Early Laboratory And Clinical Lsd Research

Much of the early LSD research was inspired and strongly influenced by the so-called "model psychosis" approach. The incredible potency of LSD and the fact that infinitesimally small quantities could profoundly alter mental functioning of otherwise healthy volunteers gave a new impetus to speculations about the basically biochemical nature of endogenous psychoses, particularly schizophrenia. It was repeatedly observed that microscopic doses of LSD, in the range of 25 to 100 micrograms, were sufficient to produce changes in perception, emotions, ideation and behavior that resembled those seen in some schizophrenic patients. It was conceivable that the metabolism of the human body could, under certain circumstances, produce such small quantities of an abnormal substance identical with or similar to LSD. According to this tempting hypothesis, endogenous psychoses such as schizophrenia would not be primarily mental disorders, but manifestations of an autointoxication of the organism and the brain caused by a pathological shift in body chemistry. The possibility of simulating schizophrenic symptoms in normal volunteers and of conducting complex laboratory tests and investigations before, during, and after this transient "model psychosis" seemed to offer a promising key to the understanding of psychiatry's most enigmatic disease.

Much research during the years following the discovery of LSD was aimed at proving or disproving the "model psychosis" hypothesis. Its power was such that for many years LSD sessions conducted for any purpose were referred to as "experimental psychoses," and LSD and similar substances were called hallucinogens, psychotomimetics (psYcliosis-simulating__compounds) orpsychodysleptics 7drugs~Bisrtipnng the psyche). This situation was not recFifiecTuntil 1957 when Humphrey Osmond, after mutually stimulating correspondence with Aldous Huxley, coined a much more accurate term, "psychedelics" (mind-manifesting or mind-opening drugs). (74) In these years much effort was directed toward accurate phenomenological description of the LSD experience and assessment of the similarities and differences between the psychedelic states and schizophrenia. These descriptive studies had their counterpart in the research exploring parallels between these two conditions, as reflected in clinical measurements, psychological tests, electro-physiological data, and biochemical findings. The significance attributed to this avenue of research found an expression in the number of studies contributing basic data about the effects of LSD on various physiological and biochemical functions as well as on the behavior of experimental animals, on isolated organs and tissue cultures, and on enzymatic systems. Of special interest from the point of view of the "model psychosis" hypothesis were experiments studying the antagonism between LSD and various other substances. The possibility of blocking the LSD state, by premedication with another drug or by its administration at the time of fully developed LSD effects, was seen as a promising approach to the discovery of new directions in the pharmaco-therapy of psychiatric disorders. Several biochemical hypotheses of schizophrenia were formulated at this time, implicating specific substances or whole metabolic cycles as the primary cause of this disease. The serotonin.hypothesis coined by Woolley and Shaw (104) received by far the most attention. According to their model LSD causes abnormal mental functioning by interfering with the neurotransmitter substance serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). A similar mechanism was postulated as the biochemical cause of schizophrenia.

This reductionistic and oversimplified approach to schizophrenia was repeatedly criticized by psychoanalytically and phenomenologically oriented clinicians and biochemical investigators, and finally abandoned by most researchers. It became increasingly obvious that the LSD-induced state had many specific characteristics clearly distinguishing it from schizophrenia. In addition, none of the biochemical mechanisms postulated for schizophrenia was unequivocally supported by clinical and laboratory data. Although the "model psychosis" approach did not resolve the problem of the etiology of schizophrenia or provide a miraculous "test-tube" cure for this mysterious disease, it served as a powerful inspiration for many researchers and contributed in a decisive way to the neuro-physiological and psychopharmacological revolution of the fifties and early sixties.

Another area in which the extraordinary effects of LSD proved extremely helpful was self-experimentation by mental health professionals. In the early years of LSD research, didactic LSD experiences were recommended as an unrivalled tool for the training of psychiatrists, psychologists, medical students, and psychiatric nurses. The LSD sessions were advertised as a short, safe and reversible journey into the world of the schizophrenic. It was repeatedly reported in various books and articles on LSD that a single psychedelic experience could considerably increase the subject's ability to understand psychotic patients, approach them with sensitivity, and treat them effectively. Even though the concept of the LSD experience as "model schizophrenia" was later discarded by a majority of scientists, it remains an unquestionable fact that experiencing the profound psychological changes induced by LSD is a unique and valuable learning experience for all clinicians and theoreticians studying abnormal mental states.

The early experimentation with LSD also brought important new insights into the nature of the creative process and contributed to a deeper understanding of the psychology and psychopathology of art. For many experimental subjects, professional artists as well as laymen, the LSD session represented a profound aesthetic experience that gave them a new understanding of modern art movements and art in general. Painters, sculptors and musicians became favorite LSD subjects because they tended to produce most unusual, unconventional and interesting pieces of art under the influence of the drug. Some of them were able to express and convey in their creations the nature and flavor of the psychedelic experience, which defies any adequate verbal description. The day of the LSD experience often became a dramatic and easily discernible landmark in the development of individual artists.

Equally deep was the influence of LSD research on the psychology and psychopathology of religion. Even under the complex and often difficult circumstances of early LSD experimentation, some subjects had profound religious and mystical experiences that bore a striking similarity to those described in various sacred texts and in the writings of mystics, saints, religious teachers and prophets of all ages. The possibility of inducing such experiences by chemical means started an involved discussion about the authenticity and value of this "instant mysticism." Despite the fact that many leading scientists, theologians and spiritual teachers have discussed this theme extensively, the controversy about "chemical" versus "spontaneous" mysticism remains unresolved until this day.

Any discussion of the various areas of LSD research and experimentation would remain incomplete without mentioning certain systematic explorations of its negative potential. For obvious reasons, the results of this research, conducted by the secret police and armed forces of many countries of the world, have not been systematically reported and most of the information is considered classified. Some of the areas that have been explored in this context are eliciting of confessions, gaining of access to withheld secrets and information, brainwashing, disabling of foreign diplomats, and "non-violent" warfare. In working with individuals, the destructive techniques try to exploit the chemically induced breakdown of resistances and defense mechanisms, increased suggestibility and sensitivity to terroristic approaches, and intensification of the transference process. In the mass approaches of chemical warfare, the important variables are the disorganizing effect of LSD on goal-oriented activity, and its uncanny potency. The techniques of dispensation suggested for this warfare have been various kinds of aerosols and contamination of water supplies. For everybody who is even remotely familiar with the effects of LSD, this kind of chemical warfare is much more diabolical than any of the conventional approaches. Calling it non-violent or humane is a gross misrepresentation.

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