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LSD Use is Safe in Healthy Adults, Review Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Sep 22, 2021   
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A single dose of LSD is safe for healthy subjects in a controlled clinical setting, according to a new review of clinical trials.

Published in Psychopharmacology, the review looked at four double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled LSD trials. In total, these trials involved 83 healthy subjects, 131 single doses of LSD, and were all conducted over the past ten years at the University Hospital Basel.

After reviewing the studies, the researchers from the University of Basel concluded that LSD caused no acute psychological or physical harm to the participants.

LSD up close

As a psychedelic drug, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is commonly associated with recreational use. But a recent area of research has tested the compound’s suitability as a tool for psychotherapy.

In light of this new focus, the four trials at the University of Basel were primarily designed to assess the safety of single doses of LSD in healthy subjects. These doses ranged from 50 to 200 µg of LSD depending on the trial.

The subjective effects of the drug (good/bad experience, anxiety, etc.) were recorded along with measurements of blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and liver and kidney functions.

The researchers found that LSD produced good drug effects in most participants. Over 70 percent of participants in this pooled analysis reported overall positive experiences; only 8 percent were disappointed by the effects of LSD or had bad experiences.

Any recorded elevations of blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature were also moderate at all doses of LSD, leading the researchers to infer that the drug has only a mild cardio-stimulant effects in healthy subjects.

“Single-dose administrations of LSD up to 200 µg were safe in regard to acute psychological and physical harm in healthy subjects in a controlled clinical setting,” the authors of the review wrote in their conclusion.

“Acute subjective effects were predominantly positive, but transient anxiety, fear, and bad drug effects occurred. These safety data do not raise any concerns about single infrequent LSD administration in a controlled clinical setting. However, risks and benefits of using LSD in a therapeutic setting need further study.”

LSD research

There are currently over 60 unique LSD-related clinical trials listed in the US National Library of Medicine database, investigating the general action of LSD in the brain and the drug’s effects on conditions including depression, anxiety, and cluster headaches.

recent literature review of randomized-controlled clinical trials for LSD concluded that the compound does have the therapeutic potential “to reduce psychiatric symptomatology, mainly in alcoholism.”

One particularly new area of research at the moment is on the effectiveness of LSD microdosing – the practice of taking very low amounts of LSD to boost creativity and mood without triggering a full-on hallucinogenic trip. Earlier this year, researchers from Imperial College London published a paper in the journal eLife which cast doubt on this practice, concluding that many of the positive changes in wellbeing experienced by those who microdose might actually be explained by the placebo effect.

“There are many people that attest to the positive outcomes of the microdosing treatment period. But these reports, of course, are anecdotal. And the solid scientific evidence to support these anecdotal reports has been missing for a long time,” Johannes Ramaekers, a professor at Maastricht University – who was not involved in the eLife study – told Analytical Cannabis’ sister publication Technology Networks in 2019.


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