British volunteers take part in ‘exciting’ LSD study

By Natalie Jonk


Photo: Walacea/Youtube

Twenty British volunteers have taken part in a controversial study which will track the impact of LSD on the brain.

The research – which took place at the University of Cardiff – was led by the government’s former chief adviser on drugs, Professor David Nutt, who was sacked from the role in 2009 after saying ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol.

At a briefing about the latest study – which he says was turned down by “classic funders” – Professor Nutt spoke out against restrictions on research into recreational drugs, which he described as “the worst censorship in the history of science”.

None of the participants reported having a bad experience, but three described some anxiety and temporary paranoia.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, also from the Imperial College team, said the dose of LSD given to the volunteers was a “tiny speck”, but added: “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.”

Photo: Walacea/youtube

An advert on science crowdfunding site features a clip which outlines the study – which saw volunteers given injections of a 75 microgram dose of LSD.

Professor Nutt is seeking £25,000 to see the research through to completion.

I wouldn’t say that it’s a dangerous experiment but I would say that LSD has potential negative effects. Probably the crucial one is a bad trip. It’s not uncommon for people to have anxiety during a psychedelic drug experience .. the experience can be nightmarish at times. 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. That’s how they describe it.


LSD was made illegal in 1967, and has only been the subject of one clinical study in Switzerland and two neuroscience studies since then.

Professor Nutt said that was an “absurd amount of censorship,” and said he stood by the claims that lost him his job with the government.

“Interesting drugs that we’ve been researching like MDNA (ecstasy) and LSD, are relatively low in terms of harms, considerably less even than cannabis and very much less than alcohol,” he said. “But no research done on them.

“The law is actually wrong. The law is supposed to be based on evidence of harm but isn’t.”

He said the study of drugs such as LSD could have the benefit of improving understanding of the brain and may even lead to discoveries that could aid the treatment of disorders such as depression.

A spokesman for the Medical Research Council (MRC) 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.

“Professor Nutt currently receives over three quarters of a million pounds directly from the MRC for his psilocybin research and last year alone we spent over £860,000 on studies related to cannabis.

See the campaign page on WALACEA

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