Pubdate: Tue, 07 Dec 2010
Source: Brown and White, The (Lehigh U, PA Edu)
Copyright: 2010 The Brown and White
Authors: Vincent Walsh, and Signe Hoover


By Vincent Walsh and Signe Hoover

The essay below derives from recent discussions in my English 1 
class, otherwise known as "The Fam Jam," about the unfortunate 
incident on campus several weeks ago when a male student, tripping on 
LSD, burst into a dorm room and allegedly engaged in extremely 
offensive, highly aggressive behavior, which resulted in his being 
arrested and confined in a local jail on half a million dollars bond.

I went through college during the psychedelic frenzy of the '60s. I 
witnessed the deterioration of several truly great minds among my 
peers, brilliant young people who fell unwitting victim to 
contaminated versions of this brain-bending substance; the fact is, 
one never really knows the actual ingredients or size of dose with 
any street drug. Such ignorance can lead to tragedy, as I believe it 
has with this recent event in our community: a young man's promising 
future in ruins, several young women badly traumatized, all of us 
left deeply troubled - and, yes, profoundly embarrassed by having a 
story like this splashed all over local news outlets. This is not the 
image of Lehigh any of us wants to convey.

Even more important, Lehigh students may be tempted to conclude that 
this was just a freak incident, and criticize this particular, sad 
young man, without ever considering the serious dangers associated 
with "recreational" use of a very powerful, often quite unpredictable 
mind-altering (and potentially mind-shattering) chemical substance.

This tantalizing bit of brightly colored blotter paper may provide a 
"trip" to fantasy land, where one may get to see "Lucy in the Sky 
with Diamonds," but one cannot always be so sure of being able to 
return to reality and write a catchy song about the experience.

I hope all members of our university community will examine Signe 
Hoover's findings, and ponder, as well as discuss with friends and 
colleagues. After all, the biggest danger we face, as with many other 
issues that directly affect us, is ignorance itself.

Vincent Walsh Teaching Fellow, English Department

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LSD, or "acid," first appeared on the streets in the 1960s, and is 
still popular among teenagers today.

LSD produces euphoria as it propels awareness beyond normal modes of 
consciousness. People's reactions to LSD vary greatly; some claim 
they become more aware of their surroundings; others describe the 
experience as spiritual.

Users commonly report feeling separated from the body, or visual 
effects such as intensified colors, distorted shapes and sizes, and 
bizarre movements in normally stationary objects. During the "trip," 
users also experience several different emotions at once, or rapid 
swings from one emotion to another.

If the drug is taken in large enough doses, the user experiences 
delusions and visual hallucinations, including distorted perceptions 
of time and self. LSD distorts electrical messages sent to and from 
various parts of the brain, primarily those pertaining to visual 
information. Messages from the senses can be perceived as merging 
together, creating a sensation known as "synesthesia;" one begins 
"hearing" colors and "seeing" sounds.

LSD also suppresses memory centers and other higher cerebral 
functions such as judgment, behavior control, and self-awareness.

An experience with LSD is referred to as a "trip;" sometimes the 
effects are terribly upsetting: users often become frightened and 
extremely anxious, which often leads to states of utter panic.

Negative reactions like this are referred to as a "bad trip." 
Terrifying thoughts and feelings, fear of losing control, fear of 
insanity, fear of dying, and feelings of profound despair can occur.

Users may become completely paranoid - particularly in unfamiliar, 
intense, or chaotic environments.

Although an LSD trip might appear harmless, it actually entails 
severe psychological risks, such as recurring flashbacks, chronic 
schizophrenia, and intractable depression. Such reactions usually 
occur in people who already have emotional or mental problems, but 
there is still a significant risk for anyone who uses the drug. With 
repeated use, a tolerance gradually develops, prompting one to take 
progressively higher doses to achieve the same state of intoxication. 
Increasing the dosage like this can be very dangerous, due to the 
unpredictability of the drug.

One of the main drawbacks of using LSD is "flashbacks;" the "trip" is 
re-experienced days, weeks, or even years later.

Flashbacks arise spontaneously, without warning; they can last from a 
few seconds to several hours. A bad trip can be traumatic; here is 
how one man describes an experience with LSD: "It was at a festival.

I was anxious anyway, especially as I'd already had one bad 
experience with acid. It started to rain and suddenly I was really 
scared of drowning.

I got dead paranoid.

I suspected everyone around me of being out to get me. Luckily, my 
brother found me and calmed me down, but it was horrible."

Despite potential adverse effects, physicians have recently obtained 
permission to study the LSD's potential for treating mental illness 
and for illuminating the nature of consciousness. This past April an 
article describing the use of LSD for treating people with depression 
was published in The New York Times. A man named Clark Martin, who 
had been struggling through chemotherapy and other grueling regimens 
for kidney cancer, and was dealing with chronic depression, had tried 
every other treatment option, including counseling and 
antidepressants. However, nothing produced any lasting beneficial 
effect until he had his first psychedelic experience. After taking 
the hallucinogen, Martin put on an eye mask and headphones, and lay 
on a couch listening to classical music as he contemplated the 
universe. When looking back at this six-hour experience now, he feels 
it helped him overcome his depression and transformed his life.

Researchers are currently conducting studies of psychedelics for 
possible use in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life 
anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drugs and alcohol addiction.

So far, the results are encouraging, but researchers are cautioning 
against reading too much into preliminary findings; they point out 
that therapeutic benefits can only be achieved when there is strict 
quality control for purity of the drug, and careful monitoring by 
trained medical professionals: "Because reactions to hallucinogens 
can vary so much depending on the setting, experimenters and review 
boards have developed guidelines to set up a comfortable environment 
with expert monitors in the room to deal with adverse reactions.

They have established standard protocols so that the drug's effects 
can be gauged more accurately, and they have also directly observed 
the drug's effects by scanning the brains of people under the 
influence of hallucinogens."

Many precautions are taken to ensure a positive experience for the 
patient. People who have participated in these experiments claim they 
achieved an improved outlook on life. They also describe the 
experience as a personality shift. Martin says, "I could see that 
really good things in life will happen if you just show up and share 
your natural enthusiasms with people."

While all this sounds promising, it is important to consider the way 
LSD is currently being misused.

College students take LSD recreationally to achieve altered state of 
consciousness, or simply to escape academic pressure. During medical 
experiments, patients take hallucinogens under carefully controlled 
circumstances. When college students experiment with LSD, they can 
never be sure whether what they are taking actually is LSD, or 
something entirely different; they can never be sure whether other, 
possibly toxic chemicals have been added to the mix. Moreover, the 
user can never be one hundred percent sure of the exact dosage.

Additionally, when taking LSD, no one can promise that it will be a 
good trip. If it's a bad trip, one just has to deal with it for 
several hours, which can lead to very frightening experiences. Few 
see the flashbacks as enjoyable; most people become scared when they 
are suddenly overwhelmed with bizarre memories from a previous trip. 
One is definitely taking a huge chance every time he or she ingests 
LSD; one's whole life could be turned upside down forever.

While taking LSD may be relaxing for college students who sometimes 
want to "space out" and escape from reality, it is important that 
they realize the possible consequences of using LSD. Having 
flashbacks, or developing schizophrenia or serious depression for the 
rest of one's life is not a risk anyone should take lightly.

Signe Hoover, '14
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart