The Geeks Wonder-Drug?
By Ann Harrison. reposted from WIRED MAGAZINE - Jan, 16,
BASEL, Switzerland -- When Kevin Herbert has a particularly
intractable programming problem, or finds himself pondering
a big career decision, he deploys a powerful mind expanding
tool -- LSD-25.
must be changing something about the internal communication
in my brain. Whatever my inner process is that lets me
solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different
parts of my brain are used, " said Herbert, 42, an
early employee of Cisco Systems who says he solved his
toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos
by the Grateful Dead -- who were among the many artists
inspired by LSD.
I'm on LSD and hearing something that's pure rhythm, it
takes me to another world and into anther brain state
where I've stopped thinking and started knowing,"
said Herbert who intervened to ban drug testing of technologists
at Cisco Systems.
who lives in Santa Cruz, California, joined 2,000 researchers,
scientists, artists and historians gathered here over
the weekend to celebrate the 100th birthday of Albert
Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD here in
1938. The centenarian received a congratulatory birthday
letter from the Swiss president, roses and a spontaneous
kiss from a young woman in the crowd.
many ways, the conference, LSD: Problem Child and Wonder
Drug, an International Symposium on the Occasion of the
100th Birthday of Albert Hofmann, was a scientific coming-out
party for the drug Hofmann fathered.
wanted to tell me something," Hofmann told the gathering
Friday. "It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness,
a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity
for the miracles of creation."
with age but still eloquent, Hofmann said he hoped the
symposium would encourage the renewed therapeutic and
spiritual use of LSD in supervised settings.
acid diethylamide, a derivative of lysergic acid found
in the alkaloids of the ergot grain fungus, has been illegal
worldwide since the mid-1960s and still generates controversy.
The conference was picketed Saturday by a splinter group
from Scientology opposed to drug use.
storied history of LSD as a mind-expanding tool began
five years after Hofmann discovered LSD-25, and had what
he described as a "peculiar presentiment" compelling
him to resynthesize the drug. Without ingesting the substance,
Hofmann managed to accidentally absorb enough of the chemical
to experience its effects. In a second intentional trip,
Hoffman said he had a frightening experience that gave
way to feelings of rebirth.
the 1950s and 1960s, LSD was found to be a promising tool
for psychiatry and psychotherapy and was studied by the
CIA as a potential interrogation weapon. It was criminalized
after it escaped from the lab to be widely embraced by
the youth culture.
said millions of people have taken LSD, but some had bad
reactions when they took counterfeit drugs. He would like
to see a modern Eleusis, the ancient Greek site that held
the rituals of Eleusinian Mysteries which took place for
two millennia beginning in 1500 BC. During the LSD symposium,
mythologist Carl P. Ruck and chemist Peter Webster presented
their research suggesting that an ergot preparation was
the active ingredient for the Kykeon beverage used during
Hofmann synthesized the chemical in LSD, he stumbled upon
a 4,000-year-old secret," said Ruck, author of Road
1958, Hofmann was the first to isolate the psychoactive
substances of psilocybin and psilocin from Mexican magic
mushrooms (psilocybe mexicana) which were among a variety
of sacred plants used around the world to invite ecstatic
and spiritual experiences.
United States Supreme Court is now considering an appeal
brought by the New Mexican chapter of the Uniao do Vegetal,
or UDV, which uses the outlawed ayahauska brew in its
ceremonies and cites the Eleusinian Mysteries as a precedent
for a psychoactive Eucharist.
the symposium, presentations of electronic trance music
and psychedelic art by painter Alex Grey encouraged meditative
and spiritual reflection for participants -- especially
those in altered states of consciousness.
eager to describe their modern-day spiritual LSD experiences
were encouraged to contribute to a library of drug experiences
on the Erowid website. Earth and Fire Erowid, who operate
the site, presented a sampling of comments at the symposium
and documented the two to five known deaths that have
been associated with LSD.
Beil of Cologne, Germany, who attended the symposium,
recalled his own ecstatic LSD experience on an Indian
beach on New Year's day, 2000. "I was crying from
happiness, so thankful to my parents that they created
me," said Beil. "This experience has not disappeared;
it has had a lasting effect."
Herbert, many scientists and engineers also report heightened
states of creativity while using LSD. During a press conference
on Friday, Hofmann revealed that he was told by Nobel-prize-winning
chemist Kary Mullis that LSD had helped him develop the
polymerase chain reaction that helps amplify specific
"When you study natural science and the miracles of creation,
if you don't turn into a mystic you are not a natural
scientist," said Hofmann.
his presentation, artist Alex Grey noted that Nobel-prize-winner
Francis Crick, discoverer of the double helical structure
of DNA, also told friends he received inspiration for
his ideas from LSD, according to news
gathering included a discussion of how early computer
pioneers used LSD for inspiration. Douglas Englebart,
the inventor of the mouse, Myron Stolaroff, a former Ampex
engineer and LSD researcher who was attending the symposium,
and Apple-cofounder Steve Jobs were among them. In the
2005 book What the Dormouse Said, New
York Times reporter John Markoff quotes Jobs describing
his LSD experience as "one of the two or three most important
things he has done in his life."
the symposium wasn't just a census of LSD-using notables.
Attendees included psychotherapists and psychiatrists
who discussed research into the therapeutic usefulness
of psychedelic drugs.
Michael Mithoefer presented the preliminary findings of
his study in Charleston, South Carolina, which is investigating
whether MDMA is effective for treating post-traumatic
stress disorder in people traumatized by crime or war.
Harvard University professor, Dr. John Halpern, discussed
his proposed study -- now awaiting DEA approval -- using
MDMA to treat anxiety in cancer patients. The
Florida-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic
Studies (MAPS) is supporting studies and research in Canada
investigating the use of ibogain to treat drug addiction.
at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, supported
by the Heffter Research Institute, is investigating whether
psilocybin effectively eases the anxiety of terminal cancer
patients. Psychiatrist Charles Grob says his research
group has located six of the needed 12 subjects and is
looking for more participants.
the data has yet to be analyzed, Grob told seminar participants
that all the participants in the study have shown promising
reactions, and he applauded the opportunity to share the
data in an international gathering.
very encouraging to see such a large number of people,
including very knowledgeable people, getting together
and sharing a common vision that these compounds have
tremendous potential to facilitate healing, especially
in areas that do not respond well to conventional treatments,"
said Grob. "There is global healing in these compounds
which have been used for millennia by indigenous people
that have much to teach modern man and modern woman."
founder Rick Doblin says his goal is to make psychedelic
medicines into prescription drugs, lamenting that LSD
is not yet being studied for therapeutic purposes. "We
have been deeply touched by our experiences with psychedelics
and it is hard that there is not a single legal study
with LSD given to humans anywhere in the world," said
Doblin. "We need to bring what is underground and illegal
back into a legal context."
Doblin notes that a group of people who say LSD provides
relief from their cluster headaches have organized
online and are pushing for a study at Harvard to explore
a possible therapy using the drug. If Harvard accepts
the MDMA study, Doblin says it could pave the way for
the symbolically important return of psychedelic research
at Harvard that halted during the tenure of Timothy Leary.
His goal, says Doblin, is to secure an LSD study in time
for Hofmann's 101st birthday.
Andrew Sewell, a psychiatrist and neurologist from the
Harvard Medical School who studies alcohol and drug abuse,
says most problems with LSD occur when users take an unknown
dose they don't feel comfortable with, in an uncontrolled
setting, without supervision to shield them from dangerous
flashbacks are well-confirmed phenomenon but they are
relatively rare and don't seem to cause as much trouble
as the media would have you believe," said Dr. Sewell
at the LSD symposium.
Sewell says people who have underlying mental disorders
should not take LSD because it could make their symptoms
worse. "Like any powerful drug, if LSD is used incorrectly
it can cause more harm than good," said Dr. Sewell. "LSD
is a potentially dangerous drug and should be taken under
is no evidence that LSD causes permanent brain damage
-- and quite a lot of evidence that it doesn't," said
Sewell. "We are lucky that we have over 1,000 papers written
in the '50s and '60s when LSD was given to thousands and
thousands of research subjects so we have a pretty good
idea at this point what it does and does not do."
if the world needs his invention, Hofmann said he hoped
that the Basel LSD symposium would help create an appropriate
place for LSD in society.
think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary
to have this substance LSD," said Hofmann.
"It is just a tool to turn us into what we are
supposed to be."
Psychedelics in Rehab
By: Steven Kotler, PSYHCOLOGY TODAY
Summary: Should psychedelic
drugs be used for tough-to-treat conditions?
Studying contraband substances are on the upswing,
and many say it should have happened sooner.
in the early sixties, Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary
snuck LSD out of campus laboratories and into the mainstream.
Soon, tie-dyed hell broke loose in popular culture,
and psychedelic drugs were quickly banned. By decade's
end, they had all but vanished from the psychological
for the first time in some 30 years, human studies of
such contraband substances are on the upswing. Many
researchers say it should have happened sooner. "The
banning of psychedelics has been an absolute disaster
for consciousness and medical research," says Rick Doblin,
head of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic
Studies, a nonprofit pharmaceutical company funding
much of this new work.
researchers say hallucinogens were kept out of research
labs because of fear generated by drugs like methamphetamines
and heroin and the "war on drugs." In fact, there's
little evidence that psychedelics are either addictive
or more dangerous than, say, alcohol or marijuana, researchers
report. Doblin argues that in the intervening decades,
advances in everything from disease treatment to consciousness
studies to basic psychological research have suffered.
"These new studies are just the first steps on a long
road to recovery," he says.
turnaround started in the early 1990s, when the Food
and Drug Administration ran out of reasons, political
and otherwise, to quash contraband drug research, Doblin
says. Scientists hope hallucinogens can make inroads
with tough-to-treat conditions, says Charles Grob, chief
of adolescent and teen psychiatry at the University
of California at Los Angeles. Grob is picking up where
another researcher, Eric Kast, left off in the 1960s.
Kast had promising results using LSD (lysergic acid
diethylamide) to relieve anxiety in terminally ill cancer
patients. To follow up on those results, Grob is currently
investigating psilocybin -- the magic in "magic mushrooms"
-- as a treatment for anxiety in late-stage cancer patients.
hope this is only the beginning of a hallucinogenic
data mine. As Grob also points out, "People forget,
but psychedelics were the cutting edge of science in
this country for 50 years." In fact, in the 1940s and
'50s, so much money flowed in this direction that many
top researchers got their start in this field. Many
feel modern psychiatry owes its origins to the study
all, it was the discovery of the neurotransmitter serotonin
-- thanks to LSD -- that jump-started the brain chemistry
in the Lab
psychedelic drug studies are underway, all aimed at
some of medicine's more intractable problems.
Michael Mithoefer, at The Medical University of South
Carolina, studies MDMA (ecstasy) in conjunction with
cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of
post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by sexual
Moreno of the University of Arizona studies treatment
of obsessive-compulsive disorders with psilocybin.
Grob, of the University of California at Los Angeles,
studies late-stage cancer-related anxiety's treatment
with MDMA and therapy.
Sewell & John Halpern of Harvard University, is
currently trying to get approval for research on treatment
of cluster headaches with LSD and psilocybin.
Publication: Psychology Today Magazine
Publication Date: Mar/Apr 2005