For the first time in 40 years, scientists have carried out controlled medical experiments on the hallucinogenic drug LSD, and the results have been surprisingly positive.
The drug was used as part of a psychotherapy course to treat severe depression in terminally ill cancer patients.
In a pilot test, twelve men and women at a private practice in Solothurn, Switzerland, were given high doses of LSD. The results showed a 20 percent reduction in symptoms associated with extreme anxiety relating to their medical condition.
The test also revealed that lysergic acid diethylamide had no severe side effects.
However, it was found that when issued with low doses of LSD, the participants’ depressive symptoms became worse.
The study, published in the Journal of Nervous and Medical Disease, concluded:
These results indicate that when administered safely in a methodologically rigorous medically supervised psychotherapeutic setting, LSD can reduce anxiety, suggesting that larger controlled studies are warranted.
Psychiatrist Peter Gasser, who is based at the practice in Switzerland, said that eleven of the twelve participants involved in the trial had never taken LSD before, but all of them would take LSD again and would recommend the drug to other patients who were in a similar medical situation:
All of them said after 12 months of taking the drug that it was worth taking part in the trial and they would come again if asked. They also said they would recommend it for other people in the same position as themselves.
We showed that all the treatments were safe and any adverse effects were only mild and temporary – they did not last for more than a day or so. It can be a safe treatment with good efficacy, and it justifies further research with a larger number of people.
Gasser explained that eight of the trial were given a full dose of LSD, while four were given an “active placebo.” The placebo group showed an increase in their anxiety symptoms associated with depressive illness. These four were subsequently given a high dose of LSD.
One participant described his experience as “mystical,” and Dr. Gasser said all of the patients felt better in terms of their anxiety about being terminally ill. This improvement lasted for “at least twelve months after the therapy.”
They said in general they felt relief. They felt an intense process of what to do with the rest of their limited time and who they want to spend it with.
The last time medical trials used LSD on terminally ill patients was the early 1960s. LSD was made illegal in the United States in 1966.
Below, archive footage of one of the many LSD trials carried out in the 1960s.
Based on genuine experiments that took place in the 1950s, Kennaway’s The Mind Benders dealt with the use of sensory deprivation tanks as a means to brainwash individuals—ultimately to be used by friendly western governments for covert political means. Though the story was couched within a tale of love and infidelity, it was highly controversial when first released in 1963, and both book and film received undeservedly harsh, misguided and reactionary condemnation.
A few years later, and the FDA produced The Mind-Benders: LSD and the Hallucinogens, which is variously dated as 1967, 1968 or 1970. The title alone sounds like a musical line-up. While it was okay for governments to mess with people’s minds, the youth taking acid or peyote and alike on their own, well that was a definite no-no.
It doesn’t really work as an anti-drug film, as the interviewees seem like nice people, from nice homes, who probably had nice lives, nice jobs, and who generally had a nice time with the drugs. They tell us about their experiences both good, bad and “really frightening,” after taking LSD for kicks, or to learn something about themselves or life.
One interviewee claims some people will flip out, and people may die, but they really should read up on what they’re getting into. Sounds like sensible advice. While others talk about bright lights, lights brighter than the sun; or everything vibrating, falling apart, and eyes like an electronic microscope; or the patterns and connections the hallucinogenic experience illuminates. And of course, the scary part, where people think they are dead, or fear that everything can break or can become one, and really far out things can just disappear. A bit like the Internet then.
“Good production values give this drug scare film from 1967 the sheen of respectability, but it’s still full of the same old bullshit. At a time when kids needed a Psychedelics For Dummies instructional manual, we got the kind of spooky propaganda that caused more bummers than strychnine-laced STP.”
Good gawd, there are so many choice quotes from this that I don’t even know where to begin. The LSD-induced poetry just goes… on. “You know what I mean?”
“Nothing really matters. That would mean something’s wrong.”
“I don’t play that game they’re playin’ out there,
runnin around, lookin for bullshit,
whatever they’re trying to sell on TV.
You know that’s a bunch of garbage,
now your head is all fucked up,
every time you look in the mirror, and
you don’t know who to blame.
You think it’s something to do with you.
That’s the saddest part of it all.”
“LSD or just fuckin’ being alive in general, goddammit, I dunno…
it’s fucking awesome.
It’s hard to tell anymore.”
Seriously, maybe this guy is on to something here,—reddit loves him—perhaps even ready to start a whole new religion. I’m ready for this. I’ve been waiting.
I’m sure by now, a lot of us have seen self-portraits drawn during the course of LSD trips. The majority of examples I could find were all done by men. So, it’s pretty interesting to see a lady’s take on the lysergic experience.
As an introduction to Martin Witz’s outstanding documentary on Albert Hoffman, The Substance, I thought I’d share my experience of ingesting 20,000 mics or so of White Lightening acid when I was 16 years old—my first religious experience and one that reverberates through my being still to this day.
It was a typically hot and humid Washington D.C. afternoon in 1967 and John and I were packing what was reputed to be Owsley’s latest batch of White Lightening acid into gelatin caps. The source was close to Owsley and the quality was certainly of Owsley’s caliber. We had no reason to believe it was anything less. John was my high school English teacher and he had good connections in San Francisco. He’d fly there regularly to purchase the latest batch of acid from Owsley’s people: Licorice-flavored Batman acid, purple tabs, orange tabs, white tabs, window pane, blotter, white powder… Was it all certified Owsley? We liked to think so.
Filling double 0 caps with fine LSD-laced powder was tricky business. We wore surgical gloves and masks so the acid wouldn’t get into our mouths or the pores of our skin. White Lightening was extremely pure and powerful LSD and the pile we were working with contained several thousand doses (at approx. 500 mics per dose). It wasn’t a precise system but we were careful. Packing the caps just so, not too tight, not too loose.
At one point, we stopped to take a break. There was a fan in the room that kept the humid air circulating and relatively dry. It was cautiously pointed away from the table. I had taken off my mask to get some air and was feeling slightly high from being exposed to some of the powder. John was feeling higher and did something stupid or, depending on how look at it, divine. He got up and absent-mindedly turned the fan in the direction of the table and the pile of acid. The White Lightening immediately became a psychedelic dust storm spinning toward my face and into my mouth and eyes. I ran to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like Marcel Marceau. But this wasn’t clown makeup. This was several thousand micrograms of high grade LSD. I blurted out “oh shit” and it was punctuated by a puff of white dust.
I started splashing my face with water, irrigating my eyes and washing out my mouth. But, it didn’t help. The acid was kicking in and I began the ultimate ego death trip.
Timothy Leary said if you didn’t go through a death trip experience on LSD you hadn’t taken enough. Well, I had. I sat on John’s living room floor and for what seemed like an eternity (and it was, relatively speaking) I died, was reborn, died again, born again, flipping the metaphysical television dial from cosmic station to cosmic station, whipping through the Bardo planes while hungry ghosts growled and laughed and mocked and danced and poked at me with their long ancient galactic fingers, chakras opening/closing, kundalini doing the serpent power mambo up my spinal cord, heart unfolding like a giant pulsing red lotus. I was passing through dimensions not even Rod Serling could imagine. Walls shimmered and breathed, rainbows everywhere, mandalas spinning like heavenly roulette wheels… I was so fucking high! And as far OUT and IN as I went, I remained calm. I was so overwhelmed that my ego made no attempt to resist. I was without fear. I felt at one with everything: huge, expansive, complete and unbounded, totally absorbed by the entirety of the Universe. GOD, or whatever you want to call it, wasn’t somewhere out there, it was suffusing me, penetrating me and I was dissolving into its essence. I was in that moment of complete union with all things. I was no longer functioning as a separate entity; there was no fear because the one who did the fearing no longer existed. I was complete in my absolute non-existence. This was the white light experience where the ego is absorbed into the infinite molecular dance of absolute reality.
Enlightenment doesn’t happen to you because there’s no “you” for it to happen to. Enlightenment is there always. It’s that door of perception you walk through and suddenly disappear into. One moment you’re on the diving board. The next, you’re in the ocean.
12 hours later as I started to “come down,” I felt exhausted but refreshed, renewed and reborn. Within a matter of days, I returned to being my usual egocentric little self. But, I had had a genuine religious experience, one that has lingered throughout the years and one I often return to in small ways to put things into their proper perspective. LSD was wonderful. I tremble still in awe of its magic and often dream of finding some really pure acid out there… if it still exists. The Church of My Brain could use a nice house-cleaning.
The Substance successfully toured film festivals last year to much acclaim. It’s a terrific movie and I hope that more like it get made. Society as a whole need to re-address the use of psychedelics and acknowledge their undeniable benefits. LSD is a life-changer and there’s plenty of lives that need changing. I know mine did.
My feelings about the Grateful Dead are not complicated. I like a lot of their music just fine, but it was their audience that turned me off.
I never got into that whole spinning hippies/Hacky Sack patchouli vibe, but I love the shit out of Workingman’s Dead, Anthem of the Sun, American Beauty, Live Dead and Terrapin Station. Notwithstanding the above, what I did like about Deadheads was when the tie-died circus came to the New York area, all of sudden there would be plentiful amounts of blotter acid, quality mescaline, DMT and opium around for weeks afterwards…
Drugs. Which brings me to the media below, recordings made of The Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey and The Merry Pranksters at the infamous San Francisco “Acid Tests,” as immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s classic book of “new journalism,” The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
This is the Dead in 1966, some of the earliest recordings that exist of the group, but what makes these tapes of even greater historical interest is that this is the soundtrack, essentially, of the “early adopters” of the psychedelic culture getting turned on together, as large groups gathered together in one place.
Jerry Garden—apparently a man who enjoys both fine dining and tripping—reviews The Sparrow restaurant located in Plateau Mont-Royal, Montréal.
Jerry Garden starts out with “Just finished eating at sparrow.” I imagine Jerry tripping feverishly and saying to himself, “Must. Get. Back. Home. And. Write. Review. For. The. Sparrow.”
Please enjoy Jerry’s review of The Sparrow via Urban Spoon:
Just finished eating at sparrow and had a great time! I must say that this is the best restaurant in Montreal to attend while high on acid.
My dining partner and I dropped two tabs of LSD right before entering the bar. It’s probably a good thing that the waitress took a half hour to come to our table as by that point we were tripping balls. I ordered a st Ambroise oatmeal stout and my friend ordered a varietal of scotch. It was while he was ordering that I noticed that the flowery print on her shirt seemed to meld into the extravagant wallpaper (which also featured sounds of tw rainforest and real bird calls).
For an entree, I ordered the BLT and she got the hamburger. My BLT was great and the overflowing boar bacon juice moisturizer my hands nicely. My dining partner could not approach her burger as they kept returning it too rare (she swears that the patty was pulsating and full of blood, perhaps still alive).
After we finished, we waited for what seeme like forever before we got the bill. To our amazing surprise, the bill had been there the whole time and the waitress abruptly asked us to settle up. I was simply having too great a time with the ceiling fans and over-the-top wall paper! Sparrow rules, as does LSD.
I got pretty confused while trying to sort out the bills in my wallet as the colors seemed to bleed together and almost speak to me… But our waitress was so helpful with the math!
I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone high on acid!
The documentary How To Go Out Of Your Mind - The LSD Crisis was made for Canadian TV in 1966 and features some great footage of Tim Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Meltzner on the grounds of the legendary Millbrook estate.
I remember my first acid trip vividly: Falls Church, Va., 1967, half a tab of Monterey Purple, listening to the Doors’ Strange Days and taking a beautiful early evening walk down a garden path blooming with the reddest roses I’d ever seen. From that day on, my relationship to the world around me was far more sensual and connected. The only “LSD crisis” I ever experienced was trying to get my hands on more.
In last week’s episode of Mad Men, smug Madison Avenue advertising honcho Roger Sterling drops acid for the first time, thumbs through a magazine with the above image and then looks into a mirror, seeing himself with a similar situation going on with his own hair.
The ad was actually real and so was the product: “Great Day For Men” hair dye. The gentleman modeling the two-tone ‘do? None other than future “Ted Baxter,” the great Ted Knight!
Sixty-nine years ago today, Albert Hoffman, the Swiss scientist who discovered LSD, took his first trip.
After some time, with my eyes closed, I began to enjoy this wonderful play of colors and forms, which it really was a pleasure to observe. Then I went to sleep and the next day I was fine. I felt quite fresh, like a newborn.
Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the animal and plant kingdom. I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.” Albert Hoffman.
Connie Littlefield’s engaging documentary Hoffman’s Potion features interviews with many pioneering cosmonauts including Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Stanislav Grof and Ralph Metzner. It is a reminder that LSD is a compound that needs to be rescued from the dustbin of history and further researched.
Having had the good fortune of taking Sandoz pharmaceutical acid when it was still legal, I can testify to its deeply spiritual and life-changing properties. Truly a wonder drug that deserves to be respected not rejected.
I think that the possibility to have psychedelic experience is inborn. These psychedelics - very similar compounds are in our brain; of all the compounds which you find in the plant kingdom only the psychedelics are so closely related chemically to these brain factors, which we already have. We speak about the paradise of childhood. When I had this vision and beautiful experience as a child, this is no wonder, because we have these compounds already in our brain.” Albert Hoffman
Would you believe me if I told you that a film involving ESP, serial murder, LSD experiments, a disfigured ladies man who is strongly clairvoyant, a fairytale witch and a strong undercurrent of nihilism, actually exists? Well, believe, nonbelievers, because it does, all in the form of the 1967 Herschell Gordon Lewis film, Something Weird. Nothing, maybe not even my description above, can adequately prepare you for this film.
The film opens up with a woman walking in a deserted looking cement alleyway, the kind you would need a razor to scrape clean. The camera is angled where we initially only see her legs, but think less sexy and more ominous. The sparse Jazz soundtrack, pregnant like a storm cloud, underscores the impending sense of doom. Sure enough, another pair of legs come into the picture, black-slack clad and belonging to a man, who immediately starts to give chase. There’s a struggle and then a collapse, with the woman’s whole form slumping into frame, blank eyed, bloodied and frozen with the trauma that is death. It might be simple in set up, but this is one of the ugliest cinematic death scenes period. It actually shocked me the first time around, especially since I was mentally prepared and outright anticipating the Grand Guignol on strychnine violence that has earned Lewis the nickname, “The Godfather of Gore.” I was not, however, prepared for the stark ugliness and restrained violence, giving the former an even stronger impact. The audio only adds to this, depriving the audience of expected sounds, like screaming, footsteps and threatening words. Instead, it’s just the disjointed harsh imagery and one woeful jazz bass line.
Like a cupful of cold water to your face, there’s an immediate cut to two men practicing karate, complete with an overly loud yell. After an impressive demonstration, the film pinballs to an electrician, getting hit by a broken power line cable and then falling down to the ground, right to his death. Another man, Cronin “Mitch” Mitchell (Tony McCabe), gets hit in the face with the same cable. Unlike the fellow before him, Mitch lives but part of his face ends up horribly disfigured. The once boyish man is now reduced to borderline accosting his nurse and weeping in the bathroom, looking horrified at what his face has become. However, some curses beget gifts, and Mitch has now mysteriously attained extraordinarily strong powers of clairvoyance.
Despite his new gift, Mitch spends his time with his face mostly swathed in thin black fabric and dark sunglasses, working as a dime-store psychic. (Well, more accurately, a $2 one.) But life has more twists in store for our unlikely hero, which soon come in the form of a cackling, decrepit old woman. Turns out that the old biddy is actually a witch (Mudite Arums, yes that is how she is billed), as in any generic fairy tale or one of the more subdued Sid & Marty Krofft efforts. (Proof, there is a pouty red mouth painted on one of her knees, for no discernible reason.)
She notes what a pretty face he had before the accident and offers him a deal; get his old, flaw-free visage back and become her lover. Naturally, Mitch is aghast at the suggestion but is forced to rethink his reaction when, almost like a free sample, she magically removes all of the scar and tissue damage. It’s not long before he gets to test it out, coming to the rescue of a pretty, blue-eyed and potentially Quaaluded out damsel at a swanky restaurant. After he manages to shake one (fantastically) drunk harasser from her table, and then sweet talks her into coming home with him. As he swoops in for the seductive kill, the lovely Ellen (Elizabeth Lee) transforms into the Witch, who finds the whole thing hilarious, laughing even as she beckons him to fulfill his end of the bargain, which he does.
Meanwhile, there is a killer still on the loose, getting his next victim by murdering her with a primitive but effective flame thrower. (All in that same ugly, bombed out looking cement alley.) The police, with nary a lead in sight, get both Mitchell and Dr. Jordan (William Brooker), a Federal agent, on the case. Everyone is skeptical of Mitch, whose psychic prowess has now gained him national TV exposure. A small demonstration at the station, however, quells all but Jordan, prompting the Chief to invite Mitch and his companion/secretary, Ellen, to a shindig he is throwing at his house. The party’s a hit, with a skeptical Jordan zeroing in on Ellen, while Mitch starts to make some friendly talk with the Chief’s raven haired wife.
It’s only a matter of time that the party goers want to see a display of Mitch’s powers. In lieu of the usual psychic parlor tricks, the crowd, and the Chief’s wife in particular, request that he communes with the dead. (Yeah, that always seems like a good idea for a party!) Needless to say, it doesn’t go well, with Mitch levitating and then momentarily passing out. Turns out, his powers are a little too good, with the session unleashing a ghost, a serene looking bride, who is nevertheless scaring the parishioners at a local church. After being begged by the Reverend to at least check it out, Mitch agrees, purely on the grounds that no one mentions it to Ellen.
The ghost indeed shows up, grabbing his hand as they smile at each other before she completely disappears. Potential foreshadowing? You will soon be the judge and jury.
While Mitch is helping the living and the dead, Dr. Jordan continues his wooing of Ellen, with semi-results in that he is able to meet her for drinks and even defend the both of them from some local (and suspiciously clean-cut) thugs, best utilizing his chop-suey skills. Jordan, however, loses major points for coming about * this * close to sexually assaulting Ellen. At this point Mitch is canoodling with the Chief’s wife but psychically senses that his secret Hag is needing him. All of this results in one of the silliest bordering on surreal scenes in the whole film, with Jordan being attacked by his very own blanket! Whatever image is running in your head right at this very second is undoubtedly and eerily close to the reality. For better or worse, though, Jordan wins the fight of man versus textile fabric.
It’s only going to get even more strange, as Mitch decides to test out some government grade LSD that Jordan had given him earlier in the film. His red-soaked vision at first takes him through a desolate landscape, chasing Ellen who transforms into the cackling witch. He is able to track down the killer, in the same cement hell-alley that the women had been slaughtered in. The murderer bellows “I cannot be stopped!” before shooting Mitch in the head and our hero collapses to the ground, with the look of sad loss and defeat in his waning eyes. Believing the killer to be Detective Maddox after his vision, Mitch calls the department, putting the officers and Jordan on alert.
It’s a sunny afternoon and Mitchell is walking down the street. Before he can even finish ogling a curvy redhead, he gets hit with a sniper bullet, to the head, and our protagonist, our hero, is murdered before us. Jordan, taking his sweet time, finally catches up to Maddox, whom we’re never a 100% sure is the real killer, and murders him before the police can catch him. He is questioned on why he didn’t get to Mitchell sooner and potentially save his life. Jordan hollowly defends himself, only to break down later in the evening to Ellen, claiming that he loves her and wanted her all to himself. This prompts a delighted Ellen to reveal her true self, forcing the la ronde effect to come into play, with Jordan becoming disfigured with the Hag behind him, laughing knowingly.
Something Weird is truly something else, marking a truly layered note in the career of Herschell Gordon Lewis. For your cult film lovers, undoubtedly you’re nodding your head with recognition, perhaps even admiration, at the name of one HG Lewis. Rightfully dubbed “The Godfather of Gore,” Lewis helped usher in a new age of gooey horror, starting way back in the early 1960’s. A lot of his films, ranging from the game changer Blood Feast to The Gore Gore Girls, often played out like Grand Guignol on amphetamines. Despite the fact that the man also made biker films (the incredible She Devils on Wheels), kids films (Jimmy, The Boy Wonder) and sexploitation films (Suburban Roulette), the gore factor to this day is often the first thing that people in the know think of when they hear the name of HG Lewis.
But everything you think you know goes out the door with Something Weird. There is little to no gore, it is more sadly bleak, with our hero killed, a serial killer potentially still loose and the same old strange cycle of life just going on and on. But on top of all that, is an absolutely solid performance from Tony McCabe as Mitch. McCabe, who passed away under unknown circumstances only a year after “Something Weird” came out, is genuinely nuanced and likable. Mitch is no saint but that is part of his charm. He’s a bit of a ladies man whose basic core is good. It’s a damn shame that McCabe’s career was cut so short, since he shows incredible potential and charisma here.
Part of the beauty of Something Weird is that this is a film that clamps its fists down and refuses to be categorized. The closest one could come would be to call it a “nihilistic fairy tale,” which would be halfway honest to the spirit of the fairy tale genre pre-Disney. But even that only paints the broadest of pictures. Some will automatically detest it for not being what they expect but the best art is often the type that defies expectations. Boxes are meant to not only be opened but then ripped apart and burned.
Something Weird is available at Amazon and also from the legendary video company that took its name from the film, Something Weird Video.