Laura Willison has to deal with her anxiety every day. She says she gets worried about everything constantly, and thinks anything bad that can happen will happen. She goes to Ontario Shores, a center for mental heath sciences, and sees a personal service worker every two weeks. For a while, she depended on counseling to help her cope with her anxiety, but a couple of months back she saw a psychiatrist who wrote her a prescription for Lorazepam.
“I try not to take them, because they’re narcotics,” said Willison.
Lorazepam is a Benzodiazephine, which is widely known to treat anxiety and stress. For people like Willison who are dealing with anxiety on a regular basis, this option is a temporary fix to a problem she constantly deals with.
In California, scientists are looking for an alternative to prescription drugs, and they think they’ve found it in LSD. A small sample of cancer patients took LSD as treatment for anxiety, and the doctors noticed a “positive linear result.” Brad Burge, the Director of Communications and Marketing for MAPS, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic studies says it’s about time for LSD, which is better known as a recreational hallucinogen, to be reconsidered for testing to treat anxiety.
“Generally we associate serotonin with attention and awareness and memory, a lot of conscious process that we’re not always aware of,” said Burge. “LSD mimics serotonin very closely, it looks a lot like the serotonin molecules and it activates serotonin receptors very strongly.”
The test subjects were given 200 micrograms of LSD, which is 200 thousandths of a gram. According to Burge, the general effects that LSD causes dramatic alterations to awareness and concepts which he says can help people change their relationship with the anxiety associated with dying.
The LSD was taken as a double blind test, meaning neither the subject or the therapist knew who was given a placebo and who was given the actual dose.
“There’s a lot of challenges conducting this kind of double blind test with LSD because it’s very obvious who has taken the drug,” said Burge. “There was a difference between the people who received LSD and those that didn’t.”
After two months there was a noticeable decrease in anxiety with the cancer patients that took the drug.
LSD was tested as a form of therapy in the 1950s and 1960s. Research was stopped in the 1970s because the drug was made illegal in 1966 because more people were using it for non-medical purposes, but the results showed that the drug helped patients cope with anxiety. Now more than 40 years later, scientists at MAPS are trying to open up discussion again by proving this method is still viable.
Ashley DaPonte, a 23-year old retail worker, says she deals with sporadic occurrences of anxiety, and even though its not because of a life threatening disease, it still affects her life.
“Some days it doesn’t, but some days like today I go to work and push through and then I get home close my door and start bawling,” said DaPonte.
She’s never gone to see a doctor or received medication to deal with this.
“No, it’s pointless. Every situation is dealt with differently and there’s no cure all drug and I don’t feel like being a guinea pig,” said DaPonte about the LSD testing. “It wouldn’t help me but I’m sure it helps some people.”