Woodstock researchers studying treatment of anxiety with LSD

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 5:20 PM EDT
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WOODSTOCK, Vt. (WCAX) - A national study is underway researching the possible positive effects that LSD could have on those suffering from anxiety.

People often associate LSD with the counterculture “hippie” movement of the 1960s. Now, the illegal psychodelic drug is being studied more closely for its beneficial impact on mental illness. The Woodstock Research Center is one of 20 sites around country taking part in the latest study sponsored by the Biotech company MindMed.

“This is our first psychedelic study,” said Brenda Balenger at the Woodstock Research Center.

Participants are monitored in a room at the center for 12 hours at a time. They all have generalized anxiety disorder and are given various doses of LSD or a placebo with no drugs at all. “We have puzzles games books art music journaling,” Balenger said. The goal is to find out how, if at all, LSD eases people’s anxiety and for how long.

More than 5% of adults in the United States will experience generalized anxiety disorder at some time in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health. Researchers say those struggling with mental disorders don’t always respond to traditional medications and psychedelic drugs could fill that void.

“They do potentially have therapeutic value which is what we are trying to investigate and see if that is true. And secondly, it appears there is no addicted quality to them,” Balenger said.

“There is a lot of research that is looking how the psychedelics actually can help us learn about consciousness,” said Dr. Susan Smiga. a psychiatrist who oversees all studies at the center. She says anxiety can be debilitating. “They either have a lot of physical tension because they hold the anxiety in their body, or they have functional impairments. They are calling out sick from work all the time. Because they are so anxious.”

She says LSD opens up different pathways and connections in the brain and if administered at the correct dose in a safe setting, it could lead to long-term success for a person’s state of mind. “It isn’t just treating the symptoms but it is really re-wiring the brain that will alter the presence of the disorder or the way in which the individual experiences the symptoms of the disorder,” she said.

The center is looking for more people to take part in the study, but there are strict guidelines and qualifications before an individual is accepted.

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