The New Face of LSD
The drug hasn’t changed, but the way people are using it has.
By Maya Merberg, SUNY Geneseo
The Beatles album “Revolver” was heavily influenced by the band’s use of acid, as evidently, such imaginative lyrics as, “So we sailed up to the sun / Till we found the sea of green / And we lived beneath the waves / In our yellow submarine” weren’t exactly run of the mill for rock bands at the time.
“Revolver,” as it were, marked the beginning of the “flower power” era around the late 1960s. It was a time that, in society’s collective memory, is marked by hippie counterculture, bands like Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead, peaceful protests and psychedelic drugs. As a result, this seems to be what people think of when they think of acid, or LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide.)
The drug was more heavily used at the time, or at least its usage was more widely accepted. But it wasn’t just young burnout hippie types who were taking acid—it was also being widely researched by psychology scholars and scientists. The findings were revolutionary.
“Time” magazine reported that some scientists believe “LSD research led to the first formal recognition that brain chemistry could affect behavior.” The importance of the idea that neurotransmitters play a role in human behavior, mood and personality cannot be understated. Without the initial surge of LSD research around 1960, we may not know nearly as much as we do now about mental illnesses like depression and mental health treatment. A finding that seemed particularly promising showed clearly that LSD was very effective at treating alcoholism in some people.
Discoveries like this began to be dispersed throughout the population, spurring an uptrend in LSD usage. Eventually, the government deemed the drug dangerous and banned all usage of it completely. Apparently government officials (in the US and UK) thought that acid trips were culprits for inducing psychosis, panic and other unstable states of mind. Realistically, though a small percentage of users have bad trips, this notion is generally unfounded.
Now, years later, LSD has been appearing in the news again. There has been a cluster of recent studies showing, again, how helpful acid can be in improving mental health. It turns out that simply banning a drug will not make its valuable properties disappear. One of the first studies on acid since the 60s showed that the drug could significantly reduce anxiety in cancer patients.
Another study this past April was the first to use medical brain scans in patients under the influence of LSD. This one found that people who were tripping experienced a dissolution of their brain’s existing organizations. Neural networks that are typically distinct began to communicate, inducing an expansion of “global connectivity” within the brain. Researchers postulate that this interconnectivity could be responsible for what some acid users call “ego-dissolution,” wherein they experience a breakdown of the boundaries between the environment and the self.
That is some trippy shit.
But modern LSD research isn’t always. The aforementioned studies involve patients taking up to 200 micrograms of acid at a time—more than is necessary for a full on trip. That kind of dosage is what is used recreationally, and is still found to be medically important.
But other experimenters have taken to using only a small amount of acid, maybe 10 micrograms, every day. That isn’t nearly enough to trip. Users still retain full mental clarity. But they do experience a lift in mood, energy levels, and productivity.
It’s like a cup of coffee on steroids, or, well, acid.
People with intense office jobs are using LSD in the workplace with profound results. It seems like it improves creativity and generally boosts performance at mentally taxing tasks. The setting for microdosing acid doesn’t have to be anything special—users just go about their daily lives and see improvements in everything from communicating with friends and family to performance in extreme sports.
Using LSD and other hallucinogens is still very illegal. But that hasn’t stopped determined recreational users and scientists from getting their hands on it. And why should it? Acid has a bad rap dating back 40 years. But it has virtually no health risks if its usage is supervised and responsible, and it can help people recover from PTSD, depression and other mental health issues, or just aid a regular person in getting his or her life back on track.
Other than a few outliers, acid consumption is quite safe. It is understandable to be anxious about the usage of a drug that induces a profoundly different and unfamiliar state of being, but the criminalization of it seems almost unethical in light of how helpful it can be.
Luckily, it looks like we are on the right track. At least in some areas, hallucinogens are making somewhat of a comeback. More research in the area along with open and honest discussions about the merit of LSD and other drugs, and their place in the medical community, is what we really need to ensure mental health patients are receiving all the help they need.