LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with a life-threatening disease: a qualitative study of acute and sustained subjective effects

This follow-up study (n=10) found long-term (12-month) positive outcomes from a single high-dose of LSD (200 μg) in combination with psychotherapy. The positive effects included reduced anxiety and a higher quality of life.

Abstract

Objective: A recently published study showed the safety and efficacy of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in patients with anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. Participants of this study were included in a prospective follow-up.

Method: 12 months after finishing LSD psychotherapy, 10 participants were tested for anxiety (STAI) and participated in a semi-structured interview. A Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA) was carried out on the interviews to elaborate about LSD effects and lasting psychological changes.

Results: None of the participants reported lasting adverse reactions. The significant benefits as measured with the STAI were sustained over a 12-month period. In the QCA participants consistently reported insightful, cathartic and interpersonal experiences, accompanied by a reduction in anxiety (77.8%) and a rise in quality of life (66.7%). Evaluations of subjective experiences suggest facilitated access to emotions, confrontation of previously unknown anxieties, worries, resources and intense emotional peak experiences à la Maslow as major psychological working mechanisms. The experiences created led to a restructuring of the person’s emotional trust, situational understanding, habits and world view.

Conclusions: LSD administered in a medically supervised psychotherapeutic setting can be safe and generate lasting benefits in patients with a life-threatening disease. Explanatory models for the therapeutic effects of LSD warrant further study.”

Authors: Peter Gasser, Katharina Kirchner & Torsten Passie

Notes

This is a follow-up to Gasser et al. (2014).

This paper is included in the meta-analytical review by Galvão-Coelho and colleagues (2021) that found psychedelics to improve mood (for those with mood disorders) both in the short and long-term (up to 60 days).

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