The\u00a0findings require\u00a0more research, but may prove to be important\u00a0in the\u00a0treatment of addiction and anxiety disorders, said Elements CEO Dr. David Sack. Might dropping acid drop your anxiety? Could you better\u00a0cope with health threats by taking a guided LSD trip with your therapist? The unlikely answer is maybe. LSD\u2019s image is psychedelic party drug, glorified in the cryptic Beatles song, \u201cLucy in the Sky With Diamonds.\u201d According to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970,\u00a0possessing just one gram of LSD would get you a mandatory five years in prison. But the first research in 40 years testing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has found that it markedly reduced anxiety in patients facing life-threatening diseases. The results of the study of LSD use as a supplement to psychotherapy were published this month online in the peer-reviewed\u00a0Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. "The double-blind, placebo-controlled\u00a0pilot study\u00a0in 12 subjects found statistically significant reductions in anxiety associated with advanced stage illness following two LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions," announced the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which sponsored the study.\u00a0"The results also indicate that LSD-assisted psychotherapy can be safely administered in these subjects, and justify further research." The lead doctor -- who has taken LSD himself during therapy -- said he found the results encouraging for what the LSD did for patients as well as what it did not do. No Adverse Effects \u201cThe study was a success in the sense that we did not have any noteworthy adverse effects,\u201d principal investigator Peter Gasser, a psychiatrist practicing in Solothurn, Switzerland, said in a news release. \u201cAll participants reported a personal benefit from the treatment, and the effects were stable over time.\u201d One of the participants in the clinical trial described an emotional departure from the clench of worry and panic over his mortality -- an altered state and a classic hallucinogenic trip. \u201cMy LSD experience brought back some lost emotions and ability to trust, lots of psychological insights, and a timeless moment when the universe didn\u2019t seem like a trap, but like a revelation of utter beauty,\u201d Peter, an Austrian research subject, said in the LSD research announcement. Decades of LSD use to treat alcoholism and other conditions were abandoned in the late 1950s and 1960s, when the hallucinogenic burst into popularity. LSD was typecast as a recreational drug trip for the counter-culture -- note current media stories of hippies in bare clothing. The U.S. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, signed by President Richard Nixon, which classified LSD as Type\u00a01 --\u00a0reserved for the most dangerous\u00a0 substances and deemed a drug with no medical value. That stigma, researchers note, left the impression that LSD was too risky to employ in humans, despite extensive use decades earlier treating thousands of patients with depression, alcoholism, anxiety -- even existential angst. LSD 'Not Uniquely Dangerous' \u201cI think we have to say these drugs are not uniquely dangerous,\u201d said Dr. David Sack, a national expert on addiction and treatment who is CEO of Promises Behavioral Health. \u201cThe way we have to look at it, is that just because some people abuse painkillers does not mean that we stop treating surgical patients or car crash victims with painkillers. Just as there are legitimate uses for pain medications, there may be legitimate uses for this type of medicine. We basically outlawed a whole class of medications because of the street abuse by some in the 1960s.\u201d In the same vein this month, Scientific American editors,\u00a0\u00a0with noted exasperation, called for LSD\u2019s return to wider clinical trials: \u201cThe decades-long research hiatus has taken its toll. Psychologists would like to know whether MDMA can help with intractable post-traumatic stress disorder, whether LSD or psilocybin can provide relief for cluster headaches or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and whether the particular docking receptors on brain cells that many psychedelics latch onto are critical sites for regulating conscious states that go awry in schizophrenia and depression. \u201cIn many states, doctors can now recommend medical marijuana, but researchers cannot study its effects. The uneasy status quo leaves unanswered the question of whether the drug might help treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, nausea, sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis and a host of other conditions.\u201d The findings require further research but may prove to be important for treatment of addiction and anxiety disorders, Dr. Sack said. Proponents of exploring the applications of LSD note that while research before 1950 lacked today\u2019s clinical trial protocols, the hallucinogenic had been used with thousands of patients in psychiatry. It was another Swiss man who discovered the psychoactive drug in 1938. LSD was first \u201csynthesized from a fungus that grows on rye and other grains,\u201d according to the University of Washington. Chemist Albert Hofmann was 32 and working for a pharmaceutical firm. \u201cHe was hoping that this new drug could be used to stimulate circulation and respiration. However, the tests he conducted were all failures and he forgot about LSD for\u00a0five years. In 1943, Hofmann accidentally ingested (or somehow absorbed) a bit of LSD and experienced some of the psychedelic effects of this chemical: dizziness, visual distortions and restlessness. A few days later he prepared 0.25 mg of LSD in water and drank it. He again experienced the mood and thought-altering effects of LSD.\u201d According to Dr. Sack, \u201cMany of the rewarding and mood elevating effects of alcohol appear to be mediated by the serotonin system, the same system that is targeted by LSD.\u00a0 A number of serotonin-elevating medicines that are in use as antidepressants have been studied for alcohol dependency without success.\u00a0 LSD\u2019s effect on serotonin receptors is uniquely different from these other medicines and merits additional investigation.\u201d Hofmann championed LSD\u2019s use in science and medicine. He witnessed -- to his horror -- the acid-tripping 1960s that brought on criminalizing LSD. Seventy years after he discovered LSD, Gasser\u2019s early pursuit of testing LSD on patients began in 2008. Hoffman died that year at age\u00a0102. After taking LSD himself during psychotherapy, Gasser was intrigued with its potential to help people with mental health challenges. For years, finding research funding and willing subjects proved elusive. Dr. Sack noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration likely approved the clinical trials only because the patients were stricken with life-threatening diseases such as cancer. Characteristics of Hallucinogens Odorless, colorless and tasteless, LSD is a chemical classified as a hallucinogen. The user typically experiences shifts in perception, thinking and mood. A user may\u00a0experience paranoia, panic, confusion, anxiety, hallucinations, a dream-like state and see vivid colors -- hence the psychedelic label. According to the University of Washington, LSD may cause a wave of emotions, not necessarily positive. Ten other characteristics have been noted: \tPowerful enough that ingesting a grain the size of salt (.010) can cause behavioral changes. \tEuphoria \tHeightened sense of awareness \tFeeling unreal or that the things around you are not real \tInsomnia during the "trip" \tDistortion of the senses and of time and space \t"Flashback" reactions -- effects even after the user hasn\u2019t taken LSD for months or years \tIncrease in heart rate and blood pressure \tChills \tMuscle weakness Though it is still not fully understood what creates all of the effects of LSD, many of its actions have been attributed to its effects on\u00a0serotonin, a neurochemical that plays important roles in the regulation of mood, appetite, energy and sleep as well as stress responses, Dr. Sack said.\u00a0LSD both inhibits the release of serotonin by neurons in the brain stem via the 5HT1 receptor and mimics serotonin\u2019s effects at other neurons by binding to the 5HT2 receptor.\u00a0The effects of LSD are believed to be caused by a combination of these effects.\u00a0Some of the rewarding effects of alcohol are mediated by yet another serotonin receptor, the 5HT1b and 5HT3 receptors. "Abnormalities in the regulation of serotonin are thought to mediate the high rates of suicide seen in alcoholics as well as patients with depression," Dr. Sack\u00a0said.\u00a0\u00a0"An effective treatment that could re-regulate serotonin neurons could decrease relapse rates and mortality rates in alcoholics undergoing treatment." More than 30 million people in the U.S. have used LSD, psilocybin, or mescaline. The psychedelics do not cause brain damage and are considered by medical professionals to be non-addictive. Scientific American editors back in September, 2009, remarked on the early struggles by Gasser to launch clinical trials. \u201cA number of the hundreds of studies conducted on lysergic acid diethylamide-25 from the 1940s into the 1970s (many of poor quality by contemporary standards) delved into the personal insights the drug supplied that enabled patients to reconcile themselves with their own mortality. In recent years some researchers have studied psilocybin (the active ingredient in \u201cmagic mushrooms\u201d) and MDMA (Ecstasy), among others, as possible treatments for this \u201cexistential anxiety,\u201d but not LSD.\u201d The time for that change, they said, is long overdue. From Scientific American, which in February 2014 called for a lifting of government restrictions and stigma on LSD\u2019s use in research for potential medical, mental health and psychiatric applications. Conclusion: \u2026. The endless obstructions have resulted in an almost complete halt in research on Schedule I drugs.\u00a0This is a shame.\u00a0The U.S. government should move these drugs to the less strict Schedule II classification. Such a move would not lead to decriminalization of these potentially dangerous drugs\u2014Schedule II also includes cocaine, opium and methamphetamine, after all\u2014but it would make it much easier for clinical researchers to study their effects. If some of the obstacles to research can be overcome, it may be possible to finally detach research on psychoactive chemicals from the hyperbolic rhetoric that is a legacy of the war on drugs. Only then will it be possible to judge whether LSD, ecstasy, marijuana and other highly regulated compounds\u2014subjected to the gauntlet of clinical testing for safety and efficacy\u2014can actually yield effective new treatments for devastating psychiatric illnesses.