During the years of intensive LSD research, the major focus was on basic psycho-pathological investigation, psychiatric therapy, or some quite specific uses, such as enhancement of artistic expression or mediation of a religious experience. Relatively little attention was paid to the value that psychedelic experiences could have for the personal development of "normal" individuals. In the mid-sixties, this issue emerged in an elemental and explosive fashion in a wave of massive non-supervised self-experimentation.
In the atmosphere of national hysteria that ensued, the pros and cons were discussed in a passionate, over-emphatic, and ultimately confusing way. The LSD proselytes presented the drug quite uncritically as an easy and safe panacea for all the problems that beset human existence. Psychedelic self-exploration and personality transformation were presented as the only viable alternative to sudden annihilation in a nuclear holocaust or slow death among industrial waste products. It was recommended that as many people as possible should take LSD under any circumstances and as frequently as they could in order to accelerate the advent of the Aquarian Age. LSD sessions were seen as a rite of passage that should be mandatory for everybody who reached their teens.
Failure to warn the public about the dangers and pitfalls of psychedelic experimentation and to give instructions for minimizing the risks resulted in a large number of casualties. Apocalyptic newspaper headlines describing the horrors of LSD "bummers" and drug-related accidents ignited a witch-hunting response in legislators, politicians, educators, and many professionals. Ignoring the data from almost two decades of responsible scientific experimentation, the anti-drug propaganda switched to the other extreme and presented LSD as a totally unpredictable devil's drug that represented a grave danger to the sanity of the present generation and the physical health of generations to come.
At present, when the emotional charge of this controversy has subsided, it seems possible to take a more sober and objective view of the problems involved. Clinical evidence strongly suggests that "normal" people can benefit most from the LSD process and are taking the least risk when participating in a supervised psychedelic program. A single high-dose LSD session can frequently be of extraordinary value for those persons who do not have any serious clinical problems. The quality of their lives can be considerably enhanced and the experience can move them in the direction of self-realization or self-actualization. This process seems to be comparable in every way to the one that Abraham Maslow described for individuals who had spontaneous "peak experiences."
The official anti-drug propaganda is based on a very superficial understanding of the motivations for psychedelic drug use. It is true that in many instances the drug is used for kicks or in the context of juvenile rebellion against parental authority or the establishment. However, even those who take LSD under the worst circumstances frequently get a glimpse of the drug's real potential, and this can become a powerful force in future use. The fact that many people take LSD in an attempt to find a solution to their emotional dilemmas or from a deep need for philosophical and spiritual answers should not be underestimated. The craving for contact with transcendental realities can be more powerful than the sexual urge. Throughout human history countless individuals have been willing to take enormous risks of various kinds and to sacrifice years or decades of their lives to spiritual pursuits. Any reasonable measures regulating the use of psychedelic drugs should take these facts into consideration.
Very few serious researchers still believe that experimentation with pure LSD represents a genetic hazard. Under proper circumstances the psychological dangers that represent the only serious risk can be reduced to a minimum. In my opinion, there is no scientific evidence that precludes the creation of a network of facilities in which those who are seriously interested in psychedelic self-exploration could engage in it with pure substances and under the best circumstances. Many of these would be subjects who are so deeply motivated that they would otherwise b.e serious candidates for illegal self-experimentation involving a much higher risk. The existence of government-sponsored centers of this kind would have an inhibiting effect on the immature motivations of people for whom the present strict prohibitions represent a special challenge and temptation. An additional advantage of this approach would be the opportunity to accumulate and process in a systematic way all the valuable information about psychedelics that is otherwise lost in elemental and chaotic unsupervised experimentation. This would also remedy the existing absurd situation in which almost no serious professional research is being conducted in an area where millions of people have been experimenting on their own.
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