LSD The Problem-Solving Psychedelic
P.G. Stafford and B.H. Golightly
Chapter IV. Everyday Problems (part 2) (part 1)
Alcoholism and Other Addictions:
The valuation of personality change is, at best, difficult, not
only in terms of semantics but in those of measurement. Use of
LSD in alcoholism, however, has shown that the effects of LSD
can be quantified. Recovery rates have risen and are still on
the increase. In Canada, the Saskatchewan Department of Public
Health considers LSD the most promising known treatment for alcoholism
and has directed that for critical cases the single, large-dose
LSD treatment is to be considered "no longer as experimental"
but rather "to be used where indicated." In their particular
program ("The Businessman's Special"), the drug is used
only onceyet over half of the alcoholics who undergo the treatment
seem to gain control of their drinking problem even after long
and tragic histories of chronic alcoholism.
"In the course of history," Aldous Huxley has remarked,
"many more people have died for their drink and their dope
than have died for their religion or their country." The
arithmetical record of the misuse of alcohol is staggering:
In the United States alone, some eight hundred million gallons
of wine and distilled spirits and one hundred million barrels
of beer are produced legally each year.... The alcoholic beverage
industry in the United States grosses $12,000,000,000 a
year with expenditures of nearly $200,000,000 a year
for advertisement.... Out of some eighty million consumers, there
are, perhaps, six million people in America alone and more than
twenty-five million in the world with drug dependency on alcohol.
Some of the consequences of this consumption are:
Around fifteen thousand deaths and two hundred thousand injuries
associated with drunken driving occur yearly in the United States.
Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver is one of the major causes of
death; vast absenteeism, accidents, and job loss in business and
industry occur, with an annual estimated loss of $500,000,000;
many, if not most, divorces and broken homes occur in connection
with excessive drinking; one-third to one-half of all traffic
arrests are for drunkenness, far outnumbering any other category
of arrest; 60 per cent of all arrests are for offenses directly
related to use of alcoholic beverages, and 50 per cent of those
in prison committed their crimes after alcohol consumption, and
an unknown but significant amount of decreased productivity, welfare
costs, and so on must be considered.
Attempts to bring under control and regulate the consumption of
alcohol by the "problem drinker" and alcoholic have
been largely unsuccessful. Although it is against the law for
bars and liquor stores to sell to persons who are intoxicated,
it is not against the law to sell liquor to habitual drinkers
and/or known alcoholics.
Further, most heavy drinkers and alcoholics are not prone to stop
drinking even when they are fully aware of the eroding effects
their addiction has upon their lives. They casually accept or
ignore the fact that alcohol is pharmaceutically classified as
a poison. Paradoxically, alcoholics at the same time are apt to
have intense guilt feelings. Because their emotional center is
in conflictremorse, deliberate dishonesty about their problem,
feelings of alienation from the rest of mankind, alternate moods
of superiority and inferioritythe alcoholic is difficult to
treat successfully. Alcoholics Anonymous, which has one of the
best records in the field, refuses drinkers with poor motivation
to change. One of the most discouraging aspects of the problem
is that ordinary methods of treatment have met with such limited
success that the potentially courageous alcoholic who does want
to get well doesn't know where to turn. When he has made attempts
to "dry out" permanently in the past, his cure has rarely
lasted. Quite reasonably, he no longer has hope, much less faith,
that anything can be done to help him.
Alcoholics Anonymous believes that the alcoholic cannot really
be helped until he has "hit bottom." "Hitting bottom"
can mean many things to many people, but a large percentage of
the population, as well as those who are alcoholic, think the
bottom has been reached when delirium tremens sets in.
This opinion, dramatically illustrated in the novel, "The
Lost Week-End," and in the film derived from it, is shared
by most experts on alcoholism. The use of LSD for the problem
grew out of this supposition.
One evening in 1953, Drs. Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, Canadian
specialists on alcoholism, were discussing the correlation between
alcoholic cure and delirium tremens. Although the d.t.
mortality rate at the time was about ten per cent, this conditionwhen
survivedoccasionally led to recovery. Both doctors were familiar
with LSD as a "psychotomimetic" agent (a drug which
mimics psychosis), and during their discussion they suddenly hit
upon the idea that LSD might be able to give their patients artificial
d.t.'s, which the doctors could then control. "This idea
at 4:00 A.M., seemed so bizarre that we laughed uproariously.
But when our laughter subsided, the question seemed less comical
and we formed our hypothesis or question: would a controlled LSD-produced
delirium help alcoholics stay sober?"
They were aware, of course, that there would be conspicuous difficulties
in getting their colleagues to agree that the idea had merit since
the use of LSD would be only an imitation delirium tremens
and since some patients' charts were filled with entries of
d.t.'s having been experienced repeatedly, without cure resulting.
However, these objections seemed outweighed when compared to the
potential value such an experiment might prove to have. They decided,
therefore, to go ahead and test the hypothesis, and gave 200 mcg.
of LSD to two of their alcoholic patients at the Saskatchewan
Hospital at Weyburn. One, a male, immediately stopped drinking
and remained sober for several months after discharge; the other,
a woman, seemed largely unaffected in her drinking habits. These
results, although one balanced out the other, were still sufficiently
encouraging that they undertook larger clinical trials.
Drs. Hoffer and Osmond deliberately chose twenty-four of the most
intractable alcoholics they could find. To locate them, they contacted
other hospitals and agencies working with alcoholics. As Jake
Calder, former director of the Canadian Bureau on Alcoholism,
recalls, Dr. Hoffer said, when he got in touch with him, "We
want your worst cases; we are not interested in mild cases that
could recover through A.A. or through any other agency that you
now have available."
The subjects of this study had had an average period of uncontrolled
drinking of 12.1 years. Eight had experienced d.t.'s at least
once, and twenty had tried A.A. and failed. Twelve had been diagnosed
as psychopathic. Eight had serious character disorders, and the
remaining four were borderline or actual psychotics.
When checked for progress (average follow-up, one year; range,
from two months to three years), the recovery rate after LSD was
impressive: Of the twenty-four subjects, six following their single
psychedelic session were "much improved'? (completely abstinent
since treatment, or drinking only very small quantities), six
were "improved" (definite reduction in alcohol intake)
and twelve were "unchanged" (but evidently none the
worse for having had treatment).
Compared to the amount of reform brought about by other means
for handling alcoholismA.A., group therapy, Psychodrama, counseling,
Antabuse, analysis, etc.these LSD results were imposing. With
other techniques, a therapist is considered to be doing well if
he stimulates reform in over ten per cent of his alcoholic patients.
Yet here, using the most recalcitrant cases to be found, were
recovery rates approaching fifty per cent!
Since this early study, LSD has become better understood, and
several "psychedelic methods" have been developed for
alcoholic patients. As a result, abstinence and rehabilitation
rates have been further upgraded. In 1959, at the Josiah Macy
Conference on LSD, Dr. Hoffer was able to announce that he and
his colleagues had treated sixty "very difficult psychopathic
alcoholics" and that after a five-year follow-up,
"... half of them were no longer drinking. You will not
believe it, and I would not have, either. The results are very
During the summer of 1966, after thirteen years of research in
this area, Dr. Hoffer published the statistics relating to the
more than eight hundred hard-core alcoholics who had been treated
in the Canadian LSD program.
When psychedelic therapy is given to alcoholics using methods
described in the literature about one-third will remain sober
after the therapy is completed, and one-third will be benefited.
If schizophrenics and malvarians are
excluded from LSD therapy the results should be better by about
30 per cent. There are no published papers using psychedelic therapy
which show it does not help about 50 per cent of the treated group....
Because alcoholism in the past has been consistently and stubbornly
resistant to treatment, Dr. Hoffer's statistics are, understandably
enough, regarded with skepticism by some people, especially those
who have spent their careers grappling with the problem without
success. Claims are made that LSD therapy, as presented by Dr.
Hoffer, smacks of "magic"; it is "too good to be
true." And since there is little step-by-step elucidation
that is readily available, skeptics of the therapy are vociferous.
As reports of LSD programs for the treatment of alcoholism are
published, or are presented at various psychological conventions,
journalists have frequently criticized Hoffer or his statisticsusually
suggesting that the favorable reports are due to bias in the observer,
bad sampling methods, or outright lies. Several doctors at Hollywood
Hospital, in British Columbia, Canada, noting the reactions in
some quarters to the promise LSD holds out for the confirmed drinker,
have discussed the detractors with considerable impatience:
Our conclusion after 13 years of research is that properly used
LSD therapy can convert a large number of alcoholics into sober
members of society.... Even more important is the fact that this
can be done very quickly and therefore very economically. Whereas
with standard therapy one bed might be used to treat about 4 to
6 patients per year, with LSD one can easily treat up to 36 patients
per bed per year.
Although the psychedelic literature is now extensive, and papers
of high quality are appearing with regularity, those who are most
vocally and effectively critical are either unaware of, or unwilling
to consider, the facts and implications available.... There is
... an inverse relationship between knowledge and experience,
and a willingness to reach unwarranted conclusions and dogmatic
In terms of the importance of LSD therapy for the six to eight
million alcoholics in the United States, there is reason to pause
before a discussion of how such treatment works, in order to underscore
the validity of Dr. Hoffer's data and the consistency with which
excellent results have come about. Dr. Hoffer has already mentioned
that all published studies reporting on the use of psychedelic
procedures have indicated recovery rates similar to his own. This
is a significant point in that even though diverse goals and techniques
have characterized the investigations, the findings in at least
eleven instances have been essentially the same. Further, a study
involving exacting standards and controls has confirmed these
results, as have those in which therapy was given solely by professionals
who were personally unacquainted with the LSD experience.
Most LSD investigators are of the opinion that drug therapy is
enhanced when undertaken by someone personally familiar with the
psychedelics. There are many critics, however, who hold that such
a therapist is no longer able to judge his results objectively,
that all of his critical and scientific abilities are impaired
once he has swallowed LSD. Because this latter view is maintained
rather widely, it should be pointed out that even when alcoholics
are treated with LSD by those who have never taken it, the recovery
rates are maintained.
As an example, thirty-three patients were treated with LSD by
a team of doctors, none of whom had ever had any personal acquaintance
with the drug. They were directed by Dr. P. O. O'Reilly, a critic
of earlier LSD experimentation. "I was quite skeptical about
the use of LSD as a perusal of the literature seemed to indicate
that most of the work done on it was on a subjective level; not
too many adequate scientific studies had been carried out. Yet
what were the conclusions? Seven "much improved," ten
''improved,'' and sixteen "unchanged." More than half
the patients were benefited by the treatment.
This study by Dr. O'Reilly was followed by a larger one undertaken
at Union Hospital, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in which he tried
to determine the percentage of recovery among alcoholics given
LSD therapy by doctors who had never had the drug and to what
extent this recovery would be lasting. Of the sixty-eight alcoholics
chosen for the study, 60% had been drinking for more than ten
years. The diagnoses were: chronic alcoholism, 62%; acute alcoholism,
16%; alcoholic psychosis, 4%; and personality disorder, 16%. The
results, after a mean follow-up of fourteen months: "Twenty-six
patients, or 38% of the total group, were found to be abstaining
from alcohol in the two months preceding follow-up.... There was
no significant change in abstinence or indulgence between the
two periods selected for follow-up study. This suggests that improvement
established immediately following the treatment tends to be maintained."
Another objection to alcoholic therapy with LSD has been the lack
of adequate testing systems. But in 1962, Dr. S. E. Jensen of
the Saskatchewan Hospital, Weyburn, reported an excellent controlled
experiment dealing with some of the most difficult cases that
could be located by Jake Calder, Director of the Bureau of A1coholism.
One group of alcoholics was put in the hands of psychiatrists
who did not use LSD. Another group was prepared for LSD treatment,
but not given it, while a third groupafter identical preparationwas
given the drug. The criteria for "much improved" were
stiff: "complete abstinence at the time of the follow-up
or after a brief episode of drinking after discharge." The
follow-up was conducted after periods of six to eighteen months.
Dr. Jensen reported that forty-one out of fifty-eight given the
drug were improved (thirty-four being much improved), whereas
out of two non-LSD control groups only eighteen out of eighty
were improved (eleven much improved). Thus it becomes apparent
that the application of LSD to the problem of alcoholism can raise
recovery rates far above normal expectations.
Going back for the moment to the original theory that delirium
tremens (or "hitting bottom") could be the gateway
to recovery for the alcoholic, Drs. Hoffer and Osmond eventually
realized that d.t.'s, real or drug-induced, accounted for only
a fraction of the cure process itself. The actual modus operandi
was of a complexity that made the delirium tremens theory
seem simple. The patient responses to LSD treatment were unusually
varied and reproduced the range of classical drinking cures, but
this time in the clinic. Previously, medical cure of alcoholism
had been singularly dependent on the patient's experiencing d.t.'s.
(Antabuse and other "drying out" methods were looked
upon as "aids" rather than any kind of positive cure.
) Now, with LSD, the therapists suddenly found their patients
involved with many of the non-medical motivations for alcoholic
recovery right in the clinic, i.e., they were having "visions
of God" and feeling deep guilt over the suffering they brought
their loved ones. They discovered Horatio Alger-like insights
into "honor" and self-respect. Further, these drug-induced
acquisitions of self-knowledge were just as profound, instant
and lasting as the inspirational ones, which only rarely strike
a troubled soul in the outside world.
In a striking example, a de-frocked priest taking LSD for alcoholism
was asked, "John, how would you like to see God?" After
a brief silence the ex-priest replied, "I wouldn't mind."
The therapist then instructed him to lie down, relax "and
maybe He'll come to you." After a ten-minute interval, John
sat up and said, "I saw God." "What happened?"
asked the therapist. "He said 'No more drinking.'" And
from that day on, John remained sober.
The host of confessional-like and home-remedy-type "drives
to cure" which patients received via LSD were so bewildering
that many doctors stopped trying to account for them. As Dr. C.
H. Van Rhijn, a psychotherapist from Holland, put it, they "simply
found something that worked and began to use it as a treatment."
However, the drug is looked upon by therapists in two different
ways: as a psycholytic agent, or as a psychedelic. The
use of the chemical as a psychotomimetic drug to reproduce d.t.'s
is obsolescent, for as Dr. Hoffer commented:
... by 1957 it was apparent that even though many of our patients
were helped by LSD, it was not its psychotomimetic activity which
was responsible. In spite of our best efforts to produce such
an experience, some of our subjects escaped into a psychedelic
Psycholytic therapy is practised widely in Europe and aims at
facilitating traditional psychoanalysis through administration
of LSD in low dosage. This is found to produce a short-cut to
the patient's self-understanding by activating both the emotions
and the unconscious.
Regressive and existential experiences are painful, true, but
when they surface through LSD, the catharsis is thorough. Rather
than having to "ease into" insight for fear that the
dislodged material will devastate the patient, as in formal analysis,
and waiting for months for the analysand to accept his findings,
LSD seems to lead to self-acceptance immediately.
Current practitioners who favor the drug for psycholytic therapy
draw attention to the fact that it adapts itself to existing schools
of analysis. Moreover, each systembe it Freudian, Jungian,
Adlerian, etc.finds its concepts confirmed in low-dosage LSD
treatment. Rapport is better and more easily established; restricting
defenses are dissolved; transferences are quicker; and the core
of the problem seems to be more readily accessible.
The second approach to alcoholic treatment with LSD is called
psychedelic therapydeveloped by Dr. A. M. Hubbard in British
Columbia. Because of its extraordinary effectiveness, it has been
copied in other parts of Canada and the U.S.A. The treatment consists
of a minimum of psychoanalysis, but from the beginning it attempts
to give the patient a single overwhelming experience that will
catapult him into personality reformation. This is preceded by
skillful preparation prior to his session, a good deal of counseling
and the administration of a massive dose of LSD (alcoholics seem
to require twice the dosage used for other patients: 200-400 mcg.
and sometimes up to 1500 or 2000 mcg. are given).
The "goal" in this therapy is to give the alcoholic
an experience akin to a spontaneous "religious" conversion,
with all of its subsequent powers of character transformation.
(William James gave the rationale for this when he astutely observed
that "the cure for dipsomania is religomania," and many
a country preacher of that dayand thiswould have agreed.
) When this conversion happens, there is no longer need for symbolic
interpretation of the self on the patient's part, for the patient
enters what Sherwood, Stolaroff and Harman in an article published
in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, have called the "stage
of immediate perception":
... he comes to experience himself in a totally new way and
finds that the age-old question "who am I?" does have
a significant answer. He experiences himself as a far greater
being than he had ever imagined, with his conscious self a far
smaller fraction of the whole than he had realized. Furthermore,
he sees that his own self is by no means so separate from other
selves and the universe about him as he might have thought. Nor
is the existence of this newly experienced self so intimately
related to his corporeal existence.
By trial and error a system was developed which seemed to propel
patients into the desired stage of psychedelic experience more
readily. Simple props were used, for it was found that they elicited
better responses than the best analytic methods. After having
the patient write a brief autobiography, he is asked to bring
to the session cherished trinkets, favorite phonograph records
and photographs of people who are close to him. Musical background,
provided both from the patient's collection and the hospital's
library, is used to divert the patient's mind from himself and
to relax him to the point of surrendering to the drug's urgings.
The patient is often blindfolded and provided with earphones in
the initial part of his session. A little later on the blindfold
and earphones may be removed, if the session is going suitably,
and the patient will be asked to look at the mementos and photographs
he has brought; or he is given a list of questions, relevant to
his life and predicament, to study and think over. (This
is not to be construed as a "test" of any kind.) He
may be shown various "universal symbols"a rose,
a cross, a seashell, for instance and he will probably be asked
to relate facets of his own personality to those of other people
in the room. Any of these stimuli may precipitate him into a "psychedelic
These realizations, while not new to mankind, and possibly not
new to the subject in the intellectual sense, are very new in
an experiential sense. That is, they are new in the sense that
makes for altered behavior. The individual sees clearly that some
of his actions are not in line with his new knowledge and that
changes are obviously called for.
Dr. Ruth Fox, Medical Director of the National Council on Alcoholism
in the United States, has used LSD in alcoholic rehabilitation
and hopes to be able to continue to utilize the drug for this
purpose. Her endorsement of the drug for therapeutic use differs
little from that offered by others, except that she emphasizes
the ameliorating effect upon a patient's "nature," when
it has been influenced by the drug. A new feeling of compassion
and tenderness for others and a restored sensitivity and "concern"
often make benign a personality that had previously been cynical
and rigid. Dr. Fox also points out that LSD experients sometimes
develop an old-fashioned gratitude to their parents for having
borne them. She further describes indications which point to a
... The patient often states that he feels reborn, whole, clean,
grateful, and joyous, loving all things animate and inanimate.
As with LSD "cures" for other conditions, pressures
from the past can cause backsliding if the patient is immediately
immersed in his old environment. However, vulnerability to relapse
is the exception rather than the rule with the alcoholic who has
been helped through LSD therapy. And even if regression does take
place, instead of being plunged into despair the patient seems
better able to break his fall. Indications are that he is able
to do this because, although he has failed momentarily, he has
not lost faith in his new-found resilience.
A few suggestions given then for future behavior may have long-lasting
effects, suggestions that he will grow to understand himself better
as he matures, that life can be good, that sobriety will bring
greater rewards than drinking, and that the fellowship of A.A.
can give his life a new focus and meaning.
A large number of alcoholics who have gone through the LSD program
have found that A.A. can help them, although this was not true
previously. Such patients come to regard their addiction as something
that they can cast off rather than as an affliction that is bound
to cripple them for eternity. And with this externalization of
the problem, comeback can be dramatic and convincing. In having
a tangible external adversary, it is easier for the alcoholic
and the public to "see" and understand the recovery,
a fact which bolsters the patient in his determination to stay
Because the LSD cure for alcoholics takes such firm hold, it is
difficult for the dissenter to deny the obvious change in the
patient and his return to health. The chances are that through
LSD he had met and defeated his hyper-susceptibility to depression,
tension, irritability, loneliness, etc.; and having conquered
his former grievances, he is no longer regarded by his fellow
man as a maladjusted individual, often subject to contempt. The
change in the attitude of others, brought about by alterations
in the alcoholic after LSD treatment, is reflected in comments
by two doctors: 
Initially, the treatment personnel of our alcoholism unit were
reluctant to work with alcoholic patients. They now have great
interest in the program.
Since alcoholism is thought of as the leading addiction of our
time, detail is warranted to show the far-reaching implications
of LSD therapy as it applies to problem-solving in all addiction.
From the discussion, no doubt it is obvious that similar techniques
can reclaim victims of other binding "habits," great
and small: narcotics, smoking, compulsive eating, gambling, logorrhea,
satyriasis and various excessive indulgences.
When we stopped the second [LSD experimentation program], which
involved about sixty people altogether, the unit kept asking us
when we were going to start again. When they kept on asking, we
asked them why. They said the alcoholics had changed their attitudes
so much that it was good even for those who didn't have LSD.
At the Josiah Macy Conference in 1959, and at the Quarterly Meeting
of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association in London in 1961,
reports were given indicating a high incidence of cure of smoking.
More to the point of social importance, LSD has proved useful
in reducing the high rate of recidivism in narcotics addiction.
Unfortunately, several important and unusual studies, just underway,
were cut short when all research was curtailed as a result of
legal complications and public sentiment. The early information
released was tantalizing in its promise, particularly concerning
the work being done by Drs. Arnold M. Ludwig and Jerome Levine
at the Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington. The latter
employed hypnosis as an adjunct to LSD, a procedure they have
Frankly, we were surprised to see just how well hypnosis could
be used to control, modify, and direct the LSD experience. Many
of the patients made dramatic claims of therapeutic benefit, expressing
a strong conviction that they should remain abstinent, professed
marked symptom relief, and claimed to have a new lease or outlook
on life... Undesirable side effects or untoward reactions were
In the popular idiom, unrewarding action patterns of behavior
do not qualify as addictions; only specific, habitual adherents
per se are so categorized. But, in fact, there are many
maladjusted persons who are seriously "hooked" on repetitive,
damaging behavior. LSD also has relevance here, since it seems
able to ween the individual from dependence on outmoded and restricting
"games," such as the array discussed by Dr. Eric Berne.
As an example of how LSD can allay such addictions, consider the
"game-destroying" capabilities of the psychedelics when
used to combat delinquency and criminality (the illogical and
deep-seated compulsion to defy authority indiscriminately).
By all accounts, current penal systems of "correction"
do not quell the inclination toward criminal habit. Instead, they
arouse, more often than not, the competitive spirit of the prisoners,
who then indulge in "one-upmanship" games and become
adept at pilfering each other's techniques. Just as the rate of
recidivism among narcotics addicts is appallingly highabout
95 per centso the parole, return and re-parole of inmates is
basically a revolving-door situation. Once a man becomes a second
offender, he may be well on his way to a life-time immersion m
the "Cops and Robbers" game
Hypothesizing that the psychedelic drugs could give inmates mirrored
contemplation of themselves at their self-defeating "games,"
Dr. Timothy Leary and a group from Harvard set out in 1960 to
see if psilocybin (a drug related to LSD) could help a prisoner
"see through" his asocial activities and thereby become
a less destructive citizen. Thirty-two prisoners who volunteered
for this experiment at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution,
a maximum security prison for younger offenders, were given two
brief psilocybin experiences along with six weeks of bi-weekly
meetings. Although most were untrained and not oriented along
verbal lines, it was found that those who participated were able
to detach themselves from their everyday roles and recognize constructive
alternatives to their formerly limited lives. Here are the comments
of several of the inmates:
At the time of the peak of the drug's effect I had a terrific
feeling of sadness and loneliness, and a feeling of great remorse
of the wasted years....
But the real test was, what would happen to these prisoners when
they were returned to society? Would their new way of viewing
help them to lead useful and rewarding lives? Or would they soon
be headed back to prison? Dr. Stanley Krippner sums up what happened
and what it might mean:
Before taking this drug my thinking always seemed to travel in
the same circles, drinking, gambling, money and women and sex
as easy and I guess a fast life.... Now my thoughts are troubled
and at times quite confusing, but they are all of an honest nature,
and of wondering. I know what I want to be and I am sincere in
my own mind when I say I will try very hard to make it so....
I felt helpless and wanted to murder you guys who did it to me;
then I realized it was my own mind doing it; it's always been
my own mind imagining trouble and enemies...
Records at Concord State Prison suggested that 64 percent of the
32 subjects would return to prison within six months after parole.
However, after six months, 30 percent of those on parole had returned,
six for technical parole violations and two for new offenses.
These results are all the more dramatic when the correctional
literature is surveyed; few short-term projects with prisoners
have been effective to even a minor degree. In addition, the personality
test scores indicated a measurable positive change when pre-psilocybin
and post-psilocybin results were compared.
This experiment, although it had included no control subjects,
established sound basis for hope and warranted another set of
experiments along the same linesand at least one large controlled
Just prior to World War II, Wilhelm Reich came to the United States
with some revolutionary theories about the relation between organic
and psychic illnesses. Dr. Reich had been one of Freud's most
brilliant and promising students, but he broke with Freud over
the issue of organic-psychic illness, as well as on a number of
Reich was not the first therapist to link mental and physical
disorders, but he was the first to develop the theory at length,
and to devise a therapeutic method for its implementation. His
adherentspatients, admirers of his books and some therapistswere
devout in embracing "Vegetotherapy," as his technique
was called, even though a multitude of detractors were scornful
and pronounced it nonsense.
Today, twenty-odd years later, expert opinion has moderated its
rigid stand on the issue, so that psychosomatic medicine, expanded
into much broadened fields, is now entirely respectable. It is
recognized now that many physical health problems are fundamentally
due to mental maladjustments. Increasingly the layman has come
to understand that his "asthma," or "hives,"
may not be the fault of the climate or something he ate. Today,
if the condition persists, his general practitioner may advise
him to visit an allergist, a psychotherapist or both, and the
patient probably will not be offended.
As yet, LSDcomparatively new and still branching out in its
applicationshas seldom been called into service for the relief
of mild health problems. But many doctors report, often with pleased
surprise, that their patients have achieved spontaneous relief
from organic ailments after they have been given LSD for something
else. Dr. Peck, for instance, at the Josiah Macy Conference remarked:
In treating patients for various and sundry psychological complaints,
we found that some would come back a week or two later and say,
"The headache is gone." We asked, "What headache?"
They replied, "Oh, the headache I've had for 10 or 15 years."
Because of such coincidences, a substantial number of cases have
entered the records which establish LSD as a competent agent in
the cure of such physical ailments as arthritis, partial paralysis,
migraine, "hysterical" deafness, and a variety of skin
The above incident, in fact, was recounted in the course of reporting
on a study made by Dr. Peck on what were primarily mentally disturbed
patients. In 46 of his 216 patients some form of organic illness
was present as well, and 31 of the 46 made "excellent"
recovery of their physical symptoms, while 5 others found marked
The physical ailments in these forty-six cases included varied
arthritides, asthmas which did not respond to hypnosis, migraine
headaches and long-standing rashes. Other doctors who have directly
treated such problems with LSD have found that these stubborn
and virtually incurable conditions can be eradicated in the course
of a few sessions. In Ling and Buckman's book on LSD and Ritalin,
five case histories are given of migraine curesall of these
had been previously considered hopeless. There is also a full-length
account of LSD's use in treating a severe psoriasis, with impressive
photographs showing the patient before and after treatment. Again,
the condition had been adjudged hopeless.
Morgens Hertz, a Danish doctor of Frederiksberg Hospital, Copenhagen,
who supervised the LSD treatment of some sixty people, found that
a very high percentage claimed alleviation of their organic complaints.
The following is a sample:
... My long-lasting feeling of paralysis of the left part of
my whole person has disappeared....
... A worried feeling of involuntary urinating has disappeared
since I had the feeling that I could influence the urinating,
and now I feel good....
... My stuttering of many years has disappeared....
... I have stopped crying as a means of obtaining attention....
... My tendency to feel giddy every time I stood on my feet
... I can no longer feel my pulse hammering unpleasantly all
over my body when I lie down....
Such relief gained from using a psychedelic would come as no surprise
to 225,000 American Indians, for the Indians from the 1870's,
have been relying on peyote, a natural psychedelic, for the maintenance
of good health, in addition to the primary use they make of the
cactus in religious worship. Frank Takes Gun, national president
of the Native American Church, says:
At fourteen, I first used Father Peyote. This was on the
Crow Reservation in Montana, and I was proud to know that my people
had a medicine that was Godpowerful. Listen to me, peyote does
have many amazing powers. I have seen a blind boy regain his sight
from taking it. Indians with ailments that hospital doctors couldn't
cure have become healthy again after a peyote prayer meeting.
Once a Crow boy was to have his infected leg cut off by reservation
doctors. After a peyote ceremony, it grew well again.
This may be considered only exuberant witchdoctor talk, but reliable
observers have confirmed that these economically deprived peoples
are in better-than average health and that when they do become
sick and turn to peyote, the drug seems to help them. Louise Spindler,
an anthropologist who worked among the Menomonee tribe, said that
the women "peyotists" often kept a can of ground peyote
for brewing into tea. They used it in "an informal fashion
for such things as childbirth, ear-aches, or for inspiration for
Dr. Peck also made such an observation and, in fact, first became
interested in LSD as a result of having seen the effects of peyote:
When I went into general practice as a country doctor in Texas,
I was very impressed that some of our Latin American patients,
despite their poverty and living conditions, were extremely healthy.
One day, I asked one of my patients how he stayed so healthy,
and he told me that he chewed peyote buttons... then, I became
interested in these drugs that could promise physical as well
as mental health.
As early as the late 19th century, medical practitioners and others
knew of the health benefits peyote offered, having observed the
effects among the Indians. In 1891, James Mooney, of the United
States Bureau of Ethnology, brought peyote to the attention of
a group of anthropologists in Washington, after having lived among
the Kiowa Indians and other tribes where he became familiar with
the use of the drug in doctoring illness. In time he recommended
it to a medical man and a pharmacologist. These men, Drs. D. W.
Prentiss and Francis P. Morgan, both outstanding in their fields,
decided to undertake tests with peyote buttons which Mooney supplied.
Their subjects were suffering from a variety of physical complaintschronic
bronchitis with asthmatic attacks; neurasthenia; nervous prostration;
chronic phthisis with facial neuralgia and catarrh; persistent
cough; and softening of the brain. The report by Prentiss and
Morgan appeared in the August 22, 1896, Medical Record and
proclaimed that the "effect of the drug was little less than
marvelous" in one particular case, and it sang the praises
of peyote with equal gusto in citing others throughout the report.
Gentleman, aged fifty-five years. Chronic bronchitis with asthmatic
attacks. Much distressed by an irritative cough which kept him
from sleeping... In a letter received from him recently he
states that he has improved very much, being able to sleep all
night without rising, which he had not been able to do for two
years; and that, although he has no need of it upon some days,
he carries a piece of a [peyote]] button in his pocket constantly,
as its use relieves the tickling in his throat at once and gives
greater relief than any other remedy which he has ever used.
The best responses in terms of health to any of the psychedelic
drugs seem to be in cases where the medical disorder is psychically
caused, not basically organic (birth defects; broken bones; viruses
and so forth). This accounts for the high incidence of asthmatic/bronchial
and skin condition cures. There are also other ailments, possibly
of psychic origin, known to have responded remarkably well when
treated with a psychedelic. In current medical journals and papers
a number of organic cures and "coincidental organic cures"
can be found: Dr. Jack Ward of the Carrier Clinic, Belle Mead,
New Jersey, reports a case of deafness which he suspected was
"hysterical" in origin; the patient responded with hearing
restored after LSD. R. Gordon Wasson, the banker-scholar-mycologist
who discovered the Mexican "magic mushroom" (a natural
source of psilocybin), told of giving the mushroom to a mute who
thereafter was able to speak. In a clear case of psychosomatic
disorder, where the patient suffered paralysis of one arm because
of several traumatic accidents, LSD finally was tried as a last
resort, after sodium amytal and psychotherapy had failed. The
arm became normal again. (Dr. Dietrich W. Hayden goes into this
case at some length in the American Journal of Psychiatry,
120, 1963.) There are also reports from Japan by S. Kuromaru
and his co-workers to the effect that LSD has been used with good
results in the treatment of phantom limb pain.
Because many of the cases cited for organic cure with psychedelics
are contrary to prevailing, conventional medical theories, they
are in danger of being arbitrarily labeled with the shabby disrepute
usually reserved for faith-healing, chiropractry, Yoga, and eccentric
schools of health treatment. But the fact that LSD cures of physical
complaints do appear, however coincidentally or accidentally,
in respectable medical literature is an indication that research
in this field is needed and will probablyeventuallybe continued.
In addition to the actual reports of cures, there are provocative
accounts which hint at even more far-ranging applications for
the psychedelics in general medical practice. In neurological
disorders such as bursitis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis and other
inflammation of the joints, LSD may have been responsible for
unexpected reversions. The following are two cases in point: 
[The subject], a businesswoman in her forties, had for many years
experienced her body and her "mind and brain" as being
literally "tied up in knots." She could "plainly
feel" this knotting, which she felt to be related to her
"tenseness." For more than five years she had been familiarizing
herself with literature concerning psychedelic drugs and believed
that a psychedelic session was "the only means" by which
she could free herself from her tensions and the feeling of knottedness
About one hour into her session, when ordinarily the various distressing
physical symptoms would be experienced, [she] began speaking of
a "great but wonderful pain... my body is becoming unknotted."
One by one, as she described it, the knots in her body "untangled."
Later, in a second [LSD] session, the knots in her "mind
and brain" also became "untangled." This second
"unknotting," like the first, was experienced as "excruciatingly
painful... also quite glorious." This relief appears to
be permanent. A year later, [she] had developed no new knots.
... a man felt during his initial LSD experience that his joints
were somehow grinding together. He felt that all of the rough
edges in his joints were ground smooth, and this gave him a "well-oiled"
feeling which seemed to persist for weeks afterwards.
Commenting on "current status and future trends in psychedelic
research," Dr. Robert Mogar has noted in the Journal of
Humanistic Psychology that there is "ample evidence indicating
a markedly lowered threshold for arousal (Key & Bradley, 1960)
and an increased sensitivity to stimuli in all modalities (Klee,
1963)" after use of LSD. A New York hearing specialist, Dr.
James Gould, tested some members of a well-known theatrical company
and found that after LSD their hearing range was expanded appreciably.
In the case of visual increase, Constance Newland mentions an
instance in which vision was so heightened under LSD that a subject
was able to read a newspaper at a distance of thirty feet.
It is to be hoped that extensive research
with the drug will culminate in positive relief for many of those
afflicted by impaired sight and hearing.
Dr. Abramson has expressed a similar hope for LSD in terms of
the overall medical picture:
... I have always felt that the importance of LSD was not LSD,
but that LSD will bring to medicine what it really needs: to have
psychiatry a branch of experimental medicine....
Birth and Death:
On a recent day a young woman gave birth to her first child, an
eight-pound boy, in the privacy of her home. The birth site was
her choice and her husband's.
This quotation, from one article in a series on LSD by Jay Levin,
appeared in The New York Post in June, 1966. While this
childbirth account indicates that the mother took the drug primarily
for personal reasons, there are other instances when LSD has been
clinically used to facilitate birth in cases where there were
difficulties. In a case cited in The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy,
the woman was five-and-a-half months' pregnant, had been under
psychiatric care for a long time because of her morbidity (she
expressed death wishes and wanted to kill the baby) and because
she had been taking barbiturates literally by the handful. She
had also undergone shock treatment to no apparent avail. Her case
became one of serious emergency when she developed the "screaming
meemies." Because blood tests and other examinations indicated
that she was physically normal, and because the doctors were faced
with a crisis, she was given 175 mcg. of LSD. She was then able
to comprehend the reasons behind her anxiety and to cope with
them effectively. Like other mothers who have taken LSD during
pregnancy, she was delivered of a child who was completely normal
by all physiological and psychiatric tests.
Yet it was not the site that made this particular event something
special. Rather it was this:
The mother had taken a small dose of LSD when she felt the labor
Her husband was with her throughout. Her doctor was there, too.
At her request, and with full knowledge of what she would be doing,
he had consented to deliver the child.
The delivery was excellent, the baby showing no ill effects from
the LSD and the mother reporting it had eased her pain. But she
had not taken it to avoid the pain. She had taken it for the same
reason many others in this city have taken itfor the very intense,
very personal experience it promised. Later she was to call the
birth the most profound event of her life.
As time passes, it is probable that more women will be using LSD
as they undergo childbirth. At the moment, however, there is little
published which spells out the benefits or dangers which may accrue.
At the Biological Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York,
the effect of moderately high LSD dosage on developing chick embryos
during the first ten days of gestation has been studied; when
hatched, no ill effects were found. But this is one of the few
studies in existence concerning LSD and embryonic life, and while
LSD has been used on laboratory animals in other connections,
as yet there is no indication that deeper research is underway.
At the present time there is no published record of Caesarean
section in which LSD has figured, but because LSD has been used
in other operations, it may be effective in Caesarean births also.
In a pioneering study at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, LSD
was used as a pre-anesthetic in ten cases involving the surgical
removal of the uterus. It was reported that LSD was an effective
and safe analgesic, not because it dulls the sensorium, but because
it induces passive acceptance of threatening events:
The ten patients were all females in good health except for fibroadenomata,
who underwent total abdominal hysterectomies. One hundred mcg.
LSD was given two hours before surgery as the only pre-medication
except atropine... All patients tolerated the procedure well.
Some laughed while the mask was applied and, still laughing, fell
asleep. After recovery the patients were asked if they would want
LSD again, should further surgery be necessary; no reluctance
Even the most enraptured "missionary" eager to spread
the LSD "gospel" is aware that LSD is notand can
never bea panacea, the solution to all of mankind's problems.
But while it cannot keep us from aging, or reverse the course
of fatal diseases, it does have important beneficial effects for
those confronted with desperate and terminal illness and death.
The medical world became aware of LSD's ability to change the
pre-conditions of death when the A.M.A. published a report on
fifty dying patients who were given LSD in a Chicago hospital.
In this preliminary study conducted by Dr. Eric Kast, a noted
psychiatrist, it was discovered that the drug was more effective
as an analgesic than any of the frequently used morphine derivatives:
In... 50 patients, most with advanced cancer and some with
gangrene, LSD relieved pain for considerably longer periods than
such powerful drugs as meperidine and dihydro-morphinone...
On the average, freedom from pain lasted two hours with 100 mg
meperidine, three hours with 2 mg dihydro-morphinone and 92 hours
with 100 mcg LSD.
To the amazement of observers, the attitudes of these terminal
patients also changedfrom depression, apathy and anguish to
sensitivity, poignancy and deep feeling for the people they loved.
They expressed gratitude for life itself. LSD enabled them to
face death equably. Instead of attempting to disguise and deny
what was happening to them, or view it with hysterical fright,
they felt at one with the universe and therefore looked upon the
actual dying process as merely another event in eternal existence.
"It was a common experience," says Dr. Kast, "for
the patient to remark casually on his deadly disease and then
comment on the beauty of a certain sensory impression." Such
desirable emotional content lasted for two weeks in some cases,
i.e., long after the drug's pain-killing action wore off.
The next study Dr. Kast made was with 128 patients, all suffering
malignant diseases and metastasis, who would die within two months.
These cases were given no other analgesic agent in addition to
LSD. A precipitous drop in pain occurred two or three hours after
the drug was administered and lasted twelve hours, and the total
pain intensity was less for about three weeks. As in the former
study, these patients' peace of mind was remarkable, and they
accepted their condition for what it was. There were other factors
also which eased their last days:
The first night after LSD administration was almost invariably
a good one. After that we noted a meaningful reduction of sleep
disturbances up to about ten nights which is also the time when
concern about the morbid condition returned... It is noteworthy
that not one patient, though they were critically ill, had any
adverse medical reaction, and the administration of LSD was well
The drawback in the second study was that seven subjects felt
panicky at one point in the experience, and 42 had mild anxiety.
None of these reactions was long-lasting or severe, but, coming
generally at the end of the session, it was distressing all the
same. Later, however, in another study, Dr. Kast was able to avoid
this by bringing the LSD session to an end with a thorazine injection,
if adverse symptoms appeared. There were 80 patients in this latter
group, and all but 8 wished to repeat the LSD experience; this
represented an appreciable increase over the 33 per cent in the
former group who did not want to have the drug again.
Dr. Kast was concerned throughout these studies with the moral
issue of whether interfering with the very personal process of
dying was justified. In his last study, seven, when questioned
on this, resented the intrusion of the drug into their philosophic
and religious concepts; the majority felt gratified and said they
had gained deeper insights. "In human terms," as Dr.
Kast put it, "the short but profound impact of LSD on the
dying was impressive."
Throughout the ages, one of the major problems faced by man has
been that of accepting death. Most of those dying either try to
structure death or to deny its possibility. Natural death therefore
tends to become desperate and hideous, with everyone concernedpatient,
family, friends, nursesrefusing to accept the inevitable and
appreciate it for the momentous experience it must be. To die
in sleep is held to be the ideal "death bed."
LSD, however, has proved that it can alter the emotional atmosphere
of death. Because the patient no longer feels intense attachment
for his body, he can more readily accept his transition.
It is a well-substantiated rumor that Aldous Huxley took LSD in
the last stages of his terminal cancer. Certainly he had knowledge
of the benefits LSD might bring in such circumstances, for one
of the major events in his final novel, Island, was a death
scene in which an old woman slipped away with unusual gentleness
after ingesting a psychedelic, an imaginary substance Huxley called
The studies of Dr. Kast, a few hints from Huxley, and such statements
from terminal patients as "I know I'm dying... but look
at the beauty of-the universe"these have suggested
the idea that one day Western society might establish "Centers
for Dying," as in India. Dr. Richard Alpert is one of the
leading proponents for such and he thinks LSD should be included,
explaining it this way:
Why shouldn't there be a place where a person could come to die
with awareness instead of denial, where the setting, be it mountain
or ocean, would be suitable for the transition; where the staff
would be trained as guides to help people with the aid of psychedelics
to learn about giving up the ego and seeing the beauty of the
Universe? The individual could have doctors, if he or she wished,
and could die in whichever religious metaphor he might choose.
Such a Center could revolutionize the whole dying process for
millions, and for millions to come. At the same time, however,
it would raise unprecedented questions, for it may be that LSD
not only changes the preconditions of death, but alters the transition
as well. The question is, does it do anything else? No one can
answer, for in this realm there is not a single expert.
9. These figures come from Dr. Joel Fort,
Director of the Center for Treatment and Education on Alcoholism
Oakland, California. They come from Utopiates, copyright
(c) i964 by the Atherton Press, New York, and are reprinted by
permission of the publishers.
One fact Dr. Fort did not note here is that alcoholics on the
average die much earlier than non-drinkers. A recent follow-up
study on a large group of alcoholic patients carried out by the
Research Department of the Department of Mental Hygiene in Maryland
indicated that the life expectancy of this group was ten years
less than the average life expectancy of the general population.
Further, Dr. Albert A. Kurland, Director of Research for this
department, has commented that "this group of patients over
a ten year period had a suicide rate of approximately 10 percent."
10. As defined by Dr. Hoffer and his colleagues,
"malvarians" are people who carry in their urine a "mauve-colored
residue" and who suffer from "malvaria," a biochemical
aberration found in most schizophrenics and many neurotics and
mentally retarded children According to Dr. Hoffer, malvarians
very rarely experience a psychedelic reaction; to date not one
of the over fifty alcoholic malvarians given LSD therapy has achieved
11. From Hoffer: Clinical Pharmacology
and Therapeutics 6:183, 1965, The C.v. Mosby Company, St.
12. Dr. Kenneth D. Godfrey, Assistant Chief,
west Psychiatric Service, Topeka veterans Administration Hospital,
and Dr. Osmond. (back)
13. The first comes from Masters and Houston:
the second was reported by Dr. James Terrill of the Mental Research
Institute, Medical Research Foundation, Palo Alto, California.
14. Neither heightened vision nor blurred
vision is uncommon m the LSD experience. People with pronounced
astigmatism often notice the first effects of the drug when they
find they can see clearly without their glasses. Some have reported
that the improvement carries over. (back)