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Single dose of LSD provides immediate and sustained anxiety relief

According to the results of a new study conducted by MindMed, just 100 micrograms of the hallucinogen can halve anxiety within weeks. As a result of this successful clinical trial, the US Food and Drug Administration has granted breakthrough therapy status to the biopharmaceutical company’s proprietary treatment.

Following decades of demonisation and criminalisation, psychedelic drugs are being proved to have profound implications for a field that’s seen few pharmacological advancements since the 60s.

Namely the treatment of intractable conditions such as depression, PTSD, and addiction, which time and time again these mind-altering substances have shown genuine promise in alleviating the symptoms of.

Now more than ever before – amid a mental health crisis that has care services bursting at the seams – there’s a great body of evidence regarding their enormous medical potential as well as a recognition that we are in dire need of new therapeutic tools.

Thankfully, the psychedelic renaissance is well underway, despite the complications the status of hallucinogens as controlled compounds brings, such as making it bureaucratically challenging and expensive to progress them through clinical trials.

During the last decade, we’ve seen universities race to set up research centres, investors pour millions into the market, US states begin to loosen restrictions, and advocates argue psychedelics could help us solve seemingly intractable crises like environmental destruction and economic inequity.

‘There’s been a sea change in attitudes about what not long ago was considered fringe science,’ said Michael Pollan, author of How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics, in 2021.

‘Given the urgency of the mental health crisis, there’s great curiosity and hope about psychedelics.’

Some three years later, and this curiosity has materialised as the FDA granting ‘breakthrough therapy status’ – the recognition that a drug has demonstrated evidence of clinical efficacy in meeting an unmet medical need with mortality associated with it  – for one compound in particular to be used as a powerful aid in treating an increasingly unhappy society.

The substance in question is lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, which Mind Medicine Inc. has just proved to be successful at halving anxiety within weeks.

The biopharmaceutical company, which develops novel products to treat brain disorders, revealed the findings on Friday, declaring that a mere 100 micrograms of MM120 – the salt form of LSD – can provide immediate and sustained relief to patients suffering from generalised anxiety disorder.

GAD is characterised by excessive, persistent, and unrealistic worry about everyday things resulting in fear, persistent stress, and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed.

Approximately 10 per cent of US adults (about 20 million people) are currently diagnosed with it.

‘I’ve conducted clinical research studies in psychiatry for over two decades and have seen studies of many drugs under development for the treatment of anxiety,’ Dr David Feifel, an investigator in the study, said in a statement.

‘That MM120 exhibited rapid and robust efficacy, solidly sustained for 12 weeks after a single dose, is truly remarkable.’

As Feifel explains, patients who received 100 mcg (classified as a single dose) of MM120 exhibited a 48 per cent rate of remission from GAD symptoms at the 12-week mark post-administration.

In addition, 65 per cent of patients showed marked clinical improvement within the first three months.

The trial was designed to pinpoint the optimal dosage of LSD needed to alleviate symptoms of GAD.

For this reason, the experts tested varying amounts of MM120 ranging from 25 to 200 mcg and concluded that 100 mcg is the ideal dose to advance into phase III trials, as anything higher is associated with adverse effects.

‘The clinical improvement for many patients was more than double what we see with today’s standard of care,’ says Dr Daniel Karlin, chief medical officer for MindMed.

‘This occurred at all levels of anxiety, from moderate all the way up to severe.’

The research stands out not only for its promising results in GAD treatment but also because it diverges from the traditional approach of combining psychedelic therapy with psychotherapy.

Unlike studies involving MDMA and psilocybin, where therapists play a crucial role during the drug administration process, the MM120 study did not incorporate this and instead included safety monitors who remained passive observers during the session.

‘Prior research has documented the benefits of combining LSD with psychotherapy to alleviate anxiety associated with life-threatening conditions,’ says Dr Gabriella Gobbi, a professor at McGill University.

‘However, this ground-breaking study is the first to show that a single dose of LSD can effectively treat generalized anxiety without the adjunct of psychotherapy.’