The Political Significance of LSD

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By Vikram Zutshi, a filmmaker, independent scholar and columnist based in Los Angeles. His debut feature Max Kennedy and the American Dream was filmed at various points along the two thousand mile US-Mexico border and has since been globally broadcast. Follow him on Twitter @getafix2012. Originally published at openDemocracy

Microdosing” on psychedelic substances like LSD—ingesting just enough to heighten cognitive faculties, enhance creativity, improve concentration and alleviate depression—is currently back in vogue among people not normally associated with anything remotely ‘countercultural’ in the USA.

The term psychedelicwas coined in 1958 by British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmondand is derived from the Greek words psyche(“soul, mind”) and delein(“to manifest”), hence “soul-manifesting,” the implication being that psychedelics can access the soul and develop unused potentials in the human mind. It’s a contention that’s gaining increased acceptance in mainstream universities.

New York University, for example, is hosting clinical trials using psilocybinto treat alcohol addiction. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been at the forefront of research in treating patients suffering from chronic treatment-resistant PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with MDMA, commonly known as ‘Ecstasy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently designatedits MDMA-assisted psychotherapy project as a ‘breakthrough therapy.’ Apart from MDMA, MAPS also advocates the use of Ayahuasca,Ibogaineand medical marijuanafora variety of conditionsranging from bipolar syndrome and drug addiction to autism-related disorders, ADHD and clinical depression.

The therapeutic use of psychedelics isn’t new. Between 1953 and 1973, the US federal government funded over a hundred studieson LSD with more than 1,700 subjects participating. Psychedelics were tested on convicts, substance abusers, people suffering from chronic depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenics and terminal cancer patients. LSD was also tested on artists and scientists to explore its effects on creativity, and on divinity students to examine spirituality from a neuroscientific perspective. The empirical data gathered from these tests was largely positive.

LSD “truly was an acid, dissolving almost everything with which it came into contact, beginning with the hierarchies of the mind… and going on from there to society’s various structures of authority” says author Michael Pollanin his book How To Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics. And that’s what makes this subject socially and politicallyinteresting.

“It is curious to me that what I see as the two greatest threats—environmental crisis and [political] tribalism—these drugs directly address both those mindsets” Pollan told the Guardianin a recent interview. “They undermine our tendency to objectify nature, to think of ourselves as separate from it. They undermine tribalism in that people tend to emerge from these experiences thinking that we are all more alike, all more connected.”

If this is true, then those of us committed to social transformation must start to take the use of psychedelics much more seriously. But what’s the actual or potential connection between LSD and politics?

It was a Swiss chemist called Albert Hoffman who discovered the drug by accident in 1938. While conducting research on another pharmaceutical compound he absorbed the drug through his skin and staggered home to lie down on his sofa, where, “in a dreamlike state, with eyes closed”, he wrote later, “I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours.” Hoffman felt he had been given the keys to unlocking the mysteries of the universe, “the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality.”

A few decades later in August 1960, Timothy Leary, a clinical psychologist from Harvard University, traveled to Cuernavaca in Mexico and ingested psilocybin (‘magic’) mushroomsfor the first time, an experience that radically altered the course of his life. In 1965, Leary commented that he had “learned more about … (his) brain and its possibilities…[and] more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than…in the preceding 15 years of studying and doing research in psychology.” Leary became a lifelong evangelist for the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics.

Theoretical physicist Carlos Rovelli, author of The Order of Time, says his romance with quantum theory and the mysteries of the space-time continuum were sparked by his LSD trips as a student radical at the University of Bologna. “It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually,” he told the Guardian. “Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality. How do I know that the usual perception is right, and this is wrong?”

Rovelli has spent the better part of his life grappling with the relationship between space, time and consciousness, fundamental concepts that underlie existence and how we simultaneously perceive the world and shape it. “If I observe the microscopic state of things,” he writes, “then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between ‘cause’ and ‘effect.’” The concept of time, he says, “has lost layers one after another, piece by piece.” We are left with “an empty windswept landscape almost devoid of all trace of temporality…a world stripped to its essence, glittering with an arid and troubling beauty.”

Large parts of the world are being polarized at a rate rarely seen before, helped in no small measure by social media ‘filter bubbles’ and algorithms that divide people sharply along the lines of nationality or ideology, their underlying human connections rendered increasingly irrelevant. Perhaps such deep hatred and suspicion of the other was always there, but now it has taken center stage and is being used as a potent election strategy by populist and hyper-nationalist leaders the world over. Like herds of cattle, large numbers of people are being programmed and deployed as pawns for a larger agenda.

Therefore, perhaps real change begins with rewiring our perceptual framework. Psychedelic substances have been ingested sacramentally by indigenous cultures to achieve this goal since the dawn of time, and now they’re being validated by the scientific and medical communities. The shifts in consciousness that can be brought about by psychedelics can help in dissolving the man-made boundaries or fear of the other that are implanted in our collective psyche.

While Silicon Valley bio-hackers microdosing on LSD to enhance their workplace performance may not be looking to bring about tectonic shifts in collective consciousness, there’s no reason to restrict the use of psychedelics to these groups and purposes. They could also work as a potent catalyst to awaken humankind to the dangers of toxic nationalism and rabid nativism that threaten to engulf us.

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  1. upstater

    “…there’s no reason to restrict the use of psychedelics to these groups and purposes.”

    I beg to differ. Self-prescription and self-medication with such powerful drugs is a really bad idea. Although it is anecdotal experience, I know personally two people that became psychotic after taking LSD and never returned to reality, one in 1971, the other in 2004. While the underlying mental health of these two people may have had a predisposition to schizophrenia, there is no doubt that the LSD was the precipitating factor for their psychosis. To my personal knowledge these people were not “self medicating”, but rather normal partying with friends in a college environment.

    I am not a fan of Pharma and the unholy alliance between medical research and Pharma, but let it suffice to say that disciplined research is essential.

    Many illegal compounds show promise to treat mental illness such as Cannabidiol, Ketamine and psychedelics. But self-administration is simply foolish and irresponsible. Many people don’t get harmed, but obviously some people do irreparable damage. It is truly a game or Russian Roulette in a non-regulated wild west of drug use.

    1. diptherio

      Unfortunately, the understanding of how to properly take these substances very rare in our culture. As Bill Hicks quipped in a stand-up bit, ” ‘I took mushrooms and went to Astroworld, and I had a really bad time.’ No s**t, you moron! They’re sacred, go to nature.”

      The cultures I’ve studied that have a history of use of these substances, also have shamans to guide people. We, sadly, don’t, by and large. Pro-tip, don’t use psychedelics as party drugs…and read some Dale Pendell.

      1. John Zelnicker

        June 6, 2018 at 10:53 am
        “They’re sacred, go to nature.”

        This is one of the most important warnings for taking psychedelics. The setting in which one is tripping is extremely important for ensuring that one doesn’t have a bad trip.

        Trying to participate in “real world” activities while tripping is risky. Psychedelics take us out of that “real world” and into the inner world of our minds. Mixing the two is generally not a good idea.

          1. ambrit

            This comes down to a ‘quality’ versus ‘quantity’ issue. Roughly, I’d call recreational dosing the ‘quantity’ type of experience and the ‘mystical’ dosing regime the ‘quality’ type. There really is not too much overlap between the two. One can morph into the other, but here, intentions are key. One must be prepared.
            A side issue with the quantity issue is the pervasive propaganda campaign on the part of the ‘official’ social ‘leaders’ to portray any psychedelics use as an instant ticket to ‘burn out’ status. It does happen, but not all of the time, as suggested by the propagandists.
            Basically, when the drug enforcement agencies began their ‘civil forfeiture’ self enrichment campaigns, the cat was out of the bag. Follow the money.

            1. SimonGirty

              A very astute observation; altogether too uncomon, considering the pervasiveness of our conveniently calvinistic brainwashing. We’ve got one here who can SEE? Any ability to step out of societal conditioned responses has to be stomped out. Taking away our stuff, enslaving us, then charging us for our own subjugation so epitomizes our lives, we’ve become inured to even the most blatant irony? Guess outsourcing monitization of our oppression to their churlish klan buddies is only irksome to our perpetual victims, as we divy up the profits of cannabis legalation?

                1. SimonGirty

                  Being from Pittsburgh’s West End, we’d doubtless rejoin: Washington’s slaves doubtless caught hell for hybridizing his hemp with bad intent? It escapes some, that Jesus’ 2nd Amendment’s 13,000 “well regulated” militia sent to keep locals from selling rye downriver as whiskey, those in Shay’s Rebellion, rent strikes or slaughtering Christian navives at Gnadenhutten, were toting their own weapons, stealing local’s livestock and raping both slave and indentured women, with the self-same sobriety & clarity of thought, industrious attitude and entrepreneurial spirit of the folks descrying substance abuse to this day might as well cash in on our crimes?

          2. John Zelnicker

            @Christopher Horne
            June 7, 2018 at 3:57 am
            Approximately two dozen, mostly LSD, with a few 6-hour psylosibin giggles and one peyote experience which was probably the most spiritual after I stopped puking. (Which is part of the ritual; you eat some peyote buttons, puke, eat some more, puke, and eventually you eat some and don’t puke and the trip really begins.)

            All of my tripping was done in the 1970’s when it was much safer to trust your source. I was fortunate to be able to try some of the famous Owsley Orange Sunshine. In fact, I still have some blotters and gelatin “pyramids” from those days. I wouldn’t want to try them now as I have no idea how the might break down over time.

            1. ambrit

              That takes me back. I remember getting some ‘Owsley’ and of course, Mr. Natural.
              The psylosibin was indeed a ‘laughing’ trip with a distinct ‘fugue state’ effect. They grow wild around the South, wherever finer dairies abound. Going “Between the Buttons” is indeed for the spiritually minded. I was lucky to have a ‘seasoned’ guide for my journeys.
              Intent is all. The native peoples, or where ever you look, treat psychedelics with respect. Mention a recreational use for ‘trips’ and they look at you like you are crazy.
              I’m very glad that I was allowed to have the experiences and survive intact.

        1. Aumua

          Oh I don’t know… I went to the DMV to get my driver’s license picture taken on acid once. I thought it was a pretty funny experience, if a little harrowing.

          1. horostam

            I did the same thing. I created my wonderful unique signature when I signed my driver’s license that I still use today. LSD as fraud protection?

      2. Wukchumni

        To backpack all day up and down the High Sierra through mazes of granite interspersed with forests of green via blue lakes carved out of the ice age, into thin air searching for the right respite in which to indulge, but the setting has to be right, and your like minded compatriots with you on the journey are also hep to not settling for just anyplace, if you’re gonna trip and go nowhere fast for awhile, it’s hard to beat local locales in Sequoia NP such as Upper Lost Canyon, or the swimming pool of a tarn on the ridgeline between the Mosquito Lakes & Mineral Lakes, with a 270 degree view of the Kaweah range and all the Mineral King peaks splayed out in the distance. Not to mention having an entire grove of giant sequoias all to yourself, lillipution.

        I always seem to discover something in nature that was always there-that I hadn’t noticed before, with each sojourn.

      3. freedomny

        I believe that Michael Pollen goes into the role of the shaman….and cultures that used hallucinogenics as a way to grow spiritually. I think it’s been successful with treating trauma and severe anxiety with/in terminal patients.

        But if hallucinogenics were considered “Coke”….is marijuana suppose to be “Coke Lite”? Is that why it’s still illegal? I really have such a hard time understanding marijuana’s “threat”.

        1. John Zelnicker

          June 6, 2018 at 9:57 pm
          Marijuana’s original “threat” from the 1930’s which was renewed by Nixon is that it was used by the black and brown communities and therefore criminalizing it was one way to keep those groups suppressed and oppressed. Not that the white community didn’t use it, but it was more prevalent in the musical and artistic groups where black and brown folks could find some level of success based on their talent.

          There was also the competition between Harry Anslinger, the first head of the Bureau of Narcotics and J. Edgar Hoover as the first head of the FBI to create a national police force. Marijuana was Anslinger’s attempt to win.

          See the Nixon statement to Ehrlichman or Haldeman about criminalizing drugs that was disclosed last year, IIRC. Sorry, I’m in a rush, so I don’t have time to find it right now.

          1. skippy

            More people than some would know dose at Disneyland, toads wild ride is a bucket list check point like its a small world. We used to play a game to see who could spot the most trippers on a group annual expedition.

            Now for the real deal one has to go to Halloween not scary farm [knottsbarry farm the rest of the year].

      4. Amfortas the Hippie

        back in the day(’85-95) I turned out to be a natural Guide for Tripping People.
        I was really good at it, by all accounts.
        It’s too bad that there was no career path, there (“shaman” or whatever non-appropriated word we come up with, analogous with either “preacher” or “councilor”, perhaps)
        Of course, the easily captured regulators would likely mess it up(I’m thinking of getting a license to give a back rub(expensive in Texas) or sell an egg or cut hair)

        1. ambrit

          Too true o rural one.
          You do need a license to do all three things in your last sentence. The ‘catch’ is if something of value passes in each direction of the transaction.

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            I give outlaw massages.
            and I’ll cut yer hair for a small donation to the little sisters of inebriation.

        2. jonboinAR

          If you were to market yourself right you could probably make out as a “spirit guide” at Burning Man, or something.

          1. ambrit

            From what I’ve seen and read, ‘Burning Man’ today is a yuppie tourist destination. Very little ‘spirit’ in evidence.
            Too much like an exultation of excess engrams.

            1. jonboinAR

              Yeah, I was speaking mercenarily, cynically. Remember, R Crumb portrayed Mr Natural (since the name has come up) that way, as a full of sh!! lech.

    2. lyman alpha blob

      I think your caveat is well-founded but I did want to look at one thing you mentioned in a different way:

      …two people that became psychotic after taking LSD and never returned to reality

      How do the rest of us know that is the case? The may not have returned to behaving the way they had in the past, but it’s also possible that it’s the rest of us who aren’t perceiving reality ‘correctly’, whatever that means, and those acquaintances are actually experiencing something closer to ‘reality’ than we are.

      It brings to mind a passage I read from Bertrand Russell in his History of Western Philosophy where he is discussing David Hume. Apologies if I’m getting this wrong as it’s been a while since I read this, but Hume says that nobody can really prove anything, ever. You might think you can prove that the sun will come up at a certain time tomorrow the next day, but all you can definitively say is that there is a high probability it will rise at that time based on past experience. The sun might explode or burn out. Or the laws of physics as we understand them might change.

      So a person who took to much acid and declares that time is not linear for example might seem crazy to the rest of us, but crazy is what society says it is – behaviors that are acceptable in one society can be considered deranged in another – so Russell points out that perhaps rather than considering a person with a different take on ‘reality’ as insane, perhaps we ought to think of them as a minority of one.

      1. jonboinAR

        It tends to be difficult or impossible to function effectively if one finds oneself stuck in one of these “alternative realities” for very long. That’s why we call those to whom this has happened, “crazy”.

      2. upstater

        One has been living in in state run group home for 2 decades. The other lives alone with 3 cats with rent paid by elderly parents (section 8 housing or group homes are not nice).

        Both are living unhappy lives. I know these two.

        1. Anon

          Actually, Section 8 housing in Santa Barbara, CA is quite nice. Have a friend living in a nicely landscaped, well-maintained, complex that is a short walk to a nice elementary school, and next to a shoreline (Pacific Ocean) park. Seems like a calm living environment in a diverse social setting.

          1. ambrit

            Location, location, location!
            The group homes I’ve done some work in around here are somewhere in the middle of the pack. Substandard “services’ and extreme pressure to conform are the watchwords. One place, for ‘recovering’ addicts, places almost all the burden of navigating the vagaries of what passes for ‘social services’ here squarely on the backs of the addicts. sink or swim is the operating methodology. and this is a “faith based” operation! Some faith! As a side effect of the present paradigm, the actual structures used are leased from private individuals. Maintenance, of which I have done some, is spotty at best. I originally tried to teach one of the ‘managers’ some basic plumbing repair skills. Finally I realized that this type of person is actually one of the ‘clients’ and thus has more important issues to deal with. Couple that with the constant turnover and we have the fertile grounds for systemic collapse disorder. These hives aren’t going to be buzzing for long.

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              Texas uses the Prison Model for those services.
              Of course we consider the removal of an ectopic pregnancy an “abortion” for state reporting purposes,lol.
              I also know of a couple of people, from way back in the shroomtimes, who went nuts. In both cases, the Lsd was consumed in excess, and for the purpose of escaping an already deleterious reality matrix. I don’t think these cases are representative.

              1. ambrit

                The last “real” Texican I can think of was LBJ. Before that, oh, Robert E Howard.
                Oh, don’t forget Charles Whitman. Immortalized in song.

      3. perpetualWAR

        If “schizophrenia” is reality, I don’t want anything to do with reality! Your comment is extremely naive. Perhaps you have not witnessed the mental torture that mental illness inflicts? That’d be my guess.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          I didn’t mean to suggest that what those diagnosed with psychosis were going through was pleasant, just different, but perhaps no less valid an interpretation of the world around them. My point was about the definition of reality, and not that LSD and other substances can’t rewire your brain in ways you might find extremely unpleasant, whether temporarily or permanently.

          There’s a Stanislaw Lem novel (I forget the name) where the protagonist discovers that the reality we all think we experience is just a ruse caused by some psychoactive drugs in the air or the water supply, but the actual reality is that we are all a bunch of hideously deformed lizard people or some such.

          Research has shown that what we “see” isn’t necessarily the actual reality. Our brains fill in things that aren’t really there and remove things that are all the time. Thus magic!

          1. Resistance

            Reality is the perception with the highest level of consistency. There is a reason why you have to take a drug/mushroom or whatever you call it to feel that other stuff.
            If you have a problem with the concept of ”reality” I urge you
            1) kick or hit a concrete wall as hard as you can with foot or knuckle once every hour for a year and check if it hurts every time or not
            2) try to buy food without money or credit cards or foodstamps

            1. Amfortas the Hippie


              dissociative states happen for all kinds of reasons.
              The point is,all our apprehensions of reality are mediated through our sensory organs, and since we don’t even know what a Mind is, let alone where it resides, we can’t really be sure.
              all we have is probability.
              This line of argument , admittedly, has little use when it comes to obtaining vittles, or whatever, and is better suited for philosophical circle jerks under the Big Oak.

              1. jonboinAR

                I’m pretty well 100% convinced that the mundane physical world of gravity, light waves travelling over limited distances, physical cause-and-effect, all that fairly well-described and predictable shit that I experience day in, day out, is reality. I’m also convinced, through tripping out, religious experiences I’ve had, and some occurrences in dreams that it is not ALL of reality. But the latter is just a wee more difficult to describe or predict.

      4. skippy

        I can report of this on more than a few occasions and wrt more than one psychotropic. Hell you don’t even need drugs, just look at all the military effects of combat.

    3. hemeantwell

      In my experience as a clinician I’ve heard reports of people who had the sort of expansive experiences that are affirmed here. But, like upstater, I’ve heard of some real disasters.

      My impression is that they can be explained fairly simply. We’ve all established ways of managing impulses. If we suddenly find ourselves fearing that we can’t, it can be terrifying to think that you’re going to either assault someone physically/sexually, or start crying uncontrollably in front of people who would despise you, etc. etc, all sorts of calamities both general and personal. One patient described having a nice time and then, after someone tossed a firecracker into the room, being filled with rage that they felt completely at a loss to control. They had a panic attack and ran outside and starting running around in circles, screaming, to try to burn off the energy behind what they feared would be a murderous impulse. Fortunately they didn’t get thrown in some psychiatric slammer, which would have added stigma to the mess.

      Once someone experiences a loss of confidence in their defenses in that kind of traumatic way they can respond by becoming more inhibited, much more, trying to make sure that they don’t stumble over a threshold that they can intellectually link to having taken the drug but which cannot be so reassuringly managed in terms of their immediate self-experience. Although psychosis involves a more severe disorganization of personality, I think this would be what gets the process underway. The patient withdraws from a stimulating reality.

      These problems are well-known. Any advocate who doesn’t acknowledge them is an irresponsible ass.

    4. clarky90

      Forty years ago, my neighbor’s boyfriend ran off with her best friend. My lovely neighbor had a psychotic episode and was put on anti-psychotic medications. She has never gotten better.

      Like everything, each person must do a risk/reward assessment. Alcohol, plus the Standard American Diet, plus the standard Western lifestyle is obviously, a slow motion Tesla wreck. People, when I was a kid in the 50s, looked and acted healthier. There is plenty of old film footage from around the world on youtube.

      I think, (1) get rid of the toxins (depressants) in every aspect of life; clean water, air, food, cosmetics, medicines, relationships (2) Eat unprocessed food. (3) Fast regularly (4) Learn about the medicinal wild plants growing in your neighborhood. They are ALL psychotropic- some more, some less.

      Everything (even TV shows and tap water) affects our consciousness. Be careful out there!

      “the dangers of toxic nationalism and rabid nativism that threaten to engulf us.” is his final thought. So, he despises us deplorables! The article was a prelude to a political hit job. Like the “friendly” car salesman who pulls out the sale contract, after you have been sufficiently, “warmed up”.

    5. notlurking

      There are many of us out there that do not follow “man-made barriers or fear of the other” and have never used a gram of LSD or any other psychedelic…..

        1. notlurking

          For those nitpickers out there….never used it at all….and still love peace….;)

          1. Wukchumni

            No biggie, but i’d be like me stating i’ve never drank 1,000 ounces of hard liquor in one setting.

            What have you got to lose by experimenting, other than your preconceived notion?

      1. jp

        500 micrograms is a heavy dose. 250 to 300 is a lot easier to handle but I am sure you could get off on 50 to 100. I don’t know what is considered a “mico-dose”, the article dosen’t say.

    6. Harrold

      Certainly national policy should be based upon anecdotal evidence and the rigorous scientific approach should be abandoned at this point. :-)

  2. Tomonthebeach

    Now that grass is legal, why not all psychoactive drugs, right?

    Perhaps Zutshi has not met anybody who fooled around with these drugs and wound up psycho-socially disabled or burdened by flashbacks (We interrupt your normal work day to bring you this Flash nightmare.) One could cogently argue that LSD not only changed Leary’s views on psychology, but it also changed psychology’s views of him, and derailed his career. Put bluntly, these drugs often leave scars in the aftermath of their transcendental visions. For some, LSD opened doors to alternative realities, for others it appears to have locked them inside of those alternative realities.

    My recollection of Leary’s work was that he wanted to find a drug that would induce temporary psychoses in order to better understand the intrapsychic dynamics of mental illness. It seems to have led him to a life as guru for the beautiful people. uch of the research into mental illness that Leary did publish has subsequently been refuted or challenged. Bold conclusions such as cures for criminal recidivism, drug and alcohol addiction, and many psychiatric syndromes were based on flimsy research designs, and testimonials from celebrities. When you are high or hung over (tripped out?) you tend to overlook shortcuts.

    There is a reason why research into psychedelics slowed to a trickle. Like notorious fentanyl, psychedelics in small doses might offer psychological respites from harsh realities, calm your hyperactive mind, or unleash artistic creativity. Overdo, and the danger to health and safety become unacceptable.

    1. zer0

      So you know nothing of the science. (IMO) Psychology isnt science, its like the imitation cheese of it.

      Fentanyl is not a psychedelic, not even close. Its structure mostly resembles synthetic opiate derivatives. People taking fentanyl (legally) are doing so for pain. Its a morphine substitute.

      Marijuana is less potent than alcohol. It actually fits perfectly into the bodies endocannabinoid receptors located throughout the nervous system. It actually acts as an inhibitor, thus the short term memory loss (actually more like short term absent-mindedness), the better appetite (it inhibits sensation from the gut area as well as inhibits acid coalescence in the stomache), the small pupils, dry mouth, etc. Simply put, your body doesnt act like it is a poison, like it does with alcohol.

      The rest of your comment mixes up overdosing with microdosing. Because of the (stupid) illegality of drugs, people have:

      1) no idea what the drug actually is, for example, cocaine is almost impossible to obtain on the street with 100% purity. In fact its mostly around 20-30% pure, with various analgesics, caffeine, and other additives. Same thing with LSD. Most of the LSD today isnt really LSD, but a mishmash of so called ‘designer drugs’ meant to replicate LSD. Same thing with MDMA. Firstly, pure MDMA is rarely sold, its usually a mix of MDA and MDMA, and even then it usually has caffeine powder mixed in (remember, illegality means that the black market favors cutting drugs to maximize profits for the risk involved).

      2). No idea what the proper dosage is because of #1.

      And if you think for a second, that LSD/Marijuana/Cocaine is MORE potent than the highly concentrated legal prescription drugs, you couldnt be further from the truth. No evidence suggests that sythetic opioids are any less dangerous than natural opioids, in fact, I would hazard a guess that under proper conditions, anything produced by a plant that has been consumed by humans for millenia is probably less potent and harmful than a random synthetic produced in a government laboratory.

      “There is a reason why research into psychedelics slowed to a trickle”. Yes, its called “caring about your family and livelihood”. Or are you somehow incapable of understanding what ‘Schedule 1’ means? Research in LSD at anytime but perhaps recently would bar you from receiving any grant money, perhaps for your entire life. You would be kicked out of any Journal publication as a result.

      1. derechos

        You have some good points, zer0, but you are too harsh in your criticism of Tomonthebeach. He does not say that fentanyl is a psychedelic, only that these drugs can “offer psychological respites from harsh realities, calm your hyperactive mind, or unleash artistic creativity.”

        And per your own statement, anytime you take one of these drugs you may be overdosing, as you never know what you ingest or what amount you have ingested. So the terms overdosing and microdosing are probably not relevant outside of a laboratory, and not relevant to the typical user.

        Finally, I think you have confused potency with efficacy. LSD is extraordinarily potent. It is effective in a single dose of as little as 10 micrograms.

      2. JohnnySacks

        Sorry, I’m right now re-reading “Deepness in the Sky” by Vernor Vinge and micro-dosing to enhance work performance seems just too much like the enslavement of minds theme from the emergent baddies in the book. In reality, it’s a pretty sickening. If coffee can’t help, then maybe there is no help.
        Research probably should not have been strangled by fear in the 60’s, and now that we’re suddenly scientifically ‘enlightened’ (ha ha), but also more diligent about human subject trials, there should be additional effore in it’s use as a cure. Especially if it can help with our current plague of addiction.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          So you would liken micro-dosing LSD to enhance work performance with the “mindrot virus” — “essentially turning people into brilliant appliances.”? Brilliant appliances sounds like the skills needed for some of what we call white collar “jobs” these days. But would brilliant appliances benefit from heightened cognitive faculties, enhanced creativity, improved concentration and the alleviation of depression? It seems to me these qualities might tend to detract from the control functions of LSD as an analog to the mindrot virus.

          1. FluffytheObeseCat

            “micro-dosing to enhance work performance seems just too much like the enslavement of minds theme from the emergent baddies in the book”

            This is not a trivial nor a politically incorrect concern. The issue isn’t just ‘microdosing’ to enhance ones’ own capacity for creativity. It’s ‘microdosing’ to stay ahead of the next guy; microdosing to look brilliant to all those Theilian twerps who judge you, and decide the quality of your future……… while they take their daily transfusion of young peoples’ blood to keep above us all.

            Microdosing nerds in Silicon Valley are often desperate people looking for an edge in a thuroughly Darwinian environment. The parallels with cyberpunk dystopia are not weak ones, even when they are a bit ahead of reality.

            1. Amfortas the Hippie

              the Mystic Agnostic in me sez that using such substances for worker enhancement is likely a crime against the Plant People, or the Machine Elves or whatever that Thing Behind Things is.
              My extensive experience, back when, was all positive and enlightening and almost overwhelmingly spiritual.
              These things are doors, and/or tools, for learning how to assess our reality tunnels, and narrative frameworks…to get outside of them for a time.
              being self aware enough to know when you’re on psychological or emotional shaky ground is imperative, as is serious consideration of “Set and Setting”.
              drop a tab in an industrial wasteland with a bunch of cops and gangbangers, and you’ll prolly have a bad time of it.

        2. cocomaan

          I have never picked up A Fire Upon the Deep, how is it? I’ve read all kinds of things. Seems like a love it or hate it kind of book.

    2. dantallion

      The reason research came to a halt was the drug war, not lack of potential in psychedelic compounds.

      The question is not do psychedelics cause harm in certain individual cases. So do automobiles, prescription drugs, mountain climbing, and love affairs, all more or less legal at this point. The question is do you think it’s justified to bring down the full institutional fury of the police state on citizens who want to explore these substances?

      We already have a psychoactive drug sold on every street corner in America, one that’s highly toxic and addictive, that’s a major factor in violent crime, and that regularly destroys people’s lives. Every year it kills more than ten times the people who died in the 9/11 attacks, and yet it’s completely legal.

      Of course I’m talking about alcohol. It should be the benchmark for any rational discussion of drug policy—this is the level of harm we as a society are willing to accept from a (merely recreational) drug.

      If some other drug creates far less harm and offers far greater potential benefits (as is the case with LSD or psilocybin) then at least let’s not fool ourselves that loosing the police state on its users is motivated by altruistic concern for their well being.

      1. Joe chemist

        Thank you for the excellent analysis. It is spot on. Like alcohol, psychedelics should be restricted to adults. Likewise, it should regulated so the dosage is known and accurate. In Switzerland, one used to be able, until fairly recently, to go to your doctor and get a prescription for LSD once a year. Seems like reasonable approachto me.

    3. Scott1

      I was long on the Fentanyl patch. Doctor said, “I have seen the X-rays.” Just hope you never need such powerful pain medicines.
      Bob Weir? anyway one of the Grateful Dead said, “We never said there wouldn’t be casualties.”
      Mind Control was the goal of those developing powerful mental space drugs. Imagine an aerosol that took from all infantrymen, tank crews, everybody in the hacking stabbing bullet and bomb game any desire to be doing that?
      Research there moved to Montreal where the director, a madman in his own right who did not care how far to go it took to know what they wanted to know for specific methods of mind control.
      Source book is “Coercion” from the Forbidden Bookshelf

    4. JP

      OK, my experience is that LSD can only trigger psychosis that is already baked in. I have never had what I would consider to be a true hallucination on LSD. That is something that I bought into 100%. On the other hand I conjured up some pretty weird shit but, as Gracy Slick advised, I kept my head. I have seen other people completely lose it but they were already a time bomb. Chances are, if they hadn’t taken LSD they would have eventually become evangelical stalwarts and voted for Trump.

      1. berit

        …”trigger psychosis that is already baked in”… Who knows in advance what’s baked in ? We are all humans, more alike than different. I take “baked in” to mean genetics/heredity. The hunters after genetic markers for variations defined and funded by vested interests, for instance “schizophrenia”, a 100 years old mad label without validity, no reliability, fit for the garbage heap of unscientific psychiatry, have nothing but speculative findings so far, always promising more to come some time soon…in their quest for money for ever more research from where the lights are, i.e. money, ruining what should be ours, our commons, our shared heritage, a shared future too?

  3. Brian

    Micro dosing was not common in the old days. We didn’t know about the dose when we talked about it, so the dose was one. Some folks went all in and took more thinking “like McGuinn and McGuire still ain’t gettin’ higher, but that’s what they were aimin’ at”. Like anything, too much is too much. But the right amount and the right physical circumstances were very illuminating. The mind is still in control but it is receiving input far greater than “normal”.
    Much like Mr. Toad’s wild ride, strap in and hold on. The trip will last as long as it is interesting.
    I wonder if the folks that microdose today for a little expansion also use a whole dose from time to time, or do they restrict their travel?

    1. Lord Koos

      I wonder about that too, a micro-dose isn’t enough to have the kind of experience most people think of when discussing psychedelics.

      And contrary to the post above, it is still possible to get clean and pure LSD and other drugs.

  4. tomk

    I’m not sure it’s fair to interpret his sentence as encouragement of unfettered recreational experimentation. There could be a middle ground. I attended a suburban NYC high school awash in LSD in the 68-72 and saw a few friends and acquaintances who suffered unfortunate consequences but for most it was a positive influence. That said, we were too young, and it would have been far better if we had a been able to have those experiences in a safe and structured environment.

  5. John Zelnicker

    I also have a childhood friend who was badly affected by psychedelics. He came back from college taking a plethora of pharmaceuticals to maintain his mental equilibrium.

    Psychedelics are potentially dangerous to some individuals and should never be recommended on a general basis. However, not all psychedelics are created equally. LSD is far more powerful than, e.g., psylocibin (which is mostly a 5-6 hour giggle), and some like peyote and ayahuasca can be physically as well as mentally exhausting.

    Experienced trippers know how important it is to have an appropriate, pre-planned environment and an experienced guide who is not partaking.

    1. berit

      … “taking a plethora of pharmaceuticals to maintain his mental equilibrium.” ?? I see people on community treatment orders here, maintained on a plethora of legal drugs, illegal too, to offset adverse effects, they say, getting iatrogenic illnesses, diabetes, coronary disease… Mental equilibrium is not what I see in obese, shuffling, trembling, sad, dejected remnants of men, badly dressed, malnurished – vessels of profit for global corporations and “health” industries for life.

  6. rd

    “LSD is back in vogue”

    We finally have a plausible explanation for the numerous tweets, factual mis-statements, alternative facts, interesting press briefings, negotiating strategies, and policy pronouncements from the current Administration.

        1. SimonGirty

          By 1988, when Carpenter’s “They Live” was made, thw 130K jobs lost in my home town had us afraid to answer the phone to my friend, Diane. She’d unwittingly become the angle of death, crying over the latest friend or acquaintance to die of suicide, crime or disease. Now granted: free-base, crank & opioids had supplanted major hallucinogens among most of my ethnic, white trash demographic. But, I’d just left a long term relationship with a woman from Westy, so I knew at least BOY honkies were lucky beyond description, and would doubtless play the victim, based on our craven obsequiousness to anysomebody we could find to suck up to. I’m NOT saying dope rendered any of us so prescient as to visualize Princess Ivanka launching the Apocalypse, but we didn’t need Rowdy Roddy to kick our ass see the revolution being televised each & every moment, that we’d lost… as many had tried to tell us.

  7. flora

    LBJ took the IRT
    Down to 4th Street USA
    When he got there
    What did he see?
    The youth of America on LSD
    LSD LBJ.

    – musical HAIR

  8. shinola

    Seems like the subject of psychedelics “benefits” comes up every few years & then fades away with nothing really changing. Perhaps there may be something to microdosing but I remain skeptical.

    I do know that some people do not handle tripping very well. My personal experience would be more comparable to Hunter Thompson (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas) than Carlos Castaneda (Tales of a Yaqui Sorcerer).

  9. Bean Counter

    Wow, The Political Significance of LSD indeed. So much history gone amiss here; particularly the hapless unwitting CIA LSD ‘study’ ‘subjects,’ and victims abroad. From The Mystery Of Cursed Bread & A CIA Agent’s Death, by Ted Goodman,

    For 60 years, the French village of Pont-Saint-Esprit has been famous for the events of a few days in August, 1951, when dozens of villagers were struck with unexplainable and horrifying hallucinations of fire and snakes and beasts of all kinds.

    One villager tried to drown himself because he saw his “belly was being eaten by snakes.” Another jumped from a second-floor window screaming, “I am a plane.” A young boy tried to strangle his grandmother. Seventeen people died from what was assumed to be some kind of curse on the village bread (Le Pain Maudit). Many others were sent to asylums.

    In the video below, Le mystére du pain maudit, a man with delirium is being stilled, and a survivor of the cursed bread talks about the horror of his hallucination that snakes were coming after him. He says that he would rather have died than to experience that episode. And a descendant of the accused bakery owner walks through the bakery cellars many years after the horror of Pont-Saint-Esprit, claiming she could find no evidence of poisoned bread.

    Fast forward to 2009, 58 years late, the ‘mystery’ is revealed:

    Albarelli is a seasoned writer about CIA activities. His six-year journey into the investigation of CIA agent Frank Olson’s murder led him to discover the secret of the cursed bread. Olson had been a biochemist working for the Special Operations Division of the CIA who “fell” from a 13th floor window in New York City in 1953, two years after the cursed bread incident.

    What Albarelli found among CIA documents that he obtained were transcriptions of a conversation between a CIA agent and an official from a Swiss pharmaceutical company, Sandoz Pharmaceutical (now, a division of Novartis). The transcription mentioned the “secret of Pont-Saint-Esprit,” and that the cursed bread had nothing to do with mold, but with diethylamide, as in lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD). The CIA was sprinkling diethylamide into the food supply, possibly with the knowledge of some French officials.

    Albarelli learned that it was Sandoz scientists themselves who concocted the story about ergot contaminating the rye flour that bakers used for the bread of Pont-Saint-Esprit. The story was false, but not that far from the truth, considering the strong relationship between ergot and LSD. (Ergot was found to be responsible for the hallucinations leading to the Salem Witch Trials about 25 years ago.)

    Albarelli’s book is titled A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments.

  10. Adam Eran

    Given the recent wave of marijuana legalizations, it’s worth exploring the kind of consciousness new drug realities will induce. Several commenters’ cautionary tales tell us caution is warranted….but I doubt that is how it will play out. Will the population be more concerned about strategies that produce good outcomes rather than vengeance when it comes to justice, for one example? Will marijuana calm down the violence that is so common in the U.S?

    I doubt we’ll get some systematic / scientific approach to these topics right off the bat, but maybe this turn will lead in that direction. We can always hope…

    Incidentally, Harpers’ Index published this statistic: One: Number of drug-induced deaths out of 1,000 coming from illegal drugs.

    …Not to say the U.S. doesn’t have a drug problem. The U.S. consumes 25% of the world’s drug output (and incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners) despite having only 5% of the world’s population. One therapist (whose name escapes me) said in his PBS special that 40% of reported accidental death is drug-related. That’s likely a minimum figure since a compassionate policeman may say someone “lost control” and hit a bridge embankment rather than “he was bombed out of his mind”…

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I’d tack on to the last sentence of your comment: “he committed suicide”.

  11. Watt4Bob

    One of the effects of LSD that is very often reported is an epiphany that “everything and everyone is connected!”

    Our repressive culture, marinated as it is in ‘divide and conquer‘ sauce, is understandably uneasy about any substance that threatens to break down barriers and show people that we’re actually one big family and that we’re all in this world together.

    Which brings up the whole issue of CIA experiments;

    I used to play music with a good friend who was a combat veteran of Viet Nam, he told me that the first time he saw LSD was in Viet Nam, and that the CIA gave it to his platoon to test its effects on soldiers.

    I asked him if it hindered their ability to soldier, and he told me;

    “It didn’t stop you from being a soldier, but it made you a different kind of soldier.”

    My guess is that since they couldn’t make a reliable weapon out of it, and it tended to awaken peoples impulse toward solidarity with their fellow man, they figured it was better to outlaw it.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Like herds of cattle, large numbers of people are being programmed and deployed as pawns for a larger agenda.

      Our deeply insecure ruling elite cannot tolerate LSD’s revelation that their carefully programmed simulacrum of reality is an evanescent, deceitful veil which can be chemically stripped away in the space of an hour.

      Controlling a population is so much easier when they’re kept on dulling medications (tranks, alcohol, cannabidiol) with their minds omnipresently molded by broadcast and social media.

      That LSD and psilocybin seem to offer promise in treating the tragic human plague of alcoholism is also deeply unpopular with a lucrative rehab industry.

      The deadly stupor of our bipartisan military empire is a cheap escape for those who can’t face drugs.

      1. Lord Koos

        I think that one of the reasons that Marijuana will be likely be legalized at the Federal level in the not-too-distant-future is that perhaps the elite think it is preferrable to keep the population a bit happy and sedated as the looting continues.

        1. freedomny

          Interesting – I had a very different thought – wondering if marijuana has been illegal for so long because the powers that be wanted to keep the population in a state of fear and anxiety, unconnected from one another.

  12. Scott1

    Vikram is described as an independent scholar. I am given hope that one day I also will appear so, as it is also how I describe myself in the world of economics and financial engineering.
    The idea sparked by the interesting essay and progress report is that Psilocybin may rehabilitate a pilot ruined by spatial disorientation. Such pilots can survive if they do only what their instruments tell them and it is for most a temporary issue, but for some means they are grounded, washed out.
    The past drugs destination of the beats and hippies was landing on the moon. There is the accusation that the beats and the hippies stopped at the establishment of drug use becoming part of the American cultural folkway.
    As Leary was dying he was using nitros oxide? dentist gas and talking about his mind’s travels in the universe.
    All my own “Trips” added up till I had to give it up. An acid trip is so much work. I don’t know any LSD addicts myself. Sandoz brand and controlled dosages, maybe.
    I knew some people around in the East Village late ’80s that were psychedeliclly drugged at a constant 70 micrograms.
    Psilocybin and Adavan provide similar experiences of not caring whereas LSD breaks down the separations between the conscious and sub conscience. Where you are and who you are with then matter a great deal and the bedroom or a park on a sunny day with friends tended to be fun.
    I got to the point of freak out pursued by cops and seducers in Toronto streets and Rochdale College there.
    I am extremely fortunate in that I have piloted and could steal a plane during the apocalypse.
    I am extremely fortunate that I experienced a vision.
    The talk of the legalization of pot, hashish, which is at worse an adult vice and at best the magic tea Ray Davies & the Kinks sang about.
    It is not at all completed till pot and hashish are legal for the pilot. In my own model I declare it is 24 hours from joint to joystick
    and 3 Days from the end of an episode with hash brownies.
    Beats were serious people and they knew the atom bomb changed everything.
    Hippies had better drugs, what Beats went looking for they had found. It was not all about hedonism. LSD in particular was said in the beginning to be the “Atom Bomb for the Mind.”
    The interplay of the two new modern mental and physical factors means there is an awareness that is emotionally connected to the ideas of what peace looks & feels like and how to get it. And the shared threat to all of humanity that is the nuclear age.
    Many of us know and feel the problem to be solved. Atomic war is an existential threat to all of us.
    Forgot to mention how married to an idea one can feel permanently from an acid trip.
    In my case and the case of others who have had it, the Vision is the best, a solid achievement you have always from then on in you, and accessible as a touchstone.
    P.S. Beatdom is definitive historically when it comes to study of the beats.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Did a person write this comment? It has the continuity of a random string of sentences that mention some drug or some aspect of drug culture.

  13. JohnnyGL

    Joe Rogan interviews Michael Pollan. Interesting stuff.

    One thing I really like about Rogan’s interview style is that he’s not shy about doing long segments with people. You can get to know people in a different way when it’s not a set of regimented, bulleted questions, but more shift-on-the-fly type of stuff.

    Who else is going to do a 1.5hr sit down discussion with this author? I can’t think of anyone.

    1. chuck roast

      I am currently reading The Botany of Desire by Pollan. He is a fine writer and a very perceptive person. It is subtitled, A Plant’s-eye View of the World.
      He takes up the mostly mundane subjects of the apple, the tulip (the NC crowds favorite flower), the potato and marijuana and discusses how the interaction of these plant species with humans has led to both a speeding up of their evolution and a perfect symbiosis with us.

      1. johnnygl

        The interview above is mostly about Pollan’s new book, in which he talks about personal experiments with psychadelics and he discusses the new research being done at Johns Hopkins which has had really good results with treatment for addiction.

        Pollan also mentions that mental health treatment is essentially stuck in the doldrums and the top thinkers in the field are looking for new tools they can use to get results, (since they have so few) giving a new impetus to these experiments.

        Rogan is also a big advocate of controlled use of psychadelics, and a self-help, personal improvement guru of sorts. It’s a good interview.

        1. jrs

          Yea mental health may be stuck but LSD isn’t the only thing being tried. There are also new techniques like neurofeedback. None of this stuff seems to be fully understood and it seems to be both potentially beneficial and potentially dangerous at present.

  14. rowlf

    I always like Alan Watts describing his experiences with LSD.

    To paraphrase one of his conclusions in one of his lectures on using LSD, the use of LSD in appropriate settings can lead to mystical experiences. Unfortunately, after having some short swarthy guy have a mystical experience two thousand years ago and stirring things up does society want to allow others a chance to have more mystical experiences?

    (Alan Watts also recommended not taking street acid as there was no guarantee of the quality or the ingredients.)

      1. rowlf

        I thought he said “Once you get the message, you should hang up the telephone.” about continued use of psychedelic drugs. I know from experience that the better you get at meditation the less effect the drugs have on you.

        1. FluffytheObeseCat

          I know from experience that the better you get at meditation the less effect the drugs have on you.”

          Bingo! The better you are at fending off the world, the less it infringes on your sanctity. I guess some would say, soul.

  15. Jim Haygood

    Like herds of cattle, large numbers of people are being programmed and deployed as pawns for a larger agenda.

    Our deeply insecure ruling elite cannot tolerate LSD’s revelation that their carefully programmed simulacrum of reality is an evanescent, deceitful veil which can be chemically stripped away in the space of an hour.

    Controlling a population is so much easier when they’re kept on dulling medications (tranks, alcohol, cannabidiol) with their minds omnipresently molded by broadcast and social media.

    That LSD and psilocybin seem to offer promise in treating the tragic human plague of alcoholism is also deeply unpopular with a lucrative rehab industry.

    The deadly stupor of our bipartisan military empire is a cheap escape for those who can’t face drugs.

    1. juliania

      “…chemically stripped away in the space of an hour…” (LSD’s ‘revelation’)

      The things people are happy to do to their minds amazes me.

      This is reality? This is ‘religious experience’? Sorry, no; it is not. This is fakery.

      Please people, honor your minds; they are delicate and require sensible care. They will not suffer well being deliberately disfunctioned. Not even in “small doses.” Be happy; be healthy; be careful.

      1. Lord Koos

        Minds work best when they are open… for some people it may take a drug to achieve that.

  16. Bean Counter

    Large parts of the world are being polarized at a rate rarely seen before, helped in no small measure by social media ‘filter bubbles’ and algorithms that divide people sharply along the lines of nationality or ideology, their underlying human connections rendered increasingly irrelevant. Perhaps such deep hatred and suspicion of the other was always there, but now it has taken center stage and is being used as a potent election strategy by populist and hyper-nationalist leaders the world over. Like herds of cattle, large numbers of people are being programmed and deployed as pawns for a larger agenda.

    It seems (to me) that the significant concerns of the author are encapsulated in his above quote. A perhaps far better solution than prescribing yet more Pharma – LSD – for the masses (and isn’t that programming?), to fake ‘kind’ them, is ditching social media and Free Market™ Capitalism, for starters. Further, with the stages of despair the populace is feeling, there is no way that the little people won’t be having predominantly ‘Bad Trips,’ it’s very well testified to that the backdrop is very important to having a ‘Good Trip,’ and most people now days are not living with good back drops.

    Someone brought up the author’s background above, here’s more background: . Regarding that IMDb link, I’d be interested to know –since they are oddly not referenced in that presumed resume of sorts – which numerous dramatic feature films the author, in his position as Story Editor, edited for 20th Century Fox; and also, which 2 ‘films’ he developed and co-produced for Rogue Entertainment (as the only Rogue Entertainment I could find was a now defunct Dallas Texas, Software Gaming Company).

    I’m trying not to sound contrary, but given the title of his piece, the author (in my thoughts) is utterly remiss, and frankly suspect, to not mention that LSD had already been Politicized, to disastrous effects,unknown to the public at large, for decades. More pharma is not the solution to anything.

  17. blennylips

    Due to the seeming isness of the was, Scott Alexander choose today to do a deep dive into ….

    HPPD And The Specter Of Permanent Side Effects

    Posted on June 6, 2018 by Scott Alexander

    I recently worked with a man who took LSD once in college and never stopped hallucinating. It’s been ten years now and it’s still going. We can control it with medication, but take the meds away and it starts right back up again.

    This is a real disease – hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.

  18. Rosario

    The “revival” of psychedelics seems to parallel the other, IMO, bourgeois (literati, PTB, whatever) fixation on transcendental meditation and the like. In fact, I often see the two discussed hand in hand. I do think there is a strong scent of class with the whole thing. The lower classes don’t really have the time to “expand their consciousness”. That’s why they numb with alcohol and opiates. These being regarded, by many who have come to define the new upper class morality, the trashy, bad for you drugs. While true medically, I can’t help but notice the class dimension of their designation. Hence, the placing on high psychedelic drugs. Those drugs that are, in their purest (safest) form, least accessible to those in poverty. These are drugs for the “smart” people, the people in charge. Some may think it leads to broader consciousness, is it not also the case, as the brain works, that it may simply reinforce or strengthen what people already (wanted to) know? Let’s be real here, there is nothing mystical about these chemicals, they are working with what is already there.

    It is not to say that routes to this so-called “higher consciousness” (I prefer personal betterment or therapy) have nothing to offer, just that they make it quite easy to reduce very material problems to matters of “perspective”, and worse, in terms of building political coalitions, they both are, in practice, subjective and personal experiences. No one “shares” a drug experience or a revelation during meditation, and I doubt any amount of debate is going to convince me otherwise.

    Also, I have to roundly dismiss any talk of “collective consciousness”. This term has always rubbed me the wrong way. It is anthropological sleight-of-hand that relies on a type of folksy wisdom common with new age thinking.

    The only thing I can say with some certainty is that the world is largely governed by chaos (at least from our pea brain perspective on the mechanics of the universe) and we have far less control over anything we have assumed to master. It is my opinion that if we want to have a successful future as a species, and ultimately “get along”, deal with climate change, etc., we are going to have to become very comfortable with this fact. There is no goal, we are not going to “get somewhere”.

    1. Lord Koos

      There is some class distinction at work in the current western social structure, but remember that so-called primitive humans discovered and used these psychotropic substances millennia ago, the use of this stuff goes far beyond what you are talking about.

      And contrary to what many people assume, since the 1960s, the use of LSD never really died out, it just got talked about a whole lot less.

    2. JP

      I beg to differ. I have shared some degree of samadi more then once meditating with others. It could be characterized as perfect communication. Interesting article in Scientific American this month about consciousness. It fell short of identifying it as an emergent property of being. The subjective part of experience you are referring to is the imposition of the self engendered by the need to control.

  19. Shawn

    Only if the the USDA hadn’t run off Alexander Shulgin and allowed for educated synthesis and knowledgable dosing of these HIGHLY effective substances; the drug culture wouldn’t be massively uninformed and at risk. The most powerful hands are usually our own. Provided with adequate information ANYONE, and I mean anyone, can usually make the best decisions. TIKAL and PIKAL are bibles for therapeutic use of tryptamines and phenethylamines.

    1. homeroid

      For some time now have wanted to read into more about Shulgin. I think the ball was dropped. Hope someone picks it up and runs with it. Could be boon to mental health.

  20. 2nd world pose

    ‘Coffee is a made-to-order drug for the purposes of global capitalism’ – T.Mckenna

    Could LSD take its place?

    Sounds Huxleyian.

  21. nonsense factory

    A couple points:
    (1) The psychedelics can be classified as those compounds operating through the serotonin receptor pathway; this includes LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline as the most well-known compounds. The primary effect is distortion of sensory information, especially visual. There may also be a kind of feedback effect, i.e. memories leaking into the visual channel at high doses. For many people, the sudden realization that they cannot trust their senses is indeed terrifying; it’s also an educational experience, however. As far as politics, considered the resulting knowledge that advertising may also be unreliable or distorted information? If one has to double-check one’s senses, then one might also realize that the consumer drivel spewed over print, airwaves and the Internet may also be unreliable. This is not something a government that relies on mass propaganda and brainwashing the masses is going to be happy about.

    (2) Plants evolved these compounds because they were effective defenses against herbivores, not because they wanted humans to have pleasant experiences! At high doses the effects are indeed dangerous – many people have fallen out of windows, walked off cliffs, stumbled into traffic, etc. while under the influence of high doses of such compounds. However, this is also true for alcohol, an entirely legal drug. Caution is warranted; criminalization is not. Safe settings (isolated nature environments, not up on cliffs) are key, especially for neophytes, who should also start with the minimal active dose.

    (3) Studying cultures who used such compounds in ritual ceremonies is warranted before trying them yourself – peyote culture among southwestern tribes in North America, or mushroom use among central american tribes, or various other practices from around the world (suggestions are that ancient Indian and Greek groups used similar compounds). Notably, they didn’t use these compounds recreationally, it always involved a degree of preparation beforehand and reflection afterwards.

    (4) Therapeutic uses are very plausible – for example, breaking a cycle of alcohol or opiate addiction (see ibogaine’s use as an aid in opiate addiction treatment), or overcoming various forms of mental trauma (PTSD) deriving from unpleasant experiences (war trauma, childhood abuse, etc.), but also increasing mental capacities – many people report increased abilities to visualize 3D objects, for example, after using such compounds.

    Repressive governments, authoritarian religions, etc. – one can see why they’d be afraid of the masses getting their hands on such compounds, however. Brainwashed sheep drugged with opiates and alcohol are more to their liking.

  22. Kevin

    I am really surprised by all of the pearl clutching and anecdotes about that guy in college who lost his mind after taking LSD. It is my hunch that all of these cautionary tales are coming from people who never dropped acid. Readers who have had the experience have no trouble with the premise that psychedelics can facilitate insights into the connectedness of nature and reality which of course includes people of all stripes and pursuasions. Once experienced there is no going back and that can be a powerfully positive thing with political import. It’s not for everyone and no one is suggesting that. But I am glad to read about the renewed interest in psychedelic’s potential power for decreasing binary, hive minded tribal behavior, which seems to lead to war, and what is that good for?

  23. One Pearl Clutcher

    I am really surprised by all of the pearl clutching and anecdotes about that guy in college who lost his mind after taking LSD. It is my hunch that all of these cautionary tales are coming from people who never dropped acid. Readers who have had the experience have no trouble with the premise that psychedelics can facilitate insights into the connectedness of nature and reality which of course includes people of all stripes and pursuasions. Once experienced there is no going back and that can be a powerfully positive thing with political import. It’s not for everyone and no one is suggesting that. But I am glad to read about the renewed interest in psychedelic’s potential power for decreasing binary, hive minded tribal behavior, which seems to lead to war, and what is that good for?

    Given the now undeniable reality that people’s comments can be tracked online by: The Law; potential employers; potential landlords; potential creditors; anyone with the resources and a grudge, etcetera, I’m guessing there are at least one or more ‘pearl clutchers’ above, like myself, who’ve tried acid but not noted it.

    I had two experiences with it in the early seventies. The first was a hit of Orange Sunshine while in a good state of mind and not depressed. It was a ‘joyous’ experience, but as Rosario implied above (hers is so far my favorite comment), the only joy was for me. I certainly was in a state where I would be no help at all to someone who needed assistance, or rational support.

    The second experience was a hit and a half of paper acid (which, as I found out later, was possibly cut with strychnine, and ultimately gave me severe cramping) while in the same non-depressed state of mind. Perhaps it was that extra half hit but one second I was laughing and feeling okay with the friend whose house I was staying at for the evening, and the next there were hideous hallucinations of the house burning up while we were on the second floor and the sirens and my mom screaming for my life. Had it not been for familial support, I may have done something truly drastic, as when I looked in the mirror – which many in the early seventies advised not to do – I was deformed and literally melting like a candle, with bone showing. The stomach cramps had me thinking my stomach was melting too.

    Thankfully, I never had flashbacks, or any other lasting effects. I’d never take it again though, particularly since (in no particular order except for the first reason):

    1 I never want to have anything similar to that second experience I had, again in life. I wanted to kill myself for a ‘minute there’.

    2. The powers who regulate such substances have shown themselves to be utterly corrupt. and like Rosario noted, those impoverished would not be getting near the quality as those who could afford the quality version.

    3. I am in a mostly outraged and despondent state of mind, likely facing homelessness before I die, and therefore pretty much assured of a bad trip.

    4. I firmly believe, as Lord Koos stated above regarding marijuana, that if LSD is legalized, it would largely be because the elite think it is preferable to keep the population a bit happy and sedated as the looting continues (that along with the immense profits to be made).

    5. I couldn’t bear facing black people I know and love after they ended up in jail or dead when they tried it

    6. There’s no room in my budget for it.

  24. rubydog

    “They could also work as a potent catalyst to awaken humankind to the dangers of toxic nationalism and rabid nativism that threaten to engulf us.”

    I’m skeptical of this type of conclusion. These things are not new, and human conflict has been around since the beginning. If you believe Steven Pinker, things were much worse in the past than they are today. I came of age in the late 60s and half the students in my high school were dropping acid. I don’t see any evidence of long term “elevated consciousness” in most of that group. In fact I personally know two individuals with whom I participated in some trips, who were as hippy as they come in those days, who are now Fox news parroting, rabid Trump supporters. While these substances may be promising as mental health treatments, or lead to some sort of spiritual awakening in some individuals, they are unlikely to be panaceas or lead to any grandiose transformation of human society.

    1. jrs

      It may be just as valid to argue that drugs are necessary for wars. Not usually hallucinogens as far as I know, but amphetamines (on all sides) in WWII, Artan in Iraq. It might not really be that easy to get a man to kill another man after all nor to risk his life, although maybe a bit easier if it’s impersonal (operating a drone thousands of miles away). But for more direct warfare there is the brainwashing, but brainwashing and drugs, it’s been done before, maybe many times.

  25. homeroid

    Held off commenting as i wanted to see who else among us might have some fun stories to tell. Knowing psychedelics from a young age. Being centered is key to using psychedelics as a tool. I have used many many times in my adult life. Now i would point out the politics in this. I found a great connection-affinity to the earth as a whole through my use. Thus i look to vote as to sustain that which sustains the earth. I know there are slim pickins there but that’s what i see as politics.
    Micro dosing works sorta with LSD. I tried that back in the early 80’s. Micro dose will keep you attentive but your body will tire and that is a great distraction. Don’t try micro dosing with psylocibin it is best used on a full time adventure. Did once micro dose pure mescaline sulfate for 5 daze back in the late 70’s. I think all the food came out of the kitchen ok. Just perhaps too many pizzas went out the backdoor to the street folks.
    So now we need a story.

    Late 70’s. friends had a rented farm house in NH. Big place rambling into the barn which opened out to the pasture. Perfect for an Easter resurrection. Plenty of food,beer,wine,weed,mescaline sulphate- the long crystalline pure. This is where i say we were not rich just had good connections. Anyhoo as the day progressed i found myself in a door frame, feet on one jam back on the other. There was a light i saw in my mind that drew me towards it and drew me towards it and i found it to be the most pure of love the most one .I wanted to meld with that right then. The wanting sent me right back to where i was sitting. Thus is the nature of the ego.

    Why cant we have nice things.

  26. Anonymous

    I would bet that many people who take these drugs are more lonely in general when the chemicals run their course, and they come back to a world in which none of the fantastic, world shaking ideas they have learned of are in other people’s consciousness.

  27. Jessica

    Rowlf: “after having some short swarthy guy have a mystical experience two thousand years ago and stirring things up does society want to allow others a chance to have more mystical experiences?”
    No. The Buddhist practices that most reliably produce intense mystical states were kept quarantined in monasteries and were most widespread in Tibet precisely because until 1950 or so Tibet was basically ungovernable and ungoverned. (The harsh climate meant that there wasn’t enough surplus value to support enough parasites to fill out a government.)
    The way those practices are freely available in the West now is something new, but the way the practices are framed (guru/lama worship) undercuts their social impact. In addition, meditation, yoga, and the like are primarily used now to let knowledge workers withstand the crazy-making nature of their highly irrational, alienated jobs.

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