The findings of research published in the “Cell” journal have demonstrated that once LSD is consumed, a part of the serotonin receptor allows the compound to perch on the brain for up to 12 hours.
LSD, which is a psychedelic, alters an individual’s perception and cognition. The potent drug gained popularity globally during the hippie years in the 1960s and 1970s as a recreational drug. However, as it had a high potential for severe physical and psychological dependency as well as for abuse, it was quickly classified as a Schedule 1 drug.
Between 1988 and 1993, the Swiss government allowed five members of the Swiss Medical Society for Psycholytic Therapy to prescribe LSD or MDMA to their patients. This made therapy with psychedelic drugs legal. While it wasn’t until 1993 that the Switzerland government shut down the regulated psychiatric use of LSD in a legally approved setting, the United States made LSD possession illegal in 1968. Since then, scientists have been interested in studying the potential utility of these substances as well as its complex pharmacology in a bid to learn more about consciousness and human psychopathology.
After nearly two decades of trial and error, scientists have finally been able to modify the receptor and the LSD into a crystallized form. This enabled them to analyze the compound’s exact physical structure. The researchers used crystallography to do this and discovered that brain cells respond to the drug molecules attached to the crystallography by being absorbed by the receptor. It is at this point that LSD is broken down. Crystallography is a method that beams x-rays into a material and uses the resulting diffraction pattern to determine the exact spacing of atoms in the material.
The senior co-author of the study, Bryan Roth, states that a majority of the people who consume the drug have no idea how long the drug lasts. Roth, a professor of pharmacology at the University of North Carolina, admits that his interest in the topic arose following encounters with partygoers at Grateful Dead concerts. These concerts were the primary LSD distribution network in the mid-90s.
While crystal and molecular studies cannot fully describe the central nervous system on LSD, these types of studies still provide useful information on hallucinogen actions. With more research, chemists might in the future be able to develop versions of the drug whose effects don’t last as long. These versions may be appropriate for clinical use for PTSD or anxiety.
It will be interesting to see how psychedelic biotech companies like ATAI Life Sciences will apply this information to the future of healthcare solutions.
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