LSD Study Spotlights Decades-Old Research On Hallucinogen For Drinking, Mental Illness (VIDEO)
Talk about flashbacks. New research suggests that LSD -- a mind-altering drug known to cause recurrent hallucinations -- may find new popularity not as a recreational drug but as a treatment for alcoholism.
In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers affiliated with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Harvard University looked at the results of six studies of LSD, conducted between 1966 and 1970, that were largely overlooked when they were first published. The researchers found "evidence for a clear and consistent beneficial effect of LSD for treating alcohol dependency," according to a written statement released by the journal's publisher.
Three views of the LSD molecule.
And sobering up wasn't the only apparent benefit of LSD the vintage research showed, according to the statement. As the author of one of the studies wrote at the time, "It was not unusual for patients following their LSD experience to become much more self-accepting, to show greater openness and accessibility, and to adopt a more positive, optimistic view of their capacities to face future problems."
Maybe that's not surprising, given how LSD works. By affecting so-called "serotonin receptors" in the brain, the drug is known to alter imagination and perception. And if you want to know what that feels like, take a look at the black-and-white footage above -- purportedly shot in Los Angeles in 1956 -- in which a woman recounts her own acid trip.
"I've never seen such infinite beauty in my life," she says in the video. "It's like a curtain or a spider web. Can you see it? Everything is so beautiful and lovely and alive."
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Caffeine For Imprisoned Twins
In the late 18th century, King Gustavus III of Sweden was rumored to have carried out a strange experiment to determine the harmful health effects of coffee. Two identical twins who had been condemned to death had their sentences commuted to life in prison on the condition that one would drink three pots of coffee per day, and the other three pots of tea, for the rest of their lives. The only problem was that the doctors assigned to monitor the cases died before either of the patients did, their observations lost--as the story goes, the tea drinker died first, and there's no record of the coffee-drinker's death. The experiment proved nothing, suffering from a lack of rigor (to say the least). Source: Uppsala University, "Coffee - rat poison or miracle medicine?"
Simulated Anthrax On The Subway
In June 1966, the U.S. Army's Special Operations Division secretly dispersed harmless bacteria in the New York Subway system to model the effects of an outbreak of more harmful germs. According to Army reports, "Test results show that a large portion of the working population of New York City would be exposed to disease if one or more pathogenic agents were disseminated covertly in several subway lines at a period of peak traffic." Source: Deadly Cultures: Biological Warfare Since 1945. Wheelis, Rózsa, and Dando. Harvard University Press, 2006.
Weaponized Fleas In The Desert
Operation Big Itch, 1954, was an attempt to discover the potential of weaponized fleas. The operation, part of the Cold War-era United States biological weapons program, took place at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. According to "Using the flea as weapon," an article in the Army Chemical Review, "In the United States, the plague flea concept was competing against the use of mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and lice. Of these concepts, the United States put most of its energies behind weaponizing yellow fever in combination with the Aedes aegypti mosquito."
Food Through A Hole In The Stomach
U.S. Army Surgeon William Beaumont (above) found an extraordinary patient in Alexis St. Martin, a Canadian trapper who was injured in a hunting accident and left with a hole in his belly that led directly into his stomach. Beaumont attached a string to various foods, including oysters and rare roast beef, and introduced them into the wound to observe the rates of digestion. Despite the unorthodox techniques, this research would later lead to the discovery of the importance of stomach acid in digestion, earning Beaumont the epithet "father of gastric physiology." Source: Experiments and observations on the gastric juice, and the physiology of digestion. Beaumont, Martin and Combe. Maclachlan & Stewart, 1838
Candy For Mental Patients
In 1945, Sweden's new National Dental Service commissioned research, now known as the Vipeholm experiments, in which researchers gave subjects large amounts of sticky sugary candy in order to study the development of cavities. This might not have been so controversial, except that the subjects couldn't give consent to their participation: "The use of mentally handicapped subjects was criticized in the Swedish press and all studies on mentally handicapped individuals were stopped in 1954," according to Topics In Dental Biochemistry by Mark Levine (Springer, 2010).