Eric Kast

Academic, Clinician, Scientist

This biography provides an abridged summary of Dr. Kast’s work, as detailed in Francis Gerard’s retrospective.1 

Dr. Eric Kast was a clinician and pain researcher who was the first person to investigate LSD as an analgesic. 

Dr. Kast was born in Vienna, Austria in 1916. His family moved to the United States in 1938 to escape the Nazi invasion of Austria. He attended medical school at Loyola University in Chicago, receiving his M.D. in 1944.

In the 1960s, Dr. Kast worked as an assistant professor of medicine and psychiatry at Chicago Medical School and as an anesthesiologist at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital. He also served on the staff of Mt. Sinai Hospital, Michael Reese Hospital, Hektoen Institute for Medical Research. During this time, Dr. Kast helped to establish three free health clinics, working with the Black Panthers to launch one of them in 1969 on Chicago’s West Side. 

Dr. Kast first published his research on LSD as a painkiller in 1964. He theorized that pain involves both psychological and emotional aspects, including attentional demands from the brain. Because LSD disrupts attentional processes and has dissociative qualities, Dr. Kast hypothesized that it could be the “ideal analgesic” he had been seeking. 

Over the years, at least 300 terminal cancer patients were the subjects of Dr. Kast’s experiments. Results indicated that LSD treatment not only reduced patients’ physical pain but also decreased their anxiety and end-of-life distress.2 One hundred micrograms of LSD led to more significant and longer-lasting pain reduction than opioids dihydromorphine (2 milligrams) and meperidine (100 milligrams). LSD treatment offered 12 hours of pain relief, while pain reductions lasted up to three weeks post-administration. A March 2021 Psychedelic Science Review article on the psychedelic treatment of existential suffering discusses Kast’s findings of LSD’s anxiolytic effects for end-of-life cancer patients.

In 1970, weaving in themes of political and social justice, Kast authored a final publication that made the case for LSD in treating preoccupation with death.3 He died of cancer in 1988. 

Dr. Kast’s work set the stage for study by Maastricht University and Beckley Foundation researchers that investigated pain reduction effects from low-dose LSD.4 An October 2020 Psychedelic Science Review article summarizing the study also described Kast’s experiments.