Humphry Osmond was at the cutting edge of psychiatric research in the s. He believed that hallucinogenic drugs might be useful in treating mental illness and he studied the effects of LSD on people with alcohol dependency. Was Osmond ahead of his time? His work was cut short by the s drugs backlash, and only now is his work with hallucinogens being looked at with new interest.
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O n 5th May, , the novelist Aldous Huxley dissolved four-tenths of a gram of mescaline in a glass of water, drank it, then sat back and waited for the drug to take effect. Osmond was one of a small group of psychiatrists who pioneered the use of LSD as a treatment for alcoholism and various mental disorders in the early s. While at St. Osmond and Smythies started their own investigation into the properties of hallucinogens and observed that mescaline produced effects similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia, and that its chemical structure was very similar to that of the hormone and neurotransmitter adrenaline.
This led them to postulate that schizophrenia was caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but these ideas were not favourably received by their colleagues. In Osmond took a post as deputy director of psychiatry at the Weyburn Mental Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada and moved there with his family. Osmond tried LSD himself and concluded that the drug could produce profound changes in consciousness. Osmond and Hoffer also recruited volunteers to take LSD and theorised that the drug was capable of inducing a new level of self-awareness which may have enormous therapeutic potential.
In , they began giving LSD to their patients, starting with some of those diagnosed with alcoholism. Their first study involved two alcoholic patients, each of whom was given a single microgram dose of the drug.
One of them stopped drinking immediately after the experiment, whereas the other stopped 6 months later. Osmond and Hoffer were encouraged, and continued to administer the drug to alcoholics. By the end of the s, they had treated approximately 2, patients. At around the same time, another psychiatrist was carrying out similar experiments in the U. Sandison introduced the use of psychotherapy, and other forms of therapy involving art and music.
In , he visited Switzerland where he also met Albert Hoffman, and was introduced to the idea of using LSD in the clinic. He returned to the U. Sandison and his colleagues obtained results similar to those of the Saskatchewan trials. Of The unit, located on the grounds of Powick Hospital, accommodated up to 5 patients who could receive LSD therapy simultaneously.
Each was given their own room, equipped with a chair, sofa, and record player. Patients also came together to discuss their experiences in daily group sessions. At one point, it was popular among Hollywood superstars such as Cary Grant. Two forms of LSD therapy became popular. Osmond and Hoffer believed that hallucinogens are beneficial therapeutically because of their ability to make patients view their condition from a fresh perspective. Between the years of and , some 40, patients had been prescribed one form of LSD therapy or another as treatment for neurosis, schizophrenia, and psychopathy.
It was even prescribed to children with autism. Research into the potential therapeutic effects of LSD and other hallucinogens had produced over 1, scientific papers and six international conferences.
Even so, the preliminary findings seemed to warrant further research into the therapeutic benefits of hallucinogenic drugs. The research soon came to an abrupt halt, however, mostly for political reasons.
In , the U. Congress passed new drug safety regulations, and the Food and Drug Administration designated LSD as an experimental drug and began to clamp down on research into its effects. The following year, LSD hit the streets in the form of liquid soaked onto sugar cubes; its popularity grew quickly and the hippy counterculture was in full swing by the summer of During this period, LSD increasingly came to be viewed as a drug of abuse. It also became closely associated with student riots anti-war demonstrations, and thus was outlawed by the U.
The s saw a renewed interest in the neurobiological effects and therapeutic potential of hallucinogenic drugs. We now understand how many of them work at the molecular level, and several research groups have been performing brain-scanning experiments to try to learn more about how they exert their effects.
A number of clinical trials are also being performed to test the potential benefits of psilocybin, ketamine and MDMA to patients with depression and various other mood disorders.
Their use is still severely restricted, however, leading some to criticise drug laws , which they argue are preventing vital research. In , when he was dying of cancer, he famously asked his wife to inject him with LSD on his deathbed. In this, too, it seems that he was prescient: Several small trials suggest that ketamine alleviates depression and anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients and, more recently, the first American study to use LSD in more than 40 years concluded that it, too, reduces anxiety in patients with life-threatening diseases.
Dyck, E. Gasser, P. Huxley, A. The Doors of Perception. London: Pelican Books. Irwin, S. Sandison, R. The therapeutic value of lysergic acid diethylamide in mental illness. Further studies of the therapeutic value of lysergic acid diethylamide in mental illness.
Sessa, B. Can psychedelic drugs play a role in palliative care? Care 15 : Simmons, J. Smart, R. Alcohol 25 : Smith, C. Alcohol 19 : Tanne, J. Humphrey Osmond. BMJ : Vollenweider F.
The neurobiology of psychedelic drugs: implications for the treatment of mood disorders. Nature Rev. This article appears in the September issue of The Psychologist magazine and has been republished here with permission from the editors. The whole issue is devoted to the use of hallucinogenic drugs in therapy and research, and is freely available online.
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Humphry Osmond, 86, Who Sought Medicinal Value in Psychedelic Drugs, Dies
He is known for inventing the word psychedelic and for his research into interesting and useful applications for psychedelic drugs. Osmond also explored aspects of the psychology of social environments, in particular how they influenced welfare or recovery in mental institutions. Osmond was born in Surrey , England and educated at Haileybury. After the war, Osmond joined the psychiatric unit at St George's Hospital , London where he rose to become senior registrar. His time at the hospital was to prove pivotal in three respects, firstly it was where he met his wife Amy "Jane" Roffey who was working there as a nurse, secondly he met Dr John Smythies who was to become one of his major collaborators, and thirdly he first encountered the drugs that would become associated with his name and his with theirs : LSD and mescaline. While researching the drugs at St George's, Osmond noticed that they produced similar effects to schizophrenia and he became convinced that the disease was caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. These ideas were not well received amongst the psychiatric community in London at the time.
A brief history of psychedelic psychiatry
Humphry Osmond, the psychiatrist who coined the word ''psychedelic'' for the drugs to which he introduced the writer and essayist Aldous Huxley, died on Feb. He was The cause was cardiac arrhythmia, said his daughter Euphemia Blackburn of Appleton, where Dr. Osmond moved to four years ago. Osmond entered the history of the counterculture by supplying hallucinogenic drugs to Huxley, who ascribed mystical significance to them in his playfully thoughtful, widely read book ''The Doors of Perception,'' from which the rock group the Doors took its name. But in his own view and in that of some other scientists, Dr. Osmond was most important for inspiring researchers who saw drugs like L.
Psychedelics and Psychotherapy in Canada: Humphry Osmond and Aldous Huxley
O n 5th May, , the novelist Aldous Huxley dissolved four-tenths of a gram of mescaline in a glass of water, drank it, then sat back and waited for the drug to take effect. Osmond was one of a small group of psychiatrists who pioneered the use of LSD as a treatment for alcoholism and various mental disorders in the early s. While at St. Osmond and Smythies started their own investigation into the properties of hallucinogens and observed that mescaline produced effects similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia, and that its chemical structure was very similar to that of the hormone and neurotransmitter adrenaline. This led them to postulate that schizophrenia was caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, but these ideas were not favourably received by their colleagues.