Theater of Cruelty

LSD in a hundred


What is Consciousness? The question became highly topical with the discovery of the effects on humans of LSD in 1943. The inventor, head of research at Sandoz's pharmaceutical lab Albert Hofmann, inadvertently ingested microscopic amounts of his semi-synthetic substance from 1938 – and the rest is history.

For Hofmann's 100th birthday (!) On 11.01.06, a three-day symposium will be held in Basel, Switzerland (13-15 January), with over 80 experts on psychedelia. Hofmann himself will participate in several ways. Until the borderless use of the 60's, LSD was a recognized psychiatric remedy. Also in Norway (Modum bath). The author Aldous Huxley tried the drug, wrote several books on the subject and helped create the term 'psychedelic' – mind-manifesting. Huxley chose to die peacefully from cancer under the influence of LSD in 1963. The PR-eager Harvard professor of psychology Timothy Leary started the scandals about LSD, via a research project at the university. Accused of uncritically distributing the drug, Leary was fired in 1963 – and LSD fell into disfavor. A snowball rolled. Although not entirely objective, the criticism was not, given Sandoz Pharmaceuticals' free distribution of LSD to anyone interested as a research drug for around 20 years. An abrupt change of mood occurred when LSD spread to socially critical youth groups who embraced LSD as a sacrament. Then LSD – which can not kill – became dangerous in the main media.

The defensibility of its use expired in parallel with the demonization and ban on the drug. LSD spread faster than knowledge of good use. The condemnations led to poor use, since many new users received little information about sensible use, but lots of concrete influence in the media for short-term use (eg: "Take LSD and be wise…"). The worst claims became self-fulfilling. In this way, the critical youth environments ("hippies") were largely suspected and criminalized. The exciting, legitimate research on LSD and consciousness (and eventually other psychedelics and ethnobotanically used drugs) still continued until 1975. Over 4000 scientific articles were printed by then. But then the bans (USA 1966, Norway 1971) stopped the research. From the 1990s, the basis was again created for new research, and even in the US, positively oriented research on Ecstacy (MDMA), Psilocybin (flein mushrooms), DMT and LSD is now ongoing. The symposium in Basel brings together researchers with many who have quietly researched and further developed the knowledge from LSD since the 1940s and 50s, and is the largest such collection ever. Then we'll see if they find out what consciousness is…

Ole Ullern, MSc.

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