By Thomas Moore, Health And Science Correspondent
Scientists are asking the public to step in and fund a controversial study into the effect of LSD on the brain.
So far 20 volunteers have had brain scans while high on the hallucinogenic drug as part of a study that was given a small amount of funding by Imperial College London and the Beckley Foundation.
But the researchers, led by former government drugs tsar Professor David Nutt, need a further £25,000 to analyse the scans.
Prof Nutt launched an appeal on the science crowdfunding site Walacea.com after traditional research councils and other groups refused to fund the study because it involved an illegal recreational drug.
He said: “Despite the incredible potential of this drug to further our understanding of the brain, political stigma has silenced research.
“We must not play politics with promising science that has so much potential for good.”
Prof Nutt said research in the 1960s suggested LSD could be used to treat addiction, depression and chronic pain.
Yet since being made illegal in 1967 there has only been one clinical study and two neuroscience studies.
“That is an absurd amount of censorship,” said Prof Nutt, who was sacked as the government’s chief drugs advisor after saying ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol.
The 20 volunteers in the new study were injected with a “moderate” dose of LSD.
None of the participants reported having a bad experience, though three said they had some anxiety and temporary paranoia.
Another of the researchers, Dr Robin Carhart-Harris of Imperial College London, said: “What’s especially intriguing is that people can have a very challenging experience yet afterwards they seem to be somehow psychologically refreshed by the experience.”