LSD may one day be used to treat anxiety and other mental health issues

Researchers at McGill University have discovered one way the psychedelic LSD may increase social interaction for some people who consume it. The new study, which was recently published in PNAS, found that LSD may one day be useful as a treatment for certain mental health disorders, including social anxiety.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly called LSD, is a psychedelic that enjoyed popularity in the 1970s before it was made a scheduled substance. Recent years have seen a renewed public interest in psychedelics, especially LSD, with many people reporting various benefits from micro-dosing the substance.

Anecdotal reports from users claim benefits that include an increased sense of empathy and connection, as well as improved social behaviors like a reduction in social anxiety. This new study found the potential mechanism that may drive these behaviors — at least in mice — linking the pro-social effects with activation of 5-HT2A serotonin receptors.

Psychedelic effects on these receptors were already known, but the researchers note that this study links that activation with the aforementioned benefits. In addition to activating the 5-HT2A receptors, the study found that LSD administered to mice also activated glutamate AMPA receptors, as well as the mTORC 1 cellular protein.

The findings were based on mice that were given a low dose of LSD over the course of a week. The study notes that sociability in these mice increased, which is a behavior akin to be more social and empathetic in humans. Additional research on mice with behavioral issues akin to social anxiety disorder and similar will help shed light on whether micro-dosed LSD or something based on it may be a promising treatment option for humans.