May 16, 2016

Going back to LSD...

Here's some new NYT video:



And here's a recent episode of Stuff You Should Know: "How LSD Works."

Notably, both of these things go back to the phase in the development of LSD when psychologists were finding medical applications for the drug, and both bemoan the transition out of the medical setting to the spiritual/recreational use associated with Timothy Leary and the hippie movement. Both seem hopeful about reviving the medical use and have nothing good to say about the freedom of individuals to use the drug for our own autonomous purposes. Everything is so medicinal these days. I would think that the spiritual (and intellectual) pursuit would be placed on a highest level, but Timothy Leary really scared the bejeezus out of the authorities half a century ago. Those 2 words, drop out. There was a tremendous fear that people would shed the old work ethic, and that was a freakout from which America has never come down.

43 comments:

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Is that an unreasonable expectation? Are drug users known for their productivity, effective parenting or other aspects of good citizenship that we'd want to encourage?

Bob Ellison said...

Um, LSD can cause major mental trauma. Probably much more quickly and readily than cocaine or heroin, though those can kill pretty quickly. Dosage matters. But don't let's go thinking this drug is all sweet.

mockturtle said...

My few experiences with LSD back in the late 60's were somewhat spiritual, more like cosmic, but not the least bit medicinal.

Ann Althouse said...

My biggest question is: Why is medicine getting the priority in our culture? (What does that say about us? What does it mean for us?)

Bob Ellison said...

Professor, the answer is kind of an old one. We're trying to perfect the human being, and we think medicine might help do it, even on the brain.

This is, of course, a long-time leftist concept. The new Soviet man will be perfect, as will the Nazi man.

Medicine is not getting the priority because it's a new concept. It's that new medicines are strangely effective, and that efficacy fuels the old ideal that we can perfect humans somehow.

tim in vermont said...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/09/one-out-of-every-11-organ-donors-last-year-died-of-a-drug-overdose/

Talk about a story that ties it up with a bow, more penis donors!

Ann Althouse said...

The other side of my point is: "Stop drugging ADHD kids — and start teaching them to use their gifts."

Michael K said...

My Army reserve unit commanding officer was Syd Cohen, a UCLA psychiatrist who did much of the early work on LSD.

Dr. Cohen, a physician who for many years researched the effects of drugs on the mind, was among the first to warn of the dangers of the hallucinogen LSD. As early as 1962, when the drug was legal and used in research, he warning that a black market for the drug was developing.

He was an associate clinical professor of the University of California at Los Angeles. In the late 1960's he served as director of the Division of Narcotic Addiction and Drug Abuse of the National Institute of Mental Health. Appeared With Timothy Leary

On many occasions, he testified before Congressional committees, and he addressed many medical and non-medical conferences on drug use.


When I was a senior medical student in 1965, half the second year class was taking LSD and some never finished medical school. The Dean was very worried.

Sebastian said...

"There was a tremendous fear that people would shed the old work ethic, and that was a freakout from which America has never come down." Huh? Are you saying anyone still fears that people would shed the old work ethic? If so, what's the evidence"? Massive government "disability" payments suggest a different kind of freakout.

"My biggest question is: Why is medicine getting the priority in our culture? (What does that say about us? What does it mean for us?)" Not exactly on point, but close: Philip Rieff, Triumph of the Therapeutic (1966).

Michael K said...

"
The other side of my point is: "Stop drugging ADHD kids "

How many are girls ? This is just part 3.5 of "The War on Boys."

Tom Sawyer would be on Ritalin so fast, Aunt Polly would not know what hit them.

They don't want boys to be "55 year old men," they want them to be girls.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...My biggest question is: Why is medicine getting the priority in our culture? (What does that say about us? What does it mean for us?)

It says our technocratic betters are turning our culture that way. It's the New Soviet Man, of course! Deviation from goodthink is sign of a mental disorder, but happily that deviation can be cured. We just need to stigmatize anyone who doesn't agree and then we're on our way.

Is this new? The "I Love Science" crowd (which is to say, the shallow Left) really believes that they're both smarter than the rest of us and more deserving of controlling things. They believe that they're the only rational ones and that people who disagree must therefore be irrational. Since irrationality has no business running things...

You mention spirituality and seem to think that the Left should place some value on that, but look--they only spirituality they respect is that which is in opposition to "conformist" religions. Traditional religion is all superstition and regressive restrictions/judgement, you see, and they're much too smart to let some Sky Father boss them around. Somehow these same people (the people who ridicule western religious belief and practices) think Far East or Native American or any other spiritual beliefs are just waaaay coool, man...but that's largely because they define those beliefs as opposing Western beliefs.

We give "medicine" the priority because the Left fancies itself more scientific and rational than we non-Left superstitious idiots. That's part of it, anyway.

Carol said...

Speaking of dropping out, PBS just showed an old Cary Grant movie, Holiday, which I had not seen. It was based on a play from the 20s, wherein the hero makes good when he is young but is determined to quit working and find out what Life is all about. A dreamer! A rebel!

IMDB says that by the time of the 1938 movie version, the audience didn't get why he wouldn't just take the job at the bank his future FiL offered him.

OK not too relevant, but I did take LSD as a youth.

Quaestor said...

Tim Leary lived quite well on other people's money, did he not? And all for some retail spirituality that rivaled that very best produced by the fortune cookie industry.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Who is the higher power, Professor? It's not God--that's a silly old superstition, only idiots believe that. Family, perhaps? No, those have been falling apart all over, and of course the 60's generation was all too happy to point out that the family unit was the source of much "oppression" the young suffered back then. The State? Well, the Left is happy to have the State take over all the functions that used to be handled by the family and the religious community, sure. Not just an ol' State will do, though--it has to be a Leftist technocratic-ruled State, with the Leftist ideology wrapped up in science.

Why does that appeal to so strongly to so many? If I could answer that I wouldn't despair for the future...

Quaestor said...

Why is medicine getting the priority in our culture?

It's because the boomers are hoping for a chemical reprieve from reality, just as before, except the reality this time is Death — death from cancer, from heart disease, from emphysema, from Alzheimer's. Death from things that make the Sixties mantra "live fast, die young, and leave a pretty corpse" a sick joke. They used to think death was cool — sudden death by high speed vehicle, sudden death by drug overdose, sudden death battling the Man at the side of Field Marshal Cinque (that's Sin-Q, honkey). Now they're facing lingering death with tubes going in and out and things that go bleep-bleep as they lie in bed watching reruns and sniffing floral arrangements. They want the Way Out. The Big Fix. Immortality by refillable prescription.

It's still all about them and their pleasures, and will be until last one coughs up his last breath. And what will be history's final verdict on the scions of the Greatest Generation, for what will they be remembered? Disco, Macintosh, and the Pet Rock.

Better shed your tears now.

mikeyes said...

We prioritize medicine in our culture because less than a century ago you could die of an acute infection within three days, the odds of being hospitalized permanently for lues was high, if you had diabetes it was a death warrant, and a host of other reasons related to lack of effective treatments for deadly disease. Once the pharmacutical business took off in the 50s it became a matter of profit and advertising. Nothing Soviet or leftist about this journey. You take meds because something is wrong and the culture encourages getting help if you are ill. It is unlikely that this is all a communist plot.
On the other hand, overuse of medication is rampant for a variety of reasons not the least of which is that physicians and other medical professionals are not scientists, their motivations lie elsewhere. It doesn't help that there are massive ad campaigns devoted to the sale of medications.
The LSD "research" that Michael K speaks about is a good example. There was no science involved just like there is no science involved in marijuana "research", just a bunch of hare brained ideas that were self fulfilling especially in the field of psychiatry. I finished my residency in psychiatry in 1973 and nearly got fired by pointing out the logical inconsistencies of the theories and lack of scientific proof in the field. Twenty years later I met one of my teachers who pointed out that I was "difficult" and he still held that opinion in spite of my being correct in saying what I did.

Michael K said...

"It doesn't help that there are massive ad campaigns devoted to the sale of medications."

One of the complaints I hear most often from young primary care physicians is that patients want medicines prescribed on every visit and will not take no for an answer.

I could avoid the issue because people knew I was a surgeon and I could have offered free samples and had no takers.

It's nice to be retired.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Both seem hopeful about reviving the medical use and have nothing good to say about the freedom of individuals to use the drug for our own autonomous purposes. Everything is so medicinal these days.

Repression hurts one's health and freedom is good for it, you silly dour German.

richardsson said...

When I first heard about LSD, I was really interested. I read everything I could get including how the "inventor" created LSD as the result of a lab accident. The effects "hit" him on the way home on his bicycle. I read Cary Grant's benign account of it. But, then I heard about how the usual dope dealers were getting on board and soon the California Assembly made possession a felony. Then two friends of mine bought two sugar cubes supposedly soaked in LSD. What happened, I asked? Nothing, they told me, we were robbed. They got two plain old lump sugar cubes wrapped in aluminum foil. I laughed. You two are lucky and you don't know it. Another friend of mine made the trip to Haight Asbury and did the Hippie thing. I didn't see him until years later. He was shaking like a leaf. I asked him about it and he said that his life had turned to shit since taking LSD. He was now drinking Jim Beam, every day, a pint per day with Colt 45 Malt Liquor chasers. He knew he had become an alcoholic, but the alternative was that he would suffer flashbacks. He would be driving down the street and suddenly a giant hole would open up and he would be swallowed up. He had to give up driving. He was living in a shed behind his mother's house. He eventually committed suicide. He was basically a good guy, generous and kind hearted. He was a better math teacher than any that I had in school. But it all went to waste.

EDH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

Abbie Hoffman was to LSD as Michael Jordan was to sneakers. He was the most persuasive and effective spokesman of the drug culture. He suffered from bipolar disorder. I don't think cocaine and LSD is an effective regimen for such a disorder, but he spoke highly of the medicinal qualities of these drugs. He committed suicide at the age of fifty two.......People like to remember him as a pilgrim in search of truth and justice, and that's so much better than thinking of him as an unbalanced and grandiose man whose excesses put him in an early grave.

David said...

I was no authority and Timothy Leary scared the bejeezus out of me too.

He was a lying, manipulative, hugely self centered asshole. And that was on a good day.

David said...

"Why is medicine getting the priority in our culture?"

Medicine can keep us alive and improve out health while we are living. In my case I would have died 13 years ago were it not for Gleevec. It's hard to be spiritual if you are dead. Or maybe it's much more spiritual when you are dead and I'm missing the point entirely. Since life is short and death is long, we do like life. At least I do.

I left out an important descriptor of Tim Leary: "Predatory."

David said...

I am reading the Koran, carefully and slowly, together with some commentaries on the book and information on the life of Muhammed. (It would be gibberish to me without the collateral information.)

I am not finding it a personal spiritual experience. I concede that Islam is in many ways a spiritual culture.

The Koran is very disturbing.

Not much new medicine coming from the Muslim cultures these days.

mockturtle said...

"live fast, die young, and leave a pretty corpse"

Rather than a mantra of the 60's, I think it came from the urban [white] gang culture of the 50's. I remember reading 'Live fast, die young and have a good-looking corpse' in the book, Knock on any Door by Willard Motley, which was actually written in 1947.

Original Mike said...

Man, I used to enjoy acid.

Michael K said...

"I read Cary Grant's benign account of it."

When I was a medical student, I used to do histories and physicals on hospital patients, It was a moonlighting job. One guy told me about his experience with LSD and psychiatry. He and his psychiatrist each took LSD and then spent a session.

This was about 1965. The guy had a hallucination that he was in utero and assumed the fetal position whereupon he became quadriplegic. When the psychiatrist straightened him out, his quadriplegia went away.

He was in to get his AV malformation of the spinal cord removed.

Impressive story.

Zach said...

Why is medicine getting the priority in our culture?

It's getting priority from researchers, who want to distinguish themselves from the recreational scene.

On a cultural basis, the recreational uses outweigh the medicinal by a huge amount. The Beatles didn't write any songs about Phase III trials.

CStanley said...

Drug induced spirituality has always seemed peculiar, and suspect, to me. Even leaving aside my own spiritual bias toward monotheism, if I were to accept the possible premise of mysticism involving a dissolution of the self, then using drugs to induce this state seems quite similar to the story that Prof Allthouse recently posted about the use of drugs to lower inhibitions and create an artificial intimacy for sex with strangers,

Zach said...

Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond is an interesting book on the social history of LSD. The author is an LSD enthusiast, yet it's hard not to notice how many of the people he's writing about end up with major personality changes. A lot of them end up in simple minded living arrangements where there's not much going on except for taking LSD.

You know how drug advertisements on TV always start with the beautiful flowers and puppies and then segue into a fast-talking monotone discussing side effects? Every time I read about an LSD enthusiast, I want to listen for the monotone.

Zach said...

Take John Lennon. Big LSD enthusiast. Wrote some great songs under the influence. But at the same time, he left his wife and child, had major financial difficulties, broke up with the Beatles, and started shacking up with Yoko Ono. His post Beatles career had a few good songs, but nothing that would rival any given Beatles album.

That's a pretty major lifestyle change in just a few years. It's not all attributable to one drug, but it's not exactly peace love and harmony, either.

Phil 3:14 said...

Well thalidomide made a comeback.

Original Mike said...

And by the way, where are my flash backs? I was promised flash backs.

Roughcoat said...

Quaestor:

Calm down, boy. Deep breaths and all that.

mockturtle said...

The problem with blaming LSD for the downfall of individuals is that you are assuming a cause-and-effect rather than an associative relationship. Those who experimented with LSD were probably risk takers in other areas, too, and probably made some bad decisions. Not to say LSD didn't ruin some lives. I've even known people whose brains were fried from marijuana. Most of us who did recreational drugs in the 60's got over it and went on to live responsible lives.

William said...

I've heard of some drug stories with catastrophic endings. There are some stories where the experimenter finds a modicum of transient self awareness and then moves on to a banal life. Can anyone point to a bio where the experimenter gained enduring love or some kind of basic, affirmative personality change because of LSD use? If you play the odds, LSD seems like a bad bet.....l Chemically induced psychotic episodes don't make you a better person, and there's the possibility that they can make you a much worse person.

tim in vermont said...

Repression hurts one's health and freedom is good for it, you silly dour German.

Oh look R&B is now a libertarian! Oh wait... I am thinking that he is probably thinking only certain kinds of repression are bad for one's health. In most cases imposing state control to dictate how people live, and to impose your superior values, is a good thing, right R&B?

tim in vermont said...

From my link above:

Coinciding with a rise in drug-related deaths, the number of organ donors who died of drug overdoses has sharply increased in recent years — "a silver lining to what is absolutely a tragedy," Alexandra K. Glazier, president of the New England Organ Bank, recently told U.S. News & World Report.

Last year, 848 organ donors died of drug intoxication, according to Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network data. And while such organ donors have become more common over the decades, the recent numbers show a staggering jump.


Government has no business interfering in this recreational activity.

Rusty said...

Aw jeeze. Like the sixties weren't bad enough.

Fernandinande said...

I was surprised to learn that Larry McMurtry was buddies with Ken Kesey.

Paul Snively said...

Dr. Althouse: There was a tremendous fear that people would shed the old work ethic, and that was a freakout from which America has never come down.

OK, I'll bite: is this freakout unwarranted, especially in a post-post-WWII-artificial-prosperity era? In some respects, I feel like being 50 means I came along at the worst possible time in American history: while it was at its peak in delusional complacency economically and the beginning of its arc of decadent obsessing over the trivial, the dissipation of meaning, especially with respect to who we are as a nation. Literally just last night I was talking with my 28-year-old son about the mistake we made after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed of thinking that not only was that the end of history, but that the inevitable future was of American-style representative democracy. But the Founding Fathers were right—it's America that's is wholly unnatural and needs maintaining, and this is true whether you believe in America as "World Police," "making the world safe for democracy" (Woodrow Wilson, not George W. Bush, but does it matter?) or not. Now we have people actively agitating to make us "more like Europe," the Europe my ancestors only two generations ago fled, the Europe that again seems even more bent on its self-destruction than we do, the Europe too ashamed and embarrassed to even give lip service to defending western civilization.

Is it a tricky thing to support a healthy nationalism, a view of American Exceptionalism, without lapsing into chauvinism and "my country right or wrong?" Certainly, it is. All the more reason that we must focus on the founding ideas rather than personalities or the failures of the founding to instantly, magically resolve every inequity—racial, sexual, religious—of the day. And among the ideas to focus on is that work ethic covers a multitude of sins, and the essential guarantee is that the government will not impede the development of your labor—on the contrary; it sustains the (especially legal) context in which that development can occur, with civil society providing the bulk of the remaining context.

I don't know. Maybe it's impossible to avoid the descent into dependence, encouraged by national security fearmongering on the right and the false identification of community and government on the left. I'd like to think not. We'll see how things look when my son is my age (well, someone will. Probably not me).

Fernandinande said...

Ann Althouse said...
My biggest question is: Why is medicine getting the priority in our culture? (What does that say about us? What does it mean for us?)


Two things:
- the medical practitioners want control, as with other drugs: follow the money.
- people have been trained to see themselves as children who need to be taken care of.

Fernandinande said...

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...
Are drug users known for their productivity, effective parenting or other aspects of good citizenship that we'd want to encourage?


At least you're asking a question rather than parroting propaganda or supplying worthless anecdotes.

And the answer to your questions is: yes.

Results
"21,967 respondents (13.4% weighted) reported lifetime psychedelic use. There were no significant associations between lifetime use of any psychedelics, lifetime use of specific psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote), or past year use of LSD and increased rate of any of the mental health outcomes. Rather, in several cases psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems.

Conclusion
We did not find use of psychedelics to be an independent risk factor for mental health problems."