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LSD enhances suggestibility in healthy volunteers

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Abstract

Rationale
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has a history of use as a psychotherapeutic aid in the treatment of mood disorders and addiction, and it was also explored as an enhancer of mind control.

Objectives
The present study sought to test the effect of LSD on suggestibility in a modern research study.

Methods
Ten healthy volunteers were administered with intravenous (i.v.) LSD (40–80 μg) in a within-subject placebo-controlled design. Suggestibility and cued mental imagery were assessed using the Creative Imagination Scale (CIS) and a mental imagery test (MIT). CIS and MIT items were split into two versions (A and B), balanced for ‘efficacy’ (i.e. A≈B) and counterbalanced across conditions (i.e. 50 % completed version ‘A’ under LSD). The MIT and CIS were issued 110 and 140 min, respectively, post-infusion, corresponding with the peak drug effects.

Results
Volunteers gave significantly higher ratings for the CIS (p = 0.018), but not the MIT (p = 0.11), after LSD than placebo. The magnitude of suggestibility enhancement under LSD was positively correlated with trait conscientiousness measured at baseline (p = 0.0005).

Conclusions
These results imply that the influence of suggestion is enhanced by LSD. Enhanced suggestibility under LSD may have implications for its use as an adjunct to psychotherapy, where suggestibility plays a major role. That cued imagery was unaffected by LSD implies that suggestions must be of a sufficient duration and level of detail to be enhanced by the drug. The results also imply that individuals with high trait conscientiousness are especially sensitive to the suggestibility-enhancing effects of LSD.

Carhart-Harris, R. L., Kaelen, M., Whalley, M. G., Bolstridge, M., Feilding, A. & Nutt, D.J. (2014). LSD enhances suggestibility in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00213-014-3714-z
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