Lysergic acid diethylamide or more commonly known as LSD is one of the longest lasting and most potent hallucinogens. Scientists at Roth’s lab at UNC captured crystallography images showing the arrangement of atoms of an LSD molecule. They discovered that the LSD molecule was wedged into the receptor’s binding pocket in the brain. On top of this, part of the receptor protein had folded over the LSD like a lid sealing the drug.
Roth says that once the LSD gets in the receptor, a lid comes over the LSD trapping the molecule in the receptor and it will not be able to get out. LSD takes a long time to reach a receptor and once it gets on, it does not get off. This finding explains why a high from LSD lasts a full day even though doses are extremely small. The average dose of LSD is about 100 micrograms. The molecules are cleared by the bloodstream in a couple of hours.
Recently resurgence of LSD for some medical conditions, it is important to understand the mechanism of its potent and long-lasting actions which may help drug manufacturers design more effective psychiatric medicines with fewer side effects according to scientists. The study results may help researchers think about how micro-dosing LSD could work.
People are increasingly taking LSD in very small doses which will not cause hallucinations with the goal of boosting creativity and countering depression. Many scientists doubt that micro-dosing of LSD will have any effect as this has not been clinically tested. Roth and the research team had exposed live cells to micro-doses of LSD in a Petri dish which affected the receptor signals. It is still unknown how micro-dosing would affect the mood of a person or perception as reported by an article by Science Daily.
Micro-dosing of LSD may improve productivity and treat depression however LSD while it shows medical promise is still illegal in the United States. Roth says that the structure gives the potential to design drugs that may have the beneficial actions without the deleterious effects. Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies states that if the FDA were to approve LSD, it needs evidence of safety and efficacy and not mechanism of action.
Doblin went on to say that while the research result is fascinating from a neurobiological standpoint, it does not give useful information on how to enhance safety or efficacy of LSD in clinical psychotherapy. He stated that he does not seen any way that the new information on LSD’s mechanism of action translates into enhanced therapeutic methods or increased safety in using LSD for treatment as reported in an article by Wired.