Another early investigation into the potential therapeutic use of psychedelics reports ‘remarkable’ effects on pain relief, at least based on the results of a small clinical trial. The investigation — the first of its kind in several decades — builds upon anecdotal reports from users who claim they’ve experienced decreased pain while on LSD, leading researchers to explore whether similar effects are experienced at sub-psychedelic doses.
Psychedelic research (at least in the United States) is largely still in its infancy after decades of suspended work due to the scheduling of these drugs. Despite their illegal status, many people have still tried psychedelics, a large number of whom take them regularly or participate in a practice known as ‘microdosing.’
Microdosing involves taking very small, sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics — typically LSD or psilocybin — a couple or few times a week. The Internet has made it possible for these psychedelic users to find each other and report their experiences, many of which have been positive. Many anecdotal microdosing reports include enhanced emotions, productivity, and creativity.
Researchers have noted that many LSD users also report experiencing a decrease in pain while on the substance, raising questions about whether regular microdosing of this substance may offer pain relief without the addiction potential of opioid medications. That’s where the Maastricht University clinical trial comes in — it evaluated 24 healthy volunteers across four experiments and three different LSD microdosing levels.
Participants given the 20µg microdose were found to have ‘remarkable’ increases in pain tolerance during the testing when compared to participants given either a placebo or smaller 5µg and 10µg doses. The findings point toward long-term pain relief that kicked in within 90 minutes of administration of the microdose and that persisted for at least five hours afterward.
The study states:
LSD 20 µg significantly increased the time that participants were able to tolerate exposure to cold (3°C) water and decreased their subjective levels of experienced pain and unpleasantness. LSD elevated mean blood pressure within the normal range and slightly increased ratings of dissociation, anxiety and somatization …
The present study provides evidence of a protracted analgesic effect of LSD at a dose that is low enough to avoid a psychedelic experience. The present data warrant further research into the analgesic effects of low doses of LSD in patient populations.
At this point in time, there’s no single clear explanation for how the higher LSD microdose was able to reduce one’s perception of pain while increasing pain tolerance, but future studies may uncover the answer. How significant is the pain relief? The study found that based on reports from participants, the microdose’s ability to reduce pain was akin to that of morphine and oxycodone, two common but highly addictive painkillers.