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D-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide – 25 (LSD), is the most potent of the hallucinogenic drugs(Dye,1992). Since the 1960 s, LSD has been associated with everything from politics to popular culture. This report will discuss the scientific and social phenomena that is LSD, as well as the drug s supposed mind expanding abilities and adverse effects.
LSD: A Journey Into The Center of The Mind
” with these drugs your perception is altered enough
that you find yourself looking out of completely strange
eye holes. All of us have a great deal of our minds locked
shut. We re shut off from our own world. These drugs seem
to be the key to open these locked doors.”
n Tom Wolfe
n The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)
D-Lysergic acid Diethylmide -25 (LSD) was first produced by a Swiss chemist by the name of Dr. Albert Hoffman in 1938 (Dye, 1992, p. 2). Hoffman discovered the drug while trying to synthesize a new drug for the treatment of headaches. He obtained the lysergic acid from the parasitic fungus that grows on rye plants known as ergot. From the lysergic acid, he synthesized the compound LSD. He used the compound to test for its pain killing properties on laboratory animals. Being that appeared totally ineffective, the bottle of LSD was placed on a shelf and remained untouched for five years.
On April 16, 1943, Dr. Hoffman decided to do further research with the LSD compound (Dye, 1992 p. 5). While handling the drug, he accidentally ingested an unknown amount. What happened next was the world s first LSD trip. About eight hours later Hoffman drifted back into normal reality and the Psychedelic Revolution was born. Three days later , in an attempt to prove that the previous episode was indeed caused by the ingestion of LSD, Dr. Hoffman ingested what he thought would be a small quantity of LSD, 250 micrograms. In actuality, this is approximately five times the dosage necessary to produce heavy hallucinations in the average adult male (Solomon, 1964, p. 34). The drug produced effects that were much more intense than the first time Hoffman took the LSD. He noted that he felt unrest, dizziness, visual disturbances, a tendency to laugh at inappropriate times, and a difficulty in concentration ( Dye, 1992, p.7). Dr. Hoffman s condition improved six hours after taking the drug, although visual disturbances and distortion continued.
LSD was first shipped to the United States in 1949 (Solomon, 1964 , p. 54). American scientists tested LSD on animals to learn of its effects. It produced dramatic behavior changes in all animals investigated.
During the 1950 s, experimentation of LSD on humans began (Solomon, 1964, p. 56). Since there were few restrictions on using humans for experimentation at the time, scientists were free to administer the drug widely, hoping to find some useful therapeutic value for the drug. Because of Hoffman s
account of depersonalization produced by the drug, early studies were aimed at using the drug to treat various psychiatric disorders. It was felt that if a person could “step outside” themselves and view situations as others saw them, they could come to grips with their problems and be able to solve them. One of the first areas of LSD experimentation was in treating alcoholism (Dye, 1992, p.36). After extensive research, it was concluded that LSD was not effective on treating alcoholism and the research was discontinued .
LSD was also tested on schizophrenics, drug addicts and criminals (Dye, 1992 p. 38). Research determined that LSD was ineffective in treating any behavioral problems. It was also concluded that LSD may transform a normal individual into a person with a mild to severe personality problem.
The Central Intelligence Agency and various military agencies also became interested in LSD research in the late 1950 s (Dye, 1992, p.410. Their interest in the drug was in the area of mind control. They saw the possibility of manipulating of manipulating the beliefs of strong willed people. They gave the drug to a group of army scientists and then attempted to change some of their basic beliefs while under the influence of the drug. However, one of the scientists became psychotic and committed suicide by jumping from a hotel window. These agencies continued their research by using drug addicts and prostitutes to test their mind control theories. After extensive experimentation, it became apparent that LSD could alter
the mind but not control it. This sort of research was discontinued by the United States government.
To date, LSD has never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The drug remains a Schedule I drug only available for research (Dye, 1992, p.59)
LSD belongs to a class of psychotropic drugs called hallucinogens (Gorodetzky, 1992). Other drugs in this category are mescaline (derived from peyote cactus) and psilocybin (commonly known as “hallucinogenic mushrooms”). LSD is most commonly taken orally but may also be taken by injection, inhalation, or by absorption through the skin. When taken orally , the individual usually notices the effect of the drug within thirty minutes. It may take one hour before the user experiences the drug s maximum effects. This state usually lasts two to four hours. The usual dose taken is fifty to one hundred micrograms, although much higher and lower doses have been ingested. The intensity of the hallucinatory experience depends on the dose taken. The psychological, perpetual, and behavioral effects of LSD persists for eight to twelve hours and gradually wears off after reaching their maximum effects (Gorodetzky, 1992). The effects of the drug is determined by a person s mental state, the structure of their personality, and the physical setting. The role of culture and belief systems is primary in the effects of hallucinogenic states. The experience following the ingestion of LSD is called a “trip” and can be good or bad depending on its effect on the user.
Depersonalization is a frequent psychological effect of LSD (Solomon, 1964, p. 157). A person s self seems to be divided into two parts: an uninvolved observer and a participating involved self. The uninvolved self is sometimes seen as an unidentified person that the user later recognizes as his or her self. The user is frequently unable to distinguish where their body ends and the environment begins.
Another effect of LSD is derealization. Derealization is a dreamlike state in which the individual cannot tell if they are experiencing reality or dreaming (Solomon, 1964, p.159). A person under the influence of LSD may misjudge the size and distance of objects. The shapes of objects are also distorted and constantly changing. Objects that do not exist may also change in form and color. These objects can often be seen when the user s eyes are closed because the image is produced within the mind. Colors also appear to be brighter and more intense than normal.
Synesthesia, which refers to the mixing of the senses, is another effect of LSD (Solomon, 1964, p. 164). . During synthesia, experiences normally associated with one sense is translated to another. For example, sounds may be seen and colors may be smelled. Time is also often distorted by LSD. The user may be unable to separate events from the past, present, and future. A lack of concentration and impairment in judgment are also common. An individual on LSD may remain completely motionless for long periods of time or hyperactive.
LSD can also produce rapid mood changes. Another group of LSD induced effects are referred to as somatic symptoms (Solomon, 1964, p. 171). These symptoms include dizziness, weakness, tremors, blurred vision, and tingling sensation of the skin. It is still not fully known how LSD works on the brain.
In addition to the psychological effects of LSD , the drug produces many physiological effects as well. LSD dilates the pupils of the eyes. It can also cause blurred vision, and increases blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. The drug also increases blood sugar, can produce sweating and chills, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. There are also changes in the muscles, resulting in weakness, tremors, numbness, and twitching. Abnormal, rapid breathing may occur. ( Dye, 1992, p. 122)
A flashback is a spontaneous recurrence of certain aspects of an LSD related hallucinatory experience (Gorodetzky, 1992).A flashback usually occurs in chronic LSD users. If a flashback occurs after only one exposure to LSD, the initial trip was most likely a bad one. Flashbacks can occur at any time, but are more likely to occur while sleeping, while under the influence of other intoxicants, or while a person is in the presence of someone under the influence of LSD. Flshbacks have been known to cause psychotic reactions such as suicide and insanity.
1960 s Society and LSD
LSD was not only confined to big cities such as the streets of Haight and Ashbury of San Fransisco. From Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to the Beatles song Lucy In The Shy With Diamonds , LSD was gaining national recognition and had reached suburbia by the mid 1960 s. LSD inspires art, music, fashion, and culture for a generation. “Psychedelic”, a word invented by scientist Dr. Humphrey Osmond to indicate the mind altering or mind expanding properties of hallucinogenic drugs, became a household term in the 1960 s.
Aldous Huxley (b.1894-1963), writer of the critically acclaimed books Brave New World (1932) and The Doors of Perception (1954), was an advocate of the usage of hallucinogens. Huxley researched and experimented with mescaline and later related his studies on mescaline to LSD. In his usage of mescaline, Huxley experienced a change in every day reality. Unlike mescaline users before him, Huxley had no fantastic visions, saw no landscapes or geometrical figures. Instead, things as ordinary as his typing table and books on his shelf seemed to be transfigured. Huxley notes his experience in his book The Doors of Perception (1954):
” I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of
his creation – the miracle, moment by moment, of naked
existence flowers shining with their own inner light and
all but quivering under the pressure of the significance
with which they were charged Words like “grace” and
“transfiguration” came to my mind Being – Awareness-
-Bliss, for the first time I understood, not on the verbal
level, not by inchoate hints but precisely and completely
what those prodigious syllables referred to purely aesthetic,
Cubist s-eye-view gave place to what I can only describe
as the sacramental vision of reality. I was back in a world
where everything shone with the inner Light, and was infinite
in its significance. The legs, for example, of that chair – how
miraculous their tubularity, how supernatural their polished
smoothness! I spent several minutes – or was it several
centuries? – of merely gazing at those bamboo legs, but
actually being them – or rather being myself in them; or, to
be still more accurate (for “I” was not involved in the case,
nor in a certain sense were “they”) being my Not-self in the
Not-self was the chair.” (pp. 17-24)
In 1960 LSD was still strictly confined to the research laboratory. This dramatically changed in the next few years due to Dr. Timothy Leary (b. 1920-1996). Leary encouraged the American public to “Turn on, Tune in, and drop out”. Dr. Leary
was a well respected clinical psychologist and lecturer at Harvard University for several years. Leary experimented with psilocybin while in Mexico in the early 1960 s. Leary was impressed with the drug s ability to produce dramatic behavioral and perceptual effects. He began experimenting with LSD, using inmates at a Massachusetts prison as subjects. Through his own use of LSD and observation of the convicts given the drugs, he became
convinced that LSD was capable of expanding consciousness. Leary began holding sessions with students, in which all participating would consume the LSD and then relate their drug induced experiences to each other. Dr. Leary openly promoted the use of LSD for the purpose of expanding one s consciousness. He and another Harvard professor, Dr. Richard Alpert, established the International Federation for Internal Freedom. They increased their promotional activities for LSD, insisting that the drug could ” recircuit the brain to produce a more effective and creative organ” (Leary, 1982, p.55). Leary and Alpert were fired from Harvard in 1963 for their involvement with LSD. Both moved to Mexico but were soon asked to leave by the Mexican government. The activities of Dr. Leary and Dr. Alpert received attention throughout the United States. The widespread publicity accelerated the underground movement to expand the use of LSD. By the mid 1960 s, a wide variety of people were experimenting with the drug (Leary, 1982, p.62). By 1966, even Dr. Leary said the use of LSD on college campuses was becoming excessive (Leary, 1982, p.102). Dr. Leary remained a strong advocate of mind expansion until his death in 1996.
At the same time Leary was promoting the use of LSD, laws were being passed making the manufacture, sale, use, or possession of LSD a crime. The maximum sentence for first time LSD offenders was a five thousand dollar fine and one year in jail. Repeat offenders could be punished with an one hundred thousand dollar fine and ten years in jail (Leary, 1982, p.139). Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company, the only legal American supplier of LSD, stopped distributing the drug in 1966 and transferred its total supply of the drug to the National Institute of Health, which is now the only legal source of LSD.
Ken Kesey, author of the book One Flew Over The Cuckoo s Nest, was a strong supporter of the LSD movement. In 1960 he volunteered to undergo experimentation with LSD at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital in California. Realizing the mind expanding properties of the drug, he and his friends who referred to themselves as the “Merry Pranksters”, set off on a road trip in the summer of 1964. In a day glow bus equipped with an endless supply of LSD, the Merry Pranksters journeyed to the World Fair in New York City. Upon returning from their trip, they continued to advocate the use of LSD through their “Acid Tests” in the San Francisco area. Acid Tests were multi-media gatherings where everyone present would consume LSD. The effects of the drug were intensified by lighting, film, and music provided by the Grateful Dead (then known as the Warlocks). The Acid Tests came to a halt in 1966, when Kesey fled the country when charged with marijuana possession . Kesey returned to the United States where the
authorities apprehended him. He was released from jail a few months later and the acid Tests continued for a short while. (Wolfe, 1968)
The use of LSD continued to increase during the late 1960 s and 1970 s, due to the publicity by Timothy Leary and the social upheaval that took place in the United States at that time. The use of LSD peaked in the early 1970 s and then began to steadily decline (Dye, 1992, p. 120). Dye attributes this to three factors: the increasing number of bad trips reported, speculation of LSD related chromosomal damage, and other drugs such as mescaline and psilocybin becoming more prevalent. By the late 1970 s, LSD use had declined even further as many drug users turned to marijuana, PCP, cocaine, heroin, and inhalants (Dye, 1992, p. 128). While these drugs are still in widespread use, a resurgence of LSD use has been seen in recent years (Corcoran, 1987, p.1A).
The 1987 National Household Survey of Drug Abuse stated that three percent of students between the ages of twelve and seventeen had experimented with one or more hallucinogens, fourteen percent of young adults ages eighteen to twenty-five and seven percent of adults twenty-six and over had tried hallucinogens at least once (cited in Corocoran, 1987, p.2A)
” LSD enables me to open my mind, and stimulates my creativity. It helps me to think clearly and helps my writing. LSD helps me to be myself.”, said a sixteen year old LSD user. Does LSD enhance the mind or deteriorate it? This is not fully known. Since LSD s effects on the brain have not been fully determined, an accurate conclusion
about the drug cannot be made. It has been established that LSD can cause toxic reactions and even death due to the unpredictability of the drug. Is damaging yourself justification for mind expansion? For some it is. Will we ever know how dangerous a drug LSD is? With further scientific research still taking place, this question will soon be answered.
Corcoran, K. (1987, July 5). LSD, drug of 60 s, resurfaces among teens. Denver Post,
Dye, C. (1992). Acid: LSD today. Tempe, Arizona: D.I.N. Publications
Gorodetzky, C. (1992). Hallucinogens. Grolier Electronic Publishing
Gorodetzky, C. (1992). LSD. Grolier Electronic Publishing
Huxley, A. (1954). The doors of perception. New York: Harper and Row
Leary, T. (1982). Changing my mind, among others. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Solomon, D. (1964). LSD: the consciousness – expanding drug. New York: G.P.
Putnam s Sons
Wolfe, T. (1968). The electric kool-aid acid test. New York: Bantam Books
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