Long, long ago, in other words, the 1960s, some psychiatrists and others were interested in the therapeutic potential of LSD, after the Central Intelligence had pretty well decided that it was useless for making spies confess.
There were two approaches to LSD back then. One was more cautious — it should be distributed quietly to artists, intellectuals, opinion-makers, etc. for a gradual transformation of society. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World and The Island was in that camp.
The other approach was epitomized by psychologist Timothy Leary: Give it to everyone, now! Turn on, tune in, drop out!
We all know which approach won out and what happened. One result of the subsequent legal crackdown was that serious research with LSD became impossible.
That has changed.
On Tuesday [March 4,2014], The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease is posting online results from the first controlled trial of LSD in more than 40 years. The study, conducted in the office of a Swiss psychiatrist near Bern, tested the effects of the drug as a complement to talk therapy for 12 people nearing the end of life . . . . The new publication marks the latest in a series of baby steps by a loose coalition of researchers and fund-raisers who are working to bring hallucinogens back into the fold of mainstream psychiatry. Before research was effectively banned in 1966 in the United States, doctors tested LSD’s effect for a variety of conditions, including end-of-life anxiety.
Kind of related: a short article, “Beyond Castaneda: A Brief History of Psychedelics in Anthropology – Part 1 1859-1950.” (Part 2 has not yet appeared.)