When LSD was synthesized in 1943, many scientists and academics advocated it’s therapeutic and healing properties. When the infamous Dr. Timothy Leary started experimenting with LSD and getting off his pickle in the 1960’s, it perhaps defined the way we think of - and fear - the drug today. Amid rising stigmatization and upon being declared as an illegal substance, many Universities (such as Harvard) were forced to abandon studies of the drug years ago. But not anymore...
Leary became such a cultural icon that his Wikipedia entry even puts 60s legends like Forrest Gump to shame. President Richard Nixon reportedly called him “the most dangerous man in America.” His campaign slogan "Come together, join the party" is rumoured to have inspired John Lennon to write "Come Together.” He was photographed at Lennon and Yoko’s bed-in when “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded. He is said to have spent time locked in a prison cell adjacent to Charles Manson. He was friends with the notorious Watergate burglar, appeared in an early Johnny Depp movie, and is Winona Ryder’s godfather.
Yet as succinctly argued by Owsley Stanley, “Leary was a fool. Drunk with 'celebrity-hood' and his own ego, he became a media clown-and was arguably the single most damaging actor involved in the destruction of the evanescent social movement of the '60's. Tim, with his very public exhortations to the kids to 'tune in, turn on and drop out,' is the inspiration for all the current draconian US drug laws against psychedelics.”
Despite ideas that Leary’s far-out image and methods hurt the scientific advancement and acceptance of LSD, today the drug is apparently, “experiencing a renaissance in research interest after decades of stigmatization from the medical and scientific communities.”
The Food and Drug Administration of the U.S.A. has recently approved research involving LSD in order to treat “end-of-life anxiety” for people experiencing terminal illnesses. Ironically, upon realization that he was dying of an incurable cancer, Leary also “treated” himself with LSD while recording the process of his death in order to provide new insights into death and dying… However he also “treated” himself with nitrous oxide, cigarettes, signature "Leary Biscuits" (crackers with cheese and a small marijuana bud, briefly microwaved), heroin and morphine.
Currently, the Harvard McLean Hospital is researching the affects of LSD on the brain in regard to headaches. (“Get brain surgery or take a tab of LSD?”)
Despite the difficulties involved with obtaining permission and resources needed to study this drug, the ball is undeniably rolling once again, as highlighted in the San Francisco Chronicle article, “LSD’s Long, Strange Trip Back into the Lab.”
So what does this mean for science, medicine, hippies, and rebels? At this stage, no one really knows. Due to it’s illegalization, LSD has been around for a long time without anyone really knowing anything about it.
But take some words of wisdom from scientist Stanislav Grof, who was one of the last scientists to abandon hallucinogenic research in the 1970’s: "I thought psychiatry and psychology really lost a major opportunity because of the abuse that happened with unsupervised research. These are fascinating substances - and they're very, very powerful, so they should be used with great precaution."
December 11, 2009