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Thirty Years of Psychedelic Research: The Spring Grove Experiment and Its Sequels

  • Orenda Institute


In the late 1960's a multi-million dollar interdisciplinary research center opened in the State of Maryland. This center for psychiatric research was a consequence of research in psychedelic psychotherapy performed by Albert Kurland and his associates at the Spring Grove State Hospital. Though the studies at Spring Grove State Hospital and those that followed at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC) ended in 1976, they remain the largest, most sustained and systematic study of psychedelic drugs and psychotherapy yet attempted.
Thirty Years of Psychedelic Research:
The Spring Grove Experiment and its Sequels1
By Richard Yensen, Ph.D.2
Donna Dryer, M.D., M.P.H.3
1Based on an address to the European College of Consciousness (ECBS) International Congress, Worlds of
Consciousness in Göttingen, Germany 24-27 September 1992
2 Director, Orenda Institute, 2403 Talbot Road, Baltimore, MD 21216 USA (410) 664-2454
FAX: (410) 466-1410
3 Medical Director, Orenda Institute.
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In the late 1960's a multi-million dollar interdisciplinary research center opened in the
State of Maryland. This center for psychiatric research was a consequence of research in
psychedelic psychotherapy performed by Albert Kurland and his associates at the Spring
Grove State Hospital. Though the studies at Spring Grove State Hospital and those that
followed at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC) ended in 1976, they
remain the largest, most sustained and systematic study of psychedelic drugs and
psychotherapy yet attempted.
This article emerged from a dialogue between the authors. We were doing a
retrospective analysis of the Spring Grove research before designing our own study, one
that we hope will advance this tradition (Yensen, Dryer & Kurland, 1991). We reviewed
the studies done at the Spring Grove State Hospital and the Maryland Psychiatric
Research Center asking the following questions: 1) Why did some studies have such
good results and others such equivocal ones? 2) What mistakes occurred that future
researchers in this area might avoid? 3) The research team used statistical assessment
and double-blind controlled studies. This approach is the accepted standard method for
studying psychoactive compounds. Is this methodology appropriate and sufficient to
study psychedelic medicines?
Our analysis of the above questions is separated into five themes: 1) A discussion of the
evolution of the therapeutic paradigms used in the studies. 2) An analysis of the political
and interpersonal contexts affecting the research. 3) A description of the major studies
conducted at Spring Grove State Hospital and the MPRC highlighting the methodological
issues. 4) A survey of the non-drug therapies that evolved from the psychedelic research.
5) The current status of research and possible future directions for psychedelic research.
Spring Grove State Hospital
early observations
Our group's research with psychedelic drugs began with LSD in the early 1950's. The
first study at Spring Grove State Hospital was an attempt to characterize the effects of
LSD upon hospitalized, chronic schizophrenics. Four patients received one hundred
micrograms (100 µgrams) administered daily in a single intramuscular injection for
fourteen (14) days. The initially marked changes in behavior diminished rapidly with
little or no response noted after the second dose.
In order to study the unusually rapid tolerance the experimenters varied the drug free
interval and observed that after five drug free days a strong reaction would occur. At
four days some patients showed a mild reaction, but not the equal of the first day. After
six drug free days a reaction as strong as that on the first day was observed.
In an attempt to overcome the tolerance exhibited by these four patients, dosage was
increased by 100 µg daily. Every patient would receive 100 µg on day one, 200 µg on
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day two and 300µg on day three, up to 500 µg. This regimen yielded a response on the
first day, a slight response on the second day, no response on days three and four, and a
very questionable response on the fifth day. Five hundred micrograms (500 µg) was the
maximum dose used.
Cross-tolerance with various LSD derivatives was tested. Cross tolerance was noted with
LAE and brom-lysergic acid. On the theory that what appeared to be physiological cross
tolerance might be psychological in nature (that the patients were just becoming adjusted
to the psychological effects of LSD) the experimenters alternated LSD and mescaline
HCl4. There was no cross tolerance between LSD and mescaline HCl5.
This initial descriptive and naturalistic study came to include twenty (20) schizophrenics
in the various regimens of LSD administration. Important conclusions from this study
included the realization that it is impossible to administer LSD in a double blind fashion.
Although LSD was administered in double blind fashion at first, both experimenters and
hospital staff were aware which patients received LSD within an hour of drug
administration.. The authors suggested that the hallucinations induced by LSD might
have value for helping therapists understand the underlying dynamics of a patient's
psychopathology. One can also observe in retrospect the powerful effect of the then new
and now almost universally accepted paradigm of the psychoactive drug. This way of
thinking about pharmacological substances and their effects on humans was defined by
early major neuroleptic drugs like Thorazine and Reserpine. The basic assumptions that
indirectly guided this research included the conjecture that LSD could be given on a daily
basis to patients in order to produce a chemotherapeutic effect as with other psychiatric
drugs. It was assumed that the effects of LSD could be adequately observed and
understood by trained clinicians not directly involved with the patient's treatment, who
had no prior relationship with the patient. In summary the expectations were for LSD to
be a drug like any of the other known psychoactive drugs. The results were startling,
inexplicable and unexpected:
One catatonic patient who had been mute for some years suddenly burst out into loud
wailing sobs which were shortly followed by overwhelming bursts of laughter starting 35 minutes
after the drug was given. This patient seemed most distressed and shaken. Intermittently she
would open her mouth as if she were trying desperately to talk or at least to exercise the muscles of
her mouth. She also expressed a state of acute anguish with her body movements. When asked
why she was crying, she said, "You should never leave the farm." A half hour after the crying
started, the wails seemed to end in a giggle. Soon the tears diminished, and she had almost
continuous waves of laughing for another hour or so. The patient then began to walk about the
ward studying the walls and windows as though she were seeing them for the first time. She
seemed to respond to hallucinations, for she began to talk to non present individuals. Every few
moments for the next few hours she would shake with laughter, and then she might talk a little.
Her speech was never particularly coherent, and she soon became preoccupied with the fact that
something or somebody was tickling her. She often said she enjoyed things very much and that this
was a nice ward, etc.
Three hours after the drug was given, the patient was prancing about the ward and still
bursting into gales of laughter. She could hardly eat since she said she had no appetite. That
afternoon she played basketball for the first time since she was admitted to the hospital although the
opportunity had been offered to her many times. She seemed interested in the effort and was
4Mescaline HCl was used rather than mescaline sulfate because it was more soluble and easier to prepare
for intramuscular injection.
5This finding is contradicted by later studies with mescaline sulfate in animals and humans. Yet mescaline
does not affect 5HT2 receptors while LSD does.
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pleased at her attempts. She walked about briskly, smiling broadly, and occasionally laughing.
That evening she went to a dance and danced with another patient for the first time. She continued
talking until bedtime. the next morning when she awoke, she was her old catatonic self, unable to
speak, unable to show interest in anything about her, and quite withdrawn.
On this day the patient received another injection. She laughed a little at first, spoke few
words, but a few hours later lapsed into her previous mute and withdrawn behavior. Thus on the
second day we had slight evidence of change from her previous behavior, however much less than
the change observed on the first day the drug was given.
When the patient received the same dosage the third morning, she showed no response at
all (Cholden et al., 1955, pp. 213 & 217).
Observations like these helped the team to realize that this drug was unlike other
psychoactive medications because of its unique combination of dramatic alterations in
consciousness, profound psychodynamic action as well as the rapid building of tolerance.
They realized that this combination of effects required a trained clinician with a well
established relationship to the patient in order to understand, correctly describe and
appreciate the dynamics of this complex situation (Cholden, Savage & Kurland, 1955).
After this rudimentary work there was a chronological gap in the research at Spring
Grove State Hospital. Dr. Kurland involved himself in the study of other psychoactive
medications. Charles Savage trained as a psychoanalyst and pursued his career as a
psychedelic researcher in California at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Spring Grove State Hospital—Cottage 13
a humble beginning
During the late 1950's and early 1960's a young psychologist, Sanford Unger, began
collaborating with Albert Kurland and suggested the renewed pursuit of psychedelic
research. Unger had contact with the team at Hollywood Hospital in Vancouver, British
Columbia, where work was in progress using a psychedelic approach in the therapy of
alcoholism. The therapy involved administration of a single overwhelming high dose of
LSD (400-800 µgrams) within a specially structured environment of expectations and
stimuli designed to foster a mystical experience (Stace, 1960; Pahnke, 1963). By then the
researchers were aware that the experiential roots of this approach were shamanistic, it
seemed to offer a convenient, short, and intense therapy—a pragmatic vehicle for
studying scientifically the effects of psychedelic substances as adjuncts to psychotherapy.
The project at Spring Grove began in 1963. A modest cottage on the hospital grounds
housed the small research team. It is important to note here that the facilities were
unpretentious and unobtrusively integrated into the overall facility of Spring Grove State
Hospital. This hospital is one of the oldest mental hospitals in the United States. At the
time Spring Grove was well-known for its progressive treatment. Cottage thirteen was a
white clapboard two story cottage with four rooms and a bath on each floor. Two rooms
were outfitted with sound systems and designated as treatment rooms for the psychedelic
drug sessions.
The atmosphere was earnestly optimistic. The clinical staff of the State Hospital
collaborated in the selection and support of patients undergoing the new therapy. The
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natural expectation was that in time they would be trained to use this exciting and
dramatically effective new treatment. The sense of enthusiasm, confidence and hope was
contagious. A devoted team from the State Hospital Alcoholic Rehabilitation Unit
affirmed the work with LSD totally. Although in the early work a no-treatment group
was proposed as a control group, these plans had to be abandoned. Both the patients and
the staff of the State Hospital saw the psychedelic treatment as so valuable and effective
that they adamantly objected to withholding the treatment from any patient who qualified
for it on ethical and humanitarian grounds. The research team acceded to these demands
in a decision that preserved morale and working alliance while sacrificing scientific
precision (Unger, 1969; Kurland et al., 1966 & 1967).
The research with alcoholics grew from a pilot phase of open clinical trials to double-
blind trials. The response of these patients to the psychedelic treatment was promising.
The research grew to include hospitalized neurotics who would today be diagnosed as
personality disorders, primarily borderline.
In 1965, the research at cottage thirteen came to national attention. The CBS television
network produced a one hour television documentary, LSD: The Spring Grove
Experiment. This film followed the LSD treatment of one male inpatient alcoholic and
one female inpatient neurotic. The excellent quality of this documentary drew much
positive attention toward the research. The film gave a balanced and responsible yet
compelling presentation of the promising new treatment.
Work with LSD Expands
In 1966 tragedy struck this enthusiastic group. A professional member of the Spring
Grove research department, a woman in her forties, discovered she had metastatic cancer.
Well aware of her terminal prognosis, she became significantly depressed. She knew of
the effectiveness LSD psychotherapy had demonstrated with alcoholics and neurotics, so
she sought the treatment for herself. In considering her request a literature search
revealed work done by a Chicago anesthesiologist, Eric Kast. His study assessed only
chemotherapeutic analgesic effects of LSD, but it showed the drug was safe for cancer
patients and suggested that LSD might furnish some pain relief. There also was an article
in Harpers Magazine on LSD and the anguish of dying by Sidney Cohen (Cohen, 1965).
With this support from the literature they forged ahead. The staff member was granted an
LSD session. In her own words:
Mainly I remember two experiences. I was alone in a timeless world with no boundaries.
There was no atmosphere; there was no color, no imagery, but there may have been light.
Suddenly I recognized that I was a moment in time, created by those before me and in turn the
creator of others. This was my moment, and my major function had been completed. By being
born, I had given meaning to my parents' existence.
Again in the void, alone without the time-space boundaries. Life reduced itself over and over
again to the least common denominator. I cannot remember the logic of the experience, but I
became poignantly aware that the core of life is love. At this moment I felt that I was reaching out
to the world—to all people—but especially to those closest to me. I wept long for the wasted years,
the search for identity in false places, the neglected opportunities, the emotional energy lost in
basically meaningless pursuits.
Many times, after respites. I went back, but always to variations on the same themes. The
music carried and sustained me.
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Occasionally, during rests, I was aware of the smell of peaches. The rose was nothing to the
fruit. The fruit was nectar and ambrosia (life), the rose was a beautiful flower only. When I finally
was given a nectarine it was the epitome of subtle, succulent flavor.
As I began to emerge. I was taken to a fresh windswept world. Members of the department
welcomed me and I felt not only joy for myself, but for having been able to use the experience
these people who cared for wanted me to have. I felt very close to a large group of people.
Later, as members of my family came, there was a closeness that seemed new. That night, at
home, my parents came, too. All noticed a change in me. I was radiant, and I seemed at peace,
they said. I felt that way too. What has changed for me? I am living now, and being. I can take it
as it comes. Some of my physical symptoms are gone. The excessive fatigue, some of the pains. I
still get irritated occasionally and yell. I am still me, but more at peace. My family senses this and
we are closer. All who know me well say that this has been a good experience. (Pahnke et al.,
The dramatic success of this first attempt launched a major new research focus, the study
of psychedelic psychotherapy in the treatment of terminal cancer patients. The work
evolved over the next two decades to include some patients that were diagnosed with
cancer but not conclusively terminal. In 1967 the results of the first 6 cancer patients
were presented by Dr. Walter Pahnke at the American Psychiatric Association meeting.
In 1972 the last LSD study in this series was published. Thirty-one (31) terminally ill
cancer patients suffering from anxiety, depression and uncontrollable pain received 200
to 500µg of LSD, usually administered intramuscularly. Multiple sessions were allowed
in the study design, but only three patients received more than one session. The early
Canadian technique was already being modified to include more psychotherapy and these
patients received intensive preparation (6 to 12 hours over 2 to 3 weeks) and follow-up
care. Before and after LSD sessions the physical and emotional status of these patients
were rated by: physicians, nurses, family members, the LSD therapist and an
independent rater. Measurements of narcotic use were also included. On a global
measure of improvement that blended the ratings of the observers already mentioned, 9
patients (29%) improved dramatically, 13 patients (42%) were moderately improved and
9 patients (29%) were essentially unchanged. Relief from pain was startling and
persisted for a period of weeks or months following the session. This result was
statistically significant (p<.001). The amount of narcotic medication decreased but this
trend was not statistically significant. There were many complicating factors because
other psychoactive medications were involved (phenothiazines, hypnotics and
tranquilizers) and not systematically recorded in this study. Also some patients reported
that pain that was unbearable before the session became bearable after the session on the
same level of narcotic medication (Richards et al., 1972).
Extra-Pharmacological Factors: Set & Setting
The preliminary results of pilot studies with alcoholics, inpatient neurotics, and cancer
patients were a reflection of the compelling LSD-psychotherapy treatment within this
optimistic and coherent environment of expectations. This dynamic set and setting was a
consequence of both conscious and unconscious factors among the research team. The
interpersonal environment was designed purposely so that all factors of enthusiasm by the
staff might contribute to the patient's preparation for a profound mystical breakthrough
and fundamental life change. The research team's morale was excellent since they were
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spending all their time doing this new and exciting treatment. In a powerful way they
saw that they even had something to offer the hopeless!
The startling level of improvement using the experimental treatment in alcoholics could
best be demonstrated when the results were compared with statistics gathered on
patients' improvement in routine hospital treatment. In study that began in 1963, 69
patients improved significantly on all the scales of the MMPI, except the Hypomania
scale. The conclusions were that no patients were harmed and some patients
demonstrated substantial improvement. In this very challenging patient population 23
patients (or 33.3% of the sample) were abstinent at the six month follow-up. The result
of the conventional approach to treatment at the Alcoholic Unit was only 12%
rehabilitation in a prior study of routine Spring Grove Hospital treatment (Kurland et al.,
1971 p. 92 and Kurland et al., 1967).
The research team realized that the next logical step was more rigorous study with a
control group. Considering Kurland's earlier research which showed a true double-blind
procedure was impossible to maintain, they designed a study with low dose LSD as the
control condition. A low dose would produce the physiological effects, mood alterations,
and perceptual changes unique to LSD without facilitating a full-blown psychedelic
reaction. The mystical or peak experience was regarded as the motivational and
transformational catalyst. The use of a 50 µgram dose of LSD as a control would also
permit an assessment of the power of a large dose and mystical breakthrough to be
contrasted with the emotional catharsis and psychodynamic resolution realizable with a
smaller dose. The same highly motivated team would treat both groups. The hypothesis
was that only the high dose group would achieve mystical experiences and hence
improve the most.
This study involved 135 patients who were randomly assigned to either high dose
(450µg) or low dose (50µg) LSD treatment. A battery of psychological tests was
administered prior to acceptance in the program and one week after the drug session. The
patient’s progress was monitored at 6, 12 and 18 months after completing the therapy
One week after the session both treatment groups demonstrated statistically significant
improvement in their test scores. The follow-up ratings were made by an independent
team of social workers. They indicated that 44 percent of the high dose group were
“essentially rehabilitated” at six months. Only 25 percent of the low dose group me this
criterion at the same point. Abstinence was 53 percent for the high dose group and 33
percent for the low dose group at six months. This finding was significant statistically
(p<.05). At one year post therapy there was no significant difference between the two
groups. Yet at one and a half years after treatment, psychedelic psychotherapy had been
successful with over half of the alcoholics treated in this program (high and low dose
patients combined). Alcoholics receiving conventional therapy had a 12% improvement
The results demonstrated an interesting failure. The team did not fully appreciate the
positive impact of its own enthusiasm and esprit de corps so intentionally and carefully
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cultivated. The inspiration in the team grew, fueled by sharing the mystical
breakthroughs of patients undergoing high dose LSD sessions. This further stimulated
the already exemplary value placed on human life by the researchers themselves. This
motivated group of therapists worked uncommonly well. The 50 µgram control group
improved more than expected. A few patients even had full blown mystical experiences
on this threshold dose of LSD. Others did quite significant work on their inner conflicts
under nearly ideal therapeutic circumstances. At the conclusion of the study, the staff
broke the blind and were chagrined at the results, but felt that they had been true to their
values and tried their best with all patients. The very hypothesis of this carefully
designed study, turned out to be the major problem: Because the "control" was itself
LSD, it was a much greater activator of the therapeutic relationship even at a low dose
than was previously recognized. The low dose had become another experimental
condition rather than the control. The impact of the positive dynamic among the staff
was profoundly underestimated. The combination of these drug and non-drug factors
produced equivocal results.
Another possible conclusion was that psychotherapy alone was far more effective with
alcoholics than suggested by any other study in the literature. However, both the
experimental and the "control" groups produced greater improvement than previous
studies of routine hospital treatment. Although the search for an adequate control did not
meet with success in this study, the role of non-drug factors was demonstrated to be far
more powerful than even this research group had anticipated (Kurland et al., 1971).
The Evolution of Paradigms and Therapeutic Approach
from Psychedelic to Psychodelytic Paradigms.
Over the years from 1963 to 1976 the therapeutic techniques employed in this research
matured and changed. The clinical staff completely changed during this time as well.
The beginning psychotherapy research efforts were a direct application of the Canadian
technique of psychedelic psychotherapy. The psychedelic (mind manifesting) approach.
This technique, as practiced at Spring Grove, used a single large dose of a psychedelic
with a specialized environment, eyeshades, headphones and specially selected music.
Conventional interpretive psychotherapy was primarily a preparation for the LSD
session. In this method there is a preparatory period where the therapist explores the
background of the patient with a goal of establishing rapport and preparing the patient for
a single overwhelming high dose psychedelic session. When LSD is used in this
procedure, the dose ranges from 250 µgrams to 800 µgrams and the session lasts from 8
to 12 hours. Throughout the research endeavor all psychedelic sessions were run by a
therapeutic team. The primary therapist and a co-therapist of the opposite sex were in
constant attendance throughout the day of the drug session. The morning and early
afternoon of the drug session was spent listening to music over stereo headphones with
eyeshades to block out the external environment and allow a contemplative inner focus.
Musical programs were evolved and eventually a music therapist joined the staff full
time. She developed motivational sequences of musical accompaniment for psychedelic
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therapy. Western classical orchestral and choral music sequences were played to support
and express the expansiveness, profundity, sense of sacredness & awesome qualities of
the psychedelic experience. The technique aimed to facilitate a breakthrough to
transcendental experience (Bonny & Pahnke, 1972). The therapeutic team did not
usually offer interpretation but instead offered emotional support and companionship. In
the afternoon the patient might sit up and experience visual stimuli, for example pictures
of family members. or beautiful art or scenery. Props were used to great effect in
psychedelic therapy. A single, long stemmed red rose was part of every session. During
the afternoon time was set aside to gaze deeply at the rose under the effects of LSD.
Patients were encouraged to look at themselves in a mirror so that they might observe the
effects of thinking about their past use of alcohol on their self-image. After the drug
session the therapy focus was to consolidate insights and positive motivations for change
from the peak or mystical experience into everyday life.
Psycholytic Orientation Exerts Influence
In 1968 Stanislav Grof, a Czechoslovakian psychoanalyst, joined the psychedelic
research team. This event marked a time of growth and transition for the therapeutic
staff. Grof had developed a complex theoretical schema for understanding the
phenomenology of the psychedelic experience and had done much careful work under the
Psycholytic approach. The Psycholytic approach involves the use of repeated low doses
of psychedelics in a psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy or a psychoanalysis. The
doses used with a drug like LSD would fall in the range 75 µgrams to 250 µgrams. The
sessions typically continued for six months to two years. The process involved in-depth
analysis of the drug experiences both during and after the drug sessions. The experiential
goal of this type of work is to uncover psychodynamically relevant material including
repressed childhood memories. It is also useful that psychedelics can enhance the
transference and, at the same time, enhance the patients’ insight into their transference
toward the therapist.
Grof had already suggested in a paper presented to the European Psycholytic Association
that perhaps an integration of the psychedelic method and the psycholytic method would
be a valuable approach. Psycholytic therapy produced insight and psychedelic therapy
seemed to produce a uniquely powerful motivation toward change. Grof strongly
influenced the last years of work at the Research Center. He created a more
psychoanalytic atmosphere and the trend toward including more interpretive
psychotherapy in psychedelic work blossomed. He proposed a birth paradigm for
understanding psychedelic experience and offered a system of interpretation where
negative emotional experiences were useful and could be worked through in a systematic
way. This supported a therapeutic process that included deeper experiences of conflict
with the knowledge that eventually the negative experiences led to transformation,
mystical union and re-birth.
As the clinical staff examined patients who returned for additional treatment several years
after the original studies, it became apparent that these individuals had experienced a
relatively long-term withdrawal from alcohol (up to five years). It seemed that the
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psychedelic peak therapy provided these individuals with a mystical experience and new
insight into the meaning of their lives. The new sense of meaning in their lives slowly
diminished following the treatment. This seemed to occur when important conflicts were
not completely resolved in the preparatory and post-LSD integrative therapy. Another
important factor was that the integration of insights from the LSD session into everyday
life was usually incomplete. Despite these shortcomings in their therapy and subsequent
adaptation, these individuals had remained sober for significant amounts of time, but
when confronted with high-stress life situations, they succumbed to alcohol. The team
felt these cases strongly suggested that psychedelic psychotherapy could be improved by
including more extensive psychodynamic therapy and additional LSD sessions.
A Melding of Two Approaches: The Psychodelytic Paradigm
Consequently, the last research conducted with psychedelics at the Maryland Psychiatric
Research Center was guided by the extended psychedelic or psychodelytic paradigm6.
This approach involved several high-dose sessions with a psychedelic drug in an
environment previously used for psychedelic therapy. The number of sessions increased
and the theoretical framework expanded to include a greater emphasis on personal
dynamics, perinatal dynamics (Grof, 1976), ego transcendence, and other transpersonal
experiences. The thorough exploration of the personal history of the patient was
recognized as an important factor contributing to the probability that a peak experience
would occur. Thus the aim of this therapeutic approach became to work through the
early childhood traumas that surfaced during individual psychotherapy and the early drug
Conversely, working through was facilitated by later mystical experiences. These
profound experiences provided the patient with a deeply experiential, philosophical
position from which life had a new meaning: life itself was intrinsically healing.
Difficult memories were often accepted easily from the new vantage point. This
approach combined the positive aspects of the psychedelic and psycholytic paradigms
(Di Leo 1975-76, Grof 1969).
Eventually, the Clinical Sciences Division of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center
conducted several studies using the psychodelytic or extended psychedelic approach with
neurotic outpatients and inpatient alcoholics by administering compounds with a shorter
duration of action than LSD, such as dipropyltryptamine and psilocybin (Richards and
Berendes 1977; Rhead et al., 1977). The results of these studies and a pilot study
(Yensen et al., 1975) that explored the use of the milder psychedelic drug MDA
(3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine) in neurotic outpatients had promising results.
In this later analysis, the psychedelic paradigm appeared to be most useful in work with
terminal cancer patients (Richards et al., 1977), whereas the newer, more involved
paradigm seemed most promising with neuroses and character disorders (Richards and
Berendes, 1977-78; Yensen, 1976).
6This name was suggested by Stanislav Grof in an address to the European Psycholytic Association (Grof,
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From Psychodelytic to Holotropic Therapy
Grof evolved a new orientation out of the psychodelytic approach. The new approach he
calls holotropic, which means moving or growing toward wholeness. The name and the
approach reflect a deeply optimistic view of the intrinsic healing mechanisms released
through altered states of consciousness.
On the one hand, the Holotropic modality does not focus directly on resistances, but
instead relies on the effects of the altered state of consciousness to erode or explode
resistance and defense. This leads at its worst to an attitude that regards the psychedelics
as inherently therapeutic. If a resolution does not occur in one session then another
session is indicated. This is a valuable formulation because it allows the therapeutic
relationship to evolve and develop, but it is weak because it ignores the possibility of a
therapeutic impasse. As a consequence, the need for therapist skill to interpret material
from a psychedelic session is not stressed.
On the other hand, Grof offers a rich map of the territory of the inner psychedelic
journey. This theory links emotion from childhood experiences to global pools of affect
associated with the birth trauma. The intensification of the altered state leads finally to
breakthroughs into the transpersonal unconscious and many varieties of experience
beyond the time & space boundaries of the ego. This is the farthest reaching and most
meticulously detailed map of consciousness produced in western scientific research into
the human psyche. It links the innermost depths of the psyche with the essential fabric of
the universe (Grof, 1988).
The Political Context.
New facilities and changing funding patterns
By 1969 the Governor of Maryland, Spiro T. Agnew, inaugurated a large four-story
building with an attached 200 person auditorium. The basement had a sensory isolation
tank, two sound-proof sensory isolation rooms and a psychophysiology facility with EEG
and mini-computer. The third floor was the basic sciences floor with several laboratories.
The second floor of this building was devoted to the Clinical Sciences Division and
housed two completely self-contained treatment suites with private bathrooms and small
kitchens. These rooms were decorated with art, sofa and overstuffed chairs, in the
relaxed manner of a comfortable living room. The staff of the entire Research Center
included over one hundred people. A primary focus was to be psychedelic research.
This included the development of new compounds, isolation of active ingredients in plant
materials and capacity to perform basic toxicity assessments with animals.
Conflict with the Hospital Staff
At the same time that this pristine, air-conditioned building sprouted on a hill overlooking
the old state hospital buildings, new federal legislation cut funding for state hospitals.
There was strong political pressure to move institutionalized patients out of state
hospitals and into community settings. The new legislation created community mental
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health centers that absorbed much of the funding previously devoted to the state
Many members of the state hospital staff grew jealous and angry towards the well
salaried, highly credentialed, predominantly white, staff of the fancy new air-conditioned
Research Center. Meanwhile their own working conditions steadily deteriorated. Studies
of inpatients done during this time, compared "routine hospital treatment" to
experimental procedures. It is important to note the animosity that this situation
engendered between the formerly cooperative and enthusiastic staff of the state hospital
and the suddenly more privileged research staff.
This context also may account for the great difference in results between the studies done
with inpatients and those done with outpatients during this time. Only the inpatient
studies that used the "routine hospital treatment" as the control group were affected by
the jealousy of the hospital staff. Only these studies had problematic results that failed to
demonstrate the efficacy shown in earlier studies.
Public concern about possible chromosome damage was raised in 1967. An in vitro study
was published in the journal Science which reported a higher chromosomal aberration
rate in white blood cell cultures to which LSD had been added (Cohen et al., 1967). A
series of in vivo studies followed, mostly performed on users of illicit LSD. These
studies produced contradictory results due to some major shortcomings of the
experiments. The studies had no adequate controls and no measurement of the
chromosome breakage rate prior to LSD use. Since the furor over these reports had
implications for human research with LSD, our group decided to investigate this area in
collaboration with the National Institute of Health. In 1969, Tjio, Pahnke, and Kurland
reported on a study done at Spring Grove State Hospital: a prospective, double-blind
controlled experiment with 32 hospitalized alcoholic or neurotic patients who had never
taken LSD prior to the study. This study was the largest and the only one to date that
controlled for other drugs taken, concurrent infections, and used pure LSD of known
dosage. The results of the study gave no evidence that LSD damages the chromosomes
of human subjects given pure pharmaceutical quality LSD. Although early reports were
widely publicized, this later careful research was summarily ignored by the popular press.
(Tjio et al., 1969)
Other dramatic changes were also taking place at the Research Center. In 1971, Walter
Pahnke, Director of Clinical Sciences, died in a scuba diving accident. He had been an
energetic, charismatic leader in the research team. His successor as Director of Clinical
Research, although a board certified psychiatrist, had no background in psychedelic
Scientists were quickly recruited to fill the research positions that threatened to vanish
from future budgets if not filled within a few months of their creation. As many, hastily
retained, investigators arrived to the Center, they brought their own areas of interest.
Through this process the focus of divisions other than Clinical Sciences, strayed from the
original vision of a multidisciplinary center to study psychedelics to include a broad
gamut of research in basic sciences as it related to psychiatry.
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During this time the popular press continued sensational coverage of the negative effects
of LSD abuse. The State Hospital staff's attitude toward the research continued its rapid
Hospitalized Neurotic Study
Work with neurotics progressed at Spring Grove alongside the studies with alcoholics. In
1973 Oliver Lee McCabe reported on a study of 96 patients, 31 received a high LSD dose
(350 µgrams), 31 a low LSD dose (50 µgrams) and 37 control subjects who received a
combination of therapeutic measures as prescribed by the hospital staff. This control
therapy was varied and included psychotropic medication, electro-shock therapy,
individual psychotherapy & group psychotherapy on the hospital ward. The patients
were nominally hospitalized chronic severe neurotics, but most of them met the now
more carefully defined criteria for a more severe borderline diagnosis.
Immediately following the treatment program all three groups improved significantly.
High dose LSD treatment appeared superior to conventional treatment on 19 measures.
Low dose LSD seemed superior to conventional treatment on 11 measures. The
improvement was not just a reduction in psychopathology but also reflected and increase
in measures of positive mental health.
At six months following the therapy all groups showed significant improvement in
functioning. There were no statistically significant differences between groups at this
point. At one year there were a few measures that favored the high dose LSD group over
conventional treatment. The samples were considered skewed at this point and no longer
representative of the original group. At 18 months there was no difference between the
This study was beset by low dose responders and was confounded by the broad scope of
neurotic disorders treated. There were problems randomizing males and females and
different diagnoses. There was a suggestion that the single or double dose approach was
inadequate for this level of pathology. In addition, the women in this study “tended to
develop a protracted transference neurosis which was only partly resolved in the course
of the treatment.” (Savage et al., 1973 p. 43). Savage’s comments raise a concern as to
how adequately the psychedelic therapists were trained to manage transference in this
difficult population.
Heroin Addict Study
Savage and McCabe published a paper in 1973 describing a controlled study of thirty-six
(36) male heroin addicts in a halfway house. The treatment model included daily urine
monitoring, several weeks of preparatory therapy and one high dose (200 to 500 µg) LSD
session. Thirty-seven (37) patients randomly assigned to the control group received daily
urine surveillance and weekly group therapy in an outpatient abstinence program.
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Abstinence data significantly favored the LSD group during the one year follow-up..
Nine (25 % of the 36 subjects in the LSD group) maintained complete abstinence for one
year. Two (5% of the 37 subjects in the control group) remained abstinent over the same
period. Three LSD patients relapsed briefly and then remained abstinent for the rest of
the year. This brings the total abstinent among the LSD group to 12 (33%). Additional
research with outpatients was suggested (Savage & McCabe, 1973).
Other Research Projects
In spite of political and journalistic pressures and some equivocal results, the research
expanded and diversified. The Clinical Sciences Division ran studies with alcoholics,
heroin addicts, inpatient neurotics, outpatient neurotics and instituted a unique program
for professionals to have a "training experience" with LSD. The drugs explored included
LSD, DPT (Dipropyltryptamine), MDA (3, 4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine), DOET (2,5-
Dimethoxy-4-Ethyl Amphetamine), Psilocybin, and, as an active placebo, the stimulant
Ritalin (Methylphenidate HCl).
LSD Training Program for Mental Health Related Professionals
Beginning in June of 1969 a program was instituted to provide one to three LSD training
sessions to mental health professionals. This program sought to provide subjects with a
better understanding of: 1) the unconscious or primary process 2) the problems of young
people involved in drug abuse 3) how better studies of psychedelic drugs might be
designed 4) better insight into their own minds and enhancement of their therapeutic
skills including empathy. Two hundred three (203) professionals received one to three
LSD sessions in this program between 1969 and 1976.
In follow-up reports many trainees reported considerable benefits from their LSD
sessions. These positive reports included profound insights into philosophical and
religious systems, relief from emotional and psychosomatic symptoms, enhanced feelings
of well-being and overall improved functioning. Many of these changes were confirmed
by family members and professional colleagues (Harari & Kashof, 1972 give an account
of their subjective experiences in this program).
Alcoholism and a New Psychedelic
A low dose DPT pilot study with inpatient alcoholics was reported in 1973. This was the
last study conducted where a positive relationship existed between the research center
staff and the Alcohol Rehabilitation Unit staff at Spring Grove. There was an initial
double-blind assessment of low doses of DPT on measures of interview depth and quality
(Soskin et al., 1973), and then 51 patients were treated in a non-double-blind format. The
results were “dramatic improvement” from pre to post-treatment on a variety of
psychological test variables many of which reached high levels of statistical significance.
At six months follow-up five variables were measured: 1) occupational adjustment
improved (p<.01), 2) residential adjustment improved (p<.02), interpersonal adjustment
improved (p<.001), abstinence (p<.001), global adjustment improved (p<.001) (Grof et
al., 1973).
The Spring Grove Experiment Yensen & Dryer
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Federal funds were secured to follow-up on these extremely promising results. The
outcome of this final alcoholic study (conducted during the time described above when
staff relationships were in extreme distress) was published in 1977. The study assigned
175 patients randomly to three treatment groups: DPT therapy, conventional therapy and
routine hospital treatment. This regimen was completed by 103 of the original 175
patients. The research center staff conducted both the conventional therapy and the DPT
therapy. The hospital staff conducted the routine hospital treatment. There was a
differential dropout rate between the DPT group and the other groups. Many patients
assigned to the DPT group dropped out of treatment. Earlier discussion of the dynamics
with the Alcohol rehabilitation unit describe the atmosphere of competition and fear
promulgated at this time.
This study is an example of the effects of non-drug factors on outcome. These equivocal
results were obtained when the state hospital staff felt their treatment was pitted against
the Research Center staff. This created a hostile environment for the patients undergoing
the psychedelic treatment. There were no significant differences between the three
groups. The composition of the follow-up groups was confounded because of difficulty
in locating patients (Rhead et al., 1977).
With so many confounding variables this study defied straightforward analysis. One
conclusion is that DPT is not effective as a treatment for alcoholism. This contradicts
earlier findings from this team but confirms one other study (Another conclusion might
be that the quality of therapy was not the same as that in the encouraging pilot work,
since there was only a partial overlap of clinical staff between the two studies. The
concurrent studies with outpatients indicate that the staff performance was at high levels
with that population. This suggests that the dynamics with the state hospital staff may be
Outpatient Studies
In contrast to these inpatient DPT studies, Richards published a paper in 1976 with
terminal cancer patients. The results were overwhelmingly positive and reflected the
research staff's continued high level of motivation and enthusiasm (Richards et al., 1976).
In another outpatient study Yensen published a report on ten outpatient neurotics using
MDA as an adjunct to psychotherapy. The therapy process lasted two to six months with
a maximum of 75 hours. Two to four MDA sessions were given with doses ranging from
75 mg to 200 mg. There were standardized assessments before and after treatment and a
six month follow-up. Statistically significant psychological improvement (reduction of
obsessive-compulsive traits, depression and anxiety) was demonstrated after therapy and
remained stable over six months follow-up. Measures of self actualization and sense of
well-being also increased significantly. Mean global improvement was significant at the
p<0.01 level at follow-up (Yensen, 1976).
There were two studies begun at the research center that have not been mentioned in the
literature to date because they were never completed. One was a large (150 subjects) and
ambitious study designed by Yensen, Richards, Rhead, Williams and Di Leo. This study
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involved outpatient psychotherapy with a neurotic population. DPT was the psychedelic
drug used and both sterile water and Ritalin (Methylphenidate) served as inactive and
active placebos. There is evidence in the literature that Ritalin has use as an adjunct to
psychotherapy in addition to its effects as a stimulant. The study involved six groups and
both psycholytic style therapy and extended psychedelic style therapy; two of these
groups were double-blind controls for DPT in a psycholytic format. Low dose DPT,
Ritalin or sterile water were administered in double blind fashion up to 25 times. High
dose DPT and marathon music sessions completed the active treatment groups and a
waiting list control was the sixth group. This quite involved study attempted to control
for expectations and various types of drug action. A grant was submitted to NIMH and a
site visit was made but the project received approval with no funding. Nonetheless the
staff treated a few patients with this protocol.
The second incomplete and unpublished project involved the referral of outpatients
already engaged in psychotherapy with professionals in the surrounding communities.
These treating therapists could refer patients they felt were at an impasse in their therapy
for consultation with the research center clinical staff and evaluation for possible
psychedelic sessions with LSD, DPT or MDA. The referring therapist was free to assist
in the psychedelic session. Less than ten patients received sessions in this fashion.
(Berendes, 1979)
The Demise of the Research Center
In 1975 there was a great controversy over the dismissal of three scientists from the Basic
Sciences division of the research center. The controversy flourished amidst news reports
of a suicide due to the CIA’s irresponsible practices with LSD. The estranged scientists
accused the research center director of mismanaging public money, and alleged that the
research center engaged in no real treatment and thus rendered no service to the people of
the state of Maryland.
This political contention led to the eventual transfer of the facility from the Department
of Health and Mental Hygiene to the University of Maryland. News stories broke about
research with LSD at Edgewood Arsenal (an Army weapons research facility) in
Maryland where recruits were given LSD without informed consent. This research was
linked to the University of Maryland and created unbearable political pressure to
discontinue all psychedelic research at the University of Maryland. As a consequence all
psychedelic research at the center was stopped, most of the staff was dismissed or
resigned and a new director was appointed. By 1978 there were only five of the original
staff employed at the research center and the basic research direction was shifted to
schizophrenia research.
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Studies after 1976: Psychedelic Research After MPRC
By the end of 1976 over 700 patients had been treated by this team of investigators. The
results of these studies include a preponderance of positive results and some perhaps just
as interesting equivocal outcomes.
Yet the tide was shifting already. A news report came out about a government agent who
the CIA slipped LSD a few days before he jumped out a window in the 1950's. This
report came to the attention of the Maryland legislature which provided the funding for
the Research Center. They decided to close down this controversial research and turn the
big white building toward research with more conservative psychiatric treatments.
In 1976 the Research Center was completely restructured and virtually the entire
professional staff was replaced. The director was relieved of his responsibilities and the
psychedelic work was completely eliminated. The success of this research empire went
bust in 1976. Why, what happened and what can we learn that is of value to us in our
efforts to continue the exploration, to meet the scientific challenge and therapeutic
promise of psychedelic drugs?
In 1979 a small group of investigators from the previously disbanded Research Center
team began meeting again to plan a way to continue the interrupted research projects.
This team met with some success in dealing with the FDA and secured a new
Investigational New Drug Permit for LSD as well as reactivating the previous IND for
work with terminal cancer patients. Approximately 10 cancer patients were treated
through a collaboration with the University of Maryland and North Charles General
Hospital. These results have not yet been published (Di Leo, 1993).
Non-Drug Assisted Therapies Evolved from Psychedelic Research
As with the outer space exploration program sponsored through NASA7, there have been
some new techniques developed out of psychedelic research that do not depend on drug
adjuvants and have diffused into the culture of psychotherapy.
Holotropic Breathwork (Grof Breathing)
In the middle 1980's Stanislav & Christina Grof developed an approach to therapy that
involves the use of intense breathing and specially selected stereophonic music. This
approach is taught internationally and has spread to many countries. The breathwork
session produces phenomena which Grof has described as equivalent to the profound
experiential sequences he described for patients undergoing psycholytic and psychedelic
therapy (Grof, 1985)
7National Aeronautics & Space Administration.
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Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)
This technique was developed at the Research Center by Helen Bonny, the staff music
therapist. It emerged from a blending of Guided Affective Imagery techniques developed
by Hanscarl Leuner in Germany and music therapy approaches she developed for
psychedelic work. In this method the patient reclines and enters a deeply relaxed trance
while listening to carefully prepared classical music sequences designed to elicit and
support death rebirth mystical sequences of experience (Bonny & Savary 1973).
Perceptual Affective Therapy (PAT)
Perceptual Affective Therapy developed as a technique to emulate the effects of
psychedelic drugs through the selection and management of audio-visual stimuli to
enhance and amplify the inner feeling state of the patient. During a Perceptual Affective
Therapy session the patient may alternate between visual deprivation and sensory
overload through the alternation of eye-shades and intense visual stimuli from slide &
motion picture projectors. The patient is induced to enter an altered state by encouraging
them to let the stimuli become their feelings and visa-versa and to breathe in the stimuli
(Yensen, 1981). More recently deep tissue bodywork and breathwork have been
integrated with the Perceptual Affective Approach.
Shamanic Paradigm in a Contemporary Frame
In an attempt to integrate experience from Western psychedelic research, contact with
contemporary shamanic healers in Mexico and group process, Richard Yensen and
Donna Dryer developed a ritual context for psychospiritual healing. This involves the
use of breathwork and sensory overload within an anamnestic group journey. While held
within the compelling energy of group process in a shared vessel for healing participants
undergo an all night healing journey that blends all these elements. Great emphasis is
placed on affective, biographical, intellectual and spiritual integration of this experience.
The all night ceremony or velada8 is the experiential centerpiece of a 5 to 6 day
residential retreat.
Current Status of Psychedelic Research in the United States
Within the United States we are aware of at least four psychedelic projects. Rick
Strassman at the University of New Mexico is pursuing systematic human
psychopharmacology of DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) and Psilocybin (Strassman,
1993). Charles Grob and his associates at Harbor Hospital (UCLA) are involved in
safety studies of MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) with mental health
professionals and will soon proceed with clinical efficacy studies of terminal cancer
8The velada is a Mazatec ritual in which psychedelic mushrooms are used to enter a deep altered state of
consciousness for healing. In this modern shamanic approach multimedia portrayals of death re-birth
sequences, breathwork and deep tissue bodywork are used to produce the altered state rather than
The Spring Grove Experiment Yensen & Dryer
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patients (Grob, 1993). Juan Sanchez-Ramos and Deborah Mash are proceeding with
dose-response studies and safety trials of Ibogaine at the University of Miami (Doblin,
1994). Kurland, Yensen and Dryer have FDA approval for a study involving 60
outpatients with a substance abuse disorder who will receive various doses of LSD in a
psychodelytic approach (Kurland et al., 1991).
Future Directions for Research and Training
Fifty years of LSD research has failed to demonstrate that double blind placebo
controlled studies are appropriate to study the effects on humans. The adequacy of this
method, for instance, whether a double-blind is actually possible, needs to be tested in a
study specifically focused on validity of assessment. We are in the process of designing
such a study. It will attempt to systematically map, cross-check and control extraneous
variables and subjective distortions. The publication of such a study in a peer reviewed
journal will open the scientific dialogue necessary if the findings question this accepted
method of study. If they do not then we can go forward with a solidly confirmed
scientific foundation. If double-blind is not feasible we must develop other rigorous
Clearly there are many wonderful new tools to assess the physiology and brain metabolic
actions of psychedelics. Psychotherapy research with these compounds strongly
indicates that physiological response often mirrors subjective experience. For this reason
a report of the subjective experience is an important element in data gathering that must
not be overlooked in any physiological study. Rick Strassman’s studies are exemplary in
this regard. We encourage researchers who use sensitive new techniques such as the PET
scanner to correlate the physiology with the psychology of the psychedelic experience.
This subjective scope should in not compromise the rigor of such work. Instead it should
reflect the intimate connection between mind and body established by
In reviewing this work it seems clear that the experimental treatment in psychedelic
therapy involves a mystical experience. The presence or absence of this experience is the
true experimental condition, not the presence, absence or dose of a psychedelic. This
insight suggests another method for analyzing even studies that have already been done.
This also substantiates the need for human experimentation as laboratory animals cannot
communicate subjective experience with adequate resolution.
The ability to predict which patients are likely to have a peak experience would allow
effective selection of the best candidates for treatment. Mechanisms for adequate
reporting of non-pharmacological factors in all human research must be discerned. These
factors are so uniquely important to the study of psychedelic drugs in human subjects that
if they are not systematically reported and studied they merely confound results. Thus set
& setting, attitude of all present in a session, institutional politics and psychodynamic
interplay are essential reagents in the psychedelic reaction. They must be assessed and
reported for replication to be possible.
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The assessment of subjective experience is a frontier that directly intersects with
psychedelic research. Our tools in this area are by and large primitive, but measurement
is imperative. At the research center the Psychedelic Experience Questionnaire was
routinely used to quantify the depth of peak experiences. McClelland’s work in
psychoneuroimmunology indicates that peak experiences have a profound effect on the
immune system. Perhaps new tools will involve direct measurement of immune function
as an indicator of peak experience intensity (McClelland, 1988).
Regulatory & Training Issues
Psychedelics pose a challenge to the existing regulatory mechanisms because they are
unique in their ability to amplify the effects of extra-pharmacological factors. The
regulatory apparatus was established to deal with substances whose effects are consistent
and independent of extrapharmacological factors. It would be irresponsible to release
psychedelic compounds as prescription drugs. Any physician, psychiatrist, psychologist,
or scientist wishing to use psychedelic compounds in human studies must be carefully
and extensively trained in their use. That training must reflect our knowledge of their
long history of use in other cultures. Models for training come from other subjective
disciplines such as psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis requires extensive first hand
experience in a training analysis. A prospective psychedelic researcher must work with
these substances under the careful supervision of more experienced researchers. Most
assuredly it is inappropriate for these drugs to be administered by those who refuse to
thoroughly explore their own psyche with them as a necessary precondition for
responsibly and sensitively dealing with another human being's response to the same
Interdisciplinary approaches are imperative The disciplines of psychology, anthropology,
philosophy and theology must not be excluded merely because we conceive of these
compounds as drugs and of drugs as the exclusive province of physicians.
The Consciousness Laboratory
The use of computers, virtual reality, and physiological measurement could be integrated
into a nearly ideal laboratory for psychedelic research. Such an environment would allow
free access to a tremendous variety of audio-visual stimuli to enhance and manage
response to the compounds while still permitting unobtrusive measurement of
physiological states and their subsequent correlation with the experiences facilitated by
psychedelics in this setting. The advantage of this setting is that it would thoroughly
document the stimuli used, the drug, dosage and psychological response all in real-time
with possibilities for feedback into the on-going drug session (Yensen, 1982).
The role of usually ignored and unreported extra-pharmacological factors in psychedelic
research has been explored with the Spring Grove and MPRC studies as examples. The
relationships among the entire research team have quite significant impact on the milieu
for psychedelic research. These factors of set & setting play a major role by increasing or
The Spring Grove Experiment Yensen & Dryer
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decreasing the probability of a peak experience. We found the peak experience to be the
actual treatment condition not the presence or absence of a psychedelic. The psychedelic
is another contributing factor, one that enhances the likelihood of a peak experience, but
does not guarantee it.
Consistently errors were made in underestimating the impact of non-drug factors on
psychedelic sessions and their outcome. Training sessions that provide study designers
with enough first hand experiences to understand the phenomenological shifts that occur
with psychedelics would be helpful.
As we explore the evolution of more effective therapy with psychedelics there is need for
more systematic and complete reporting of all non-drug variables. If these important
reagents in the psychedelic reaction are not reported the work cannot be replicated.
The appropriateness of double-blind methodology and indeed the possibility of a true
double blind has been called into question. This is a testable research hypothesis that we
propose to investigate.
In the process of conducting the research at Spring Grove and the Maryland Psychiatric
Research Center over 750 patients received psychedelic sessions. The majority benefited
in some way, a minority were unchanged. We are not aware of any long-term
complications among the subjects. This establishes a solid basis for future investigations
in terms of risk to benefit ratio.
We need a rigorous and systematic approach to investigating the therapeutic potential of
psychedelic compounds as enhancers of the healing process. We must use the insights
available from past efforts in this culture and others to develop this investigational
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LSD & Substance Abuse Protocol Approved by FDA
LSD & Cancer Work Continued Under New Protocol
Through the University of Maryland
DPT & Alcoholism Controlled Study Published
Pilot Neurotic Controlled DPT, Ritalin & Sterile Water
Pilot MDA with Staff
Pilot Referred Outpatient Program
Pilot DPT with Alcoholics & Neurotics
LSD & Heroin Addicts — Controlled
LSD & Alcoholics — Controlled 450µg 50µg
Walter Pahnke Dies
Early LSD Pilot Study Published
LSD Training Program — Mental Health Professionals Begins
LSD Inpatient Neurotic — Controlled 350µg vs Hospital Rx
Maryland Psychiatric Research Center Opens
Report on Six Cancer Patients
Pilot Cancer Work Begins
CBS Documentary "The Spring Grove Experiment" Aired
Preliminary Positive Results Published
Early Pilot Work Alcoholics & Neurotics
Kurland & Unger Discuss Beginning LSD Psychedelic Research
Maryland Psychiatric Research Psychedelic Research Stops
1953-55 Early LSD Study of Schizophrenic Patients at Spring Grove
Over 30 Years of Psychedelic Research — The Spring Grove Experiment
The Spring Grove Experiment Yensen & Dryer
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Summary Listing of Major Studies
Cholden, Kurland & Savage, 1955
20 inpatients with chronic schizophrenia
LSD 100-500µg Intramuscular Injection
up to 14 administrations given daily
1) LSD can be given I.M. over protracted period without untoward effects
2) Tolerance is seen on the 2nd day and after 4-6 days is gone
3) Gross behavior is useful indicator of tolerance
4) There is no cross tolerance between LSD and mescaline
5) Clinical responses of schizophrenics were categorized
6) The reactions may in part be determined by the milieu
Kurland, Unger, Shaffer, Savage, 1967
69 chronic alcoholic inpatients
LSD 200-900 µg orally
1 administration
18 month follow-up study
1) Safe treatment modality as shown by pre- and post- EEG’s on 20 patients
2) Specialized training is necessary for safe an effective treatment
3) One-third maintained abstinence up to 6 months
4) Reversal of pattern of pathological functioning as seen on MMPI’s
Pahnke, Kurland, Goodman, Richards, 1969
22 metastatic cancer inpatients
LSD 200-500µg
Pilot study and case histories: 6 showed dramatic improvement, 8 showed good
improvement, 8 remained unchanged of 22
Improvement: decreased depression, anxiety, fear of death; increased relaxation, greater
ease in medical management, closer interpersonal family relationships with more
openness and honesty on a 13 point scale
Tjio, Pahnke, Kurland, 1969
32 psychiatric inpatients, 5 drug abusers & 8 normals
LSD 21 high dose=250-400 µg; 11 low dose=50 µg
Mean pre-LSD rate of chromosomal aberrations in the 32 patients (4.28%) and the 5 LSD
users (2.81%) are comparable to each other and to the values obtained from 2 normal
control subjects sampled for 8 to 10 consecutive days (2.65%). Pre- to post-LSD
differences for both the 32 patients (+1.63%) and the 5 LSD users (+0.76%) are not
statistically significant. Mean chromosomal aberration rates for the 32 patients and 5
LSD users (including both pre-and post-means), 8 experimental normal LSD subjects
(post-LSD), and 2 normal controls (no LSD) only vary from 2.65% to 5.91%.
The Spring Grove Experiment Yensen & Dryer
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Pahnke, Kurland, Unger, Savage, Wolf, Goodman, 1970
6 metastatic cancer patients
LSD 200µg to 300 µg orally or intramuscular
case histories; showed decrease in need for pain medication and improvement in global
change for all 6 patients
Pahnke, Kurland, Unger, Savage, Grof, 1970 JAMA
Experimental Use of Psychedelic Psychotherapy
Kurland, Savage, Pahnke, Grof & Olsson 1971
135 chronic alcoholics
LSD 50µg or 450µg orally
one session
6, 12, and 18 mo follow-up
6 month follow-up 53% rehabilitated high dose group vs. 33% in low dose group p=.05.
This initial gain was attenuated at end of 18 months although overall levels of
improvement was considerably better for both groups than usual improvement for other
alcoholics in the same setting without LSD-assisted psychotherapy.
Richards, Grof, Goodman, Kurland, 1972
31 cancer patients
LSD 200-500 µg orally or intramuscular
one session
25% had peak experiences and less fear of death afterwards
29% dramatically improved, 41.9% moderately improved, 29% unchanged
McCabe, Savage, Kurland, Unger, 1972
96 inpatient neurotics
LSD 31 high dose (350µg), 32 low dose (50µg), 33 group therapy alone
High dose psychedelic therapy was superior to conventional therapy on specific
“symptom” areas as defined by the MMPI, e.g.. depression, obsessive-compulsive
syndrome, social introversion, manifest anxiety, ego strength, neurotic overcontrol. On
the POI “Spontaneity” and “Self-regard” consistently show greater increments after both
forms of psychedelic therapy and “self-actualized values” are more frequently increased
after high-dose LSD administration.
Savage, McCabe ,Kurland, Hanlon, 1973
same 96 inpatient neurotics as above
more complete data analysis
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High dose>Conventional treatment
p<.05 for MMPI items Depression, Social Introversion, Ego Strength, Benaric Items
p<.01 for Validity, Correction, Factor, Social Desirability.
for POI items p<.05 for Self-actualizing value, and Self-Acceptance and p<.01 for
Spontaneity and Self-regard for PEP items p<.05 Distress, Distrust, Social Desirability,
Future p<.01 for Insight
Low Dose better than Conventional Treatment p<.01 only for PEP Distrust and Distress
and POI Self-Regard and p<.05 for MMPI scales Correction, Factor, Social Desirability,
PEP scales Future and Insight and POI Spontaneity.
Soskin, Grof, Richards, 1973
18 inpatient alcoholics
15-30 mg of DPT intramuscular
Therapist Rating Scale DPT > placebo p<.01 for items: Recall of Memories and
Experiences, Emotional Expressiveness, depth of Self-Exploration and p<.05 for
Psychodynamic Resolution.
Grof, Soskin, Richards, and Kurland, 1973
51 inpatient alcoholics
15-150 mg DPT intramuscular
one to six two-hour sessions
72 DPT and 64 placebo therapy interviews on a double-blind basis
Percentage rehabilitated at 6 month follow-up: global adjustment=46.8% and
abstinence=53.2% at p<0.001 and significant improvement (compared to pre-treatment)
on occupational adjustment (p<.01), residential adjustment (p<.02), interpersonal
adjustment (p<.001).
Savage and McCabe, 1973
37 narcotic addicts in a halfway house
200-500 µg LSD orally
one session
25% remained abstinent vs. 5% abstinent at 12 month follow up with p<.05
Turek, Soskin, Kurland, 1974
10 mental health professionals
MDA 40-150mg orally
one session Pilot Study
Analyzed blood pressure, digit symbol subtest, digit span subtest, handwriting,
Psychedelic Experience Questionnaire, Modified Linton-Langs Questionnaire and the
Subjective Drug Effects Questionnaire. MDA invites inner exploration vs. LSD which
demands it. Might be helpful in treatment of obsessive and depressive traits.
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Yensen, Di Leo, Rhead, Richards, Soskin, Turek, Kurland, 1976
10 neurotic outpatients
MDA 75-200 mg orally
2-4 sessions
Significant improvements on POI, MMPI, BPRS, WPRS, and Social History
Questionnaire at pre- to post and 6 months post therapy
Rhead, Soskin, Turek, Richards, Yensen, Kurland, Ota, 1977
33 inpatient alcoholics received DPT, compared to 46 Conventional Treatment (CT), 24
Routine Hospital Treatment (RHT)
DPT 15-150mg intramuscular injection
1-6 sessions
Not much difference due to drop-out rates and other complexities discussed in this paper.
Richards,, Rhead, Di Leo, Yensen, Kurland, 1977
34 cancer patients
75-127.5 mg DPT intramuscular injection
one session
Predictors of peak experiences analyzed (peakers=14, non-peakers=17)
Richards, Rhead, Grof, Goodman, Di Leo, Rush, 1979
30 cancer patients
75-127.5 mg DPT intramuscular injection
one session
ECRS scales of Depression and Anxiety were p<.05 pre- vs. post- Mini-Mult showed
decreased distress, e.g. D p<.006, Hy p<.006, Pt p<.004, Pa p<.01, Sc p<.001, Ma p<.02;
POI: Time competency p<.03, Inner Directedness p<.01, Self-Regard p<.02, Self-
Acceptance p<.005, Capacity for Intimate contact p<.02.
Berendes, 1979
12 neurotic outpatients
20-30 mg psilocybin or 200-300µg LSD or 70-120 mg DPT
one session in the context of ongoing psychoanalytic psychotherapy
Analytic description of shifts in therapy and transference leading up to, during, and after
the session.
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... The consensus is that psychedelic therapists should work closely with a clinical supervisor on these issues that invariably occur. Transferential issues have been seen to arise more often in higher dose treatment, depending on the emerging unconscious processes (Grof, 1980;Lennard & Hewitt, 1960;Strassman, 2010;Yensen & Dryer, 1992), but are not likely to lead to idealization of the therapist (Cohen & Ditman, 1963;Passie, 2012). In sessions in which transference is triggered, "there is little doubt that a Jungian analyst will find many archetypes nor will Freud's disciples lack early memories of Oedipal conflict" (Hoffer & Osmond, 1967, p. 109). ...
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Research since the 1950s has shown that psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has had significant positive effects in reductions of specific clinical symptoms and increases in quality of life as measured on a variety of indices. The intensity of focus on evidence-based outcomes, however, has resulted in a paucity of active discussions and research on the core competencies of the therapists themselves. The context of the history of psychedelic research reveals how this neglect of therapist variables occurred. With current discussions of Phase 3 and expanded access research programs for psilocybin-assisted and MDMA-assisted psychotherapies, there will be a great need for competent therapists trained in this clinical specialty. This is particularly the case if less restricted, legal medical use is approved within the next 6 to 10 years. This article is the first review and compilation of psychedelic therapist competencies derived from the psychedelic literature. These six therapist competencies are empathetic abiding presence; trust enhancement; spiritual intelligence; knowledge of the physical and psychological effects of psychedelics; therapist self-awareness and ethical integrity; and proficiency in complementary techniques. A further contribution of this review is a delineation of the 12 fundamental curricular domains of study for the training and development of these therapist competencies. As current legal restrictions evolve, aspects of these training guidelines will develop accordingly.
... It is unknown if there were additional files that were lost or destroyed.] (Grof, 2008;Yensen & Dryer, 1992). Participants in this study were clinical researchers, therapists working with non-psychedelic-related approaches, and crisis interventionists, in addition to the psychedelic therapists in training. ...
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The Swiss Federal Act on Narcotics allows for the restricted medical use of scheduled psychotropic drugs in cases of resistance to standard treatment, and preliminary evidence of efficacy of the scheduled drug for the particular condition. Since 2014, the authors have obtained 50 licenses on a case-by-case basis and developed a psychedelic-assisted group therapy model utilizing MDMA and LSD. The majority of the patients taking part in the psychedelic group therapy suffered from chronic complex post-traumatic stress disorder (c-PTSD), dissociative, and other post-traumatic disorders. Treatment modalities, typical developments and problems encountered during and after the psychedelic experiences are described. Recurrent depression poses a frequent problem, and requires special attention. Symptoms of c-PTSD predominantly addressed by the psychedelic experiences are the regulation of emotions and impulses, negative self-perception, alterations in relationships to others, as well as meaning, recall, and processing of traumatic memories. C-PTSD needs a larger number of psychedelic experiences in contrast to PTSD resulting from single trauma. In this model MDMA was most often used in the first phase to enhance motivation to change, strengthen the therapeutic alliance, allowing it to become more resilient, stress-relieved and less ambivalent. When emotional self-regulation, negative self-perception and structural dissociation had also begun to improve and trauma exposure was better tolerated, LSD was introduced to intensify and deepen the therapeutic process. The majority of participants improved by clinical judgement, and no serious adverse events occurred. A short case vignette describes a typical process. The experiences with this model can serve to further develop the method of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAP) and to give directions for future research.
Since the advent of sound reproduction, new types of listener have emerged: a consumer-listener enters Muzak’s affective atmosphere and purchases more than planned; prisoner-of-war-listeners are assaulted with earsplitting pop music until their will is broken; an analysand-listener’s unconscious is catalyzed by the dynamic textures of classical music. Although technology has afforded the production of such diverse listening subjects, music theorists have yet to consider such listening encounters as valuable sites of music-theoretical inquiry. Rather, the image of an attentive, detail-oriented listener continues to prevail in the field. Questioning the necessity of this image as the sole ground for music-theoretical discourse, this dissertation opens an archive of theories about music we have yet to engage as music theory: thought about music in psychotherapeutic practice. In particular, I study theories of music grounded on the image of a listener experiencing the dissolution of the subjectivity necessary for engaging music in music theory’s fastidious manner: the psychedelic listener. This dissertation traces a form of music psychotherapy called Guided Imagery and Music from its roots in 1950s psychedelic psychiatry through to its present-day use in a therapist’s private practice. Developed by Helen L. Bonny in dialogue with intellectual currents of the counterculture, thought about music in GIM offers a striking counterpoint to that of music theory. As a field establishing itself in the North American academy at the same time, music theorists grounded their discipline in positivist inquiry. While music theory has moved away from this position following numerous critiques, I argue that the specter of this disciplinary origin continues to haunt our present in the form of a presumed image of what it means to listen. To better respond to critiques of music theory, then, I propose that we begin to engage music-theoretical contributions of those who base their theories on listening otherwise. My dissertation seeks to begin this reparative process. In chapter one, I think through a provocative statement in order to explore two images of the listener: the modern and the psychedelic. In chapter two, I explore how the modern listener regulates what counts as music-theoretical work, while also demonstrating that music theorists have always appeared unfulfilled by this image of listening as evidenced in their investment in musical experience. Chapter three recasts experience by tracing the co-emergence of the concept of the psychedelic and what came to be called psychedelic psychotherapy. In order to foster the kind of experience they found therapeutically efficacious, researchers began playing music during the sessions. Chapter four follows up on this practice by studying two approaches to selecting music for psychedelic psychotherapy—one premised on psychological behaviorism, the other, Bonny’s, on humanistic and transpersonal psychology. In Chapter five, I study Bonny’s theory of music in GIM. Through a close reading of her primary music-theoretical text, I work to tease her voice out the cacophony of sources she cites. In chapter six, I explore how a therapist uses GIM in private practice today. Drawing on fieldwork with a practitioner, I present a detailed vignette of a single session before elaborating on the therapist’s thinking about the psyche and music. Chapter seven concludes by drawing the various strands of this dissertation together—integrating them so that we might reorient our music-theoretical practices moving forward.
There is a growing resurgence in the study of psychedelic medicines for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. However, certain early investigations are marred by questionable research methods, abuses against research participants, and covert Central Intelligence Agency financial involvement. The purpose of this study was to understand how and to what extent people of colour and other vulnerable populations, specifically, individuals who were incarcerated or incapacitated due to mental health issues (inpatients with psychotic disorders), were exploited during the first wave of psychedelic research in the USA (1950–1980). To do so, we reviewed available empirical publications according to current ethical standards. Variables of interest included race and ethnicity of participants, population vulnerability, drug administration conditions, informed consent and undue influence. Our findings draw attention to the history of research abuses against people of colour in Western psychedelic research. In light of these findings, we urge a call-to-action to current psychedelic researchers to prioritise culturally inclusive and socially responsible research methods in current and future studies.
The therapeutic use of psilocybin in psychedelic-assisted therapy models is currently being tested for a variety of indications, necessitating the training of hundreds of therapists. At present, training programs do not include the provision of a psilocybin experience for therapists, and the last time such an experience was offered with a similar compound was through the Spring Grove LSD Training Study between 1969 and 1974. This article explores archival Spring Grove data to inform training programs and efforts to establish or provide training experiences with psilocybin or otherwise include experiences with nonordinary states of consciousness in the training of psychedelic therapists.
Résumé Découvert en 1943 par le chimiste suisse Albert Hofmann, le LSD fut rapidement reconnu pour ses effets thérapeutiques, notamment dans le cadre de la fin de vie. Puissant antalgique, il permettait aux patients en phase terminale de cancer d’appréhender leur propre mort avec plus de sérénité et favorisait la communication avec les proches et le personnel soignant. Faisant partie des médicaments les plus étudiés de l’époque, de nombreuses études dans le champ de la psychiatrie établirent une méthodologie sûre et aux résultats prometteurs, appelée “thérapie psychédélique” qui servirent de base aux médecins en charge des patients en fin de vie. Ces travaux influencèrent l’émergence de la discipline des soins palliatifs et remirent en question la prise en charge de la mort par le corps médical en mettant l’accent sur le bien-être et le témoignage du patient. Pourtant, à la fin des années 1960, ces recherches furent définitivement interrompues suite au classement de la substance dans la liste des stupéfiants. De nos jours, de nouvelles études sont à nouveau autorisées dans différents pays du monde, pour réévaluer, grâce aux progrès scientifiques, les bénéfices potentiels du LSD appliqué aux soins palliatifs.
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Human research with hallucinogens such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been ongoing in the USA since 1949. During the 1960s, LSD was investigated for a variety of psychiatric indications, including the following: as an aid in treatment of schizophrenia; as a means of creating a “model psychosis”; as a direct antidepressant; and as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Studies with all drugs, including LSD, have always been conducted under federal regulatory controls, including the 1938 Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA; which ensured the safety of drugs) and the 1962 Kefauver-Harris Amendments to the FDCA (which described appropriate scientific methodology and ensured drug efficacy). This paper details how the 1962 Amendments introduced numerous safety and efficacy requirements that must be in satisfied during clinical drug research—and how human studies conducted with LSD in the 1960s struggled with their fulfillment. Information is provided from Senate hearings, case law, and interviews with key investigators. Examples are also drawn from scientific papers and symposia published during and since that period, with a focus on information from clinical studies conducted with LSD by psychiatrist Albert Kurland at the Spring Grove State Hospital, near Baltimore, MD. While Kurland largely conformed with these new regulations, other investigators often fell short of complying with scientific standards and federal requirements. Thus, the human hallucinogen studies of the 1960s are best understood as providing pilot data on safety and efficacy, as well as testable hypotheses for current hallucinogen studies conducted under modern scientific and regulatory standards.
Over the 1950s and early 1960s, the use of the hallucinogenic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) to facilitate psychotherapy was a promising field of psychiatric research in the USA. However, during the 1960s, research began to decline, before coming to a complete halt in the mid-1970s. This has commonly been explained through the increase in prohibitive federal regulations during the 1960s that aimed to curb the growing recreational use of the drug. However, closely examining the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of LSD research in the 1960s will reveal that not only was LSD research never prohibited, but that the administration supported research to a greater degree than has been recognized. Instead, the decline in research reflected more complex changes in the regulation of pharmaceutical research and development.
This report deals with observations made on twelve patients during their psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy before and after they underwent psychodelic drug interventions. The anticipated event had a remarkable impact on therapy, manifested by acceleration as well as intensification and a typical development of two major psychodynamic stages before the intervention and an unexpected gentle resolution of transference and tendency for termination of treatment by the patient afterwards. Two different thought models are applied - the classical psychoanalytical Freudian concept and Grof's much more extended framework with a different resulting approach - to explain the major effect of the unspecific drug-induced deep regression and final development of therapy.
One-hundred and thirty-two college students were exposed in small groups to two films which contrasted in the extent to which they aroused either power or affiliation motivation. In previous studies high power motivation, if it is inhibited, has been associated with lower levels of salivary immunoglobulin A (S-Ig A), and high affiliation motivation, if it is not inhibited, is associated with higher concentrations of S-Ig A. The film which aroused power motivation more was not followed by a decrease in S-Ig A concentrations as predicted, but the film was followed by a significant reduction in S-Ig A concentrations for those individuals with the inhibited power motive syndrome at baseline as compared to individuals characterized by other motive syndromes. The film which aroused affiliation motivation more was followed by an increase in S-Ig A concentrations immediately afterwards, and this increase was sustained an hour later when subjects continued to dwell on the loving relationships that characterized the film. Subjects characterized by the relaxed affiliative syndrome at baseline showed greater gains in S-Ig A in response to the film which aroused affiliative concerns. Although higher S-Ig A levels at baseline are associated with reports of less severe illness in the past among males, neither males nor females who showed consistent gains in S-Ig A after the affiliative film reported less severe illness in the past.
Der Gebrauch von LSD in der Behandlung des Alkoholismus hat zu vielen Thesen hinsichtlich der Wirksamkeit dieses Stoffes geführt. Bemühungen, die Richtigkeit von Berichten durch kontrollierte Studien zu bestätigen, waren schwierig wegen der einzigartigen Auswirkungen von LSD. Trotz diesem beträchtlichen methodischen Hindernis sind eine Menge Untersuchungen durchgeführt worden. Eine Kritik dieser Untersuchungen wird dargestellt, ergänzt durch unsere eigenen Forschungserfahrungen aus einer Doppelblindkontrolluntersuchung an 135 chronischen Alkoholikern. Bei unserer Untersuchung wurde LSD nur zusätzlich zur Psychotherapie verwendet, und die meisten Patienten erhielten nur in einer Sitzung diese Droge. Unsere Methode bezeichnen wir als “Psychedelic peak therapy”: es ist das Ziel während der Verabreichung des LSD, ein bestimmtes tiefempfundenes und einsichtsvolles Erlebnis zu erreichen in der Hoffnung, heilsame Veränderungen der Persönlichkeit und ihrer Haltung zu erzielen. Die Dosis betrug 450 Mikrogramm bei der Versuchsgruppe und 50 Mikrogramm bei der Kontrollgruppe. Beide Gruppen wurden unter Krankenhausbedingungen behandelt, und in Abständen von 6, 12 und 18 Monaten folgten kontrollierende Nachuntersuchungen, um die Anpassung nach der ersten Behandlungsphase abschätzen zu können. Die höher dosierte Gruppe zeigte eine statistisch bedeutsame Überlegenheit gegenüber der niedrig dosierten Gruppe im Trinkverhalten und in der Gesamtanpassung nach 6 Monaten. Nach 12 bis 18 Monaten jedoch wurde dieser Anfangserfolg vermindert, so daß es keine auffälligen Unterschiede zwischen beiden Gruppen mehr gab, obwohl die Besserung insgesamt bei beiden Gruppen wesentlich stärker war als die übliche Besserung bei anderen Alkoholikern unter gleichen Bedingungen, allerdings ohne Therapieunterstützung durch LSD. Diese Ergebnisse haben unterstrichen, daß weitere Forschung notwendig ist, um herauszufinden, wie man die von uns beobachteten therapeutischen Anfangsvorteile optimal stützen und verstärken kann.