Psychic Research: LSD

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∙ PSILOCYBIN, which Hofmann first extracted from Mexican mushrooms and then synthesized in 1958, has much the same effect as the other two. It apparently falls somewhere between mescaline and LSD in potency.

Unqualified Buddies. Just who is entitled to use the drugs has long been a difficult legal question. They are not narcotics. The Food and Drug Administration has authority over the manufacture and distribution of LSD and psilocybin, which it has cleared for investigational use only. These two drugs are produced only by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals of Basel, with U.S. offices in New Jersey. Sandoz has supplied them to dozens of investigators, mostly psychiatrists, and to clinical psychologists working closely with psychiatrists. But some imported supplies of all three drugs, and especially LSD, have appeared on the black market. A competent organic chemist, with the proper raw materials and the know-how spelled out in patents, could make LSD in his own lab.

By last fall, it became clear that some psychiatrists and some investigators who were supposed to be experimenting only with animals were slipping LSD to unqualified buddies, who were using the drug for kicks. In Los Angeles, beatniks and assorted addicts lapped the stuff up, buying (for $1 apiece) lumps of sugar in which a drop of the potent raw material had been absorbed. Leary and Alpert, in their Harvard days, got a supply of psilocybin from Sandoz. Then, under last October's amendments to the Food and Drug Act, came stricter control. Sandoz, in an earnest effort to keep the drugs out of unlawful channels, promptly cut down its clientele to animal experimenters and scientists who are getting federal or state grants for research with human subjects.

Kaleidoscopic Future. According to some psychiatrists, all three drugs are useful, but only if they are given in small doses under the strictest supervision. Then the drugs sometimes speed up psychotherapy by increasing insight, and LSD has been acclaimed as a trigger mechanism that enables many alcoholics to face the emotional bases of their addiction.

But psychiatrists and other physicians in general are solidly arrayed against non-medical application of such potent drugs. They report many cases of mental illness precipitated by their unwise, unprofessional use. Clinical psychologists, who are on the borderline of qualification to use the drugs, are themselves divided. The Los Angeles Society of Clinical Psychologists has gone on record resolving that "no psychologist shall collaborate with a physician in the use of any experimental drug, such as LSD, except for research purposes in a hospital or university setting."

To Leary and Alpert, though, the controversy represents a power struggle over the control of human consciousness. They accuse psychiatrists of being behind the times and interested only in mental illness. (But I.F.I.F. has a medical director, Dr. W. Madison Presnell, a qualified psychiatrist, who now supervises the giving of all drugs.) They see a kaleidoscopic future for men with expanded consciousness.

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