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The 1960s dropped into eternity as a technicolored tumble of aphrodesia, Beatlemania and psychedelia. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) was the plumb line, and all its abstractions and distractions distorted the decade and made a straight world look cockeyed.
Fables and myths have sprung up about the drug, endowing it with properties unfamiliar to modern science; but cherished . by followers of druids and gnomes, Magical ingredient of witches’ brew, third eye to the universe, LSD has been praised and cursed without mercy-and without justification.
Odorless, colorless, and tasteless, LSD is ounce for ounce , the most powerful drug known. A crystalline solid in pure form, it can also be produced as a liquid. One ounce is enough -; to provide 300,000 average doses. Five thousand times as potent as mescaline and two hundred times as potent as psilocybin, the drug is easily transformed into ingestible tablets, capsules, sugar cubes, dots, pieces of blotter paper; or gelatin squares, and may even be impregnated onto stamps, chewing gum, hard candy, or soda crackers.
Dosage is so small that LSD is measured in micrograms, or “mikes.” One microgram equals one millionth of a gram. One hundred ‘ micrograms will produce -a full-blown trip. Street doses usually range from 50 to 400 micrograms-capable of producing trips of eight to twelve hours. Dosage is a problem with LSD because measurement is difficult in such minuscule amounts. Overdosage is less evident than with other drugs such as mescaline. Too much mescaline and it is promptly, vomited up; too much LSD and it stays with you, so it is easy to ingest far more than a usual dose by accident. Overdose in the case of LSD is usually related more to set and setting than drug toxicity. Some claim that true LSD overdose only occurs at astronomical ingestion levels of about seven million micrograms.
LSD is a semi-synthetic derivative of lysergic acid, an alkaloid found in ergot, and also in morning-glory seeds. Ergot is a fungus that grows as a rust on rye; medieval tales of madness and entire villages running amok have been attributed to the townies eating infested bread.
LSD ‘research has been retarded because of public and governmental fear and repression. There is growing proof, however, that expanded therapeutic and research use of LSD is not only warranted but necessary if we are to progress and expand our knowledge of the human mind. Successes have been documented in the fields of psychiatric experimentation, and in dealing with alcoholism, opiate addiction, criminal rehabilitation, mental retardation, ‘and childhood schizophrenia. The drug has also been used to alleviate anxiety and pain in cancer patients, as well as to help the dying adjust to their fates. However, because the government sees LSD as a useless drug, research projects have dropped dramatically, with the National Institute of Mental Health conducting what little research remains.
LSD is considered a psychomimetic drug: It induces symptoms which mimic some psychoses, such as schizophrenia. Why this occurs is not really known, since LSD remains in the brain only about twenty minutes.
The largest percentage of the drug goes to the liver and kidneys. LSD can be detected in the bloodstream up to two hours after taken. Its effects are achieved either by releasing or inhibiting substances naturally occurring in the brain, causing chemical imbalances.
Medically, but incorrectly, classified as a hallucinogen, LSD is neither toxic, addicting, nor hallucinogenic. The user does not hallucinate. He either sees what is there in a distorted kaleidoscopic manner, or misinterprets what he is seeing. If he does witness a mental light show or panorama of improbable visions, he is usually aware that it is drug-induced and does not accept it as reality. While physical dependence does not occur, there is a very rapid buildup of tolerance, if several doses are taken in succession. Tolerance abates rapidly, though, usually within three days- after use is discontinued. There are no withdrawal symptoms, and the intensity of the mind-boggling experience causes trippers to be hesistant t about frequent use.
More so than with any other drug, the success of an LSD voyage into the far reaches of consciousness is determined by two things: set and setting. “Set” refers to the frame of mind in which one finds himself when beginning a trip and determines whether the drug’s effects will be pleasant or dis turbing. Those who are fearful may well have: a fear-filled trip; a repressive personality who’ has bottled up desires, fears, or emotions may find himself confronted – with those bugaboos. Mental blocks may be necessary defenses for some people; breaking them down via an LSD trip may unleash a backlash of problems that may , or may not be solved as the trip progresses.
“Setting” includes the physical place, the people and objects present, and the reassurance, given to the tripper as his journey progresses. All these factors are as important in molding his experience as the drug itself, since the tripper is particularly sensitive to his environment.
The first effects of LSD are physical. About one hour after ingestion, initial reaction maybe vague anxiety and nausea, followed by amphetamine-like rapid pulse, dilated pupils, flushed face, elevations in temperature, heartbeat, and blood pressure, appetite depression, exhilaration and restlessness, and a metallic taste in the mouth.
The next step on the journey is subjective, since the tripper is now in ,a state where suggestibility and expectations will largely determine what happens. Reason and rationality take a back seat to the undifferentiated stimuli and subconscious material that come bubbling to the surface. He loses the ability to perceive- and to analyze data in a structured manner.
The subjective experience is what is often referred to as psychedelic or’ mind-expanding. The senses are jangled and bombarded, with a “cross-over,” called synesthesia, occurring: Music may be seen and color heard; one kind of sensation is converted to another. Depth perception is altered, . ” colors vibrate in their beauty and intensity, objects and patterns become to some three-dimensional and alive; the visual trip alone is worth the price of admission.
Every sense is tickled awake by LSD’s illusionary fingers: Smell, taste, hearing, and touch are more acute. Hearing music can be a totally encompassing activity, involving all the senses, -not just the auditory. Eidetic images–vivid images seen with the eyes closed-may present themselves as a movie, often starring the tripper, projected within his head. The body image may change, fragment, and redefine itself. “Tracking” may occur-the visual effect of a series of after impressions left once an object has moved across the field of vision.
With the loss of the sensation of boundaries between body and space comes a loss of the sense of time. As the mental processes accelerate, time becomes distorted and hours of subjective experience seem to occur within a few minutes of objective (or clock-measured) time. Past, present, and future tangle, becoming timeless, simultaneous occurrences.
The LSD trip may progress from a purely sensory experience to an awareness of self, inwardly, in a soul-searching sense, and outwardly, here the ego detaches and observes itself as a link in the infinite hierarchy of life. Used to develop such awareness, LSD might be a valuable tool in several fields, including psychotherapy and sociology. Some say that in the LSD state, we become conscious not only of our physical reality but of an infinite number of other realities as well. The drug- releases only what is already in the mind, opening the door to the subconscious. It brings in nothing new; it only opens the windows-or, some feel, Pandora’s box.
Claims about – the therapeutic effects of LSD have been documented: self-improvement; magnification of concern for philosophical, theological, and cosmological questions; and spiritual enlightenment. Learned patterns of behavior and emotional responses may be altered, resulting in an eventual change of lifestyle, with the user behaving in -a more fundamental manner. Empathy and communication may accelerate to the point of telepathy. Then again, all this may be the result of “portentousness,” the sense, while tripping, that even a trivial platitude is rife with cosmic significance.
Most of the major life changes often attributed to LSD experiences can be explained sociologically; rather than chemically. While a few users become more passive, introspective, euphoric, and benign, preferring the dream world of LSD to reality, this may happen because the drug is commonly taken in group situations where a feeling of belonging develops among members. Major behavioral changes rarely occur without strong positive emotional attachments, and sharing LSD may create the aura allowing for such changes.
The hazards of LSD, though well publicized, are not all based on fact. Dangers do exist, but because of the muddle of information, scare stories, and lack of research, people tend either to consider LSD the horror drug of the sixties, or totally dismiss any warnings as fairy tales. One of these horror stories was the Great Chromosome Scare of 1967. Fantasy based on fact, it turned many users off LSD and onto other drugs–quite often amphetamines.
LSD’ can damage chromosomes. . Aspirin can damage chromosomes. X-rays, virus infections, and orange juice can damage chromosomes, as can caffeine, suntans, and -a fever. White-blood-cell chromosomes in test tubes, animals, and humans have been done in by all of these. LSD damage was the major one publicized. The publicity failed to mention that damage to white-blood-cell chromosomes is not a reliable index of genetic damage. If chromosomes in white blood cells are damaged, they will not affect other cells, reproduce strangely, or permanently alter the chromosomes in the body. Whether LSD is capable, of causing alterations in the chromosome pattern itself can only be determined by further research.
“Flashbacks” are temporary recurrences of the LSD experience which happen days or months after the initial dose. This “here-we-go=again” aspect of the drug may be triggered spontaneously by psychological stress, medications such as antihistamines, or stimuli reminiscent of the tripper’s initial experience, such as music or neon lights. While no one really knows what causes flashbacks, , it is thought they are psychological rather than chemical in nature. All intense experience is stored in the memory, perhaps to be jolted into the present by an emotional or perceptual response. True LSD triggered flashbacks are rare, almost never occurring among infrequent users. Indeed, everyone flashes back occasionally to some moment in his past, only we call it remembering.
Long-term effects of LSD use have not been determined, but if basic precautions are taken, the chance of psychotic reaction is minimal. Taken by psychologically healthy individuals, briefed in advance as to what will happen, LSD under supervision in controlled dosage has not been shown to be harmful. Unsupervised use may result in a temporary state of panic, paranoia, depression, or psychosis, since acid can uncover suppressed inner conflicts. Rarely, “unmasking” occurs, in which a true psychotic personality emerges. The principal sign of unmasking is a prolonged state of altered consciousness lasting for two or more days. Such cases require psychiatric help,
During LSD’s heyday from 1962 to 1964, an increase in hospitalizations and accidents caused by acid was reported. Several factors contributed to this increase : bad trips caused by initial apprehension of the drug, unknown dosage,, contamination and adulteration, lack of information, availability to everyone (including psychotics and schizophrenics), and unwitting use. Trippers were incarcerated. LSD was blamed for everything, from reactions to other drugs to crime to suicides. Once the paranoia abated, the acute “adverse” effects followed suit.
“Thou shalt not commit adulteration” should be a drug commandment. LSD is the least often adulterated of the street drugs because it is cheap and comparatively easy to produce, particularly in the small dosages required. The formula may be obtained from the U.S. Patent Office for 50 cents. However, contaminated street LSD exists. Syndicate produced acid may cause speed like reactions. Adulterated LSD is cut with “garbage psychedelics” lysergic waste materials left over from synthesis, or belladonna, speed, or PCP. Acid may be improperly synthesized. It may not be LSD at all, but rather amphetamine, phencyclidine, atropine, or, as some claim, strychnine. The only way to be sure that acid is pure is to have it chemically analyzed by a, drug expert.
A bummer, or bad trip, can sometimes be aborted or minimized with the right technique. Everything is intensified, so panic reactions, disorientation, hyperventilation, and physical discomfort may seem overwhelming to the tripper. Stay calm, stay reassuring, and, above all, stay with him: The comfort of human contact balances his disturbing LSD illusion with reality. Direct the tripper’s mind back to reality by putting him in touch with himself and his surroundings. Since LSD is a directional drug which focuses an one thing at a time, breath control or yoga breathing may be good distractions, Reassure him that it is the drug that is causing the effects. Encourage him to ride with the flow of sensory images, rather than to fight them. Be warm, distracting, and keep exterior noise and light to a minimum. Don’t moralize; this is no time to play psychiatrist. If hyperventilation occurs-total terror with rapid shallow breathing and very active reflexes-have him breathe into a paper: bag to increase the C02 level in his blood.
Antagonist drugs such as Valium, Librium, or niacinamide may -possibly help to bring the tripper down. Thorazine is used, but not recommended, because it brings the tripper down with a crash and may produce other bad reactions if the LSD has been adulterated. Drugs should be used only as an emergency measure; a bummer is best treated by friendship and understanding.
Paradoxically, the popularization of LSD coincided’ with the creation of stronger laws and stricter penalties. Now legally classified as an illicit drug under Schedule I of the Federal Controlled Substances Act, LSD was subject to no legal restfictions until 1963, when the AMA asked Harvard campus physician Dana L. Farnsworth for an opinion on acid. His reply was a statement urging the imposition of controls on LSD. By 1968, half the states had enacted legislation against possession. Penalties range from fines of $1,000 to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years for. possession, and ten to fifteen years with fines to $20,000 for selling.
Anti-LSD campaigns,, repressive legislation, tough penalties, and propaganda scares all resulted in an increased demand for and supply of LSD. The warnings served as lures, and new distributors were attracted by the higher prices caused by strict law enforcement.
The first official LSD trip was logged in 1943 by Dr. Albert Hoffman, a chemist working at Sandoz Laboratories. While working with derivatives of ergot, he somehow ingested a minute quantity of d-lysergic acid diethylamide, the twenty-fifth compound in the test series. So long, Albert-he went on a mini-trip of two hours, accompanied by his own in flight movies. Not sure whether it was the LSD that caused his voyage, he decided to try again, this time with ‘/ mg. Six hours later he returned, replete – with Alice-in-Wonderland tales of fantasy. His published account is especially significant because his experience was uncontaminated by hopes, fears, or preconceptions. Hoffman’s vision of an altered reality was pure.
The sixties brought the psychedelics to Everyman illuminated by the bright lights of the media. Presenting … Cosmic Consciousness, starring Allen Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, Richard Alpert, and Timothy Leary! “Tune in, turn on, drop out,” said Leary, and the Age of Aquarius
Is LSD the key to man’s mind, or is it the lock on his sanity? A barrier exists between the chemical nature of the brain and its spiritual relation: to the infinite. LSD may someday open the door.