Pubdate: Sun, 31 May 2015
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Charlie Cooper


The Hippies Drug of Choice Was Banned in 1966 but Is Now Undergoing 
Trials As a Cure for Depression and Addiction. Charlie Cooper Spoke 
to Some Volunteer Users.

LSD is often associated with trippy songs such as "Lucy in the Sky 
with Diamonds", "Purple Haze" and "White Rabbit". But before it 
became the drug of choice for the 1960s counterculture, lysergic acid 
diethylamide had a previous existence - as an experimental medicine 
for a broad spectrum of psychological problems ranging from 
depression and addiction, to schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Before the drug was banned - for recreational use in 1966, and 
medical use in 1973 - dozens of studies, of varying degrees of 
scientific rigour, had taken place in Europe and America. Some of the 
findings were promising, but unreliable.

But in recent years, scientists have begun to revisit the potential 
of the drug as a psychotherapeutic tool. Studies in Switzerland have 
suggested it could alleviate anxiety experienced by the terminally 
ill, and last week the BMJ carried an article by a leading 
psychiatrist calling for the drug's legal status to be downgraded to 
make it easier to study in the lab.

Research in the UK is being spearheaded at Imperial College London by 
a team co-led by the former government drugs adviser, David Nutt. His 
team is the first in the world to use modern brain scanners to 
observe the effects of LSD on 20 volunteers.

"The therapeutic potential could emerge if we see changes in the 
brain which would rectify abnormalities, for instance in addiction, 
in depression," said Professor Nutt. "It would give a rationale for 
resurrecting some of the old work that LSD was used for, particularly 
with addiction."

The findings will be published in the autumn, but three ( abridged) 
personal accounts of the first people in the world to have their 
brains scanned while on LSD can now be published for the first time.


Colours started to appear much brighter, and solid surfaces began to 
breathe and ripple. I was soon inside the scanner, where the 
electronic bleeps and white noise became hypnotically entrancing.

Time seemed irrelevant, so I'm not sure how long it was before I was 
gently taken out and found myself in a bright, white, starkly lit 
clinical suite, being asked about my experience by the researchers. 
The LSD was at its peak and I thought that I would struggle to string 
together coherent sentences.

However I soon discovered that I could express myself in what was 
probably quite a pseudointellectual way, talking about hearing wind 
chimes within the silences and how the experience was like peeling 
away layers of an onion, allowing myself to go deeper into the 
hallucinogenic experience.

My only concern leading up to this day was wondering how it would 
feel to have such an experience in a sterile, clinical setting 
without the camaraderie and shared experience of your mates, and 
without the visual and auditory stimuli of being in a club or lying 
in a field somewhere. On the contrary, this actually allowed me to 
focus on my experience in much more detail and to come away feeling 
ever so slightly more enlightened because of it.


I experienced an almost overwhelming array of emotions, but all were 
experienced constantly and concurrently.

It was as if the entire "spectrum" of emotional possibilities was 
presented at any given instant, in exactly the same way that the 
spectra of possible colours were presented for visual stimuli.

There was little ( if any) time to fully explore them all, which at 
times became confusing. Despite being very intense and unusual, the 
range of experiences somehow felt very familiar; because I've 
experienced them before ( as a child?), or because they formed an 
inherent part of everyday experience ( or dreams?) that I do not 
normally have conscious access to, but am somehow aware of.


My experience transcended the limiting duality of good trip/ bad trip 
and asks as many questions as it answers.

I felt as if I'd entered a mansion with endless windows looking out 
on to multiple vistas - the mansion was the breadth and history of 
the human mind itself.

I was soon voyaging into an inner cosmos free from the concerns of 
ordinary existence. Flying blissfully over vast, rich landscapes I 
began to accept aspects that in normal consciousness are hard to fathom.

Then the topography changed to a luminescent, moon-like site of my 
entire life-story. Flying in and out of various memory pods within 
the terrain facilitated a kind of omniscient perspective on my own existence.

LSD catalyses material that is present in the unconscious and when I 
closed my eyes again images burst like flashbulbs, including a 
particular, private memory I'd long forgotten.

I also had the vivid recollection of a recurring childhood nightmare: 
the exact dreamscape from distant childhood opened up within me, and 
I found myself standing before a giant chessboard having to make a 
move which would have eternal consequences.

My ego dissolution experience was at first a blissful existential 
phase of apocalyptic clarity, but it soon became nightmarish.

Yet it is the loosening of an egofixated perspective, and the 
emerging Jungian shadows of the unconscious that contain the 
conflicts at our core. To confront these hidden maladies may be the 
key to our growth.

A therapeutic environment with a counsellor and a well-prepared 
patient could work with a single dose of LSD to address ingrained 
patterns and behaviours and dynamically navigate this terrain.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom