LSD The Problem-Solving Psychedelic
P.G. Stafford and B.H. Golightly
Chapter I. The LSD Crisis
POLICE RAIDED a Flatbush apartment and found $15,000 worth of LSD"Enough," a police official declared, "to get the whole city high."... A five-year-old girl swallowed a sugar cube treated with LSD, became hysterical and was on the critical list at Bellevue Hospital for two days... A fifty-seven-year-old schoolteacher vas brutally murdered, her body beaten and slashed. When police confronted her alleged killer, he said, "What happened? Man, I've been flying for three days on LSD. Did I kill my wife? Did I rape anybody?"
This was the beginning.
These news stories, with over-sized and shocking headlines, appeared in reputable newspapers across the country. Special interviews with district attorneys, college presidents, Narcotics Bureau agents, doctors, biochemists and others who might be considered authorities in what seemed a national emergency, pre-empted prime radio and television time to issue warnings, give advice and explain these events to the public. The chairman of the New York County Medical Society's Subcommittee on Narcotics Addiction said that LSD was more dangerous than heroin." The Fl)A and Federal Narcotics Bureau launched full-scale "drug education" programs; three Senate subcommittees investigated LSD use; and bills that made possession of LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs a felony were introduced into state legislatures throughout the nation. New York State Assembly Speaker Anthony J. Travia, when attempting to push through hurry-up legislation calling for a minimum sentence of seven years, declared that the problem was so urgent that he would defer public hearings on the law until after it passed.
Before the month was out, even wilder stories and headlines were appearing. The Los Angeles Free Press ran a story called "LSD: Like Swift Death." In one of Walter Winchell's columns there was an item reading, "Warning to LSD Users: You may go blind." And Bill Trent, writing m the Canadian Evening Telegram about an architect's serious and successful attempt to solve a design problem by taking LSD, titled his story "The Demented World of Kyo Izumi."
Others were quick to link LSD to sex. Thus The Confidential Flash asserted in a full-page headline, "LSD KILLS SEX DRIVE FOREVER" although the story itself in no way bore out this claim. And, interestingly enough, the Police Gazette, in its August, 1966, issue, reprinted an article from The Journal of the American Medical Association which they retitled "LSD and Sex Madness."
Quite understandably the public responded with horror, seeing LSD as a grave threat to the general safety, especially of the youngfor the impression given by the news media was that the nation's youth was the most imperiled.
Actually, although this period was the true beginning of all the violent noise and hysteria about LSD, there had been a leakage of articles from the academic journals to the public press for several years. However, the fuse of the news bomb, lit a month earlier, was a series of articles in Time magazine. Here is what was to be found in the "Psychiatry" section of its March 11, 1966 issue under the subtitle, "An Epidemic of 'Acid Heads"':
The disease is striking in beachside beatnik pads and in the dormitories of expensive prep schools-it has grown into an alarming problem at U.C.L.A. and on the U.C. campus at Berkeley. And everywhere the diagnosis is the same: psychotic illness resulting from unauthorized, nonmedical use of the drug LSD-25...Irresistible incitement to riot.
The pulp press, television and radio, having had first fling, household news magazines then began to examine the LSD situation. Some of them, Newsweek and The New Republic, for example, quietly suggestedafter going along with the general trend of wide-eyed frightthat perhaps the drug might not be such a menace after all; and perhaps it was deserving of a serious examination Business Week, in an article entitled "More Light, Less Heat Over LSD," pierced through some of the fog of notoriety that swirled around this and other hallucinogenic drugs by informing its readers that "an imposing roster of medical opinion was found to credit the hallucinogens with a solid list of potential medical and psychiatric benefits to match their oft-trumpeted dangers to the unwary." Some of the major television and radio networks began to feel this way, too, and CBS actually put on a special program, "The Spring Grove Experiment," that had scarcely a harsh word to say about LSD, used under proper circumstances. In fact, for most reviewers it may have acted as a major propaganda piece for the drug.
After the way was paved by these serious re-evaluations, Time itself decided to do some backtracking, stating ".. . no responsible authority wants to stop research into the potentially vast possibilities of LSD and other 'mind drugs.' " In this same "Time Essay" (June 17, 1966), the editors would have it appear that Time itself was impartial and had always been: "Since the recent flood of publicity about LSD has let up somewhat, it is possible to assess the phenomenon more calmly...."
But the drug's reputation was already so tarnished that no one could predict its future. One thing was certain: legislation against LSD had been passed by a number of states and, as a result, LSD research had come to a standstill. And there were tragic footnotes: key individuals, such as Dr. Timothy Leary and the novelist Ken Kesey, received what was generally considered outrageously unjust and discriminatory treatment at the hands of the law. Even Time had some doubts about the anti-LSD legislation (although they believed, in their words, that Leary "finally got his comeuppance"), as did the authorities. Thus Joseph D. Lohman, the man in charge of training Food and Drug Administration agents assigned to LSD control, and Dean of the University of California criminology school in Berkeley, criticized hastily enacted LSD laws as "short-sighted and misdirected." Speaking of the California LSD legislation, he went on to say, "I question very seriously that this law would have the deterrent effect some people think it will have."
The spate of publicity regarding LSD was by no means limited to
the popular media or to technical journals. Over 2500 books and
articles were already in existence when the controversy was at
its height. The majority of these were serious inquiries into
the effects of the drugs, though few were impartial, however "scientific."
This material constitutes a vast literature on the subject, to
be sure. It should be the source of enlightenment.
Footnotes1. Following this show, sponsored by IBM, hundreds of letters from viewers were received at Spring Grove State Hospital, Catonsville, Maryland. Many asked how they could arrange an LSD session and went into some detail about the problems they felt such a session would solve. Hollywood Hospital in Canada is frequently confronted with the same question, as are many other hospitals (and private doctors) which have received publicity about their LSD programs. (back)
2. Nevada, California, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts. (back)
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