June 19, 2012

If LSD Were Legal, I’d Be Administering it to My Clients Tomorrow.

photo by J. Gaddis

In college, I ate acid.

Not a tremendous amount, but maybe a dozen or more times. I’m legally insane, right?  Um…yeah…

Sometimes I ate acid with lots of beer at a party (not good), and sometimes with friends in the Utah desert.

When I was in the desert, it opened my mind in the most brilliant of ways. I had peak experiences and felt deeply connected to a spiritual force all around me. I had visions and saw through my own personality. It was both liberating and terrifying at the same time.

Then, I sobered up and laughed it off with my friends as a “good trip.” But inside I felt alone and sad. I had such a big opening then back to the grind of my life where I was  spiritually starving and emotionally constipated.

I was 20-years-old and had no way to integrate the experience. I had no mentor or guide to help me prep for the experience, deepen during the experience, or process/integrate after the experience.

So, it faded and I just kept drinking and getting high, trying to feel okay.

A lot of people are like me, specifically teenagers who use LSD. They “trip” for fun, or as an escape, with no one holding them through it. No one explains the real risks, nor the potential long-term benefits if they take this medicine in a good way. So, kids get blown out and like me, can’t and don’t integrate what they experienced.

In my experience, most adults today act happy, but just under the surface they are often depressed, disconnected, off their true path, addicted to something, or very alone and confused. Many adults I work with are very locked up.

Teens and adults could use some serious “medicine” these days. But not just to give them a dopamine surge, or to make the feel “better.” Sometimes a “breakthrough” experience is all we need to increase our motivation to change and grow. It’s my strong belief, that people could benefit from plant medicines such as Ayahuasca or peyote  and, yes, even LSD.

I have been a psychotherapist since 2004 and from 1997-2006 worked in adolescent treatment programs with “troubled” teens. Kids were really hurting inside. It wasn’t bi-polar disorder, or ADD, although those were common diagnoses. The teens I worked with were feeling the existential angst of the world. The longed for truth and to meet their edge. They knew there was more to life than what they saw the adults doing.

The folks I worked with back then were suffering a great deal internally. It hasn’t changed. People are still suffering out there, perhaps more now than ever. It’s real, it’s intense. Why not use whatever tools are at our disposal to help people in pain?

After I watched the below documentary, I was blown away learning the history of LSD and how it helped so many people because it was administered by psychiatrists in a “safe” setting. Proper context was laid down, and the taker had a sober support person witnessing them and answering questions the entire time. These were not hippies, new age folks, or burning man junkies. Some were ordinary people with ordinary problems. And some were folks dealing with extraordinary challenges such as schizophrenia or chronic addiction.

I feel saddened by the fact that LSD, or other plant medicines such as Ayahuasca are illegal for use in therapeutic settings. And, honestly, if it were legal, I’d get whatever license I needed to begin administering to certain clients tomorrow.

Do I think we should all go out and eat acid? Nope. Do I think the answer to our suffering is in an LSD session? No. Do I think we should replace the genuine human journey with LSD? Absolutely not. However, some of us would benefit tremendously from this kind of experience facilitated in a safe, contained setting at least once in our lifetime.

It might be the kind of peak experience we need to unlock our stuckness or see through a habitual patterns and limited ways of thinking. LSD has the power to open our eyes to our addictions, self-absorption, and the painful ways we treat ourselves and each other. Whenever we expand our awareness we gain new choices, new perspectives. This can only help us become more of who we really are.

I haven’t taken LSD since 1995, but after watching this highly educational documentary, I’m considering trying some in the way described in the movie.

Here’s the film on the National Film Board of Canada’s website:


Here’s the description of the film on their website:

This documentary offers a compassionate, open-minded look at LSD and how it fits into our world. Long before Timothy Leary urged a generation to “tune in, turn on and drop out,” the drug was hailed as a way to treat forms of addiction and mental illness. At the same time, it was being touted as a powerful tool for mental exploration and self-understanding.

Featuring interviews with LSD pioneers, beautiful music and stunning cinematography, this is much more than a simple chronicle of LSD’s early days. It’s an alternative way of looking at the drug… and our world.

Related article: Is LSD making a comeback in therapy?


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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