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From Psychiatry to Flower Power and Back Again: The Amazing Story of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

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Among the psychedelic drugs that enjoyed a period of popularity in psychiatric research during the 1950s and 1960s, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is the most prominent one. Psychiatrists of that time had seen LSD not only as a tool for psychotherapy but also as a potential therapeutic for anxiety, depression, alcohol abuse, autism, and even schizophrenia. When it became a quasi-religious epitome of the Hippie counterculture in the mid 1960s, and cases of what we now call hallucinogen persisting perception disorder and acute psychotic “flashbacks” mounted, authorities moved to make LSD illegal. Although research was never actually forbidden, the field almost completely dried out until the early 2010s. Using today’s tools of molecular pharmacology, functional imaging, and neuronal network theory, neuropsychiatry is now resurrecting LSD research-with implications that leave us with many medical and ethical questions. Few people are aware that this is a repurposed compound, originally developed in an effort to synthesize a new analeptic. On top of all potential LSD might have in psychiatry, it also serves as a reminder of the unexpected potential that discarded early-stage compounds can have.

Mucke, H. A. (2016). From Psychiatry to Flower Power and Back Again: The Amazing Story of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide. ASSAY and Drug Development Technologies. 10.1089/adt.2016.747.

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