LSD Trials in Saskatchewan

During the 1950s, Saskatchewan Psychiatrists Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer reported unprecedented recovery rates for alchoholics. Their method? D-lysergic acid diethylamide, more familiarly known as LSD.

An article published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry states:

early trials indicated that the drug had the potential to improve mental health care, advancing a theory that explained mental illness as the manifestation of metabolic functions. This assertion pointed to the possibility that mental illness was inherently a biological entity and thus could be studied and ultimately treated with the latest medical technology...In a province committed to establishing sweeping health care reforms, the mere possibility that Saskatchewan-based researchers might be developing cures for mental illness generated unparalleled political support (Dyck, 384). The primary idea was to use LSD as a curative therapy, but secondarily it was given to health care workers in an attempt to gain insight into the mind of the mentally ill. Osmond first tested the effects of the drug on himself. It was thought that the heightened awareness brought on by the drug would increase workers' empathy for their patients.

In Regina, some nurses in the Monroe Wing of the Regina General Hospital took LSD for the purposes of these experiments. Approximately ten nurses took the drug while they were heavily supervised. Bonnie Kalk explains that the experience was really quite a positive one because it did provide insight that could not be gained any other way. Similar experiments were also carried out at the Weyburn Hospital.

After the rise of LSD as a street drug and a number of cases of LSD-induced criminal acts, the drug was banned as an illegal substance in the United States. Experiments thus ceased in the late 1960s. However, there are still those who argue that LSD works as both a curative therapy and a way to create more empathy for patients amongst health care workers.