Stories of nightmarish acid flashbacks and a lifetime of frazzled synapses are false, according to a report from Norwegian researchers, who argue that LSD may even be beneficial to people.
Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim said that there were no significant links between the use of LSD, or any other psychedelic in the past 12 months, and increased rates of mental health illnesses. They added that in a number of cases, psychedelic use was linked with a decreased rate of mental health issues.
The pair analysed data on more than 130,000 people from the US who completed surveys on drug usage between 2001 and 2004, 22,000 of whom admitted to taking a psychedelic substance at least on one occasion.
Johansen said that despite common perceptions, harm assessments have revealed that psychedelic substances like LSD, mescaline and psilocybin are not likely to cause serious mental health problems.
Krebs acknowledged that everything involves an element of risk – for example, psychedelics can cause temporary feelings of confusion and anxiety – but pointed out that accidents resulting in serious injury are very rare. She noted that over that past half a century, millions of people have taken psychedelics and there is very little evidence of long-term problems.
Johansen said earlier studies that showed psychedelic drugs could affect mental health were based on case reports from users who were already mentally sick. He pointed out that both psychedelic use and mental illnesses are common in society so there is obviously going to be many chance associations.
The two researchers published a study last year showing that one dose of LSD could be effective in treating alcoholism.