noticetext: 'A history of hallucinogenics, leading researchers, including Dr. Halpern.'
excerpt: "d out from the session room for a moment to respond to the contents\nof a special delivery letter. Back in the room, four men are lying on\ncouches and cushions, eyeshades blocking out the daylight, hearing a\nBeethoven string quartet on stereo headphones. Each man, a senior\nscientist, had taken 25 micrograms of LSD-25—a very low dose—about\ntwo hours earlier. Two of these men are working on different projects\nfor Stanford Research Institute, another for Hewlett Packard, the last is\nan architect. They are highly qualified, highly respected, and highly\nmotivated to solve technical problems. Each one brought to this session\nseveral problems that he had been working on for at least the past three\nmonths and had been unable to solve. None had any prior experience\nwith psychedelics. In another two hours, we plan to lift their eyeshades,\ntake off their headphones, turn off the music, and offer them finger\nfood, which they will probably not touch. We will help them focus on\nthe problems they came in to solve. They are the fifth or sixth group we\nhave run. The federal government has approved of this study. It is an\nexperimental use of a “new drug,” a drug still under review and not\navailable commercially.\nIn 1966 there were about 60 projects around the country actively\ninvestigating LSD-25. Some were therapeutic studies: one at UCLA\nshowed remarkable success in getting autistic children to communicate\nagain; others were working with animals from monkeys to rats to fish,\neven with insects. Spiders, it turned out, make radically different web\ndesigns when given different psychedelics. A year or two earlier there\nhad been a disastrous experiment when psychiatrist Jolly West gave an\nelephant enough LSD, it is fair to say, to kill an elephant. It did. The\ndose was several hundred thousand times what any human had taken or\nwould ever take. While it made a brief media splash, the disaster did\nn o t s e e m t o s t o p t h e r e s e a r c h g o i n g o n w o r l d w i d e . S a n d o z\nPharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, the developer of LSD-25, had\nrecently made available summaries of the first 1000 human studies.\nLSD-25 was the most studied psychoactive drug in the world. It was\nremarkable in two ways. One, it was effective in micrograms (millionth\nof a gram doses). This made it one of the most potent substances ever\ndiscovered. Two, it seemed to have the effect of radically changing\nperception, awareness, and cognition but not in any predictable way.\nThese results seemed to be dependent not only on the drug effects, but\nequally so on the situation of the subject—what they’d been told about\nwhat they were going to experience under the drug and, even more\ninteresting to science, the mind-set of the researcher, whether or not he\nor she had communicated a point of view to the subjects in any given\nstudy.\nIn short, here was a substance whose effects depended in part\non the mental expectations of both subject and researcher. Often people\nin the studies had experiences that appeared to be deeply therapeutic,\nblissful and life changing, religious in content or mystical, but they also\nmight have experiences that were profoundly disturbing, confusing, or\nterrifying. The after-effects of the experience looked more like learning\nthan simply the passage of a chemical through the brain and body. LSD\nwas the genie in the bottle and there were bottles of it all over the country\nand a growing number outside laboratories and research institutions as\nwell.\nWhen that special delivery letter came from the Food and Drug\nAdministration, none of us yet knew that many of the early conferences\nof LSD researchers had been sponsored by foundations that were covertly\nfunded by the CIA, or that the United States Army had been giving\npsychoactive substances to unsuspecting members of the military,\nprisoners, even some of their own staff. Nor did we know that every\nproject in the country, except those run by the military or intelligence\nagencies, had received a similar letter on the same day. Sitting in Menlo\nPark, in the offices of the International Foundation for Advanced Study,\nwe four plus a small support staff were running the only study designed\nto test the hypothesis that this material could improve the functioning\nof the rational and the analytical parts of the mind. We were trying to\nfind out if, instead of being diverted into the amazing inner landscape\nof colors and forms or into the adventures of mystical exploration or\npsychopathological terror, LSD-25 might be used to enhance personal\ncreativity in ways that could be measured.\nThere had been a string of very successful studies in Canada\nshowing that LSD administered in a safe and supportive setting led to a\nhigh rate of curbing long-term alcoholics’ drinking. Other studies\nconducted in Southern California by Oscar Janniger showed that artists’\nwork changed radically during an LSD session and often was changed\nthereafter. However, it was an argument in the art world, and in the\nscience world, if that art was “better.” Our team wanted to see if another\naspect of the creative—technical problem solving—could be helped by\nthe use of these agents.\nThe answer thus far in our study was a resounding “yes.” We\nwere amazed, as were our participants, at how many novel and effective\nsolutions came out of our sessions. Client companies and research\ninstitutions were satisfied with the results (if not fully informed of how\nthey occurred). Other members of research groups, ones whose members\nhad worked with us, were asking to be included in the study. It was a\ndeeply satisfying time.\nThe letter from the FDA was brief. It advised us that as of the\nreceipt of this letter, our permission to use these materials, our research\nprotocol, and our capacity to work with these materials in any way,\nshape, or form was terminated.\nI was by far the youngest member of the research team, a graduate\nstudent at Stanford in a psychology department that I’d not informed\nabout this research. Two of the others were full professors of engineering\nat Stanford in two different departments, and the fourth was the founder\nand director of the foundation, a scientist in his own right who’d retired\nearly and set up a nonprofit institute to better understand the interplay\nbetween consciousness, deep personal and spiritual experiences, and these\nsubstances.\nVery soon we would need to go back into that room where the\nfour men lay, their minds literally expanding. I said, “I think we need to\nagree that we got this letter tomorrow.” We went to our subjects, now\nthe last group of people who would be allowed the privilege of working\nwith these materials on problems of their choosing with "