The rise—and fall—of research into the therapeutic potential of LSD.
After LSD arrived in the United States in 1949, the drug's therapeutic promise quickly captured the interests of psychiatrists. In the decade that followed, modern psychopharmacology was born and research into the drug's perceptual and psychological effects boomed. By the early 1960s, psychiatrists focused on a particularly promising treatment known as psychedelic therapy: a single, carefully guided, high-dose LSD session coupled with brief but intensive psychotherapy. Researchers reported an astounding 50 percent success rate in treating chronic alcoholism, as well as substantial improvement in patients suffering from a range of other disorders. Yet despite this success, LSD officially remained an experimental drug only. Research into its effects, psychological and otherwise, dwindled before coming to a close in the 1970s.
In The Trials of Psychedelic Therapy, Matthew Oram traces the early promise and eventual demise of LSD psychotherapy in the United States. While the common perception is that LSD's prohibition terminated legitimate research, Oram draws on files from the Food and Drug Administration and the personal papers of LSD researchers to reveal that the most significant issue was not the drug's illegality, but the persistent question of its efficacy. The landmark Kefauver-Harris Drug Amendments of 1962 installed strict standards for efficacy evaluation, which LSD researchers struggled to meet due to the unorthodox nature of their treatment.
Exploring the complex interactions between clinical science, regulation, and therapeutics in American medicine, The Trials of Psychedelic Therapy explains how an age of empirical research and limited government oversight gave way to sophisticated controlled clinical trials and complex federal regulations. Analyzing the debates around how to understand and evaluate treatment efficacy, this book will appeal to anyone with an interest in LSD and psychedelics, as well as mental health professionals, regulators, and scholars of the history of psychiatry, psychotherapy, drug regulation, and pharmaceutical research and development.
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