South East Wales

People's brains scanned while on LSD in study in Cardiff

LSD molecule graphic
Image caption Developed by accident in the 1930s - LSD is a psychoactive drug that causes powerful hallucinations

A group of 20 volunteers have become the first in the world to have their brains scanned while high on LSD.

The study was led by former UK government chief adviser on drugs Prof David Nutt, and carried out in Cardiff.

The 15 men and five women were given a 75 microgram injection of LSD, then had their brain activity monitored.

None of the group reported a bad experience, but three said they did describe some anxiety and temporary paranoia.

Two kinds of scans were used, functional magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography, which measures small magnetic fields generated in the brain.

The scanners for the experiments were provided by Cardiff University.

The full results of the study will not be known until funding can be found to complete the research.

Prof Nutt, who was was sacked from his job in 2009 after saying ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol, is crowd funding in order to raise the £25,000 needed to carry out analysis of the data.

Image caption Prof David Nutt said LSD studies in the 1950s and 1960s showed it to be useful in treating "many conditions"

The Imperial College London-based professor said he approached the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome Trust for the outstanding funding but was unsuccessful.

An MRC spokesman said: "We have to ensure we use taxpayers' money for the highest quality research that will provide real benefit. But we're certainly not cautious about funding studies just because they relate to an illegal drug."

'Good use'

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, also from the Imperial College team, said: "This is the first LSD brain imaging study that's ever been conducted. The effects are quite profound.

"It would be described as a moderate dose but a moderate dose of LSD can still produce a profound state of consciousness.

"We think it's essentially important to understand how these drugs that are widely used and seem to have this therapeutic potential work in the brain.

"Once we've done that, we want to look at how these drugs can be put to good use."

Initial funding for study came from Imperial College and the Beckley Foundation, which promotes drug policy reform and research into the medical benefits of psychoactive substances.

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