Good Acid, Man


I have never tried acid. By the time I was into my late teens I was too late for 60’s counter-culture’s drug of choice, LSD. First synthesised in 1938 by Albert Hofmann the drug is famed for producing altered time and sensory illusions. Whilst it was not addictive per se and is not known to have caused brain damage, it did engender acute adverse psychiatric reactions such as paranoia, anxiety and delusions. LSD was extremely popular as a drug and was initially legal but the authorities clamped down on it hard and its day was over. A more natural alternative, magic mushrooms, has filled the gap.

My thoughts turned to acid the other day when I read that a team of researchers at London’s Imperial College were recruiting volunteers for research into the possible uses of psilocybin to combat anxiety, depression and addiction which is scheduled to start in April. How do you get these gigs?

The anti-depression study will begin with 12 patients whose brain activity will be monitored before and after receiving a dose of psilocybin. Interestingly, there is still a stigma attached to LSD and so to avoid controversy the researchers have decided to concentrate on the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. The next stage of the research will be to extend the trials to involve 60 patients, half of whom (possibly disappointingly for them) will be given placebos.

Trials in America have already indicated that a single dose of a hallucinatory drug can have dramatic effects on anxiety and depression, in particular amongst patients dealing with terminal cancer. They claim that people who had been hitherto scared out of their wits lost their fear after a dose. Seems to make some kind of sense.  After all, if movies like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter are to be believed, troops out in Vietnam were routinely spaced out before they launched a raid. Beats a slug of rum or brandy, I think.

A blast of a hallucinogen may also be the key to packing up smoking if a study conducted at John Hopkins University in Baltimore is to be believed. A small group of smokers (tobacco stunts your growth, after all) were given psilocybin to treat their habit. Of the 15 guinea pigs 12 were able to give up smoking and lasted out for at least 6 months, a far higher success rate than other nicotine replacement therapies can boast. A more extensive study is underway. Acid on the NHS – there’s a concept to mull over.

The improvements in imaging technology now enable scientists to get a better picture of the impact of hallucinogens on the grey cells. The ne’erayers, though, claim that this is the thin end of the wedge. They feel that a wider discussion of the wider benefits of psychedelic drugs will increase public demand for products which if not strictly controlled would be potentially dangerous.

Can’t say I agree. I will look forward to following the progress of this piece of research.