Calls to reclassify LSD out of class A as mental health research picks up steam

LSD: three letters with nearly 80 years worth of baggage.

But researchers want to change people's minds on LSD, by literally seeing how it can change minds.

"To increase cognitive flexibility so people become a little bit easier to see things from different perspectives, and help them be open to new ideas," says Dr Lisa Reynolds from the University of Auckland.

A health psychologist, Dr Reynolds is researching how psychedelics support people with advanced or late-stage cancer.

In a controlled study, patients would take either a placebo or a microdose of LSD to see whether it eases their anxieties around talking about illness or mortality.

"The heavy lifting of changing that or helping with that is going to come from the psychotherapy, and the microdose will enhance that effect," she says.

This isn't 'tripping;' patients would take only 10 micrograms, around one-tenth of a full dose.

But full dose studies on cancer patients have been done before, in the 1960s, before the War on Drugs.

"People had reductions in fear of dying, and feelings of isolation. There was a lot of interest in the area but of course the psychedelic research got shut down in the 70s," she explains.

Amadeus Diamond chairs the Entheos Foundation, a psychedelic research charity.

He also knows the effects of microdosing LSD: he used it to help treat his depression, anxiety, and problem drinking.

"It was just so surprising because I had no idea it was available. As opposed to 'I was surprised because nothing else worked,' I was surprised because I had no idea," he told Newshub.

He says because the effects of microdosing are sub-perceptual and subtle, trying it outside the experiment could yield different results.

"What we're wanting is for these people to be taking the doses out living their normal lives, to see how it affects them day to day, rather than in a clinical setting."

But a roadblock to that could be the Misuse of Drugs Act. LSD is a class A drug, the same as heroin and meth.

"LSD is known to be unlikely to cause any overdose, and it's very unlikely you'd become addicted to LSD, so it most likely shouldn't be a class A drug," says Sarah Helm, executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation.

The Government has made it clear reforming the legislation isn't on the agenda. But the NZ Drug Foundation says it could insert a public good clause, to help speed up more research, and approve more harm-reduction measures.

"To go through a whole legislative process every time you want to do an initiative to reduce harm to people who may be taking drugs makes no sense at all," says Helm.

Diamond says Dr Reynolds' research could make New Zealand a psychedelic research pioneer - if the Government listens.

"I think we have a real opportunity to take this to the Government and say 'look, let's be adults, let's change policy to fit with the evidence'."

Dr Reynolds plans to start recruiting patients from next July. Hoping to change the perception of LSD from Woodstock and Jimi Hendrix to a powerful palliative tool.