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Alterations of consciousness and mystical-type experiences after acute LSD in humans

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Rationale: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is used recreationally and in clinical research. Acute mystical-type experiences that are acutely induced by hallucinogens are thought to contribute to their potential therapeutic effects. However, no data have been reported on LSD-induced mystical experiences and their relationship to alterations of consciousness. Additionally, LSD dose- and concentration-response functions with regard to alterations of consciousness are lacking.

Methods: We conducted two placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over studies using oral administration of 100 and 200 μg LSD in 24 and 16 subjects, respectively. Acute effects of LSD were assessed using the 5 Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness (5D-ASC) scale after both doses and the Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ) after 200 μg.

Results: On the MEQ, 200 μg LSD induced mystical experiences that were comparable to those in patients who underwent LSD-assisted psychotherapy but were fewer than those reported for psilocybin in healthy subjects or patients. On the 5D-ASC scale, LSD produced higher ratings of blissful state, insightfulness, and changed meaning of percepts after 200 μg compared with 100 μg. Plasma levels of LSD were not positively correlated with its effects, with the exception of ego dissolution at 100 μg.

Conclusions: Mystical-type experiences were infrequent after LSD, possibly because of the set and setting used in the present study. LSD may produce greater or different alterations of consciousness at 200 μg (i.e., a dose that is currently used in psychotherapy in Switzerland) compared with 100 μg (i.e., a dose used in imaging studies). Ego dissolution may reflect plasma levels of LSD, whereas more robustly induced effects of LSD may not result in such associations.

Liechti, M. E., Dolder, P. C., & Schmid, Y. (2016). Alterations of consciousness and mystical-type experiences after acute LSD in humans. Psychopharmacology, 1-12. 10.1007/s00213-016-4453-0

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