News for October 2010

All But Forgotten: The Positive LSD Story

The revolutionary comedian Bill Hicks once said:

“Wouldn’t you like to see a positive LSD story on the news? To base your decision on information rather than scare tactics and superstition? Perhaps? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Just for once?”

Well here’s your chance. Here are some people you may not have known were inspired by LSD:

•  Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs called taking LSD “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.”  To this end, Jobs said that Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.”

•  Many early computer pioneers took LSD for inspiration, such as Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse.

•  Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced the double-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

•  Cary Grant (amongst many others in 1950s Hollywood) was treated with LSD by a psychiatrist in the 1950s, long before it was made illegal:

“All my life, I’ve been searching for peace of mind. I’d explored yoga and hypnotism and made several attempts at mysticism. Nothing really seemed to give me what I wanted until this treatment.”

“I have been born again. I have been through a psychiatric experience which has completely changed me. I was horrendous. I had to face things about myself which I never admitted, which I didn’t know were there. Now I know that I hurt every woman I ever loved. I was an utter fake, a self-opinionated bore, a know-all who knew very little. I found I was hiding behind all kinds of defenses, hypocrisies and vanities. I had to get rid of them layer by layer. The moment when your conscious meets your subconscious is a hell of a wrench. With me there came a day when I saw the light.”

Much to his friends’ surprise, Cary Grant began talking about his therapy in public, lamenting, “Oh those wasted years, why didn’t I do this sooner?”

(For more on Cary Grant, see the revealing Vanity Fair article, “Cary in the Sky with Diamonds”.)

•  Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize winning American bio-chemist, told Albert Hoffman (the inventor of LSD) that LSD had helped him develop the polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific DNA sequences:

“Back in the 1960s and early ’70s I took plenty of LSD. A lot of people were doing that in Berkeley back then. And I found it to be a mind-opening experience. It was certainly much more important than any courses I ever took.”

Replying to his own postulate during an interview for BBC’s Psychedelic Science documentary, “What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR?” He replied, “I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.”

•  Aldous Huxley is well-known for writing ‘The Doors of Perception’, an account of his experiences with mescaline. But on his deathbed, unable to speak, Huxley made a written request to his wife for “LSD, 100 µg, intramuscular”.  His wife duly obliged.

• “My trip led me to some epiphanies about who I was as a performer, what I wanted to do and how I needed to create my own opportunities.” – Adam Lambert, runner-up on American Idol told The Sun.

Since 1966, we’ve lived under worldwide LSD prohibition.  Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” said “We thought that by this time that there would be LSD given in classes in college and you would study it and prepare for it.”

Kesey gets right to the crux of the issues surrounding psychedelics in that statement. As tools, drugs such as LSD can used responsibly or irresponsibly – lead to good trips or bad trips, healing or trauma. Lacking a scientific or spiritual guide, the recreational use of psychedelic substances without planning, respect, or forethought can lead to some pretty unpleasant experiences. Which makes it all the more frustrating that there has been a complete moratorium on scientific research using LSD for over forty years (recently broken by a small handful of scientists who have finally been given permission to research LSD with terminally ill cancer patients.) 

Stanislav Grof, pioneering researcher into non-ordinary states of consciousness, remarked “Whether or not LSD research and therapy will return to society, the discoveries that psychedelics made possible have revolutionary implications for our understanding of the psyche, human nature, and the nature of reality.”  Isn’t it about time we awoke from our cultural amnesia?

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Posted: October 20th, 2010
Categories: Drugs, Inspiration
Tags: , , , , ,

Chasing the ‘Legal High’:
The Bizarre World of ‘Research Chemicals’

After a few weeks of tabloid headlines, unverified police reports and public outcry, mephedrone (the preferred legal high of 2009) was made illegal in the UK in April of this year. The ban includes other chemicals sold as ‘legal highs’ in the cathinones category, such as the less popular methylone, butylone, and ethylone. Mephedrone was later found ‘not guilty’ in any of the teenage deaths that triggered the public panic over it’s legality. It would seem that facts are rarely important in times of media-fueled hysteria. Never mind that the ban was put into place before any scientist had a chance to study mephedrone’s effects in a lab.

But online websites selling ‘research chemicals’ (‘RCs’) hardly missed a beat, quickly rounding up the next bunch of unknown chemical analogues (that have no history of human use) for sale. The jury’s still out: there’s naphyrone, MDAI, 5-IAI, the list goes on. 6-APB is a likely candidate with it’s new – and misleading – street name ‘Benzo Fury’. Not a ‘benzo’ (benzodiazepine, or ‘downer’) but rather an amphetamine-like ‘upper’, there’s no toxicology data available for this stimulant, which is growing in popularity on the club scene.

Forum discussions on websites such as Bluelight document the first human guinea pigs and their experiences with new chemicals. Various precautions and harm-minimization techniques are used – ranging from those of a professional chemist to ‘eye-balling’ doses with the casual ‘fuck-it’ attitude of a bored teenager – all in search of the perfect high.

In the past, the kind of person likely to buy a ‘RC’ marketed by its chemical name and dose themselves with it would likely know a bit about chemistry. They might test first for any allergic reaction to the compound, then start with a carefully measured, low threshold dose. Increasing doses slowly, they would know to take enough time between each trial to gage the come-down effects. Still not an ideal situation, but not exactly a pressing social issue.

However, the trend is for sites that used to sell mephedrone and other ‘legal highs’ to the general public to stock an increasing number of truly unknown substances. To promote chemicals new on the scene, some will even send free 100mg or 500mg samples. (Necessarily sold ‘not for human consumption’ to evade the law, even the more ethical retailers are unable to provide dosage and usage suggestions to their customers.)

Many websites offer same-day delivery by courier. So if anybody was at a loss for something to do tonight…

I’m all for the testing of any interesting substances for their ability to produce empathogenic, entactogenic, and entheogenic effects in humans. But it would seem something best left to the experts.

In the meantime, we have decades of detailed and rigorous scientific research on illegal drugs, such as MDMA (currently Class A), with few to no adverse side affects. Ironic considering most among this newly created population of ‘RC’ consumers are self-dosing with packets of white powder arriving in the post from an unknown source. In actual fact, they’re willing to take those risks in the hope of finding a decent substitute for pure MDMA or ecstasy pills (increasingly hard to come by in clubs, and of course illegal.)

Yet another reason for the government to take a good hard look at its drug policy and do some crucial reevaluating. Unless of course, the ‘War on Drugs’ has nothing to do with protecting the health of it’s citizens.

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For more on how current drug laws and classifications are counter-productive and unscientific, see David Nutt’s articles in the Guardian, ‘Lessons from the mephedrone ban’ and ‘A chance for a scientific drugs policy’.

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Posted: October 4th, 2010
Categories: Drugs