Shockinducing Properties Of Lsd And Its Effect On Personality Structure

In the early period of LSD research, several authors suggested that the profound and shattering experience induced by LSD could have a positive effect on some patients comparable to the effect of various methods of convulsive treatment such as electroshocks, insulin coma therapy, or cardiazole and acetylcholine shocks. Occasionally, unexpected and dramatic clinical improvements were reported in psychiatric patients after a single LSD session. Observations of this kind have been described in papers by Stoll, (97) Becker, (8) Benedetti, (10) Belsanti, (9) and Giberti, Gregoretti and Boeri. (30)

In addition, an increasing number of reports seemed to suggest that sometimes a single administration of LSD could have a deep influence on the personality structure of the subject, his or her hierarchy of values, basic attitudes, and entire life style. The changes were so dramatic that they were compared with psychological conversions.2 Many LSD researchers made similar observations and became aware of the potential therapeutic value of these transformative experience^. The major obstacle to their systematic utilization for therapeutic purposes was the fact that they tended to occur in an elemental fashion, without a recognizable pattern, and frequently to the surprise of both the patient and the therapist. Since the variables determining such reactions were not understood, therapeutic transformations of this kind were not readily replicable. However, it was this category of observations and systematic efforts to induce similar experiences in a more predictable and controlled way that finally resulted in the development of an important treatment modality, the so-called psychedelic therapy. The basic principles of this therapeutic approach will be discussed later.

In summary, LSD can undoubtedly produce a profound emotional and vegetative shock in a patient or an experimental subject. The shock-effect tends, however, to be more disorganizing and disruptive than therapeutic, unless it occurs within a special framework, in a situation of complex psychological support, and after careful preparation. The conversion mechanism is too unpredictable, elemental and capricious to be relied upon as a therapeutic mechanism per se.

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