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LSD Microdosing Can Increase Pain Tolerance Without Causing Mind‑Altering Effects: Study

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Sep 1, 2020

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In a first of its kind study, scientists proved that Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also colloquially known as acid, can act as a pain reliever. Findings of this research were published in The Journal of Psychopharmacology.

In a double-blind study, scientists utilized small doses of LSD to determine its analgesic properties. Taking small LSD doses, or ‘microdosing,’ was popularized a few years ago by ambitious Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who wanted to feel more creative. Now, scientists are investigating the benefits of the psychoactive drug at a dosage that would not trigger LSD’s mind-altering effects.

Participants of the experiment received either a micro-dose of LSD- 5 µg, 10 µg or 20 µg – or a dose of placebo. Then, participants held their hands in a tank of cold water multiple times a day for as long as possible, until they couldn’t bear the sensation anymore. Researchers then asked participants to rate their pain, unpleasant sensations and stress.


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Participants showed an increase in the amount of pain they could bear, but only at the 20µg dose, which was the largest of the microdoses chosen. “It’s not really mind-altering or bringing hallucinations,”  Johannes Ramaekers, the study’s lead author, told Inverse. “You may perceive colors, for example, as a little bit brighter.”

However, pain tolerance at 20µg of LSD was similar to what 20 mg of commonly used painkillers like oxycodone or morphine could bring about. This is important because unlike oxycodone and morphine, LSD is not an addictive drug. The absolute lack of addiction potential makes microdoses of LSD a potential safe therapy for chronic or severe pain management.

While scientists don’t particularly know why LSD reduces pain perception, lead author Ramaekers theorized that it could either be due to self-transcendence or losing one’s sense of self and forgetting pain, or something more physiological like an increase in blood pressure or serotonin stimulation, both of which reduce pain perception, according to what he told Inverse.

Still, it is important to note that this is a small study, and that further research is necessary to build on initial positive findings. Plus, one could also build up a tolerance for the drug, eventually needing larger doses for the same effect. The authors write, “An extended dose-finding study is [also] needed to determine the dose at which analgesic effects of LSD are optimal, i.e., when efficacy is maximal and mental interference is minimal.”

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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