Pill Pushing©

The Best of Pill Pushing - LSD - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - (1/15/2018)

Pill Pushing
The ways in which medications have changed our culture
Ron Gasbarro, PharmD

 
The culture at that time: Relics of 1960’s hippiedom: Haight-Ashbury, bell bottoms, paisley, hair down to here, skirts up to there. Tune in, turn on, drop out (to quote hallucinogen guru Timothy Leary). Kent State (4 dead in O-hi-o), campus unrest and tear gas, flower power, streaking, laced brownies, and the Grateful Dead. Peyote, ‘ludes, ‘shrooms and the most sacred psychedelic sacrament of all: LSD. 
 
Acid, dots, electric Kool-Aid, strawberry fields, whatever LSD was called at the time, you could get a hit for less than $5 and travel on a 6- to 12-hour trip that could take you to the center of your brain. Whether a drop was dissolved in a sugar cube or smeared on a square of Mickey Mouse-themed blotter paper, the effect was groovy. You could stare at a daisy and watch it turn a million colors. Or you could become confident that you could fly off a 20-story building (not advisable!). Indeed, LSD was mind-blowing. 
 

The good, the bad, and the ugly: Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD or LSD-25, also known as lysergide, is a psychedelic drug of the ergoline family, well known for its psychological effects, which can include altered thinking processes, closed- and open-eye visuals, an altered sense of time and spiritual experiences – all considered plusses in 1960’s counterculture. LSD is non-addictive and is not known to cause brain damage [Lüscher, 2006]. However, acute adverse psychiatric reactions such as anxiety, paranoia, and delusions are possible [Passie, 2008]. The substance could be extracted from morning glory seeds or ergot alkaloids, derived from a common fungus (Claviceps purpurea), or it can be produced synthetically [Kornfeld, 1956; Inuki, 2008].
 
Before LSD became the recreational drug par excellence, it was the focus of intense scrutiny by the scientific community. It was studied as a cure for alcoholism [Chwelos, 1959], and a variety of psychiatric conditions [Rinkle & Hyde, 1955]. Many notable people have been treated or experimented with LSD, including actors Cary Grant and Jack Nicholson, authors Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), and Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), and musical acts such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Grateful Dead. 
 
In 1951, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) first became aware of and interested in LSD [CIA, 2010]. LSD became one of the many chemicals with which the CIA would experiment as a mind control weapon, under the name of Operation ARTICHOKE. An ARTICHOKE report dated October 21st, 1951 states that “There is no question that drugs are already on hand (and new ones are being produced) that can destroy the integrity and make indiscreet the most dependable individual.” A declassified CIA document from November 26th, 1951 states, “…we feel that by use of certain chemicals or combinations, we can, in a very high percentage of cases, produce relevant information.”
 
From the start, CIA scientists would only tell subjects that a new drug was being tested and that no harm or danger would come to them. And while at first, the experiments with LSD showed it to be a useful tool for interrogation, but trials became more sinister. Since subjects were not told that they were receiving a mind-altering hallucinogenic drug, anxiety, paranoia and loss of contact with reality were common reactions. Normally, the CIA would have rejected a chemical if it proved ineffective for the purpose set out for it. Yet, they were too intrigued by LSD to ignore it. As one CIA psychologist reflected, mere micrograms could create “serious mental confusion…and render the mind temporarily susceptible to suggestion.” The CIA was also considering tactics such as contaminating the water supplies of enemy bases. 
 
How does LSD work? When you look at an object, let’s say a dog, your brain filters out the surrounding objects. You see the dog and only the dog. Upon taking LSD, the part of your brain that focuses solely on the dog has changed. While on LSD, you are now bombarded with many sensory experiences. The colors of the walls, the lights, the smells, even the dog can be seen in many ways that you have never seen her before. You experience visual hallucinations and radiant colors. Objects and surfaces appear to ripple or breathe. Colored patterns behind the eyes are vivid, more dazzling. Moments of reflection and distractive thought pattern consume your consciousness. Thoughts become enhanced. You have creative urges, experience euphoria. You have the ability to talk or interact with others. Sense of time is distorted or lost. You can be sexually aroused. You are tripping! 
 
By 1966, Sandoz, the makers of research-grade LSD, recalled the entire cache of the drug produced for research purposes. In 1968, LSD became illegal in the US. In 1970, illegal drugs were placed in a strict scheduling system, with LSD and most other psychedelics (psilocybin, mescaline, cannabis) as well as heroin. 
 
Impact of the drug on culture: 
LSD defined an era and influenced its cinema, music, art, and literature. 
 
Books
This is a list of psychedelic literature, works related to psychedelic drugs and the psychedelic experience. Psychedelic literature has also been defined as textual works that arose from the proliferation of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic research with hallucinogens during the 1950s and early 1960s in North America and Europe.
A Clockwork Orange (1962) – Anthony Burgess
The Acid Diary (2014) – Daniel S. Fletcher 
Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (1994) – Martin A. Lee 
The Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell (1956) – Aldous Huxley 
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) – Tom Wolfe
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971) – Hunter S. Thompson 
Go Ask Alice (1971) – Beatrice Sparks
LSD My Problem Child: Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism and Science (2005) – Albert Hofmann 
What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry (2005) – John Markoff
Your Brain is God (1988) – Timothy Leary
 
Cinema
Ten notable psychedelic films successfully showcased the uninhibited colors, images and out of the box thinking of the unfettered mind warp that is a psychedelic experience. Movies of the mind were born as movies on the screen. 
 
Apocalypse Now (1979) – Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen
Easy Rider (1969) – Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) – Johnny Depp, Benicio del Toro 
Hair (1979) – John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) – George Clooney, Kevin Spacey
Midnight Express (1978) – Brad Davis, Randy Quaid, John Hurt
Stripes (1981) – Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Warren Oates, John Candy 
The Trip (1967) – Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern 
Up in Smoke (1978) – Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Strother Martin 
Woodstock (1970) – Documentary 
 
Music 
What goes better with an acid trip than music that will make you see colors? With the psychedelic movement, Top 40 radio heartthrobs Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vee, and Tab Hunter were considered Squaresville. The British Invasion started it all. Herewith are 25 psychedelic hits (and one can cite dozens more): 
 
2000 Light Years from Home – The Rolling Stones 
Crimson and Clover – Tommy James & the Shondells 
Day in the Life – The Beatles
Eight Miles High – The Byrds
Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys
Green Tambourine – The Lemon Pipers 
I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night – Electric Prunes
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Iron Butterfly
Incense and Peppermints – Strawberry Alarm Clock
Journey to the Center of Your Mind – Amboy Dukes 
Light My Fire – The Doors
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles 
Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf
Penny Lane – The Beatles 
Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
She’s a Rainbow – The Rolling Stones 
Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles 
The Crystal Ship – The Doors 
Time Has Come Today – The Chambers Brothers 
Tuesday Afternoon/Nights in White Satin – The Moody Blues 
White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
White Room – Cream 
Within You, Without You – The Beatles 
Yellow Submarine – The Beatles 
You’re Gonna Miss Me – The 13th Floor Elevators
 
Art
Psychedelic art was also applied to the LSD itself. LSD began to be put on blotter paper in the early 1970s and this gave rise to a specialized art form of decorating the blotter paper. Often the blotter paper was decorated with tiny insignia on each perforated square tab, but by the 1990s this had progressed to complete four-color designs often involving an entire page of 900 or more tabs.  
 
Leading artists of the Psychedelic Art movement include:
Art Bevacqua
Warren Dayton 
Milton Glaser 
Rick Griffin 
Roy Lichtenstein
Peter Max 
Victor Moscoso
Mouse & Kelly (Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelly)
John Van Hamersveld
Wes Wilson
 
Where the drug is today: 
Nowhere near the level of consumption it had during the “outta sight” flower child years, LSD is back in the research labs. Since at least 2012 there has been ongoing research into using LSD to alleviate anxiety for terminally ill cancer patients coping with their impending deaths [Dutta, 2012; Gasser, 2014; Gasser, 2015].  LSD continues to be studied as a treatment for alcoholism [Krebs, 2012]. It has been explored for use in treating migraine headaches [Vault, 2004]. LSD, with its history of use as a psychotherapeutic aid in the treatment of mood disorders and addiction, and it was also studied as an enhancer of mind control. A 2015 study found that in healthy volunteers revealed that the influence of suggestion is enhanced by LSD [Carhart-Harris, 2015]. Enhanced suggestibility (the quality of being inclined to accept and act on the suggestions of others) under LSD – in much the same fashion as hypnotism can cause heightened suggestibility - may have implications for its use as an adjunct to psychotherapy, where suggestibility plays a major role. This handful of clinical trials is simply a small step toward what some researchers hope will bring psychedelic therapy to the mainstream through a medical route, following the decades-long halt in research. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.com. Write him with any ideas or comments at ron@rx-press.com.  
 
References
 
Carhart-Harris RL, Kaelen M, Whalley MG, Bolstridge M, Feilding A, Nutt DJ. LSD enhances suggestibility in healthy volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015;232:785-94. 
 
Chwelos N, Blewett DB, Smith CM, Hoffer A. Use of d-lysergic acid diethylamide in the treatment of alcoholism. Q J Stud Alcohol. 1959;20:577-90.
 
CIA FILES. Operation ARTICHOKE. BACM Research; 2010. Available at: http://www.paperlessarchives.com/FreeTitles/ARTICHOKECIAFiles.pdf  
 
Dutta V. Repression of death consciousness and the psychedelic trip. J Can Re Ther. 2012;8:336.42.
 
Gasser P, Holstein D, Michel Y, et al. Safety and efficacy of lysergic acid diethylamide-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2014;202:513-20.
 
Gasser P, Kirchner K, Passie T. LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with a life-threatening disease: A qualitative study of acute and sustained subjective effects. J Psychopharmacol. 2015;29:57-68.
 
Huffington Post. Celebrities and LSD; Jack Nicholson, John Lennon, Steve Jobs; April 23, 2012. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/10-celebrity-lsd-users_n_1440786.html  
 
Inuki S, Oishi S, Fujii N, Ohno H. Total synthesis of (+/-)-lysergic acid, lysergol, and isolysergol by palladium-catalyzed domino cyclization of amino allenes bearing a bromoindolyl group. Org Lett. 2008;10:5239-42.
 
Kornfeld EC, Fornefeld EJ, Kline GB, et al. The total synthesis of lysergic acid. J Amer Chem Soc. 1956;78:3087-114. 
 
Krebs TS, Johansen PØ. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for alcoholism: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Psychopharmacol. 2012;26:994-1002.
 
Lüscher C, Ungless MA. The mechanistic classification of addictive drugs. PLoS Med. 2006;3:e437.
 
Passie T, Halpern JH, Stichtenoth DO, Emrich HM, Hintzen A. The pharmacology of lysergic acid diethylamide: a review. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2008;14:295–314. 
 
Rinkle M, Hyde RW, Solomon HC. Experimental psychiatry. IV. Hallucinogens: tools in experimental psychiatry. Dis Nerv Syst. 1955;16:229-32.
 
The Vaults of Erowid. Extraction of LSA (Method #1) from morning glory seeds or Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds; 2004. Available at: https://www.erowid.org/plants/morning_glory/morning_glory_extraction1.shtml  
 


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