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SMP Spotlight: Therapeutic Use of LSD

In popular culture, LSD is often associated with “hippies,” music festivals and recreational use. However, some studies suggest that it has high potential for therapeutic use. Avery Sprinkle, a senior at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is currently working with Professor of Psychology Gina Fernandez on her St. Mary’s Project (SMP) about using LSD in therapy. Her focus is on researching data that supports its efficacy in treating mental illnesses, as well as the need to reschedule the drug in order to allow for more research on it.

Sprinkle currently is working on the literature review portion of her SMP, which involves examining studies on the topic to gather support for her cause. She describes many different mental illnesses and problems that LSD shows promise for, such as “addiction, acceptance of death, depression, autism and anxiety.”  She also states that the benefits of “even just small administrations last a long time for a lot of people,” especially helping people with openness. It “allows you to think about God and your place in the world” which helps with reducing anxiety.

She emphasizes the importance of not trying to self-medicate with LSD, stating that “it can be very dangerous outside of a therapeutic setting” because there is a risk for having a bad trip. However, if something starts to go wrong in therapy, “with the help of a counselor, they can set them back on track” by helping redirect negative thoughts. Sprinkle stated as an example that for somebody who is suffering from depression, taking LSD while talking about their concerns can cause “some hallucination or ‘happy thing’ to think about, so they have a positive association.”

Music is also being incorporated in research on therapeutic use of LSD. Sprinkle explains that in this situation, the therapist will have a client take LSD, put them in a room with relaxing music, and “just the music being present is enough to cause change” both short-term and long-term.

LSD is currently a Schedule 1 drug, making it difficult for researchers to obtain it and use it for studies. Drugs classified under Schedule 1 are considered highly dangerous with no medicinal value and high potential for abuse and dependence. However, there is emerging evidence to support the therapeutic potential for LSD and not much evidence on people developing dependence on it, and “they’re working on establishing a medical use for it”.

Sprinkle plans to create a proposal to the Drug Enforcement Agency about changing LSD from a Schedule 1 drug to Schedule 2 or 3. This would create more opportunities for formulating possible ways of incorporating it into therapy in the future by allowing easier access for researchers to study it, which is important because being a schedule 1 drug makes it “really expensive [and] hard to get grants”. She states that “the fact that marijuana and LSD are on the same schedule as heroin is unacceptable.” Sprinkle plans to finish her SMP next fall.

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