Recreational Drug Research

LSD the Miracle Drug, part 2

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LSD — The Problem-Solving Psychedelic

    P.G. Stafford and B.H. Golightly

        Chapter IV.   Everyday Problems (part 2) (part 1)



Alcoholism and Other Addictions:

    The valuation of personality change is, at best, difficult, not only in terms of semantics but in those of measurement. Use of LSD in alcoholism, however, has shown that the effects of LSD can be quantified. Recovery rates have risen and are still on the increase. In Canada, the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health considers LSD the most promising known treatment for alcoholism and has directed that for critical cases the single, large-dose LSD treatment is to be considered "no longer as experimental" but rather "to be used where indicated." In their particular program ("The Businessman's Special"), the drug is used only once—yet over half of the alcoholics who undergo the treatment seem to gain control of their drinking problem even after long and tragic histories of chronic alcoholism.
    "In the course of history," Aldous Huxley has remarked, "many more people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country." The arithmetical record of the misuse of alcohol is staggering:

In the United States alone, some eight hundred million gallons of wine and distilled spirits and one hundred million barrels of beer are produced legally each year.... The alcoholic beverage industry in the United States grosses $12,000,000,000 a year with expenditures of nearly $200,000,000 a year for advertisement.... Out of some eighty million consumers, there are, perhaps, six million people in America alone and more than twenty-five million in the world with drug dependency on alcohol.

    Some of the consequences of this consumption are:

Around fifteen thousand deaths and two hundred thousand injuries associated with drunken driving occur yearly in the United States. Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver is one of the major causes of death; vast absenteeism, accidents, and job loss in business and industry occur, with an annual estimated loss of $500,000,000; many, if not most, divorces and broken homes occur in connection with excessive drinking; one-third to one-half of all traffic arrests are for drunkenness, far outnumbering any other category of arrest; 60 per cent of all arrests are for offenses directly related to use of alcoholic beverages, and 50 per cent of those in prison committed their crimes after alcohol consumption, and an unknown but significant amount of decreased productivity, welfare costs, and so on must be considered.[9]

    Attempts to bring under control and regulate the consumption of alcohol by the "problem drinker" and alcoholic have been largely unsuccessful. Although it is against the law for bars and liquor stores to sell to persons who are intoxicated, it is not against the law to sell liquor to habitual drinkers and/or known alcoholics.
    Further, most heavy drinkers and alcoholics are not prone to stop drinking even when they are fully aware of the eroding effects their addiction has upon their lives. They casually accept or ignore the fact that alcohol is pharmaceutically classified as a poison. Paradoxically, alcoholics at the same time are apt to have intense guilt feelings. Because their emotional center is in conflict—remorse, deliberate dishonesty about their problem, feelings of alienation from the rest of mankind, alternate moods of superiority and inferiority—the alcoholic is difficult to treat successfully. Alcoholics Anonymous, which has one of the best records in the field, refuses drinkers with poor motivation to change. One of the most discouraging aspects of the problem is that ordinary methods of treatment have met with such limited success that the potentially courageous alcoholic who does want to get well doesn't know where to turn. When he has made attempts to "dry out" permanently in the past, his cure has rarely lasted. Quite reasonably, he no longer has hope, much less faith, that anything can be done to help him.
    Alcoholics Anonymous believes that the alcoholic cannot really be helped until he has "hit bottom." "Hitting bottom" can mean many things to many people, but a large percentage of the population, as well as those who are alcoholic, think the bottom has been reached when delirium tremens sets in. This opinion, dramatically illustrated in the novel, "The Lost Week-End," and in the film derived from it, is shared by most experts on alcoholism. The use of LSD for the problem grew out of this supposition.
    One evening in 1953, Drs. Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, Canadian specialists on alcoholism, were discussing the correlation between alcoholic cure and delirium tremens. Although the d.t. mortality rate at the time was about ten per cent, this condition—when survived—occasionally led to recovery. Both doctors were familiar with LSD as a "psychotomimetic" agent (a drug which mimics psychosis), and during their discussion they suddenly hit upon the idea that LSD might be able to give their patients artificial d.t.'s, which the doctors could then control. "This idea at 4:00 A.M., seemed so bizarre that we laughed uproariously. But when our laughter subsided, the question seemed less comical and we formed our hypothesis or question: would a controlled LSD-produced delirium help alcoholics stay sober?"
    They were aware, of course, that there would be conspicuous difficulties in getting their colleagues to agree that the idea had merit since the use of LSD would be only an imitation delirium tremens and since some patients' charts were filled with entries of d.t.'s having been experienced repeatedly, without cure resulting. However, these objections seemed outweighed when compared to the potential value such an experiment might prove to have. They decided, therefore, to go ahead and test the hypothesis, and gave 200 mcg. of LSD to two of their alcoholic patients at the Saskatchewan Hospital at Weyburn. One, a male, immediately stopped drinking and remained sober for several months after discharge; the other, a woman, seemed largely unaffected in her drinking habits. These results, although one balanced out the other, were still sufficiently encouraging that they undertook larger clinical trials.
    Drs. Hoffer and Osmond deliberately chose twenty-four of the most intractable alcoholics they could find. To locate them, they contacted other hospitals and agencies working with alcoholics. As Jake Calder, former director of the Canadian Bureau on Alcoholism, recalls, Dr. Hoffer said, when he got in touch with him, "We want your worst cases; we are not interested in mild cases that could recover through A.A. or through any other agency that you now have available."
    The subjects of this study had had an average period of uncontrolled drinking of 12.1 years. Eight had experienced d.t.'s at least once, and twenty had tried A.A. and failed. Twelve had been diagnosed as psychopathic. Eight had serious character disorders, and the remaining four were borderline or actual psychotics.
    When checked for progress (average follow-up, one year; range, from two months to three years), the recovery rate after LSD was impressive: Of the twenty-four subjects, six following their single psychedelic session were "much improved'? (completely abstinent since treatment, or drinking only very small quantities), six were "improved" (definite reduction in alcohol intake) and twelve were "unchanged" (but evidently none the worse for having had treatment).
    Compared to the amount of reform brought about by other means for handling alcoholism—A.A., group therapy, Psychodrama, counseling, Antabuse, analysis, etc.—these LSD results were imposing. With other techniques, a therapist is considered to be doing well if he stimulates reform in over ten per cent of his alcoholic patients. Yet here, using the most recalcitrant cases to be found, were recovery rates approaching fifty per cent!
    Since this early study, LSD has become better understood, and several "psychedelic methods" have been developed for alcoholic patients. As a result, abstinence and rehabilitation rates have been further upgraded. In 1959, at the Josiah Macy Conference on LSD, Dr. Hoffer was able to announce that he and his colleagues had treated sixty "very difficult psychopathic alcoholics" and that after a five-year follow-up,

"... half of them were no longer drinking. You will not believe it, and I would not have, either. The results are very impressive...."

    During the summer of 1966, after thirteen years of research in this area, Dr. Hoffer published the statistics relating to the more than eight hundred hard-core alcoholics who had been treated in the Canadian LSD program.

    When psychedelic therapy is given to alcoholics using methods described in the literature about one-third will remain sober after the therapy is completed, and one-third will be benefited. If schizophrenics and malvarians[10] are excluded from LSD therapy the results should be better by about 30 per cent. There are no published papers using psychedelic therapy which show it does not help about 50 per cent of the treated group....
    Our conclusion after 13 years of research is that properly used LSD therapy can convert a large number of alcoholics into sober members of society.... Even more important is the fact that this can be done very quickly and therefore very economically. Whereas with standard therapy one bed might be used to treat about 4 to 6 patients per year, with LSD one can easily treat up to 36 patients per bed per year.

    Because alcoholism in the past has been consistently and stubbornly resistant to treatment, Dr. Hoffer's statistics are, understandably enough, regarded with skepticism by some people, especially those who have spent their careers grappling with the problem without success. Claims are made that LSD therapy, as presented by Dr. Hoffer, smacks of "magic"; it is "too good to be true." And since there is little step-by-step elucidation that is readily available, skeptics of the therapy are vociferous. As reports of LSD programs for the treatment of alcoholism are published, or are presented at various psychological conventions, journalists have frequently criticized Hoffer or his statistics—usually suggesting that the favorable reports are due to bias in the observer, bad sampling methods, or outright lies. Several doctors at Hollywood Hospital, in British Columbia, Canada, noting the reactions in some quarters to the promise LSD holds out for the confirmed drinker, have discussed the detractors with considerable impatience:

Although the psychedelic literature is now extensive, and papers of high quality are appearing with regularity, those who are most vocally and effectively critical are either unaware of, or unwilling to consider, the facts and implications available.... There is ... an inverse relationship between knowledge and experience, and a willingness to reach unwarranted conclusions and dogmatic derogatory positions.

    In terms of the importance of LSD therapy for the six to eight million alcoholics in the United States, there is reason to pause before a discussion of how such treatment works, in order to underscore the validity of Dr. Hoffer's data and the consistency with which excellent results have come about. Dr. Hoffer has already mentioned that all published studies reporting on the use of psychedelic procedures have indicated recovery rates similar to his own. This is a significant point in that even though diverse goals and techniques have characterized the investigations, the findings in at least eleven instances have been essentially the same. Further, a study involving exacting standards and controls has confirmed these results, as have those in which therapy was given solely by professionals who were personally unacquainted with the LSD experience.
    Most LSD investigators are of the opinion that drug therapy is enhanced when undertaken by someone personally familiar with the psychedelics. There are many critics, however, who hold that such a therapist is no longer able to judge his results objectively, that all of his critical and scientific abilities are impaired once he has swallowed LSD. Because this latter view is maintained rather widely, it should be pointed out that even when alcoholics are treated with LSD by those who have never taken it, the recovery rates are maintained.
    As an example, thirty-three patients were treated with LSD by a team of doctors, none of whom had ever had any personal acquaintance with the drug. They were directed by Dr. P. O. O'Reilly, a critic of earlier LSD experimentation. "I was quite skeptical about the use of LSD as a perusal of the literature seemed to indicate that most of the work done on it was on a subjective level; not too many adequate scientific studies had been carried out. Yet what were the conclusions? Seven "much improved," ten ''improved,'' and sixteen "unchanged." More than half the patients were benefited by the treatment.
    This study by Dr. O'Reilly was followed by a larger one undertaken at Union Hospital, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in which he tried to determine the percentage of recovery among alcoholics given LSD therapy by doctors who had never had the drug and to what extent this recovery would be lasting. Of the sixty-eight alcoholics chosen for the study, 60% had been drinking for more than ten years. The diagnoses were: chronic alcoholism, 62%; acute alcoholism, 16%; alcoholic psychosis, 4%; and personality disorder, 16%. The results, after a mean follow-up of fourteen months: "Twenty-six patients, or 38% of the total group, were found to be abstaining from alcohol in the two months preceding follow-up.... There was no significant change in abstinence or indulgence between the two periods selected for follow-up study. This suggests that improvement established immediately following the treatment tends to be maintained."
    Another objection to alcoholic therapy with LSD has been the lack of adequate testing systems. But in 1962, Dr. S. E. Jensen of the Saskatchewan Hospital, Weyburn, reported an excellent controlled experiment dealing with some of the most difficult cases that could be located by Jake Calder, Director of the Bureau of A1coholism. One group of alcoholics was put in the hands of psychiatrists who did not use LSD. Another group was prepared for LSD treatment, but not given it, while a third group—after identical preparation—was given the drug. The criteria for "much improved" were stiff: "complete abstinence at the time of the follow-up or after a brief episode of drinking after discharge." The follow-up was conducted after periods of six to eighteen months. Dr. Jensen reported that forty-one out of fifty-eight given the drug were improved (thirty-four being much improved), whereas out of two non-LSD control groups only eighteen out of eighty were improved (eleven much improved). Thus it becomes apparent that the application of LSD to the problem of alcoholism can raise recovery rates far above normal expectations.
    Going back for the moment to the original theory that delirium tremens (or "hitting bottom") could be the gateway to recovery for the alcoholic, Drs. Hoffer and Osmond eventually realized that d.t.'s, real or drug-induced, accounted for only a fraction of the cure process itself. The actual modus operandi was of a complexity that made the delirium tremens theory seem simple. The patient responses to LSD treatment were unusually varied and reproduced the range of classical drinking cures, but this time in the clinic. Previously, medical cure of alcoholism had been singularly dependent on the patient's experiencing d.t.'s. (Antabuse and other "drying out" methods were looked upon as "aids" rather than any kind of positive cure. ) Now, with LSD, the therapists suddenly found their patients involved with many of the non-medical motivations for alcoholic recovery right in the clinic, i.e., they were having "visions of God" and feeling deep guilt over the suffering they brought their loved ones. They discovered Horatio Alger-like insights into "honor" and self-respect. Further, these drug-induced acquisitions of self-knowledge were just as profound, instant and lasting as the inspirational ones, which only rarely strike a troubled soul in the outside world.
    In a striking example, a de-frocked priest taking LSD for alcoholism was asked, "John, how would you like to see God?" After a brief silence the ex-priest replied, "I wouldn't mind." The therapist then instructed him to lie down, relax "and maybe He'll come to you." After a ten-minute interval, John sat up and said, "I saw God." "What happened?" asked the therapist. "He said 'No more drinking.'" And from that day on, John remained sober.
    The host of confessional-like and home-remedy-type "drives to cure" which patients received via LSD were so bewildering that many doctors stopped trying to account for them. As Dr. C. H. Van Rhijn, a psychotherapist from Holland, put it, they "simply found something that worked and began to use it as a treatment." However, the drug is looked upon by therapists in two different ways: as a psycholytic agent, or as a psychedelic. The use of the chemical as a psychotomimetic drug to reproduce d.t.'s is obsolescent, for as Dr. Hoffer commented:

... by 1957 it was apparent that even though many of our patients were helped by LSD, it was not its psychotomimetic activity which was responsible. In spite of our best efforts to produce such an experience, some of our subjects escaped into a psychedelic experience.[11]

    Psycholytic therapy is practised widely in Europe and aims at facilitating traditional psychoanalysis through administration of LSD in low dosage. This is found to produce a short-cut to the patient's self-understanding by activating both the emotions and the unconscious.
    Regressive and existential experiences are painful, true, but when they surface through LSD, the catharsis is thorough. Rather than having to "ease into" insight for fear that the dislodged material will devastate the patient, as in formal analysis, and waiting for months for the analysand to accept his findings, LSD seems to lead to self-acceptance immediately.
    Current practitioners who favor the drug for psycholytic therapy draw attention to the fact that it adapts itself to existing schools of analysis. Moreover, each system—be it Freudian, Jungian, Adlerian, etc.—finds its concepts confirmed in low-dosage LSD treatment. Rapport is better and more easily established; restricting defenses are dissolved; transferences are quicker; and the core of the problem seems to be more readily accessible.
    The second approach to alcoholic treatment with LSD is called psychedelic therapy—developed by Dr. A. M. Hubbard in British Columbia. Because of its extraordinary effectiveness, it has been copied in other parts of Canada and the U.S.A. The treatment consists of a minimum of psychoanalysis, but from the beginning it attempts to give the patient a single overwhelming experience that will catapult him into personality reformation. This is preceded by skillful preparation prior to his session, a good deal of counseling and the administration of a massive dose of LSD (alcoholics seem to require twice the dosage used for other patients: 200-400 mcg. and sometimes up to 1500 or 2000 mcg. are given).
    The "goal" in this therapy is to give the alcoholic an experience akin to a spontaneous "religious" conversion, with all of its subsequent powers of character transformation. (William James gave the rationale for this when he astutely observed that "the cure for dipsomania is religomania," and many a country preacher of that day—and this—would have agreed. ) When this conversion happens, there is no longer need for symbolic interpretation of the self on the patient's part, for the patient enters what Sherwood, Stolaroff and Harman in an article published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, have called the "stage of immediate perception":

    ... he comes to experience himself in a totally new way and finds that the age-old question "who am I?" does have a significant answer. He experiences himself as a far greater being than he had ever imagined, with his conscious self a far smaller fraction of the whole than he had realized. Furthermore, he sees that his own self is by no means so separate from other selves and the universe about him as he might have thought. Nor is the existence of this newly experienced self so intimately related to his corporeal existence.
    These realizations, while not new to mankind, and possibly not new to the subject in the intellectual sense, are very new in an experiential sense. That is, they are new in the sense that makes for altered behavior. The individual sees clearly that some of his actions are not in line with his new knowledge and that changes are obviously called for.

    By trial and error a system was developed which seemed to propel patients into the desired stage of psychedelic experience more readily. Simple props were used, for it was found that they elicited better responses than the best analytic methods. After having the patient write a brief autobiography, he is asked to bring to the session cherished trinkets, favorite phonograph records and photographs of people who are close to him. Musical background, provided both from the patient's collection and the hospital's library, is used to divert the patient's mind from himself and to relax him to the point of surrendering to the drug's urgings. The patient is often blindfolded and provided with earphones in the initial part of his session. A little later on the blindfold and earphones may be removed, if the session is going suitably, and the patient will be asked to look at the mementos and photographs he has brought; or he is given a list of questions, relevant to his life and predicament, to study and think over. (This is not to be construed as a "test" of any kind.) He may be shown various "universal symbols"—a rose, a cross, a seashell, for instance and he will probably be asked to relate facets of his own personality to those of other people in the room. Any of these stimuli may precipitate him into a "psychedelic experience."
    Dr. Ruth Fox, Medical Director of the National Council on Alcoholism in the United States, has used LSD in alcoholic rehabilitation and hopes to be able to continue to utilize the drug for this purpose. Her endorsement of the drug for therapeutic use differs little from that offered by others, except that she emphasizes the ameliorating effect upon a patient's "nature," when it has been influenced by the drug. A new feeling of compassion and tenderness for others and a restored sensitivity and "concern" often make benign a personality that had previously been cynical and rigid. Dr. Fox also points out that LSD experients sometimes develop an old-fashioned gratitude to their parents for having borne them. She further describes indications which point to a permanent recovery:

    ... The patient often states that he feels reborn, whole, clean, grateful, and joyous, loving all things animate and inanimate.
    A few suggestions given then for future behavior may have long-lasting effects, suggestions that he will grow to understand himself better as he matures, that life can be good, that sobriety will bring greater rewards than drinking, and that the fellowship of A.A. can give his life a new focus and meaning.

    As with LSD "cures" for other conditions, pressures from the past can cause backsliding if the patient is immediately immersed in his old environment. However, vulnerability to relapse is the exception rather than the rule with the alcoholic who has been helped through LSD therapy. And even if regression does take place, instead of being plunged into despair the patient seems better able to break his fall. Indications are that he is able to do this because, although he has failed momentarily, he has not lost faith in his new-found resilience.
    A large number of alcoholics who have gone through the LSD program have found that A.A. can help them, although this was not true previously. Such patients come to regard their addiction as something that they can cast off rather than as an affliction that is bound to cripple them for eternity. And with this externalization of the problem, comeback can be dramatic and convincing. In having a tangible external adversary, it is easier for the alcoholic and the public to "see" and understand the recovery, a fact which bolsters the patient in his determination to stay well.
    Because the LSD cure for alcoholics takes such firm hold, it is difficult for the dissenter to deny the obvious change in the patient and his return to health. The chances are that through LSD he had met and defeated his hyper-susceptibility to depression, tension, irritability, loneliness, etc.; and having conquered his former grievances, he is no longer regarded by his fellow man as a maladjusted individual, often subject to contempt. The change in the attitude of others, brought about by alterations in the alcoholic after LSD treatment, is reflected in comments by two doctors:

    Initially, the treatment personnel of our alcoholism unit were reluctant to work with alcoholic patients. They now have great interest in the program.
    When we stopped the second [LSD experimentation program], which involved about sixty people altogether, the unit kept asking us when we were going to start again. When they kept on asking, we asked them why. They said the alcoholics had changed their attitudes so much that it was good even for those who didn't have LSD.

    Since alcoholism is thought of as the leading addiction of our time, detail is warranted to show the far-reaching implications of LSD therapy as it applies to problem-solving in all addiction. From the discussion, no doubt it is obvious that similar techniques can reclaim victims of other binding "habits," great and small: narcotics, smoking, compulsive eating, gambling, logorrhea, satyriasis and various excessive indulgences.
    At the Josiah Macy Conference in 1959, and at the Quarterly Meeting of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association in London in 1961, reports were given indicating a high incidence of cure of smoking. More to the point of social importance, LSD has proved useful in reducing the high rate of recidivism in narcotics addiction. Unfortunately, several important and unusual studies, just underway, were cut short when all research was curtailed as a result of legal complications and public sentiment. The early information released was tantalizing in its promise, particularly concerning the work being done by Drs. Arnold M. Ludwig and Jerome Levine at the Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington. The latter employed hypnosis as an adjunct to LSD, a procedure they have labeled "hypnodelic":

Frankly, we were surprised to see just how well hypnosis could be used to control, modify, and direct the LSD experience. Many of the patients made dramatic claims of therapeutic benefit, expressing a strong conviction that they should remain abstinent, professed marked symptom relief, and claimed to have a new lease or outlook on life... Undesirable side effects or untoward reactions were surprisingly infrequent.

    In the popular idiom, unrewarding action patterns of behavior do not qualify as addictions; only specific, habitual adherents per se are so categorized. But, in fact, there are many maladjusted persons who are seriously "hooked" on repetitive, damaging behavior. LSD also has relevance here, since it seems able to ween the individual from dependence on outmoded and restricting "games," such as the array discussed by Dr. Eric Berne. As an example of how LSD can allay such addictions, consider the "game-destroying" capabilities of the psychedelics when used to combat delinquency and criminality (the illogical and deep-seated compulsion to defy authority indiscriminately).
    By all accounts, current penal systems of "correction" do not quell the inclination toward criminal habit. Instead, they arouse, more often than not, the competitive spirit of the prisoners, who then indulge in "one-upmanship" games and become adept at pilfering each other's techniques. Just as the rate of recidivism among narcotics addicts is appallingly high—about 95 per cent—so the parole, return and re-parole of inmates is basically a revolving-door situation. Once a man becomes a second offender, he may be well on his way to a life-time immersion m the "Cops and Robbers" game
    Hypothesizing that the psychedelic drugs could give inmates mirrored contemplation of themselves at their self-defeating "games," Dr. Timothy Leary and a group from Harvard set out in 1960 to see if psilocybin (a drug related to LSD) could help a prisoner "see through" his asocial activities and thereby become a less destructive citizen. Thirty-two prisoners who volunteered for this experiment at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison for younger offenders, were given two brief psilocybin experiences along with six weeks of bi-weekly meetings. Although most were untrained and not oriented along verbal lines, it was found that those who participated were able to detach themselves from their everyday roles and recognize constructive alternatives to their formerly limited lives. Here are the comments of several of the inmates:

    At the time of the peak of the drug's effect I had a terrific feeling of sadness and loneliness, and a feeling of great remorse of the wasted years....
    Before taking this drug my thinking always seemed to travel in the same circles, drinking, gambling, money and women and sex as easy and I guess a fast life.... Now my thoughts are troubled and at times quite confusing, but they are all of an honest nature, and of wondering. I know what I want to be and I am sincere in my own mind when I say I will try very hard to make it so....
    I felt helpless and wanted to murder you guys who did it to me; then I realized it was my own mind doing it; it's always been my own mind imagining trouble and enemies...

    But the real test was, what would happen to these prisoners when they were returned to society? Would their new way of viewing help them to lead useful and rewarding lives? Or would they soon be headed back to prison? Dr. Stanley Krippner sums up what happened and what it might mean:

Records at Concord State Prison suggested that 64 percent of the 32 subjects would return to prison within six months after parole. However, after six months, 30 percent of those on parole had returned, six for technical parole violations and two for new offenses. These results are all the more dramatic when the correctional literature is surveyed; few short-term projects with prisoners have been effective to even a minor degree. In addition, the personality test scores indicated a measurable positive change when pre-psilocybin and post-psilocybin results were compared.

    This experiment, although it had included no control subjects, established sound basis for hope and warranted another set of experiments along the same lines—and at least one large controlled study.


    Just prior to World War II, Wilhelm Reich came to the United States with some revolutionary theories about the relation between organic and psychic illnesses. Dr. Reich had been one of Freud's most brilliant and promising students, but he broke with Freud over the issue of organic-psychic illness, as well as on a number of other counts.
    Reich was not the first therapist to link mental and physical disorders, but he was the first to develop the theory at length, and to devise a therapeutic method for its implementation. His adherents—patients, admirers of his books and some therapists—were devout in embracing "Vegetotherapy," as his technique was called, even though a multitude of detractors were scornful and pronounced it nonsense.
    Today, twenty-odd years later, expert opinion has moderated its rigid stand on the issue, so that psychosomatic medicine, expanded into much broadened fields, is now entirely respectable. It is recognized now that many physical health problems are fundamentally due to mental maladjustments. Increasingly the layman has come to understand that his "asthma," or "hives," may not be the fault of the climate or something he ate. Today, if the condition persists, his general practitioner may advise him to visit an allergist, a psychotherapist or both, and the patient probably will not be offended.
    As yet, LSD—comparatively new and still branching out in its applications—has seldom been called into service for the relief of mild health problems. But many doctors report, often with pleased surprise, that their patients have achieved spontaneous relief from organic ailments after they have been given LSD for something else. Dr. Peck, for instance, at the Josiah Macy Conference remarked:

In treating patients for various and sundry psychological complaints, we found that some would come back a week or two later and say, "The headache is gone." We asked, "What headache?" They replied, "Oh, the headache I've had for 10 or 15 years."

    Because of such coincidences, a substantial number of cases have entered the records which establish LSD as a competent agent in the cure of such physical ailments as arthritis, partial paralysis, migraine, "hysterical" deafness, and a variety of skin rashes.
    The above incident, in fact, was recounted in the course of reporting on a study made by Dr. Peck on what were primarily mentally disturbed patients. In 46 of his 216 patients some form of organic illness was present as well, and 31 of the 46 made "excellent" recovery of their physical symptoms, while 5 others found marked relief.
    The physical ailments in these forty-six cases included varied arthritides, asthmas which did not respond to hypnosis, migraine headaches and long-standing rashes. Other doctors who have directly treated such problems with LSD have found that these stubborn and virtually incurable conditions can be eradicated in the course of a few sessions. In Ling and Buckman's book on LSD and Ritalin, five case histories are given of migraine cures—all of these had been previously considered hopeless. There is also a full-length account of LSD's use in treating a severe psoriasis, with impressive photographs showing the patient before and after treatment. Again, the condition had been adjudged hopeless.
    Morgens Hertz, a Danish doctor of Frederiksberg Hospital, Copenhagen, who supervised the LSD treatment of some sixty people, found that a very high percentage claimed alleviation of their organic complaints. The following is a sample:

    ... My long-lasting feeling of paralysis of the left part of my whole person has disappeared....

    ... A worried feeling of involuntary urinating has disappeared since I had the feeling that I could influence the urinating, and now I feel good....

    ... My stuttering of many years has disappeared....

    ... I have stopped crying as a means of obtaining attention....

    ... My tendency to feel giddy every time I stood on my feet has gone....

    ... I can no longer feel my pulse hammering unpleasantly all over my body when I lie down....

    Such relief gained from using a psychedelic would come as no surprise to 225,000 American Indians, for the Indians from the 1870's, have been relying on peyote, a natural psychedelic, for the maintenance of good health, in addition to the primary use they make of the cactus in religious worship. Frank Takes Gun, national president of the Native American Church, says:

At fourteen, I first used Father Peyote. This was on the Crow Reservation in Montana, and I was proud to know that my people had a medicine that was Godpowerful. Listen to me, peyote does have many amazing powers. I have seen a blind boy regain his sight from taking it. Indians with ailments that hospital doctors couldn't cure have become healthy again after a peyote prayer meeting. Once a Crow boy was to have his infected leg cut off by reservation doctors. After a peyote ceremony, it grew well again.

    This may be considered only exuberant witchdoctor talk, but reliable observers have confirmed that these economically deprived peoples are in better-than average health and that when they do become sick and turn to peyote, the drug seems to help them. Louise Spindler, an anthropologist who worked among the Menomonee tribe, said that the women "peyotists" often kept a can of ground peyote for brewing into tea. They used it in "an informal fashion for such things as childbirth, ear-aches, or for inspiration for beadwork patterns."
    Dr. Peck also made such an observation and, in fact, first became interested in LSD as a result of having seen the effects of peyote:

When I went into general practice as a country doctor in Texas, I was very impressed that some of our Latin American patients, despite their poverty and living conditions, were extremely healthy. One day, I asked one of my patients how he stayed so healthy, and he told me that he chewed peyote buttons... then, I became interested in these drugs that could promise physical as well as mental health.

    As early as the late 19th century, medical practitioners and others knew of the health benefits peyote offered, having observed the effects among the Indians. In 1891, James Mooney, of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, brought peyote to the attention of a group of anthropologists in Washington, after having lived among the Kiowa Indians and other tribes where he became familiar with the use of the drug in doctoring illness. In time he recommended it to a medical man and a pharmacologist. These men, Drs. D. W. Prentiss and Francis P. Morgan, both outstanding in their fields, decided to undertake tests with peyote buttons which Mooney supplied. Their subjects were suffering from a variety of physical complaints—chronic bronchitis with asthmatic attacks; neurasthenia; nervous prostration; chronic phthisis with facial neuralgia and catarrh; persistent cough; and softening of the brain. The report by Prentiss and Morgan appeared in the August 22, 1896, Medical Record and proclaimed that the "effect of the drug was little less than marvelous" in one particular case, and it sang the praises of peyote with equal gusto in citing others throughout the report. One example:

Gentleman, aged fifty-five years. Chronic bronchitis with asthmatic attacks. Much distressed by an irritative cough which kept him from sleeping... In a letter received from him recently he states that he has improved very much, being able to sleep all night without rising, which he had not been able to do for two years; and that, although he has no need of it upon some days, he carries a piece of a [peyote]] button in his pocket constantly, as its use relieves the tickling in his throat at once and gives greater relief than any other remedy which he has ever used.

    The best responses in terms of health to any of the psychedelic drugs seem to be in cases where the medical disorder is psychically caused, not basically organic (birth defects; broken bones; viruses and so forth). This accounts for the high incidence of asthmatic/bronchial and skin condition cures. There are also other ailments, possibly of psychic origin, known to have responded remarkably well when treated with a psychedelic. In current medical journals and papers a number of organic cures and "coincidental organic cures" can be found: Dr. Jack Ward of the Carrier Clinic, Belle Mead, New Jersey, reports a case of deafness which he suspected was "hysterical" in origin; the patient responded with hearing restored after LSD. R. Gordon Wasson, the banker-scholar-mycologist who discovered the Mexican "magic mushroom" (a natural source of psilocybin), told of giving the mushroom to a mute who thereafter was able to speak. In a clear case of psychosomatic disorder, where the patient suffered paralysis of one arm because of several traumatic accidents, LSD finally was tried as a last resort, after sodium amytal and psychotherapy had failed. The arm became normal again. (Dr. Dietrich W. Hayden goes into this case at some length in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 120, 1963.) There are also reports from Japan by S. Kuromaru and his co-workers to the effect that LSD has been used with good results in the treatment of phantom limb pain.
    Because many of the cases cited for organic cure with psychedelics are contrary to prevailing, conventional medical theories, they are in danger of being arbitrarily labeled with the shabby disrepute usually reserved for faith-healing, chiropractry, Yoga, and eccentric schools of health treatment. But the fact that LSD cures of physical complaints do appear, however coincidentally or accidentally, in respectable medical literature is an indication that research in this field is needed and will probably—eventually—be continued.
    In addition to the actual reports of cures, there are provocative accounts which hint at even more far-ranging applications for the psychedelics in general medical practice. In neurological disorders such as bursitis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammation of the joints, LSD may have been responsible for unexpected reversions. The following are two cases in point:

    [The subject], a businesswoman in her forties, had for many years experienced her body and her "mind and brain" as being literally "tied up in knots." She could "plainly feel" this knotting, which she felt to be related to her "tenseness." For more than five years she had been familiarizing herself with literature concerning psychedelic drugs and believed that a psychedelic session was "the only means" by which she could free herself from her tensions and the feeling of knottedness ...
    About one hour into her session, when ordinarily the various distressing physical symptoms would be experienced, [she] began speaking of a "great but wonderful pain... my body is becoming unknotted." One by one, as she described it, the knots in her body "untangled." Later, in a second [LSD] session, the knots in her "mind and brain" also became "untangled." This second "unknotting," like the first, was experienced as "excruciatingly painful... also quite glorious." This relief appears to be permanent. A year later, [she] had developed no new knots.

    ... a man felt during his initial LSD experience that his joints were somehow grinding together. He felt that all of the rough edges in his joints were ground smooth, and this gave him a "well-oiled" feeling which seemed to persist for weeks afterwards.

    Commenting on "current status and future trends in psychedelic research," Dr. Robert Mogar has noted in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology that there is "ample evidence indicating a markedly lowered threshold for arousal (Key & Bradley, 1960) and an increased sensitivity to stimuli in all modalities (Klee, 1963)" after use of LSD. A New York hearing specialist, Dr. James Gould, tested some members of a well-known theatrical company and found that after LSD their hearing range was expanded appreciably. In the case of visual increase, Constance Newland mentions an instance in which vision was so heightened under LSD that a subject was able to read a newspaper at a distance of thirty feet.[14] It is to be hoped that extensive research with the drug will culminate in positive relief for many of those afflicted by impaired sight and hearing.
    Dr. Abramson has expressed a similar hope for LSD in terms of the overall medical picture:

... I have always felt that the importance of LSD was not LSD, but that LSD will bring to medicine what it really needs: to have psychiatry a branch of experimental  


Birth and Death:

    On a recent day a young woman gave birth to her first child, an eight-pound boy, in the privacy of her home. The birth site was her choice and her husband's.
    Yet it was not the site that made this particular event something special. Rather it was this:
    The mother had taken a small dose of LSD when she felt the labor pains begin.
    Her husband was with her throughout. Her doctor was there, too. At her request, and with full knowledge of what she would be doing, he had consented to deliver the child.
    The delivery was excellent, the baby showing no ill effects from the LSD and the mother reporting it had eased her pain. But she had not taken it to avoid the pain. She had taken it for the same reason many others in this city have taken it—for the very intense, very personal experience it promised. Later she was to call the birth the most profound event of her life.

    This quotation, from one article in a series on LSD by Jay Levin, appeared in The New York Post in June, 1966. While this childbirth account indicates that the mother took the drug primarily for personal reasons, there are other instances when LSD has been clinically used to facilitate birth in cases where there were difficulties. In a case cited in The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy, the woman was five-and-a-half months' pregnant, had been under psychiatric care for a long time because of her morbidity (she expressed death wishes and wanted to kill the baby) and because she had been taking barbiturates literally by the handful. She had also undergone shock treatment to no apparent avail. Her case became one of serious emergency when she developed the "screaming meemies." Because blood tests and other examinations indicated that she was physically normal, and because the doctors were faced with a crisis, she was given 175 mcg. of LSD. She was then able to comprehend the reasons behind her anxiety and to cope with them effectively. Like other mothers who have taken LSD during pregnancy, she was delivered of a child who was completely normal by all physiological and psychiatric tests.
    As time passes, it is probable that more women will be using LSD as they undergo childbirth. At the moment, however, there is little published which spells out the benefits or dangers which may accrue. At the Biological Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, the effect of moderately high LSD dosage on developing chick embryos during the first ten days of gestation has been studied; when hatched, no ill effects were found. But this is one of the few studies in existence concerning LSD and embryonic life, and while LSD has been used on laboratory animals in other connections, as yet there is no indication that deeper research is underway.
    At the present time there is no published record of Caesarean section in which LSD has figured, but because LSD has been used in other operations, it may be effective in Caesarean births also. In a pioneering study at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, LSD was used as a pre-anesthetic in ten cases involving the surgical removal of the uterus. It was reported that LSD was an effective and safe analgesic, not because it dulls the sensorium, but because it induces passive acceptance of threatening events:

The ten patients were all females in good health except for fibroadenomata, who underwent total abdominal hysterectomies. One hundred mcg. LSD was given two hours before surgery as the only pre-medication except atropine... All patients tolerated the procedure well. Some laughed while the mask was applied and, still laughing, fell asleep. After recovery the patients were asked if they would want LSD again, should further surgery be necessary; no reluctance was expressed.

    Even the most enraptured "missionary" eager to spread the LSD "gospel" is aware that LSD is not—and can never be—a panacea, the solution to all of mankind's problems. But while it cannot keep us from aging, or reverse the course of fatal diseases, it does have important beneficial effects for those confronted with desperate and terminal illness and death.
    The medical world became aware of LSD's ability to change the pre-conditions of death when the A.M.A. published a report on fifty dying patients who were given LSD in a Chicago hospital. In this preliminary study conducted by Dr. Eric Kast, a noted psychiatrist, it was discovered that the drug was more effective as an analgesic than any of the frequently used morphine derivatives:

In... 50 patients, most with advanced cancer and some with gangrene, LSD relieved pain for considerably longer periods than such powerful drugs as meperidine and dihydro-morphinone... On the average, freedom from pain lasted two hours with 100 mg meperidine, three hours with 2 mg dihydro-morphinone and 92 hours with 100 mcg LSD.

    To the amazement of observers, the attitudes of these terminal patients also changed—from depression, apathy and anguish to sensitivity, poignancy and deep feeling for the people they loved. They expressed gratitude for life itself. LSD enabled them to face death equably. Instead of attempting to disguise and deny what was happening to them, or view it with hysterical fright, they felt at one with the universe and therefore looked upon the actual dying process as merely another event in eternal existence. "It was a common experience," says Dr. Kast, "for the patient to remark casually on his deadly disease and then comment on the beauty of a certain sensory impression." Such desirable emotional content lasted for two weeks in some cases, i.e., long after the drug's pain-killing action wore off.
    The next study Dr. Kast made was with 128 patients, all suffering malignant diseases and metastasis, who would die within two months. These cases were given no other analgesic agent in addition to LSD. A precipitous drop in pain occurred two or three hours after the drug was administered and lasted twelve hours, and the total pain intensity was less for about three weeks. As in the former study, these patients' peace of mind was remarkable, and they accepted their condition for what it was. There were other factors also which eased their last days:

The first night after LSD administration was almost invariably a good one. After that we noted a meaningful reduction of sleep disturbances up to about ten nights which is also the time when concern about the morbid condition returned... It is noteworthy that not one patient, though they were critically ill, had any adverse medical reaction, and the administration of LSD was well tolerated.

    The drawback in the second study was that seven subjects felt panicky at one point in the experience, and 42 had mild anxiety. None of these reactions was long-lasting or severe, but, coming generally at the end of the session, it was distressing all the same. Later, however, in another study, Dr. Kast was able to avoid this by bringing the LSD session to an end with a thorazine injection, if adverse symptoms appeared. There were 80 patients in this latter group, and all but 8 wished to repeat the LSD experience; this represented an appreciable increase over the 33 per cent in the former group who did not want to have the drug again.
    Dr. Kast was concerned throughout these studies with the moral issue of whether interfering with the very personal process of dying was justified. In his last study, seven, when questioned on this, resented the intrusion of the drug into their philosophic and religious concepts; the majority felt gratified and said they had gained deeper insights. "In human terms," as Dr. Kast put it, "the short but profound impact of LSD on the dying was impressive."
    Throughout the ages, one of the major problems faced by man has been that of accepting death. Most of those dying either try to structure death or to deny its possibility. Natural death therefore tends to become desperate and hideous, with everyone concerned—patient, family, friends, nurses—refusing to accept the inevitable and appreciate it for the momentous experience it must be. To die in sleep is held to be the ideal "death bed."
    LSD, however, has proved that it can alter the emotional atmosphere of death. Because the patient no longer feels intense attachment for his body, he can more readily accept his transition.
    It is a well-substantiated rumor that Aldous Huxley took LSD in the last stages of his terminal cancer. Certainly he had knowledge of the benefits LSD might bring in such circumstances, for one of the major events in his final novel, Island, was a death scene in which an old woman slipped away with unusual gentleness after ingesting a psychedelic, an imaginary substance Huxley called "the moksha-medicine."
    The studies of Dr. Kast, a few hints from Huxley, and such statements from terminal patients as "I know I'm dying... but look at the beauty of-the universe"—these have suggested the idea that one day Western society might establish "Centers for Dying," as in India. Dr. Richard Alpert is one of the leading proponents for such and he thinks LSD should be included, explaining it this way:

Why shouldn't there be a place where a person could come to die with awareness instead of denial, where the setting, be it mountain or ocean, would be suitable for the transition; where the staff would be trained as guides to help people with the aid of psychedelics to learn about giving up the ego and seeing the beauty of the Universe? The individual could have doctors, if he or she wished, and could die in whichever religious metaphor he might choose.

    Such a Center could revolutionize the whole dying process for millions, and for millions to come. At the same time, however, it would raise unprecedented questions, for it may be that LSD not only changes the preconditions of death, but alters the transition as well. The question is, does it do anything else? No one can answer, for in this realm there is not a single expert.


    9. These figures come from Dr. Joel Fort, Director of the Center for Treatment and Education on Alcoholism Oakland, California. They come from Utopiates, copyright (c) i964 by the Atherton Press, New York, and are reprinted by permission of the publishers.
    One fact Dr. Fort did not note here is that alcoholics on the average die much earlier than non-drinkers. A recent follow-up study on a large group of alcoholic patients carried out by the Research Department of the Department of Mental Hygiene in Maryland indicated that the life expectancy of this group was ten years less than the average life expectancy of the general population. Further, Dr. Albert A. Kurland, Director of Research for this department, has commented that "this group of patients over a ten year period had a suicide rate of approximately 10 percent."
    10. As defined by Dr. Hoffer and his colleagues, "malvarians" are people who carry in their urine a "mauve-colored residue" and who suffer from "malvaria," a biochemical aberration found in most schizophrenics and many neurotics and mentally retarded children According to Dr. Hoffer, malvarians very rarely experience a psychedelic reaction; to date not one of the over fifty alcoholic malvarians given LSD therapy has achieved sobriety.
    11. From Hoffer: Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 6:183, 1965, The C.v. Mosby Company, St. Louis.
    12. Dr. Kenneth D. Godfrey, Assistant Chief, west Psychiatric Service, Topeka veterans Administration Hospital, and Dr. Osmond.
    13. The first comes from Masters and Houston: the second was reported by Dr. James Terrill of the Mental Research Institute, Medical Research Foundation, Palo Alto, California.
    14. Neither heightened vision nor blurred vision is uncommon m the LSD experience. People with pronounced astigmatism often notice the first effects of the drug when they find they can see clearly without their glasses. Some have reported that the improvement carries over.

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