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VII A History of Hallucinogens PDF Print E-mail
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Books - Society and Drugs
Written by Richard Blum   

Elsewhere, we (Blum and Funkhouser-Ba1baky, 1965) have discussed the inadequacy of nomendature which categorizes drugs on the bagis of one aspect of the outcome of use. Such a nomendature is obviously not chemical nor pharmacological; it is at best a convenience and at worst a source of confusion and unnecessary argument. The hallucino-gens constitute such a category. A wide variety of manufactured (de-rived) and plant materials conventionally are included in this class: LSD, DMT, mescaline, peyote, psilocybin, datura, fly agaric (a mush-room), pituri, parica (cohaba), ololiuqui, teonanactl, caapi, mandrake, and henbane. For material on specific substances see de Ropp, 1957); Efron, Holmstedt, and Kline (1967), Lewin (reissue, 1964), Schultes (1963a, 1963b); and Wassén and Holmstedt (1963). The history of many of these substances lacks documentation; for others there is a dispute over plant sources and effects, as well as for early dates for use and patterns of diffusion. In this section we shall restrict ourselves to a presentation of limited historical-epidemiological data on just a few of the hallucinogens.

Schultes (1963a, 1963b, 1967) finds a much greater variety of mind-altering, naturally occurring (plant-derived) hallucinogens in the New World than in the 01d—forty known species in the former as opposed to about six in the latter. Along with this variety in the Americas are a much wider natural distribution and a greater number of tribal peoples availing themselve,s of these substances. In the New World, use is almost entirely ritual in association with magico-religious ceremonials.

Mushrooms. The most enthusiastic chroniclers of the hallu-cinogens are Gordon Wasson and his wife, who have set forth both a history and a theory of mushroom use. Wasson (1957, 1958, 1963) and Wasson and Wasson (1957) contend that in prehistory a proto-religion evolved from hallucinogenic mushroom experiences. It is their thesis that man perceived a deity and subsequently a need for a deity as a consequence of eating hallucinogenic plants. Much of this religion is assumed to have been lost as peoples migrated, but elements or folk memories remain in language, in the presence of mushroom-loving or mushroom-fearing attitudes among peoples (the Russians as the former, Anglo-Saxons as the latter), and in the scattered tribes who at least until recent times continued ritual use of the,se plants. The Wassons describe these practices in the Siberian Samoyed, Yenisei-Osyaks, Yakuts and Yakhaghirs, Tungas, Chuckchee, Koryhaks and Kamcha-dales, and the Oaxaca Indians of Mexico. An eighth group, the Mt. Hagan people of New Guinea, are also said to be mushroom religion-ists but no adequate descriptions of them are available. The Borneo Dyaks are also cited (Wasson and Wasson, 1957). The Wassons de-scribe mushroom stones with phallic significance dating to 1000 B.c. in Central America (an earlier date is given in Wasson, 1963). They propose that other early findings may be expected in China and Africa. They ask whether the Greeks used mushrooms in the Eleusinian mys-teries, whether the Delphic oracle employed them, and whether the Sanskrit soma might not be the same. Wasson offers detailed descrip-tions of contemporary magico-religious use of mushrooms based on his and his wife's own participant observation in Mexico. There, the intentions are sacred and involve healing, divination, and mystical experiences.

Cautious readers will be dubious of the claimed early dates, ubiquitousness, and religious etiology of the mushroom cult as proposed by the Wassons. For example, no evidence supports the lin.k to Greek religious practices nor is their thesis of an early wet period in the Fertile Crescent conducive to mushroom growth supported by geologi-cal-archaeological evidence. On the other hand, there are references (Sullivan, 1967Y in connection with the literature of cooking, 'im-mortality, and visions in Taoist (third century B.c.) Chinese texts; there are European (Swiss) practices linldng mushrooms to religious festivals (Christmas) ; and there is no reason to exclude the likelihood of early discovery of the hallucinogenic properties of fungi by at least some tribal people, which would be expected to lead to the incorpora-tion of the fungi into religious, healing, and other ceremonial rites. But that the hallucinogenic experience was responsible for developing a religious sense--rather than simply expanding or enriching it—does seem unlikely. Certainly the dates for evidence of religious practices ( James, 1957) are earlier, by many thousands of years, than are the dates for mushroom-eating cults.

Another disputable proposition for the use of fungi is offered by Fabing (1957Y—following Odman and Schubeler (cited by Fabing)—who contends that the Berserkers, wild Scandinavian warriors (nanied for using bear skin, or "ber sark," instead of armor) drew their fury from the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The practice of berserk-going was outlawed in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; any-one who went berserk was to be banished and any companion who failed to tie up the berserk-goer was also subject to banishment. Other descriptions of the berserkers agree on their fury but do not provide evidence of fungi use. Walter Scott (reissue, 1902), for example, in a very liberal translation of an Icelandic saga argues for their heavy use of wine, mead, and ale. He proposes that they lost their supernatural strength upon assuming the Christian faith (as opposed to their aban-doning fungi use under penalty of the newly passed Christian laws of Jarl, Thorlaks, and Ketil (see Fabing). Beckett (1915) describes the berserkers as a class of Viking warriors organized into a special fight-ing corps known for their bloodthirsty nature. This "warlike frenzy, stimulated by large portions of strong drink," was reduced, according to Beckett, when Triggvason forcibly Christianized Norway. We gather it was force rather than sudden virtue which calmed the berserkers. Obviously, a consensus on those warriors has yet to be reached. That a hallucinogen must be invoked to account for their performance may be gilding the lily, for violence subsequent to alcohol imbibing amongst a warrior class is part of an old tradition.

Several scholars have written of mushroom use by Aztecs and later Indians. Safford (1915) believes that teonanactl was actually peyote, an erroneous identification. He calls attention to initial oppo-sition to teonanactl by the Catholic dergy because of its connections with pagan rites which they were trying to eliminate. These rites, de-scribed by a number of observers (cited by Safford; also by del Pozo, 1967, and Schultes, 1940a)', included religious divination through communion, human sacrifice, and also suicide during the period of intoxication, as well as religious-political rituals such as those used in the coronation of Montezuma, and possibly individualistically in po-litical murder, for Thompson (cited by Schultes) says Tozon may have been killed when a very poisonous variety was substituted for the ritual mushroom. Johnson (1939) describes the later (1930's) use of teo-nanactl among the Mazatecs, at which time use was still part of strictly shamanistic rituals devoted to divination, healing, and interpersonal black magic—that is, harming one another. This latter use was inte-grated by the 1930's with the notion of the evil eye, which is a Medi-terranean belief brought into Mexico by the Spaniards. Johnson cites Sagahun to the effect that the early diffusion of mushroom eating through Mexico and Central America was accomplished as part of Aztec merchant travel and commerce. As far as the earliest dates are concerned, Schultes (1940a) appears to concur in the Wass& inter-pretation of stones and art suggesting mushroom religious relevance as far back as 1000 to 500 B.c. In actual use there were a number of highly individualistic reactions, according to Schultes, even though the setting for use was ceremonial. Thus, individual aspirations and fears were reflected in the visions, as were behaviors of singing, dancing, weeping, and meditation. Schultes describes the geography of recent teonanactl use—an admittedly difficult task since use is a secret rather than a public activity. Contemporary ritual use—at least as described by observers (see also Wasson, 1958, 1957, 1963)—although ritual-istic and traditional, is geared to individual needs, such as healing, finding lost objects, and interpersonal witchcraft. What this means is that traditional uses need not be communal ceremonies—and most often are not—but instead can be ceremonials conducted by "curan-deras" or healers1 upon request of persons or families--a practice wide-spread through Mexico and Central America with or without the use of mind-altering substances.

Other on-the-spot descriptions of mushroom eating for mind-altering purposes are to be found in writings by travelers to Siberia, where fly agaric was consumed in certain regions. Kennon wrote in 1870, Lansdell in 1883, Jochelson in 1908, and Bogoras in 1909 (ob-servations were made in 1900)'. Contradictions abound in descriptions of practices of the Koryak and Chuckchee. Kennon found the settled Koryaks (in contrast to the nomadic ones) a reprehensible breed and attributes their degradation and brutalization to the "toadstool habit." His implication is of compulsive individualistic use by a group of licentious thieves who were, additionally, rum drinkers. At least part of their misbehavior he attributes to contact with the Russians. Be-cause fly agaric was so rare, the Koryak paid high prices for it and, to conserve effects, the urine of the first eater thereof was drunk by another, his urine by a third, and so forth. Lansdell, a minister, found this practice abhorrent but is less harsh on the Koryaks, even though he agrees they were debased. Bogoras points out that fly-agaric use was more common among those with easiest access to it but notes that Christianized former users abandoned the practice out of shame, while others were abstinent even though it grew near them and they traded it. Male hunters were most prone to employ it. Use led mushroom eaters to see visions of spirits who resembled the mushroom; the spirits were jokesters whose "visit" was followed by acute intoxication ("lu-nacy") and then by sleep. The urine-conservation drinking method was so valued that Bogoras, reporting for the Jessup expedition, notes that others' urine was consumed even when no mushrooms had been eaten.2 He also describes the intensive use by Siberian tribes of tobacco and alcohol--some people smoking, chewing, and sniffing tobacco all at once, consuming 95 per cent alcohol in as large a quantity as could be found, and, commonly, drinking forty cups of black tea a day besides.

Jochelson discusses addiction to fly agaric among the Koryak, saying that only the old men ate mushrooms and that the youngsters gave it to them as a mark of deference. He also found that shamans used mushrooms during divination ceremonies, during funeral rituals, for healing by spirit communion, and for other magical communion with spirits, as well as for euphoric purposes in gatherings. Jochelson reports that the mushroom spirit was said to kill those who overin-dulged by taking more than the three to ten mushrooms which con-stitute a normal dose (high doses can be fatal since the mushroom is toxic). During carousing, men remained intoxicated for several days at a time. Some would drink their own urine to prolong the effect. Interestingly, the Koryak would also drink their own urine after alcohol imbibing for the same reason—another example of the gen-eralization of a drug-taking method from one to another substance. On the other hand, alcohol was not taken at the same time as fly agaric since the two were felt to be antagonists. Alcohol drinking was also confined, according to Jochelson, to older men among the Koryak.

The disagreement among observers as to who among the Kor-yak used fly agaric and under what settings and intentions allows few conclusions—all but one tentative. The strong conclusion is that ob-servers can see remarkably different reasons, practices, and effects even when they are all presumably watching the same people at about the same point in time. This should give us pause as we consider ethnographers' reports, single-purpose historians, or the morals drawn for us by watchers on the contemporary scene. As for the Koryak and fly agaric, we tend to accept Jochelson, who ascribes both traditional magico-religious and magico-healing settings (the distinction is mod-ern and Western, since magic, religion, and healing are all part of the same ceremonial cloth for many around the world) to its use, as well as more individualistic and sometimes gaudy performances. Whether the latter represents the end stage of a process of secularization after culture impact with the West (Russia), as we suspect, or whether both practices evolved simultaneously is not known.

Datura, Jimson weed, or thorn apple (containing hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and atropine as psychoactive compounds). This sub-stance is another hallucinogen for which some historical-epidemio-logical data are available. Schultes (1963a) says it was early used by the Incas and Chibchas of South America and that it was reintroduced into Andean regions more recently. The expectation of spirit visita-tions accompanies use, although it is said to be given to misbehaving children so that the spirits will admonish them. Among the ancient Chibchas it was given to slaves and women who were to be buried alive during the funerals of their masters; that ritual use would seem to have had a fear-deadening intention.

Lewin (reissue, 1964)' believes that Datura stramonium was the plant which Marc Antony's troops accidentally ate on their retreat from Parthia in 38 A.D. and which produced stupor or, in larger doses, insanity and death. Blakeslee, Avery, Satina, and Rietsema (1959)' state that its earliest spedfic mention was by the Arab physician Avicenna in the eleventh century; he was aware of its intoxicating as well as medical potentials. These authors, like Lewin, identify Aztec ololiuhqui as Datura meteloides—an identification which others, in-duding de Ropp (1957)' and Schultes (1963a) would dispute. Blakeslee et al. state that Aztec use of datura was for healing and by priests for spirit communion. For the Aztecs it was a sacred plant which was the object of offerings. Lewin describes its use in East Africa, where it is smoked, and in Bengal, where it is smoked with cannabis or taken as a tincture in wine; in Japan, Lewin says, it is smoked with tobacco. Regarding its Indian use, Blakeslee et al. say it has been used by the thugs ("Thuggee," a criminal tribe whose methods were highly stylized)' to stupefy their victims. Smartt (1956)1 states that South African criminals also used it for the same purpose. Sinee there are many Indians in South Africa, it is possible that thuggee practices were an import. Smartt also says it is smoked there in con-junction with cannabis to produce individual intcocication. We presume that Central European use is implied by Lewin when he speaks of the devil's herb used "by religious fanatics, clairvoyants, mirade workers, magicians, priests and imposters" to invoke hallucinations and decep-tions as part of demonology. He also describes Amerindian use of one or another datura variety for divination, for spirit communion, in ritual healing by shamans, in ceremonial preparation for warfare, and in puberty rites of passage. To this list Blakeslee et al. add its use in fu-neral ceremonies and state they have observed a wide variety of effects dependent in part upon dosage. We would add the other environmen-tal and personal variables which influence drug reactions—for exam-ple, Blakeslee de,scribes Indians as seeing visions, dancing, laughing, weeping, or sleeping.

Kroeber (1953b). describes the Jimson weed (DaturaY or tolo-ache cult of the California Indians, who used the substance for puberty rites lasting for several months. It was also used as a painkiller. Some California tribes gave it to small children in pursuit of visions of a personal spirit who would become the protector of the individual. Others used it prior to endurance trials. Kroeber remarks upon the variety of use aside from puberty initiations; he also points out that not all Indians knowledgeable as to its effects used it in ceremonial or cult fashion.

European use of datura is rarely reported. Beverley (reissue, 1947). describes how the "James-Town Weed" was gathered for salad by some early soldier settlers. They were said to have become "natural fools" for some days, "sitting naked in the corner like monkeys and making mows" (faces) and wallowing in their own excrement unless constrained. No more recent use of datura has come to our attention, except for some few reports of experimental intoxication by modern California youngsters--induding Big Sur hippies.

Mandrake. A history of mandrake (Mandragora, a solanace-ous plant also containing hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and hyoscine) is presented by C. J. S. Thompson (1934 ). Since the mandrake root re-sembles a man, or can be perceived as such, it has long been believ-ed to have magical properties. Mentioned in Genesis as a fertility inducer (Rachel and Leah), in the Song of Solomon, it also figured in Egyp-tian medicine. Assyrian reference is dated circa 700 B.c. (R. C. Thomp-son, cited in C. J. S. Thompson), and Hippocrates speaks of it as a reliever of depression and anxiety when taken in wine. By Hellenistic times more elaborate magical notions were developing. Theophrastus observed that it must be uprooted in a ritual way; such ritual harvest-ing of the plants survives into modern Greece (Blum and Blum, 1964, and the witchcraft of mandrake has likewise continued through medi-eval times in Europe. Dioscorides describes its healing value, whereas others have proposed that during the Roman occupation of Israel, Sanhedrin women gave the drug to those crucified so that they might appear dead. Crucified persons were taken from the cross, and after-wards they revived. Thompson (1934) comments that some scholars have speculated that Christ's rising—that is, living after death—might be so attributed. Its military use was ascribed to Hannibal, who is said to have simulated a retreat in Africa and, leaving in his camp wine jars spiked with mandragora, returned after his enemies had "captured" his camp, drunk the wine, and fallen asleep. Caesar is said to have re-peated the strategy against Sicilian pirates. It was also used as an aphrodisiac, at least symbolically, and was a common ingredient in love philters. Thompson reports on the mandrake legend transplanted to China—where the plant was unknown—in the ginseng and Shang beliefs about these plants with human-shaped roots. Believed by Euro-peans and Chinese to be most efficacious when sprung from the urine or semen of a hanged criminal (a European notion specifically), man-drake became sufficiently in demand for the Chinese to traffic in coun-terfeit roots.

The Arabs used the plant medically and against maladies caused by demons so that magico-healing as well as empirical Arab medicine knew its use. Thompson proposes a date of about 1000-1050 for its introduction into England, where it was sold for magical prop-erties. Another highly valued, man-shaped root plant (Briony); an imposter, was sold in counterfeit. Mandrake talismans came to be worn, embellished with "hair" on their heads and genitals that grew from planting barley in the wet plant. Mandrake mysticism, says Thompson, was at its height in the twelfth to sixteenth centuries through Europe and the Near East, during which time the little men were clothed, fed, and counted on to perform miracles medical and otherwise. The Franciscans in the 1400's sought to stamp out the mag-ical practices but to no avail. Before that date its actual medical use vied with its symbolic magical value; after that date, magic took preced-ence. In later centuries its importance diminished, although in Europe and-America it can still be purchased from some herbalists.

Peyote. The cactus Lophophora Williamsii, or peyote, has been the subject of a number of excellent recent studies focusing on the circumstances of its adoption by increasing numbers of American Indi-ans. J. S. Slotkin (1955, 1956), an anthropologist, has provided an excellent source book, as has La Barre (1960, 1964). Slotkin was an official in the (Indian) Native American Church, where the drug is ritually employed. A comprehensive hypothesis testing study of its use among the Navajo has been offered by Aberle (1966). Slotkin makes the important point that "peyote" was a generic term covering many hallucinogenic Mexican plants; this explains much of the contradiction and confusion, especially the citation by several historians of the same early observation, with each historian disagreeing as to how the drug was actually employed.

According to Schultes (1940b)', the Aztecs used peyote as a specific for rheumatism; other Indians used it for a wide variety of healing purposes. Among some athletes observed by early Spaniards, it was used as a stimulant, whereas others used it prior to battle to give courage. The Chichimecas (described in 1575, discussed by Safford, 1921) so employed it, but also used it because it was magical and would protect them from all danger.' They further used it to ward off hunger and thirst. Among other Amerindians it served as a stimulant before ceremonial dances. When Catholic missionaries came to Mex-ico, Safford says that they opposed peyote use—a pattern of Christian opposition which we have seen before directed toward other substances (coca, mushrooms, and other hallucinogens) in the Americas and elsewhere (kava in Polynesia; opium in China; and cannabis, tobacco, and alcohol [by Fundamentalists] in the United States). In Mexico, peyote use was sometimes in conjunction with alcohol; thus, "mescal liquor" became the term for alcohol and "mescal buttons" for peyote. These are all early uses prior to the remarkable spread of the peyote cult itself. Schultes says it is the most important Indian medicine, as well as being the focus now for religion. It is also important to remark that Aberle's data show that most Navajos initially took peyote only,in ( ceremonial) healing endeavors and then became cult members using the drug more diversely. As with most folk cultures, healing-religious-magical ceremonials are linked.

Contemporary Indians continue to use the drug for healing. Schultes says Plains Indians use it as freely as Caucasians use aspirin, that rural Mexicans employ it as a household analgesic. It has also been used as a cure for drug dependency or toxic reactions—for example, in the treatment of opium dependency,' alcohol hang-overs, and alcoholism. Safford cites the claim of peyote cultists that cult members lose all interest in alcohol once initiated. Aberle observes that there is an antialcohol morality which is part of the peyote religion; as a re-sult, many teetotalers are found among the cultists.

The recent history of the peyote cult (Aberle, 1966; La Barre, 1960, 1961; Slotkin, 1955, 1956; see also Barber, 1941) is supple-mented by a number of studies of particular tribes (for example, Aberle, 1966; Petrullo, 1934; Spindler, 1955, 1952; and Zingg, 1938). Briefly, the cult beginnings appear to have been in the 1860's with ritual and cult practice,s established by 1885. The cult departed from healing, trance, power seeking, or divination intentions by stressing pan-Indian nativistic features. Christian elements were incorporated by the 1890's. By 1899, sixteen tribes had adopted the cult; by 1955, sixty-six more had done so. The appeals of the cult are well described by modern anthropological observers, who view it as an accommoda-tion to white domination—one which provides a sense of identity and solidarity in the face of discrimination and threat of cultural extermina-tion. The spread of the peyote cult followed the demise of the more strongly antiwhite Ghost Dance movement, which had itself evolved as intertribal contacts increased, for these contacts served as a means of communication by which the peyote cult could be transmitted. This transmission was, and is, by no means easy since resistance to the cult exists among missionaries (Petrullo) and both traditional and modern Indians (Aberle). Among the Navajos, for example, the majority of people oppose the peyote cult. Each set of opponents claim dire effects from peyote use—intmdcation, sexual immorality, laziness, mental dis-ease, malformed infants, death, and addiction, to name a few. These claims are not substantiated by any careful observers of the Indian peyote users and thus constitute an example of notions of drug abuse which reflect at least an incorrect understanding of drug effects; more fundamentally, as Aberle shows, they reflect a negative reaction to the cult itself, which its opponents view as a threat to their values, systems, and self-interest (for example, they see the cult as foreign, nontraditional, and uncontrollable). Aberle offers the important find-ing fhat neutralism about the peyote cult is rare among Navajos; those who view it neutrally are most often among the highly educated. Many Navajo opponents believe peyote to lead to unbridled sexuality and loss of self-control. Aberle proposes that a deeper but unstated concern is that it threatens conventional Navajo ways, is not compatible with the ideals or goals which most Indians have for tribal development, and generates deep anxiety associated with concern about any mind-medicine and its potential harm to health and sanity.

Aberle carefully examines the function of peyote for those who do adopt it, pointing to how its ideology does allow an adjustment to or compensation for degraded status vis-à-vis the white, an ethical code relevant to socioeconomic circumstances, and a source of varied individual satisfactions, which indude access to power, miracle cures, transcendental knowledge, divination, self-guidance, protection from witches and ghosts, and a release from guilt. The cult itself safely expresses antiwhite sentiment and provides a sustaining social group.

Aberle's data are most instructive about those Navajos who be-come peyotists as contrasted to those who do not. Early use is best pre-dicted by access or the closeness to supplies. Later use (by region) is best predicted by prior use and inversely with acculturation. Commu-nities most likely to be upset by peyotism and to charge drug abuse are those where there is peyote use and where the community suffers from those features which are, in fact, most likely to be associated with further peyote-cult development. Specifically, these are places where Navajos with previously large livestock holdings have lost them during the government-sponsored, livestock-reduction campaigns or where large numbers of persons reported bad dreams connected with illness and death (the latter we take to be a measure of anxiety and the com-bination of which, economics and anxiety, Aberle calls deprivation and disturbance). For these people peyotism is a redemptive movenient offering compensation rather than restitution; "blessed are the poor and the weak," it would say. For the peyote cultists, the drug takes on greater and more differentiated importance once interest develops. Although the mind altering is an experience which they feel they can-not communicate to outsiders, group interaction among cult members tangibly increases and contact with other Indians diminishes; an ethno-centric spirit arises which makes both conventional Indians and white society outsiders (see Becker, 1963).

With the expansion of the peyote cult among American Indians, there has been a simultaneous development of tribal law and state and federal laws either prohibiting use or setting forth limited acceptable circumstances for use, such as in religious ceremonies by bona fide church members instead of by unorganized individuals. This latter feature affects non-Indian users, small groups of whom have been de-scribed among Oklahoma Negroes (Smith, 1934) geographically close to peyote and to Indian users. A large group of Caucasians have ex-perimented with peyote. At first, these were anthropologists and stu-dents with interests in the cult, but with the advent of broader interests in drugs—what we (Blum and Associates, 1964 ) have elsewhere termed the "Drug Movement"—other professionals, artists, intellec-tuals, and students began to experiment with peyote, ordering it from Southwestern supply houses. Although this traffic has apparently been reduced in some states because of legal controls and increased law-enforcement effort there are now a number of younger people, hippies, drug-curious individuals, and the like who have at least experimented with peyote. On the basis of reports made to us, its unpleasant effects limit its attractiveness to casual users.5

LSD. This drug has no history; history requires time for care-ful documentation and perspective over decades. A manufactured phar-maceutical, its popularity is a subject of profound public interest and concern—an interest which reflects the fascination-repugnance so often seen (Blum and Blum, 1967) when considering the emotions associated with mind-altering drugs. From its discovery in Switzerland, its use spread first to experimental subjects under medical care and in labora-tories, next through physicians and research workers to their families and friends, then downward to university students and from there to high school students, and now, occasionally, to elementary school chil-dren as well. There has also been a diffusion by class. Initially an up-per-middle-class phenomenon associated with healing ( alcoholic treat-ment, psychotherapy, distress relieff, religious states (particularly mystical experience and aesthetics)', and euphoria such as results from felt relief of anxiety and depression, extension of use to lower-das.s groups has altered settings and intentions compatible with the new surroundings and people. As a consequence, use by young people for kicks and by delinquents to harm others has been reported. We (Blum and Associates, 1964 )' have elsewhere described early patterns of LSD diffusion which suggest that the variability of behavior observed and ex-perience reported is highly dependent upon prior expectations, the de-gree of control in the setting of use, and the homogeneity of belief among companions in the post-LSD experience. Personality differences among continuing users as contrasted to those who discontinue use or are non-users have also been proposed by McGlothlin, Cohen, and McGlothlin, in a 1966 study (see also McGlothlin and Cohen, 1965 ) . They found that prior information as well as life-style orientations influenced decisions whether or not to use the drug; more important, perhaps, the rela-tionship of the potential initiate to the initiator in terms of prestige and the desire to continue in his favor loomed large. Continued use was associated not only with expectation and personality but apparently also with the quality of the initial experience and with the development or nondevelopment of membership in drug-interested social groups. When such groups did develop, they became ethnocentric, developed sensitivity to "square" opposition to their drug interests, became critical of the square world, and frequently engaged in further use of a number of mind-altering substances, some of which were illegal. As LSD use expanded and amdety grew about its effects and social significance (the latter rarely stated), legislation was enacted at federal levels and, more punitively, at state levels. Licit sources were dried up, and illegal manufacture and traffic became widespread; some of these same traffic sources engaged in the distribution of other illicit products, primarily marijuana. At the time of writing, trends in LSD use cannot be di-vorced from the general interest in exotic-illicit drugs expressed by special sectors of the population—primarily young people but also pro-fessionals, artists, mass-media writers, and so on. The hippie commu-nity, once centered in San Francisco but now widespread, continues to arouse both sympathy and hostility—feelings which can occur simul-taneously within any one individual as well as be polarized in official attitudes. Our student data in the companion book indicate that, while the LSD experience itself is not widespread in the colleges sampled, the basic phenomenon of widespread interest in and experience with one or several illicit-exotic drugs is. For these nonconventional substances the present pattern seems to be one in which only a small number of persons engage in chronic use. Nevertheless, both the experimental and chronic users are increasing in number in urban American centers, and there is now in England an interest among drug-curious young people in taking LSD. As more articulate enthusiasts become involved with LSD or other hallucinogens and as citizens regard the several argu-ments surrounding use—ranging from Constitutional questions of law to biochemical questions as to effects—the likelihood is both for con-tinued controversy and for further expansion of use in urban centers. An increasing effort in research and communication about drug effects is also occurring, not only for LSD but for its strongly symbolic (in American-youth culture) companion drug, marijuana, and for other substances as well. Happily, these endeavors apply to the conventional drugs of known toxicity and pathogenic power, alcohol and tobacco, as well as to the less well-known, illicit-exotic substances. Cisin and his coworkers' research endeavor which seeks to describe patterns of multiple-drug use for the nation as a whole should be most enlighten-ing when it is completed.

SUMMARY

Characteristically, the use of hallucinogens by groups within Western society has involved intense emotionality and has revealed, as attitudes polarize around use, many of the social issues, personal hopes and stresses, and value systems of the antagonists. Were one to include cannabis among the hallucinogens (easily done since these categories of probable effects are flodble), it would be clear that at least in the United States and England considerable legal, political, social, psycho-logical, and pharmacological significance figures in the debates about expanding use.

The most frequent pattern of hallucinogen use, cannabis ex-cluded, appears to have been ritualistic in magico-religious-healing set-tings among nonliterate societies. Emphasis on these same intentions is found in the claims accompanying the introduction of many of these substances—LSD, peyote, and so on—into use by Caucasian Ameri-cans. In a secular society these daims—and the controls required for traditional use by authorities, whether these be physicians or religious leadets—must vie with others. In urban societies generally and in con-temporary societies particularly, casual social or individual use outside of authority-controlled settings has proven more popular. In more ho-mogeneous tribal societies where traditional controls have not broken down, it has been possible to introduce new drugs without producing widespread behavior variability or destructive private use—as witness the peyote cult. Even so, it has been impossible to accomplish that in-troduction into religious-social ritual without some persons fearing that damaging individual and social effects were in fact occurring.

There is a remarkable similarity between the expressed fears of the Navajo traditionalists and modernists opposing peyote and those of Caucasian Americans worrying about marijuana or LSD. One hears very similar definitions of drug "abuse" in cases where the empirical evidence as to physical or disruptive social ill effects is absent (peyote), where it is unclear (marijuana), where some such evidence is present (LSD, fly agaric), and where such evidence is strongly present (as with datura). We take it as obvious that scientific knowledge is itself not a prerequisite for damning a drug, although scientific ignorance provides a welcome for some of the contestants in the battle. There are parallels between the Navajo and secular American cultures in the conflict between imposed legal and conventional religious restrictions and enthusiastic users. Missionaries in Mexico and the United States did not eliminate hallucinogen use mong tribal folk; laws and clerical pronouncements have not eliminated production, commerce in, or use of similar substances by Caucasian Americans.

Actual use of hallucinogens is determined by a number of fea-tures; an individual's knowledge of laws and his morals are only part of the fabric, easily isolated from the rest. Knowledge of actual drug effects cannot be discounted—it appears that datura is unpopular be-cause it is unpleasant and dangerous; many avoid LSD for the same reason. Availability of the drug is a paramount feature, as is the op-portunity to learn to procure and administer the substance with ap-propriate expectations as to its desirable effects. Economics, geography, politics, technology, and laws do affect availability. A supporting-group structure for drug use must also exist, whether that be a band of youth-ful pot heads or a profound tribal tradition. In this regard, the-sym-bolic value of the substance to the group and the person is of foremost importance; it is perhaps one of the keys to the attractiveness of hallu-cinogens that the induced experience lends itself to elaborations of symbolic functions. We propose that conceptions of magical power are a substrate for these elaborations (magic or magical thinking is by no means limited to tribal folk; among them magic is simply more re-spectable). The greater the number of symbolic benefits and satisfac-tions felt to be derived from the drug, the greater the likelihood of a commitment to the substance. Thus, Aberle's Navajos found peyote polyvalent—that is, it did many things for them. Professionals enthusi-astic about LSD were those reporting several satisfactions derived from it; those who reported no solutions or rewards in the drug experience or any gains in the group experiences which form the environment for symbolic drug use were much less likely to continue with LSD. Aberle explains this partly in terms of personal significance, the meanings at-tached to what is experienced. Meanings of course are not derived just culturally or through groups; they are also individually salient and are formed in the context of psychodynamic features. Consequently, the meaning attached to the drug reaction—as, for example, the reaction to anxiety—or the meaning attached to the mind-altered state of con-sciousness itself is affected by personality. Nor can individual differ-ences in regard to drug effects as biochemical processes be ignored.

Some people do have good experiences, some have bad ones; some become psychotic and others do not. Dosage, potency of the substance, manner and frequency of administration, concurrent physiological status, the presence of others who may be antagonistic or favorable to the drug, and possibly genetically linked biochemical-reaction varia-bility must also be counted upon to determine individual behavior and postdrug evaluations, which in turn bear upon continued use.

We are sure that we have by no means set forth even the major possible influences on the spread, adoption, and evolving use pattern by persons and groups either of hallucinogens or other mind-altering substances. Certainly, the pattern of hallucinogen use of any group is not to be divorced from behaviors involving other drugs, from, perhaps, attitudes toward ingestion per se, from morality, and from the personal and social consequences of membership in that drug-oriented group. Because hallucinogens do involve profound personal and social experiences for large numbers of users, as well as profound worries on the part of others who observe them, they provide--along with other sub-stances which take on strong symbolic functions, such as cannabis—an opportunity not just for epidemiological study but, through that study, an insight into the deavage of values and personal stresses in any so-ciety where their abuse is argued.

1 There is no good word in English—"witch" has much too medieval a connotation.

2 One again is reminded of the conditioning process, an important form of secondary reinforcement, whereby the instrumental action or discriminated prior stimulus takes on the value of a reward and in the absence of a reward (that is, a drug) may still be engaged in. Morphine-dependent rats can be trained to follow much the same pattern, favoring the liquid given before mor-phine over another discriminated liquid followed by no morphine.

3 One is reminded of the similar use by modem Congo warriors of can-nabis or cannabis plus alcohol as a magical drug to ward off danger in battle.

4 We had hoped to find an account of Indian adoption of opium but could not do so.

5 Users of alcohol, opium, heroin, tobacco, LSD, cannabis, and other mind-altering drugs often experience distress on the first occasion; anxiety and nausea are generally common. Peyote differs in that many features of use are difficult—the taste is bitter, amdety and depression can be severe, the nausea is unpleasant—and these do not disappear as tolerance develops by continued use As occurs with toxic reactions to moderate doses of the other substances.

 

Our valuable member Richard Blum has been with us since Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

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