The history of LSD experimentation is long and colorful—before it was made illegal in 1970, the CIA conducted numerous tests with the drug to see if it could be used for psychological warfare. That never worked out, and Timothy Leary's unhinged radicalism helped propel the drug out into the fringes of the counterculture, where few serious researchers could follow. Now, however, there are hints the medical establishment may be prepared to reconsider LSD, as the first controlled trial of LSD in more than 40 years was recently conducted in Switzerland.

The results of the trial [pdf], published today on The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease website, will surprise no one who's had a profound experience on LSD. 12 terminally-ill volunteers, most of whom have cancer and have since died, participated in two drug-assisted courses of therapy with Dr. Peter Gasser present. His study found that participants who took the full dose saw their anxiety levels decrease by about 20 percent, and that the effects lasted for a year after the trial ended.

"Their anxiety went down and stayed down," Dr. Gasser tells the Times. The study was too small to be conclusive, but it appears to have had a favorable impact on the participants, none of whom jumped out of a window or got into the Disco Biscuits. "I will say I have been more emotional since the study ended, and I don’t mean always cheerful,” one volunteer tells the Times. “But I think it’s better to feel things strongly — better to be alive than to merely function." The Times also adds this broader context:

The new publication marks the latest in a series of baby steps by a loose coalition of researchers and fund-raisers who are working to bring hallucinogens back into the fold of mainstream psychiatry. Before research was banned in 1966 in the United States, doctors tested LSD’s effect for a variety of conditions, including end-of-life anxiety.

But in the past few years, psychiatrists in the United States and abroad — working with state regulators as well as ethics boards — have tested Ecstasy-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress; and other trials with hallucinogens are in the works.

“The effort is both political and scientific,” said Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a foundation that has financed many of the studies. “We want to break these substances out of the mold of the counterculture and bring them back to the lab as part of a psychedelic renaissance.”

For further research, we recommend watching DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which concerns Dr. Rick Strassman's groundbreaking research into DMT. We also recommend trying DMT.