Nonmedical Use of LSD

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This joy at having fathered LSD was tarnished after more than ten years of uninterrupted scientific research and medicinal use when LSD was swept up in the huge wave of an inebriant mania that began to spread over the Western world, above all the United States, at the end of the 1950s. It was strange how rapidly LSD adopted its new role as inebriant and, for a time, became the number-one inebriating drug, at least as far as publicity was concerned. The more its use as an inebriant was disseminated, bringing an upsurge in the number of untoward incidents caused by careless, medically unsupervised use, the more LSD became a problem child for me and for the Sandoz firm.

It was obvious that a substance with such fantastic effects on mental perception and on the experience of the outer and inner world would also arouse interest outside medical science, but I had not expected that LSD, with its unfathomably uncanny, profound effects, so unlike the character of a recreational drug, would ever find worldwide use as an inebriant. I had expected curiosity and interest on the part of artists outside of medicine-performers, painters, and writers-but not among people in general. After the scientific publications around the turn of the century on mescaline-which, as already mentioned, evokes psychic effects quite like those of LSD-the use of this compound remained confined to medicine and to experiments within artistic and literary circles. I had expected the same fate for LSD. And indeed, the first non-medicinal self-experiments with LSD were carried out by writers, painters, musicians, and other intellectuals.

LSD sessions had reportedly provoked extraordinary aesthetic experiences and granted new insights into the essence of the creative process. Artists were influenced in their creative work in unconventional ways. A particular type of art developed that has become known as psychedelic art. It comprises creations produced under the influenced of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, whereby the drugs acted as stimulus and source of inspiration. The standard publication in this field is the book by Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, Psychedelic Art (Balance House, 1968). Works of psychedelic art are not created while the drug is in effect, but only afterward, the artist being inspired by these experiences. As long as the inebriated condition lasts, creative activity is impeded, if not completely halted. The influx of images is too great and is increasing too rapidly to be portrayed and fashioned. An overwhelming vision paralyzes activity. Artistic productions arising directly from LSD inebriation, therefore, are mostly rudimentary in character and deserve consideration not because of their artistic merit, but because they are a type of psychoprogram, which offers insight into the deepest mental structures of the artist, activated and made conscious by LSD. This was demonstrated later in a large-scale experiment by the Munich psychiatrist Richard P. Hartmann, in which thirty famous painters took part. He published the results in his book Malerei aus Bereichen des Unbewussten: Kunstler Experimentieren unter LSD [Painting from spheres of the unconscious: artists experiment with LSD], Verlag M. Du Mont Schauberg, Cologne, 1974).

LSD experiments also gave new impetus to exploration into the essence of religious and mystical experience. Religious scholars and philosophers discussed the question whether the religious and mystical experiences often discovered in LSD sessions were genuine, that is, comparable to spontaneous mysticoreligious enlightenment.

This nonmedicinal yet earnest phase of LSD research, at times in parallel with medicinal research, at times following it, was increasingly overshadowed at the beginning of the 1960s, as LSD use spread with epidemic-like speed through all social classes, as a sensational inebriating drug, in the course of the inebriant mania in the United States. The rapid rise of drug use, which had its beginning in this country about twenty years ago, was not, however, a consequence of the discovery of LSD, as superficial observers often declared. Rather it had deep-seated sociological causes: materialism, alienation from nature through industrialization and increasing urbanization, lack of satisfaction in professional employment in a mechanized, lifeless working world, ennui and purposelessness in a wealthy, saturated society, and lack of a religious, nurturing, and meaningful philosophical foundation of life.

The existence of LSD was even regarded by the drug enthusiasts as a predestined coincidence-it had to be discovered precisely at this time in order to bring help to people suffering under the modern conditions. It is not surprising that LSD first came into circulation as an inebriating drug in the United States, the country in which industrialization, urbanization, and mechanization, even of agriculture, are most broadly advanced. These are the same factors that have led to the origin and growth of the hippie movement that developed simultaneously with the LSD wave. The two cannot be dissociated. It would be worth investigating to what extent the consumption of psychedelic drugs furthered the hippie movement and conversely.

The spread of LSD from medicine and psychiatry into the drug scene was introduced and expedited by publications on sensational LSD experiments that, although they were carried out in psychiatric clinics and universities, were not then reported in scientific journals, but rather in magazines and daily papers, greatly elaborated. Reporters made themselves available as guinea pigs. Sidney Katz, for example, participated in an LSD experiment in the Saskatchewan Hospital in Canada under the supervision of noted psychiatrists; his experiences, however, were not published in a medical journal. Instead, he described them in an article entitled "My Twelve Hours as a Madman" in his magazine MacLean's Canada National Magazine, colorfully illustrated in fanciful fullness of detail. The widely distributed German magazine Quick, in its issue number 12 of 21 March 1954, reported a sensational eyewitness account on "Ein kuhnes wissenschaftliches Experiment" [a daring scientific experiment] by the painter Wilfried Zeller, who took "a few drops of lysergic acid" in the Viennese University Psychiatric Clinic. Of the numerous publications of this type that have made effective lay propaganda for LSD, it is sufficient to cite just one more example: a large-scale, illustrated article in Look magazine of September 1959. Entitled "The Curious Story Behind the New Cary Grant," it must have contributed enormously to the diffusion of LSD consumption. The famous movie star had received LSD in a respected clinic in California, in the course of a psychotherapeutic treatment. He informed the Look reporter that he had sought inner peace his whole life long, but yoga, hypnosis, and mysticism had not helped him. Only the treatment with LSD had made a new, self-strengthened man out of him, so that after three frustrating marriages he now believed himself really able to love and make a woman happy.

The evolution of LSD from remedy to inebriating drug was, however, primarily promoted by the activities of Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert of Harvard University. In a later section I will come to speak in more detail about Dr. Leary and my meetings with this personage who has become known worldwide as an apostle of LSD.

Books also appeared on the U.S. market in which the fantastic effects of LSD were reported more fully. Here only two of the most important will be mentioned: Exploring Inner Space by Jane Dunlap (Harcourt Brace and World, New York, 1961) and My Self and I by Constance A. Newland (N A.L. Signet Books, New York, 1963). Although in both cases LSD was used within the scope of a psychiatric treatment, the authors addressed their books, which became bestsellers, to the broad public. In her book, subtitled "The Intimate and Completely Frank Record of One Woman's Courageous Experiment with Psychiatry's Newest Drug, LSD 25," Constance A. Newland described in intimate detail how she had been cured of frigidity. After such avowals, one can easily imagine that many people would want to try the wondrous medicine for themselves. The mistaken opinion created by such reports- that it would be sufficient simply to take LSD in order to accomplish such miraculous effects and transformations in oneself-soon led to broad diffusion of self-experimentation with the new drug.

Objective, informative books about LSD and its problems also appeared, such as the excellent work by the psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Cohen, The Beyond Within (Atheneum, New York, 1967), in which the dangers of careless use are clearly exposed. This had, however, no power to put a stop to the LSD epidemic.

As LSD experiments were often carried out in ignorance of the uncanny, unforeseeable, profound effects, and without medical supervision, they frequently came to a bad end. With increasing LSD consumption in the drug scene, there came an increase in "horror trips"-LSD experiments that led to disoriented conditions and panic, often resulting in accidents and even crime.

The rapid rise of nonmedicinal LSD consumption at the beginning of the 1960s was also partly attributable to the fact that the drug laws then current in most countries did not include LSD. For this reason, drug habitu├ęs changed from the legally proscribed narcotics to the still-legal substance LSD. Moreover, the last of the Sandoz patents for the production of LSD expired in 1963, removing a further hindrance to illegal manufacture of the drug.

The rise of LSD in the drug scene caused our firm a nonproductive, laborious burden. National control laboratories and health authorities requested statements from us about chemical and pharmacological properties, stability and toxicity of LSD, and analytical methods for its detection in confiscated drug samples, as well as in the human body, in blood and urine. This brought a voluminous correspondence, which expanded in connection with inquiries from all over the world about accidents, poisonings, criminal acts, and so forth, resulting from misuse of LSD. All this meant enormous, unprofitable difficulties, which the business management of Sandoz regarded with disapproval. Thus it happened one day that Professor Stoll, managing director of the firm at the time, said to me reproachfully: "I would rather you had not discovered LSD."

At that time, I was now and again assailed by doubts whether the valuable pharmacological and psychic effects of LSD might be outweighed by its dangers and by possible injuries due to misuse. Would LSD become a blessing for humanity, or a curse? This I often asked myself when I thought about my problem child. My other preparations, Methergine, Dihydroergotamine, and Hydergine, caused me no such problems and difficulties. They were not problem children; lacking extravagant properties leading to misuse, they have developed in a satisfying manner into therapeutically valuable medicines.

The publicity about LSD attained its high point in the years 1964 to 1966, not only with regard to enthusiastic claims about the wondrous effects of LSD by drug fanatics and hippies, but also to reports of accidents, mental breakdowns, criminal acts, murders, and suicide under the influence of LSD. A veritable LSD hysteria reigned.

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