Not every psychedelic experience is a kaleidoscopic thrill ride of epically-fantastic proportions. Some trips feel downright nightmarish, but a fail-safe option may soon arrive to pull people out of unwelcomed LSD trips.
Canada’s Mind Medicine Inc., aka MindMed, recently announced a research partnership with the Liechti Laboratory at the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland. Switzerland is not only the birthplace of LSD, it’s also home to some of the world’s oldest LSD-assisted psychotherapy clinics, and Dr. Mattias Liechti is considered modern medicine’s foremost expert on LSD in clinical settings. In February, MindMed became one of the first psychedelics companies to list on the public Canadian stock exchange.
The partnership will launch Phase II clinical trials for LSD, also known as acid, to treat anxiety. According to a press release, a trip “neutralizer” will also be included in the study, a drug that can counteract the powerful effects of LSD to pull a patient out of a trip quickly and safely.
“Over the past decade, we have amassed the largest collection of clinical trials around LSD; we have been studying the pharmacology and potential medical uses of LSD and other psychedelics for many years in the laboratory, in patients, and in healthy volunteers,” said Dr. Liechti said in a press release. “MindMed is the leading company with a similar mission to ours to use rigorous research and science to create mainstream medicines for neuro-psychiatric conditions. This collaboration now allows us to greatly accelerate our groundbreaking research.”
Neither press release lists what the LSD “off-switch” drug will contain, though one does state that MindMed has already filed a US patent for the drug. LSD is known for causing trips that can last from 6 to 12 hours, which can be excessive for many patients who are inexperienced with psychedelics. “Challenging” psychedelic experiences — a PC term for the dreaded “bad trip” — could discourage many patients from continuing LSD-assisted psychotherapy. So, if this neutralizing drug works, it could act like an emergency exit for acid sessions that go wrong. Interestingly, another company is working on developing magic mushrooms that never cause bad trips, too.
Although we don’t yet know what MindMed’s “off-switch” is made of, we can take some guesses. Scientists still don’t understand how LSD causes hallucination and ego death, but evidence points to the drug’s effects on our serotonin and dopamine transmitters.
“I can say that we have a planned program exploring the use of a range of compounds to be used to treat negative acute experiences with hallucinogens to increase their clinical safe use,” Liechti told New Atlas in an email. “Classically, such treatments included benzodiazepines or haloperidol. Ketanserin has so far been used to investigate the mechanism of action of psychedelic substances.”
Haloperidol blocks dopamine transmission. Ketanserin controls high blood pressure. And benzodiazepines, also known as tranquilizers, usually block serotonin, the neurotransmitter that most closely resembles LSD. Some anecdotes, mainly from self-reports published online by acid users, claim that serotonin-blocking drugs like Xanax (alprazolam) can end an LSD trip almost instantly.
However, combining tranquilizers (or haloperidol, or ketanserin) with LSD could be deadly, so let’s leave the drug experimentation to the clinical researchers, yeah?