March 12, 2012 11:19 am
Updated: March 18, 2013 9:49 am

A hit of LSD or a pill could cure alcoholism, European research claims


TORONTO – Forget the 12 Steps. British researchers say they’re on their way to formulating a pill that will cut alcohol consumption among alcoholics in half.

And if that doesn’t halt alcohol intake, Norwegian researchers suggest that one hit of LSD every few months should suffice.

They’re simple, novel suggestions to combat alcoholism, an addiction that costs Canadians about $12.4 billion a year, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

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Dr. David Collier from Queen Mary University in London says that the pill he’s developing helps alcoholics fight the urge to drink too much by blocking a specific part of the brain.

Collier gave about 600 volunteers a pill named nalmefene, and provided counselling sessions over a six-month trial to find that they more than halved their alcohol consumption.

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“The people volunteering for these trials had real problems with alcohol dependence. Most had never sought help before, and others had tried and failed with abstinence strategies,” he told the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom.

Results in the trial showed that over the course of six months, volunteers in five European countries reduced their alcohol intake from 84 grams to 30 grams per day, which is akin to going from a bottle of wine a day to a glass.

The number of days respondents binged on alcohol also decreased from 19 to seven days.

The findings were presented at the European Psychiatric Association in Prague.

While the pill is still in clinical trials, some in the medical community are celebrating its results.

Other medication meant to tackle alcoholism can come with severe side effects, such as vomiting, trouble with sleeping and dizziness.

That could be why the theory of dropping acid as a way to help alcoholics has also resurfaced in Norway. Neuroscientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology say that a hit of LSD offers improvements in drinking habits months after treatment.

The researchers looked at data from experiments from the 1960s and 1970s and suggest that based on their results, the hallucinogen could treat alcoholism.

The handful of trials, including one in Canada in 1966, provided 59 per cent of people offered a single dose of LSD some relief from alcohol abuse compared with 38 per cent of people taking on other alcohol treatment programs.
The effects lasted for about six months after LSD was taken.

The study, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, doesn’t explain the link between LSD and drinking but its authors noted that patients claim the dose offers “significant insight into their problems that they get a new perspective . . . and motivation to solve them.”

“Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked,” the authors write.

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