Progress Report Winter 1999:
Follow-up study of Bastiaans LSD Therapy
cVo-Addiction Research Institute
3511 ZC Utrecht
tel: (..) 30 2539301
fax: (..) 30 2534365
A financial contribution from MAPS has opened the opportunity to conduct a preliminary study among clients who participated in LSD-assisted therapy with the Dutch psychiatrist Jan Bastiaans (see MAPS Bulletin, VIII (1), p.21; 1998). In this progress report we give an account of the research activities that have been carried out so far and those ahead of us.
The present retrospective study is a simple version of a larger design. Its main objective is to establish systematically the subjective judgements of clients who underwent LSD therapy during the years 1950-'80 under supervision of Bastiaans and his co-therapists. The population under study is thus elderly people, mostly referred because of a range of war trauma. The semi-structured questionnaire that we designed enables us to relate their judgements with a range of other variables like sex, age, educational level, length of treatment, post-treatment care, medication, etc. Additionally, respondents can indicate their willingness to cooperate in a further, in-depth study.
The idea is to work out a profile that correlates with success or failure of the treatment and gain insight into the process of Bastiaans' method of LSD therapy. Moreover, we intend to investigate the possibilities for follow-up studies. We have already obtained permission to make use of all relevant written and audiovisual material available that is stored at several locations.
We attended an AMCHA (an institute offering psycho-social help to survivors of the Holocaust) congress on trauma to make ourselves known and to get acquainted with the atmosphere and interests of our respondents. We also tried to attract potential respondents and to bring attention to the challenge of financing further study. At the recent 'Psychoactivity' conference in Amsterdam we presented to a wider audience in order to raise additional support for the project.
Recruitment of respondents is a time-consuming affair that is still going on. In the Netherlands, over a hundred smaller and bigger organizations and groups of war survivors exist. Through advertising in their publications we are trying to reach potential respondents. However, sometimes these publications appear very infrequently, so we have to await further reactions. We may need to apply snowball sampling techniques in order to attain the target number of at least 50 subjects.
So far, 16 people have contacted us by phone or mail. We expect this number to increase. The questionnaires were sent to 15 people and we handed out 10 questionnaires at the AMCHA congress. Until now only eight people have responded. They all are willing to participate in further researchAlthough we are more interested in LSD or psilocybin-assisted therapy, respondents who participated in narcoanalysis (where pentothal was uses as adjunct to psychotherapy) are in the majority. The available data are presented here in a very preliminary way. The age of the respondents so far ranges between 55-80 years and they are generally well educated. Subjects were quite old at the time of their session(s) (average 54 years) and often had a (long) history of complaints and other therapies (range 2 months to 25 years; average 10 years). Half of them were referred by other professionals, the others contacted Bastiaans themselves. Their complaints consisted of sleeping disorders (nightmares), suicidal tendencies, tics or aggressive behavior. LSD was never administered in the first session. Most ex-clients received just psychotherapy, sometimes assisted with pentothal. The two clients who participated in LSD therapy are (still) satisfied with the treat-ment by Bastiaans, who always worked with one or more of his co-therapists.
The subject is rather delicate in the Netherlands for reasons that are clear to most readers of this Bulletin. Nevertheless, the study is supported by ICODO (National Information and Coordination Services for war survivors), Centrum '45 (a national center for medical and psychological treatment of survivors of World War II and members of the Resistance), PAN (Psycho-Active Network) and -- among others -- medical psychologist Dr. Van der Ploeg (Free University, Amsterdam) who in the 1980s worked with Bastiaans. The scientific committee for the study consists of historian Dr. Schuyf (researcher, ICODO), clinical psychologist Dr. Kleber (Director, Institute for Psychotrauma) and therapist Mr. Reerds (Treatment Manager, Centrum '45). The relevance of this research lies in the implications it has for future therapeutic use of hallucinogens in indications such as post traumatic stress disorder. Finally, it possesses an evident historical dimension.
A final report will appear when the study is completed in Spring 1999.