LSD Short Overview—More

hallucinations effect

The Leary Era

In 1949, American researchers began using the drug to try to simulate mental illness. It was also used in psychotherapy and in the treatment of alcoholism. At the time, it was still a legal drug.

Professor Timothy Leary began using the drug experimentally while he was teaching at Harvard University. He gave the drug to more than 300 professors, graduate students, writers, philosophers and members of the clergy. But by May 1963, Harvard University relieved him of his teaching duties because of the undesirable media attention.

Leary moved to Millbrook, New York and continued his unofficial experiments with the drug. In the 1960s, Leary was arrested for drug possession and jailed twice. The second time, he escaped after seven months. He spent several years in exile but was recaptured in Afghanistan and extradited to the US. He managed to make himself a celebrity simply because of his outspokenness in promoting drug use as a way of achieving insight and enlightenment.

But as early as 1967, reports of damage from LSD use were beginning to surface. A report to the Canadian Medical Association listed prolonged psychotic reactions, recurrent LSD experiences—referred to as “flashbacks”—and even occasional suicides, homicidal impulses, and convulsions. This report noted 19 attempted suicides, 11 successful suicides and 142 cases of prolonged psychotic episodes. What’s more, a high rate of chromosome damage was noted as a result of LSD use. The author noted that “it is clear then that serious prolonged psychoses may result from LSD use.”

The Club Scene


By the 1980s, therapeutic use of LSD was discredited and negative publicity about the drug reduced its popularity. This lasted until the 1990s when it began to be popular as a “club drug”—a drug used at music venues like nightclubs, music festivals, and raves.

This increase began to be noted in the Monitoring the Future annual survey of teens between 1989 and 1992. Young people who were just starting to be surveyed and who had not been subjected to the negative publicity about the drug showed increased use of LSD compared to other students who were now older. Use increased until 1995 and then reduced for the next decade.

In 2001, LSD became less available. A seizure of a production facility in Kansas may have contributed to this shortage although historically, most LSD was manufactured on the West Coast. It is thought that the attention of young people who wanted an experience like that of LSD might have shifted to Ecstasy. Then, as of 2007, use among teens began to grow again.

Once again, LSD is being touted in the UK as a treatment for alcoholism, after being rejected for inconsistent results a few decades before.


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