Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

Tom Shroder

Language: English

Pages: 448

ISBN: 0399162798

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


It’s no secret that psychedelic drugs have the ability to cast light on the miraculous reality hidden within our psyche. Almost immediately after the discovery of LSD less than a hundred years ago, psychedelics began to play a crucial role in the quest to understand the link between mind and matter. With an uncanny ability to reveal the mind’s remote frontiers and the unmapped areas of human consciousness, LSD and MDMA (better known as Ecstasy) have proven extraordinarily effective in treating anxiety disorders such as PTSD—yet the drugs remain illegal for millions of people who might benefit from them.

Anchoring Tom Shroder’s Acid Test are the stories of Rick Doblin, the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), who has been fighting government prohibition of psychedelics for more than thirty years; Michael Mithoefer, a former emergency room physician, now a psychiatrist at the forefront of psychedelic therapy research; and his patient Nicholas Blackston, a former Marine who has suffered unfathomable mental anguish from the effects of brutal combat experiences in Iraq. All three men are passionate, relatable people; each flawed, each resilient, and each eccentric, yet very familiar and very human.

Acid Test covers the first heady years of experimentation in the fifties and sixties, through the backlash of the seventies and eighties, when the drug subculture exploded and uncontrolled use of street psychedelics led to a PR nightmare that created the drug stereotypes of the present day. Meticulously researched and astoundingly informative, this is at once a personal story of intertwining lives against an epic backdrop, and a compelling argument for the unprecedented healing properties of drugs that have for decades been characterized as dangerous, illicit substances.

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put it, “The white man goes into his church house and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his teepee and talks to Jesus.” Naturalists began to collect and study the peyote cactus. Mescaline was identified as the active ingredient in 1896 and synthesized in 1919. A flurry of physicians, scientists, artists, and intellectuals self-experimented with the drug. Their accounts for some reason focused primarily on the closed-eye visions it invoked. The mini-vogue continued into the 1920s, but

the mental hospital in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada. Weyburn was a bleak railroad town forty-five miles from the U.S. border, due north of the state line between North Dakota and Montana. Winter lows mired in the negative numbers and summers started late and ended early. The town’s population barely exceeded the five thousand inmates of the hospital. Abram Hoffer, the director of research there when Osmond arrived, described the hospital population this way: “Admission was for them a life

told—he liked the kid. But he’d heard the rumors. The kid had tripped on LSD, and Rick knew what that meant: at least part of him had been damaged. Rick kept looking for signs of derangement, but just because he couldn’t see them didn’t mean they weren’t there. One day, when they were supposed to be learning Russian declension, Rick noticed him reading a novel with an odd title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The kid caught him looking. “You should read this,” he said. Rick did. He’d never

lot of choices about how he would serve, but when the recruiter briefed him on all the specialties he could request—occupations that might have a future in the civilian world —Nick shook his head. “I just want to be infantry,” he said. He wanted a gun in his hand, not a welding torch. No matter what the recruiter said, Nicholas wouldn’t yield. When the day came for Nick’s papers to be signed by his parents, the recruiter appeared at his front door with the sheaf in his hand. Nick’s mother

. . The sheer intensity of the array of emotions I felt simply amazed me. . . . I was hit by a radiance that seemed comparable to the epicenter of a nuclear explosion, or perhaps the light of supernatural brilliance said in Oriental scriptures to appear to us at the moment of death. This thunderbolt catapulted me out of my body. First I lost my awareness of my immediate surroundings, then the psychiatric clinic, then Prague, and finally the planet. At an inconceivable speed my consciousness

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