Psychiatry: An Epidemic of Acid Heads

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"I'll Never Forget." Especially alarming from the medical viewpoint is the fact that no one knows how much LSD is really in a California capsule, or how pure the drug is. The only legal supply, from Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, goes to selected psychiatrists as a research tool for creating "model" psychoses, and for use in the treatment of certain patients, notably alcoholics. This supply is so rigidly controlled that none, so far as is known, is now reaching a black market. The flood of stuff in California is all bootleg, some imported from Mexico, more of it home-brewed by chemistry majors—probably in college labs—and by cheap-jack operators in garages. LSD is so distressingly easy for a competent chemist to make from inexpensive materials, there is a constant danger that poisonous impurities may be left in.

Happily, addiction is not a problem. Although repeat users need bigger doses to get an effect, they can "kick it cold" and suffer no withdrawal symptoms. It has no physiologic effects. Nevertheless, says Los Angeles Psychiatrist Sidney Cohen, "LSD can kill you dead—by making you feel that you can walk on water, or fly." Author of The Beyond Within: the LSD Story (TIME, Dec. 18, 1964), Dr. Cohen has taken LSD himself half a dozen times, and admits: "After a 150-microgram dose, I got a massive jolt that I'll never forget. I got a chance to really look at myself, and I didn't like some of the things I saw."

Life's Losers. What was bad for the well-adjusted research psychiatrist can be infinitely worse for the cultist. "The trouble with uncontrolled use," says Dr. Cohen, "is that the people attracted to LSD may be the very ones who have the most trouble with it. They are life's losers—dissatisfied, restless people, afflicted with problems they can't handle. A lot of them wallow in self-pity and denigrate those who have made it in the 'square' world. They see Nirvana in LSD, with its perceptual wonders, the intensity, luminosity and throbbing of colors. True, this can be blissful, but there is danger of ego loss or psychosis when someone with paranoid tendencies or a rigid personality glimpses his personal problem. It can be truly hellish."

Such dangers do not deter the acid heads, or "psychedelics"—even though some users are willing to admit that they found no great "show," or had a "freak trip" (a bad one), or "tripped out" (the worst kind). Said one two-time user last week: "Would I try it again? No, because I've been to places inside myself where no one should ever go." Most psychiatrists who have had to treat post-LSD patients would agree.

* From LSD's chemical name, dextro-lysergic acid diethylamide.

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