LSD Information: Drugs, Religious Ritual and Common Sense
By Ned Wicker
Recently I heard people talking about LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) making a comeback. It was a popular drug in the 1960’s, a decade of counter-culture revolution, psychedelic music and political upheaval.
Dr. Timothy Leary, who was more or less the symbol or spokesman for using hallucinogenic drugs, had some disturbing views on the use of LSD and said, “My advice to people today is as follows: if you take the game of life seriously, if you take your nervous system seriously, if you take your sense organs seriously, if you take the energy process seriously, you must turn on, tune in, and drop out.”
Leary believed that there was heightened therapeutic and spiritual value in using drugs like LSD. His line, “turn on, tune in and drop out” became a kind of mantra for the era. The “turn on” had to do with the levels and kinds of consciousness, and LSD was one of the ways that Leary experienced a different kind of consciousness.
“Tune in” had to do with your harmonious interaction with the world, and “drop out” focused on self-reliance, individuality and Leary once lamented that it was not actually his intention that people just get stoned and do nothing constructive. But that was the message people received. People are always seeking happiness, or a sense of well being, or balance, or understanding, or even a heightened sense of awareness. LSD, discovered in 1938, is the most potent of the hallucinogens. It is made from lysergic acid, found in as fungus called ergot that grows on some grains, such as rye.
It was popular because people enjoyed the “trip” they went on, as the drug induced wild visual hallucinations. Those hallucinations were represented in the art of the day. However, there was also the “bad trip” that people could experience. What should have been a pleasurable if not exciting journey could turn out to be a terrifying experience, as hallucinations aren’t always flowers and butterflies. Those who have seen clips from Woodstock in 1969 recall the public address announcement to avoid a certain color acid, because people were having bad trips.
Leary was aware of this possibility, so he offered what was in effect a kind of disclaimer, “We always have urged people: Don't take LSD unless you are very well prepared, unless you are specifically prepared to go out of your mind.
Don't take it unless you have someone that's very experienced with you to guide you through it. And don't take it unless you are ready to have your perspective on yourself and your life radically changed, because you're gonna be a different person, and you should be ready to face this possibility.” He did not exactly discourage the practice of “dropping acid” as it was a means, if not the only one, of expanding his consciousness.
Unlike some other drugs, LSD offered a longer experience, up to 12 hours, which for obvious reasons could be extremely negative. Sometimes the drug is sold in tablet form, or in capsules. The drug can also be taken in liquid form and it was common in the 60’s for the drug to be put on absorbent paper and cut up into individual doses. The physical signs displayed by users are not nearly as dramatic as the extreme emotional swings that are possible under LSD influence.
Taken in large enough amounts, the drug will induce delusions and hallucinations, and the user may experience several emotions all at the same time. Senses can get confused, causing the user to hear a color, or seeing a sound. The intensity has potential to go very badly, causing fear, anxiety, despair in rapid succession.
Even when the trip is over, users can have flashbacks. These experiences might occur long after use, weeks, months or even a year. In extreme cases, the user can even be diagnosed with hallucinogen-induced persisting perceptual disorder, which causes the user to lose social functioning, poor job performance or lose the ability just to function day-to-day.
As much as the drug is capable of causing long-term problems, it is not addictive. Users will build tolerance, meaning more and more drug is needed, but not the cravings that other drugs cause.
Dr. Leary, who died in 1996, experimented with LSD and unfortunately encouraged others to do so. Even with his disclaimers, he was promoting what is a reckless and potentially deadly activity. LSD is a part of the 60’s that is best left forgotten.
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