I’ve just found an intriguing article on how LSD was used as an experimental treatment for children with autism during the 1960s. When I first heard about these studies I did a double take, but there were a surprising number conducted at the time.
Flashback to the 1960s: LSD in the treatment of autism.
Dev Neurorehabil. 2007 Jan-Mar;10(1):75-81.
Between 1959 and 1974, several groups of researchers issued reports on the use of d-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) in the treatment of children with autism. This paper reviews that literature to consider how the authors justified these studies, as well as their methods, results, and conclusions. The justification for using LSD was often based on the default logic that other treatment efforts had failed. Several positive outcomes were reported with the use of LSD, but most of these studies lacked proper experimental controls and presented largely narrative/descriptive data. Today there is renewed interest in the use of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes. While this resurgence of research has not yet included children with autism, this review of the LSD studies from the 1960s and 1970s offers important lessons for future efforts to evaluate new or controversial treatments for children with autism.
Sadly I don’t have access to the full text of the paper, but I’ve discovered that the Neurodiversity website has created a list of many of the original studies and has archived the full text of most of them online.
The studies are a morbidly fascinating read and it’s interesting how some studies seem to exclusively report beneficial effects with remarkably flowery language (“They seek positive contacts with adults, approaching them with face uplifted and bright eyes…”) while others report mixed or quite unpleasant reactions (“mood swings which were sharp and rapid from extreme elation to extreme depression or anxiety”).