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Harmful Hallucinogen or Marketable Medicine?

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Many children are informed on drugs from one perspective. They are not given detailed descriptions or informed on all the possible uses. Schools say things such as “drugs are bad, lead to addiction, and ruin any chance at a happy life.” These biased explanations fuel children’s curiosity. It is a mysterious topic along with sex that kids take upon themselves to decode. Growing up, my parents were always more open with me than most guardians. While at dinner one night, the topic of LSD came up and I decided to look deeper into it. Knowing that LSD is bad for you and illegal, I was shocked to discover it is the least addictive drug. Besides that, I was particularly surprised that “acid” had been used in studies for medical research (Hallucinogens overview). According to an article by the Daily Mail, a study published in 2008 found that even over a year after healthy volunteers had taken a single dose, most said they were still feeling and behaving better due to the experience. They also said the drug had produced one of the five most spiritually significant experiences they’d ever had. It has been thought to be a cure to alcoholism and an aid for psychiatric problems. So, the question I arrived at was: Could LSD really transition from illegal hallucinogen to marketable medicine? Between the discovery of the drug, the past use in the medical field, and the plans for future uses, many will find the evidence is too strong to be closed-minded on the topic of acid.

Lysergic acid diethylamid (LSD) is a psychedelic drug commonly referred to as acid. Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, created the drug by accident in attempt to discover a stimulant for blood circulation. One night after tedious work in the lab, he drank some of the chemical substance; Hoffman recalls the sudden urge to lie down and sleep. The lights became intense, and he was in a state of exaggerated imagination and color. Hoffman was convinced he had poisoned himself and called a doctor only to hear his symptoms were stable and he had no traces of poison. The morning after he felt “rejuvenated and relieved,” he described himself as “in excellent physical and mental condition.” Although Albert Hoffman was afraid while tripping on acid, he felt as though his life had been renewed and he saw life in a new light after taking it, “Hoffman knew immediately that LSD could be of great value to psychiatry.” Until the early sixties LSD was readily available to scientific and clinical investigators for medical research under the trade name Delysid. LSD soon was exposed to the public and became the most commonly used hallucinogen. LSD aided in the beginning of a cultural revolution that tested America’s cultural values. Many say LSD started the Vietnam War protests. The creation and exposure of LSD influenced culture in America tremendously. But, it was only the beginning; there was much left to discover.

Acid had a large impact on medicine. In the 1940s research on the brain was just emerging, and better tools and techniques were becoming available for biomedical research. Scientists were starting to identify the various chemicals found in the brain.

“When Sandoz initially began supplying LSD to scientists, it was provided in the belief that it produced a model psychosis, so that psychiatrists could take LSD and gain a glimpse into the world of the mentally ill. The connection between mental illness and disturbances of neurochemistry was firmly cemented into place by the discovery of LSD” (Grof).
The connection between LSD and serotonin lead to a major revolution in neuroscience that continues to be studied today. According to Betty Eisner much of the world of psychiatry is accredited to LSD. “No matter how you feel about the social aspects of LSD, it did have a profound effect on society. More importantly, we can never fully appreciate how different the face of medicine and psychiatry, and our understanding of the brain would be today without Hoffman’s discovery.”

Although in modern society acid is looked down upon it is considered to be a tremendous advance in psychiatric medicine.

Acid has also been used in studies to treat many different things such as alcoholism, help terminal cancer patients, and rehabilitate convicts. Before being classified as illegal in 1971, LSD was commonly used as a treatment for anxiety, depression, and addiction. But, due to the concerns that the drug was becoming widespread as a recreational drug, and fear that excessive use could trigger mental health conditions led to prohibition and the holt of most LSD medical experiments. If a scientist wanted to start a study with LSD he would have to get it approved by the FDA, which took a lot of time and money. Recently the FDA has approved a human study looking at how LSD affects the brains neurotransmitter systems. Another study at Harvard is being developed to look into how acid can help treat cluster headaches. As for the use of LSD in regard to alcoholism it has been reported that people will take acid a couple times a year to refrain from starting up their habitual drinking problem. A woman named Anna Jones is a thirty-five year old woman who takes LSD twice a year. This occasional dose keeps her from falling back into her alcoholism that she left behind fourteen years ago. For Anna the drug “saved her life”. It was the catalyst she needed to give up destructive behavior such as heavy drinking and smoking, “I took a hit of LSD one day and didn’t feel alone anymore. It helped me to see myself differently, increase my self-confidence, lose my desire to drink, or smoke and just feel at one with the world. I haven’t touched alcohol or cigarettes since that day in 1995 and am much happier than before.” It is possible to get numerous satisfied results with the drug; if the proper usage and open-minds are applied, LSD can be extremely beneficial to society.

The use of hallucinogens can be traced back all the way to the time of Ancient Aztecs, when the consumption of “magic mushrooms” was abundant. Hallucinogens were often used for spiritual rituals and ceremonies due to the intense internal reflection one has while under the influence of the drugs. Although many may doubt the theory of LSD having any positive effect on the human mind, it is shown in research that there is a promising use for it in the treatment of mental disorders. A common recovery program for mental illness is the twelve-step technique, which is both time-consuming and difficult. Acid can help hurry along this process by releasing the ability to access memories and events from the past. In terms of people with terminal diseases and traumatic lives LSD gives assistance in providing the ability to change their sense of their surroundings and worldviews. Another psychological disorder that Acid helps is OCD and anorexia because it diminishes certain serotonin receptors associated with the disorders. These are just a few examples of the good that can come out of experimenting with LSD. There is plenty of research to support the theory; with the right funds, scientists, and doctors the potential of the drug is limitless, or so we think.

Throughout history many drugs have been introduced, experimented with, and made illegal by the FDA. This cycle is used to protect human beings from over-exposing themselves to harmful materials, but some drugs are not given a chance to prove valuable. Acid, a psychedelic drug, is thought to be helpful in terms of working with the mind. For a period of time it was almost impossible to run studies with the drug, but now more research has been done and a promising future is fueling more experiments. Who knows, maybe drugs will begin to mesh with healthcare in hopes for medical advances and ideas. Even the “father of LSD” Albert Hoffman said, “Everyone should have their experience with LSD, it was the abuse of the street users that ruined it.” From a one-point perspective it’s hard to understand all the components that contribute to an element, I relate this saying with the study of drugs and society’s biased opinion.

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