LSD, a Hallucinogen, or a Painkiller?

LSD, a common recreational drug. Source: GETTY

LSD or Acid is a psychedelic known to make people ‘trip’. During a ‘trip’ or an episode, people can experience an altered reality and become unaware of their surroundings. While LSD is more commonly known for its use as a recreational drug, it seems the Beckley/Maastricht research team may have found another use of this hallucinogen. 

According to the study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, microdoses of LSD can act as a potential painkiller in healthy individuals.

For the study, a total of 24 healthy volunteers, 12 males, and 12 females were recruited. They were each given a single dose of 5, 10, and 20 micrograms of LSD and a placebo, on separate days. For the placebo, a 1mL ethanol solution was used. These particular microdoses of LSD were used as they’re small enough to not cause a psychedelic effect in the user.

The Cold Pressor Test – How much pain can you endure?

Participants’ pain tolerance was measured using a Cold Pressor Test (CPT). For the CPT, participants had to submerge their hand in a cold-water tank for as long as possible. The purpose of the CPT was to induce a feeling of pain in the individuals and assess their level of pain tolerance. The test was conducted 1.5 and 5 hours after the administration of LSD. 

Source: Beckley Foundation

LSD Increases Pain Tolerance by 20%

LSD at low doses of 20 micrograms was seen to increase pain tolerance by 20% in the participants, while also reducing their pain perception. The pain-relieving effects were seen to last up to 5 hours after the participants received their doses. These changes in pain tolerance and perception can be compared in magnitude to those observed with opioids such as morphine and oxycodone. 

While opioids play a large role in the treatment of chronic pain, they are also responsible for the Opioid Crisis that currently affects 16 million people worldwide.

The present data suggest low doses of LSD could constitute a useful pain management treatment option that is not only effective in patients but is also devoid of the problematic consequences associated with current mainstay drugs, such as opioids.

Amanda Feilding, Founder and Director of the Beckley Foundation and co-director of the Beckley/Maastricht Microdosing Research Programme

20 microgram of LSD was also seen to increase symptoms of anxiety, depersonalization, and dissociation among the participants. However, these effects were rated as mild or not present by the participants.  

We must continue to explore this with the aim of providing safer, non-addictive alternatives to pain management, and to bring people in pain a step closer to living happier, healthier, and fully expressed lives.

Amanda Feilding, Founder and Director of the Beckley Foundation and co-director of the Beckley/Maastricht Microdosing Research Programme


Ramaekers JG, Hutten N, Mason NL, et al. A low dose of lysergic acid diethylamide decreases pain perception in healthy volunteers. Journal of Psychopharmacology. August 2020. doi:10.1177/0269881120940937


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