OPEN Foundation

Y. Schmid

Acute subjective effects in LSD- and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

Abstract

Background: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) were used in psychotherapy in the 1960s-1980s, and are currently being re-investigated as treatments for several psychiatric disorders. In Switzerland, limited medical use of these substances is possible in patients not responding to other treatments (compassionate use).

Methods: This study aimed to describe patient characteristics, treatment indications and acute alterations of mind in patients receiving LSD (100-200 µg) and/or MDMA (100-175 mg) within the Swiss compassionate use programme from 2014-2018. Acute effects were assessed using the 5 Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness scale and the Mystical Experience Questionnaire, and compared with those in healthy volunteers administered with LSD or MDMA and patients treated alone with LSD in clinical trials.

Results: Eighteen patients (including 12 women and six men, aged 29-77 years) were treated in group settings. Indications mostly included posttraumatic stress disorder and major depression. Generally, a drug-assisted session was conducted every 3.5 months after 3-10 psychotherapy sessions. LSD induced pronounced alterations of consciousness on the 5 Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness scale, and mystical-type experiences with increases in all scales on the Mystical Experience Questionnaire. Effects were largely comparable between patients in the compassionate use programme and patients or healthy subjects treated alone in a research setting.

Conclusion: LSD and MDMA are currently used medically in Switzerland mainly in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder and depression in group settings, producing similar acute responses as in research subjects. The data may serve as a basis for further controlled studies of substance-assisted psychotherapy.

Schmid, Y., Gasser, P., Oehen, P., & Liechti, M. E. (2021). Acute subjective effects in LSD- and MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 35(4), 362–374. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881120959604

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Acute effects of methylphenidate, modafinil and MDMA on negative emotion processing

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
Stimulants such as methylphenidate (MPH) and modafinil are frequently used as cognitive enhancers in healthy people, whereas 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) is proposed to enhance mood and empathy in healthy subjects. However, comparative data on the effects of MPH and modafinil on negative emotions in healthy subjects have been widely missing. The aim of this study was to compare the acute effects of MPH and modafinil on the neural correlates of fearful face processing using MDMA as a positive control.
METHODS:
Using a double-blind within-subject placebo-controlled cross-over design, 60 mg MPH, 600 mg modafinil, and 125 mg MDMA were administrated to 22 healthy subjects, while performing an event-related fMRI task to assess brain activation in response to fearful faces. Negative mood states were assessed with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory and subjective ratings.
RESULTS:
Relative to placebo, modafinil, but not MPH or MDMA, increased brain activation within a limbic-cortical-striatal-pallidal-thalamic circuit during fearful face processing. Modafinil but not MPH also increased amydgala responses to fearful faces compared with MDMA. Furthermore, activation in the middle and inferior frontal gyrus in response to fearful faces correlated positively with subjective feelings of fearfulness and depressiveness after modafinil administration.
CONCLUSIONS:
In spite of the cognitive enhancement effects of 600 mg modafinil in healthy people, potential adverse effects on emotion processing should be considered.
Schmidt, A., Müller, F., Dolder, P. C., Schmid, Y., Zanchi, D., Egloff, L., … & Borgwardt, S. (2017). Acute effects of methylphenidate, modafinil and MDMA on negative emotion processing. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, pyx112. 10.1093/ijnp/pyx112
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Acute LSD effects on response inhibition neural networks

Abstract

BACKGROUND:
Recent evidence shows that the serotonin 2A receptor (5-hydroxytryptamine2A receptor, 5-HT2AR) is critically involved in the formation of visual hallucinations and cognitive impairments in lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)-induced states and neuropsychiatric diseases. However, the interaction between 5-HT2AR activation, cognitive impairments and visual hallucinations is still poorly understood. This study explored the effect of 5-HT2AR activation on response inhibition neural networks in healthy subjects by using LSD and further tested whether brain activation during response inhibition under LSD exposure was related to LSD-induced visual hallucinations.
METHODS:
In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over study, LSD (100 µg) and placebo were administered to 18 healthy subjects. Response inhibition was assessed using a functional magnetic resonance imaging Go/No-Go task. LSD-induced visual hallucinations were measured using the 5 Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness (5D-ASC) questionnaire.
RESULTS:
Relative to placebo, LSD administration impaired inhibitory performance and reduced brain activation in the right middle temporal gyrus, superior/middle/inferior frontal gyrus and anterior cingulate cortex and in the left superior frontal and postcentral gyrus and cerebellum. Parahippocampal activation during response inhibition was differently related to inhibitory performance after placebo and LSD administration. Finally, activation in the left superior frontal gyrus under LSD exposure was negatively related to LSD-induced cognitive impairments and visual imagery.
CONCLUSION:
Our findings show that 5-HT2AR activation by LSD leads to a hippocampal-prefrontal cortex-mediated breakdown of inhibitory processing, which might subsequently promote the formation of LSD-induced visual imageries. These findings help to better understand the neuropsychopharmacological mechanisms of visual hallucinations in LSD-induced states and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Schmidt, A., Müller, F., Lenz, C., Dolder, P. C., Schmid, Y., Zanchi, D., … & Borgwardt, S. (2017). Acute LSD effects on response inhibition neural networks. Psychological Medicine, 1-13. 10.1017/S0033291717002914
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Long-lasting subjective effects of LSD in normal subjects

Abstract

Rationale

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and other serotonergic hallucinogens can induce profound alterations of consciousness and mystical-type experiences, with reportedly long-lasting effects on subjective well-being and personality.

Methods

We investigated the lasting effects of a single dose of LSD (200 μg) that was administered in a laboratory setting in 16 healthy participants. The following outcome measures were assessed before and 1 and 12 months after LSD administration: Persisting Effects Questionnaire (PEQ), Mysticism Scale (MS), Death Transcendence Scale (DTS), NEO-Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI), and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).

Results

On the PEQ, positive attitudes about life and/or self, positive mood changes, altruistic/positive social effects, positive behavioral changes, and well-being/life satisfaction significantly increased at 1 and 12 months and were subjectively attributed by the subjects to the LSD experience. Five-Dimensions of Altered States of Consciousness (5D-ASC) total scores, reflecting acutely induced alterations in consciousness, and Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ30) total scores correlated with changes in well-being/life satisfaction 12 months after LSD administration. No changes in negative attitudes, negative mood, antisocial/negative social effects, or negative behavior were attributed to the LSD experience. After 12 months, 10 of 14 participants rated their LSD experience as among the top 10 most meaningful experiences in their lives. Five participants rated the LSD experience among the five most spiritually meaningful experiences in their lives. On the MS and DTS, ratings of mystical experiences significantly increased 1 and 12 months after LSD administration compared with the pre-LSD screening. No relevant changes in personality measures were found.

Conclusions

In healthy research subjects, the administration of a single dose of LSD (200 μg) in a safe setting was subjectively considered a personally meaningful experience that had long-lasting subjective positive effects.

Schmid, Y., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Long-lasting subjective effects of LSD in normal subjects. Psychopharmacology, 1-11. 10.1007/s00213-017-4733-3
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First Time View on Human Metabolome Changes after a Single Intake of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine in Healthy Placebo-Controlled Subjects

Abstract

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; “ecstasy”) is widely consumed recreationally. Little is known about its effects on the human metabolome. Mapping biochemical changes after drug exposure can complement traditional approaches by revealing potential biomarkers of organ toxicity or discovering new metabolomic features in a time- and dose-dependent manner. We aimed to analyze for the first time plasma samples from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study in healthy adults to explore changes in endogenous plasma metabolites following a single intake of MDMA. Plasma samples from 15 subjects taken at four different time points were analyzed with the commercially available AbsoluteIDQ kit (Biocrates). Time series analysis revealed a total of nine metabolites, which showed a significant concentration change after MDMA administration compared with placebo. Paired t tests of the single time points showed statistically significant concentration changes mainly of glycerophospholipids and the metabolic ratio of methionine-sulfoxide over methionine. Changes of this metabolic ratio may be indicative for changes in systemic oxidative stress levels, and the increased amount of glycerophospholipids could be interpreted as an upregulation of energy production. Baseline samples within the experimental study design were crucial for evaluation of metabolomics data as interday individuality within subjects was high otherwise resulting in overestimations of the findings.
Boxler, M. I., Liechti, M. E., Schmid, Y., Kraemer, T., & Steuer, A. E. (2017). First Time View on Human Metabolome Changes after a Single Intake of 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine in Healthy Placebo-Controlled Subjects. Journal of proteome research16(9), 3310-3320. 10.1021/acs.jproteome.7b00294
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First time view on human metabolome changes after a single intake of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in healthy placebo-controlled subjects

Abstract

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; “ecstasy”) is widely consumed recreationally. Little is known about its effects on the human metabolome. Mapping biochemical changes after drug exposure can complement traditional approaches by revealing potential biomarkers of organ toxicity or discovering new metabolomic features in a time- and dose-dependent manner. We aimed to analyze for the first time plasma samples from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study in healthy adults to explore changes in endogenous plasma metabolites following a single intake of MDMA. Plasma samples from 15 subjects taken at four different time points were analyzed with the commercially available AbsoluteIDQ kit (Biocrates). Time series analysis revealed a total of nine metabolites, which showed a significant concentration change after MDMA administration compared with placebo. Paired t tests of the single time points showed statistically significant concentration changes mainly of glycerophospholipids and the metabolic ratio of methionine-sulfoxide over methionine. Changes of this metabolic ratio may be indicative for changes in systemic oxidative stress levels, and the increased amount of glycerophospholipids could be interpreted as an upregulation of energy production. Baseline samples within the experimental study design were crucial for evaluation of metabolomics data as interday individuality within subjects was high otherwise resulting in overestimations of the findings.
Boxler, M. I., Liechti, M. E., Schmid, Y., Kraemer, T., & Steuer, A. E. (2017). First Time View on Human Metabolome Changes after a Single Intake of 3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine in Healthy Placebo-Controlled Subjects. Journal of Proteome Research16(9), 3310-3320. 10.1021/acs.jproteome.7b00294
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Direct comparison of the acute subjective, emotional, autonomic, and endocrine effects of MDMA, methylphenidate, and modafinil in healthy subjects

Abstract

Rationale

3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is used recreationally and investigated as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Methylphenidate and modafinil are psychostimulants that are used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, respectively, but they are also misused as cognitive enhancers. Little is known about differences in the acute effects of equally cardiostimulant doses of these stimulant-type substances compared directly within the same subjects.

Methods

We investigated the acute autonomic, subjective, endocrine, and emotional effects of single doses of MDMA (125 mg), methylphenidate (60 mg), modafinil (600 mg), and placebo in a double-blind, cross-over study in 24 healthy participants. Acute drug effects were tested using psychometric scales, the Facial Emotion Recognition Task (FERT), and the Sexual Arousal and Desire Inventory (SADI).

Results

All active drugs produced comparable hemodynamic and adverse effects. MDMA produced greater increases in pupil dilation, subjective good drug effects, drug liking, happiness, trust, well-being, and alterations in consciousness than methylphenidate or modafinil. Only MDMA reduced subjective anxiety and impaired fear recognition and led to misclassifications of emotions as happy on the FERT. On the SADI, only MDMA produced sexual arousal-like effects. Only MDMA produced marked increases in cortisol, prolactin, and oxytocin. In contrast to MDMA, methylphenidate increased subjective anxiety, and methylphenidate and modafinil increased misclassifications of emotions as angry on the FERT. Modafinil had no significant subjective drug effects but significant sympathomimetic and adverse effects.

Conclusions

MDMA induced subjective, emotional, sexual, and endocrine effects that were clearly distinct from those of methylphenidate and modafinil at the doses used.

Dolder, P. C., Müller, F., Schmid, Y., Borgwardt, S. J., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Direct comparison of the acute subjective, emotional, autonomic, and endocrine effects of MDMA, methylphenidate, and modafinil in healthy subjects. Psychopharmacology, 1-13. 10.1007/s00213-017-4650-5
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Acute effects of LSD on amygdala activity during processing of fearful stimuli in healthy subjects

Abstract

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) induces profound changes in various mental domains, including perception, self-awareness and emotions. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the acute effects of LSD on the neural substrate of emotional processing in humans. Using a double-blind, randomised, cross-over study design, placebo or 100μg LSD were orally administered to 20 healthy subjects before the fMRI scan, taking into account the subjective and pharmacological peak effects of LSD. The plasma levels of LSD were determined immediately before and after the scan. The study (including the a priori-defined study end point) was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov before study start (NCT02308969). The administration of LSD reduced reactivity of the left amygdala and the right medial prefrontal cortex relative to placebo during the presentation of fearful faces (P<0.05, family-wise error). Notably, there was a significant negative correlation between LSD-induced amygdala response to fearful stimuli and the LSD-induced subjective drug effects (P<0.05). These data suggest that acute administration of LSD modulates the engagement of brain regions that mediate emotional processing.

Mueller, F., Lenz, C., Dolder, P. C., Harder, S., Schmid, Y., Lang, U. E., … & Borgwardt, S. (2017). Acute effects of LSD on amygdala activity during processing of fearful stimuli in healthy subjects. Translational Psychiatry, 7(4), e1084. 10.1038/tp.2017.54
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Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide in Healthy Subjects

Abstract

Background and Objective: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is used recreationally and in clinical research. The aim of the present study was to characterize the pharmacokinetics and exposure–response relationship of oral LSD.

Methods: We analyzed pharmacokinetic data from two published placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over studies using oral administration of LSD 100 and 200 µg in 24 and 16 subjects, respectively. The pharmacokinetics of the 100-µg dose is shown for the first time and data for the 200-µg dose were reanalyzed and included. Plasma concentrations of LSD, subjective effects, and vital signs were repeatedly assessed. Pharmacokinetic parameters were determined using compartmental modeling. Concentration-effect relationships were described using pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modeling.

Results: Geometric mean (95% confidence interval) maximum plasma concentration values of 1.3 (1.2–1.9) and 3.1 (2.6–4.0) ng/mL were reached 1.4 and 1.5 h after administration of 100 and 200 µg LSD, respectively. The plasma half-life was 2.6 h (2.2–3.4 h). The subjective effects lasted (mean ± standard deviation) 8.2 ± 2.1 and 11.6 ± 1.7 h for the 100- and 200-µg LSD doses, respectively. Subjective peak effects were reached 2.8 and 2.5 h after administration of LSD 100 and 200 µg, respectively. A close relationship was observed between the LSD concentration and subjective response within subjects, with moderate counterclockwise hysteresis. Half-maximal effective concentration values were in the range of 1 ng/mL. No correlations were found between plasma LSD concentrations and the effects of LSD across subjects at or near maximum plasma concentration and within dose groups.

Conclusions: The present pharmacokinetic data are important for the evaluation of clinical study findings (e.g., functional magnetic resonance imaging studies) and the interpretation of LSD intoxication. Oral LSD presented dose-proportional pharmacokinetics and first-order elimination up to 12 h. The effects of LSD were related to changes in plasma concentrations over time, with no evidence of acute tolerance.

Dolder, P. C., Schmid, Y., Steuer, A. E., Kraemer, T., Rentsch, K. M., Hammann, F., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide in Healthy Subjects. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, 1-12. 10.1007/s40262-017-0513-9

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Pharmacogenetics of ecstasy: CYP1A2, CYP2C19, and CYP2B6 polymorphisms moderate pharmacokinetics of MDMA in healthy subjects

Abstract

In vitro studies showed that CYP2C19, CYP2B6, and CYP1A2 contribute to the metabolism of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) to 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA). However, the role of genetic polymorphisms in CYP2C19, CYP2B6, and CYP1A2 in the metabolism of MDMA in humans is unknown. The effects of genetic variants in these CYP enzymes on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of MDMA were characterized in 139 healthy subjects (69 male, 70 female) in a pooled analysis of eight double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. MDMA-MDA conversion was positively associated with genotypes known to convey higher CYP2C19 or CYP2B6 activities. Additionally, CYP2C19 poor metabolizers showed greater cardiovascular responses to MDMA compared with other CYP2C19 genotypes. Furthermore, the maximum concentration of MDA was higher in tobacco smokers that harbored the inducible CYP1A2 rs762551 A/A genotype compared with the non-inducible C-allele carriers. The findings indicate that CYP2C19, CYP2B6, and CYP1A2 contribute to the metabolism of MDMA to MDA in humans. Additionally, genetic polymorphisms in CYP2C19 may moderate the cardiovascular toxicity of MDMA.

Vizeli, P., Schmid, Y., Prestin, K., zu Schwabedissen, H. E. M., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Pharmacogenetics of ecstasy: CYP1A2, CYP2C19, and CYP2B6 polymorphisms moderate pharmacokinetics of MDMA in healthy subjects. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 27(3), 232-238. 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2017.01.008
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22 May - Delivering Effective Psychedelic Clinical Trials

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