Pubdate: 2 August 1999
Source: Independent, The (UK)
Copyright: 1999 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Contact:  1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL
Author: Andrew Buncombe and Roger Dobson


"THE LINES between research and recreation were terribly blurred.
Responsible doctors were taking LSD while they were investigating it's
effects on others. Everyone was taking it. There was a terrific overlap."

A former research psychotherapist, who spoke to The Independent
yesterday of such alarming "research" prefers nowadays to remain anonymous.

But in the Sixties he was heavily involved in pioneering research into
the non-recreational uses of LSD - a substance that doctors believed
for a while could help unlock the mysteries of the

Working in the United States and Britain with a number of other
researchers, including R.D Laing - the Scottish psychotherapist best
known for his work The Divided Self - he and his colleagues used the
drug to "treat" a number of conditions, including paranoia and
schizophrenia. He also was a heavy user of LSD himself.

Did it help either him or his "patients"? "That is a good question,"
he said yesterday, speaking from the US. "The answer is I'm not sure.
I am sceptical."

LSD or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, first synthesised in 1938 by Swiss
scientist Dr Albert Hoffmann, exploded onto the popular consciousness
during the mid-Sixties when it was inextricably linked to the
flower-power culture.

It was common knowledge and urban myth that writers like Allen
Ginsberg and Arthur Koestler were dropping tabs. Everyone had heard of
John Lennon strenuously but unconvincingly denying that his 1967 song
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" had nothing to do with drugs.

But away from the well-publicised recreational use of LSD, in both
Britain and the US the drug was being used behind the closed doors of
laboratories and research centres - sometimes in legitimate medical
investigations, sometimes for more questionable reasons.

According to one leading British psychiatrist, the prescribing of LSD
in the early 1960s was random and irrational, and was done without
full research back-up and without any idea of the possible effects on

In at least some cases the amounts of LSD given to NHS patients were
substantially more than those used by recreational users later in the
Sixties, many of whom also suffered long term psychological side effects.

Dr Tonmoy Sharma, head of cognitive psychopharmacology at the
Institute of Psychiatry and consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley,
says that LSD was used liberally by psychiatrists.

"LSD was used for a broad spectrum of conditions. I don't think there
was any rationale there, it was used irrationally. Anyone who used it
now would be up before the General Medical Council," he said.

"Prescribing of LSD was born out of the ignorance of psychiatrists at
the time.

"They prescribed it because they believed it worked, but there was no
research to show that it did work. There has to be logic in
prescribing drugs.''

But in some cases there was a logic - albeit sinister.

As early as 1953, the CIA director, Allen Dulles, authorised the
MKULTRA program, which would become notorious for the way it sometimes
forced unusual tests on its "volunteers". Among its most notorious
tests were those involving LSD, which the agency believed could be
used to clandestinely manipulate and control foreign leaders or else
to make interrogation subjects speak more freely.

In his history of the CIA, The Very Best Men, Evan Thomas describes
how many of the agency's LSD experiments were conducted on unwitting

Many were carried out on prisoners or else customers of brothels set
up and run by the agency, which had installed two-way mirrors. In one
experiment seven volunteers in Kentucky were given LSD for 77 days

"Precautions must be taken not only to protect operations from
exposure to enemy forces but also to conceal these activities from the
American public in general. The knowledge that the agency is engaging
in unethical and illicit activities would have serious repercussions
in political and diplomatic circles," one CIA auditor wrote.

It was against this backdrop that doctors in Britain and the US began
experimenting with the use of LSD as a tool for dealing with a range
of conditions.

"There was a change in the way in which people began to look at such
conditions," said the researcher.

"The people doing this research were not acid heads but they
considered LSD to be one of the tools for experiment and research.

"They also felt that by using the drug themselves they may be able to
recreate some of the conditions that their patients were experiencing.
You have to remember that LSD was a very big deal."
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