conducted
In their study, Genís Oña and Juan Spuch managed to bring together 9 young students who matched the desired profile: they had no previous experience of using psychedelic drugs and planned to use LSD in the near future.
“The aim was to respect the natural course of the situation at all times,” explains Genís. “We did not want to change the context of consumption consider administering the substance in a hospital, as in other clinical trials. We wanted to see what is really going on, in real situations. Something that is halfway between pragmatic essays or ethnographic methodology. “
Variables included in the study were levels of anxiety, depression, a measure of general psychopathology, personality profile, and level of life satisfaction. These were analyzed with standardized tests.
These dimensions were assessed approximately one week before consumption. and 30 days after this consumption. A follow-up was also carried out at three months to verify the stability over time of possible changes. In addition, a control group that did not consume LSD was used and in which the same tests were administered.
The effects of this medication on early consumption
The first results indicated clear differences in the baseline levels of some variables between the two groups. Apparently the group who planned to use LSD were more depressed, with more presence of psychopathological traits such as obsessions, Compulsions or psychoticism, and with less satisfaction in life compared to the control group.
This changed after consumption. The data obtained during the retest showed a significant decrease, not only in those variables in which they differed from the control group, but also in others, such as level of anxiety, neuroticism, hostility or somatization. In this way, no significant difference could be found between the two groups in any variable and in the experimental group a significant overall improvement was observed after the experiment.
Information obtained from the three-month follow-up suggests some stability of these changes, as they can still be significantly observed in terms of baseline levels. Likewise, no significant difference was found between the two groups.
The Beneficial Potential of LSD
Does this mean that a first intake of LSD can be beneficial? It’s possible. However, we must keep in mind the limitations of the study and be careful in interpreting its results.
First, the sample was relatively small, and furthermore, there was poor control for strange variables that cannot be controlled outside of a clinical trial. Second, the effect of the psychedelic experience can be interpreted as a deeply positive experience, because for all subjects who used LSD, it represented a unique and irreplaceable experience. In reality, more than half of them considered it one of the best experiences of their life. “Maybe this effect,” says Genís Oña, “is comparable to other deeply positive experiences that we only have very occasionally, such as traveling to a far country or spending a day at an amusement park.”
Either way, these results look the same legitimize scientific research on the therapeutic potential of these substancesBecause if we can observe these beneficial effects without any psychotherapeutic context, the potential of these substances in an appropriate context seems very promising.
Many details of the study had to be overlooked due to its complexity, but the full article published in the Journal of Transpersonal Research can be viewed.