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Psychedelics by Peter Stafford


by Peter Stafford

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181887,633 (4)1
Provides a framework for understanding the enormous amount of information available on psychoactive substances. Stafford relays the history, botany, chemistry, physical and mental effects, forms, sources, and preparations of LSD--the most potent and representative of class of drugs called psychedelics. Stafford claims that psychedelics offer surprising benefits to society and he explores the record of promising studies that were truncated in the 1960s, along with a commentary of developments since that time.… (more)



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To extend my string of South Park references in reviews: In the immortal words of Chef, “Don't do drugs, kids. There is a time and place for everything. It's called college.”

When I was an undergrad, I briefly dated a pretty young lady named Faye with long dark red hair and freckles, who was more interested in doing drugs than in having sex. We never did, which was fine, because the drugs were good. One day, she gave me a couple tabs of Lysergic acid diethylamide, aka LSD. My best friend Brian and I decided to give it a whirl. I was living in a beautiful, somewhat rickety old Victorian mansion at the time that had been converted into a rental property. It had five bedrooms each of which was rented separately. I had rented the living room on the first floor instead of a bedroom, so I had the largest and grandest room for myself. The kitchen and bathrooms were shared. The living room was closed off by two ornate sliding doors while two French doors opened to the front porch. The room had an outrageously high ceiling, baroque woodwork, and the original (but blocked up) fireplace. I had decorated the walls with some of my artwork and numerous band posters. It was a rather Gothic pad, in the architectural sense of the term.

Brian and I each took the hit around 6:00pm on Saturday night. The way up was quite transcendent. I had a giant poster of Robert Smith in silhouette, and his iconic hair unraveled itself from his head and flapped around the room in the shape of a black dragon.

I remember going to the bathroom and the tile walls were smoking. At the peak of the experience, achieved somewhere around midnight, I was sitting cross-legged on this comfy old lounge chair when I felt myself levitate. I was completely weightless, and my point of view was from the middle of the room. I was rotating slowly in space until my eyes came to rest on one of my colorful chalk drawings of a skull surrounded by small dancing skeletons. All of the colors of the chalk drawing streamed off the wall to coalesce just a few feet before my eyes into the form of a massive diamond shooting rainbows in every direction. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life.

The way down, however, was not as charming. I began to feel alternately hot then cold. Even wrapping myself in a blanket didn’t do much good. My friend Brian was starting to play pranks that were irritating and disturbing. Or at least they seemed that way in the moment, hard to tell reality from imagination. At one point, he was laughing hysterically and swinging his head left and right so fast that it seemed as if his head were rotating completely in circles, like The Exorcist until I screamed at him to stop, and we fell abruptly silent. Later, he passed out, but I couldn’t. Instead I began to fall deeper and deeper into depression until I felt like I was facing the darkest pit of Existentialism and meaninglessness.

Eventually, I came out the other side and I was hungover for 24 hours. I remember just like the clichés, wearing sunglasses to class on Monday because the light still hurt my eyes.

So, how did I feel in retrospect about the experience? Absolutely 100% worth it. The meaning of psychedelic is “breaking boundaries.” Something I’m strongly in favor of, both in my own mind, getting past blockages and barriers, as well as in society. We’re all walled off. Everything about society tries to wall us off from each other and increase alienation. Capitalism is about competition. Families move apart. Friends disappear. Countries go to war over resources and money. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We’ve got a lot of barriers that need breaking. Even the darkness of the experience was worth it. Psychedelics haven’t always been fun (although sometimes they have been a whole lot of fun), but they have sometimes been profound and moving. And I’m glad I faced that pit, because I’m sure it will be back. And I’ll be ready for it.

Oh yes, and my review:

While Peter Stafford isn’t a true journalist, scientist or psychologist, it’s quite difficult for a more “legitimate” type to write a history of an illegal drug. Especially if they weren’t there, which Peter was through the heyday in the 60s and 70s. He is certainly quite knowledge about the science of LSD and all the research that went on before it was made illegal. The book does suffer from occasional delegitimizing typos, some confusing scientific lingo, and some awkward phraseology, but overall, it’s a valuable history of LSD. I had no idea that (just as I discovered about ecstasy when I read e, the incredibly strange history of ecstasy) numerous psychologists were using LSD with fairly good success to heal numerous neuroses and psychic wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. I also didn’t realize that very similar compounds to LSD are present in certain plants, specifically Morning Glories. If you have interest in the power and potential of psychedelic experiences, then this book is worth a read. ( )
  David_David_Katzman | Nov 26, 2013 |
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