Hamilton, ON - It was the drug of choice on universitycampuses, the drug that spawned psychedelic culture as well ascountless jail sentences and fines, but LSD actually has respectableroots—roots that a McMaster University researcher is uncovering.
"Farfrom being fringe medical research, trials of LSD were once alegitimate branch of psychiatric research," explains Erika Dyck, adoctoral researcher in the Department of History at McMaster. "LSDproduced a "model psychosis," meaning people who took the drugexhibited symptoms of illnesses such as schizophrenia. Doctors usedthis as a new method for studying mental illness."
In a recentissue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Dyck traces the history ofLSD—and its eventual withdrawal from medical research. LSD, ord-lysergic acid diethylamide, first appeared in scientific literaturein 1943. For nearly a decade, it gave psychiatrists insight into theexperi-ences of schizophrenic patients and showed potential as a curefor alcoholism.
In the 1960s, as the media increasinglyassociated the drug with love-ins, anti-war demonstrations and thecounterculture, governments intervened to criminalize LSD, restrictingand then terminating medical research into its potential therapeuticeffects.
Now, therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs areresurfacing. Research groups in the United States are currentlyexamining the usefulness of MDMA, or "ecstasy," in treating pain inmedical conditions such as Parkinson's disease and cancer.
Thismakes Dyck optimistic that LSD may become a valid area of researchagain. "Many illegal drugs are used in medical settings. Scientists whostudied LSD made important contributions to psychiatry, and found ithelped many people cope with mental illness."
Dyck discoveredanother interesting fact while researching LSD: The term "psychedelic",it turns out, was a Canadian invention – coined in Weyburn, Sask. inthe 1950s.
The paper is available online at www.cpa-apc.org/Publications/Archives/CJP/2005/june/InRevDyck.asp.
McMasterUniversity, named Canada's Research University of the Year by ResearchInfoSource, has world-renowned faculty, and state-of-the-art researchfacilities. McMaster's culture of innovation fosters a commitment todiscovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based inHamilton, the University has a student population of more than 23,000,and an alumni population of more than 115,000 in 128 countries.
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