Friday, March 10, 2006

LSD Sidebar: The Facts, The Feelings

From the Harvard Independent:

LSD Sidebar: The Facts, The Feelings
'Enveloped by all of nature

Few drugs carry the lifelong stigma — perhaps literally, given what the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV calls the Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder — attached to lysergic acid diethylamide. As youthful substance abuse increasingly shifts from the recreational to the utilitarian — marijuana and mushrooms replaced by Adderall and Ritalin — what place is left for future “intensified colors, trailing images, perceptions of entire objects, afterimages, halos around objects, macropsia, and micropsia”? A rye-bred escape from a white-bread world In 1976, psychologist Linnda R. Carporael proposed a novel explanation for the Salem Witch Trials: ergotism. Ergot is a toxic fungus commonly found on rye grain; might the witches of Salem — victims of misogyny and superstition, yes — have also scarfed down some particularly nasty bread? Carporael’s five-page article in Science was audacious, and a bit kooky. “Convulsive ergotism,” she wrote, “is characterized by a number of symptoms. These include crawling sensations in the skin, tingling in the fingers, vertigo, tinnitus aurium, headaches, disturbances in sensation, hallucination... All...are alluded to in the Salem witchcraft records.” Ergo, ergot poisoning made Salem’s nice little girls into witches. The ’70s may have made this conceivable, even believable. The psychoactive ingredient in ergot, you see, is ergotamine, which, through hydrolysis, becomes the salt ergotamine tartrate, a lysergic-acid derivative that is, in turn, relatively easily transformed into LSD itself. Give your average second-year pre-med student the proper grounding in orgo, some batches of contaminated rye, and access to Google, and, if all goes well and all explosions are averted, she’ll be either a felon or a tycoon in less than half a week. Or online telling her tale. Consider the “Share Your Experiences” section of , which appears half support group, half forum for experimental poetry, and half cracked-AARP reminiscence zone (it seems fair to assume that regular LSD users experience at least 1.5 times more reality than the rest of us). Jack from India: “it was in goa.....saw plants turn into animals.....wierd faces in the sea....lots of colors all around....had a gr8 time.” Sunrise from England: “first time 4 purple ohms, 27th october 1989, remember gold rain falling from the street lights, hands shimmering with colour, willow tree danceing with rainbow branches, on the horizon purple and gold stars twinkling, mosaic patterns on the walls, could go on.” Jimmy from a location unknown: “i saw me...... i looked me in the eyes...” Whether staring at oneself in the eyes is a net positive or negative seems impossible to answer without further research. It seems hard to argue, however, with the profundity, if not the desirability, of some of Liquid Sound Design’s more narratively coherent testimonials. “I took 2 Jerry Garcia’s and a hit of E,” writes a user from Oregon. “It was like day shifting to night and back really fast in my room. Then things divided up into segments of reality, where everything that existed was seperate from everything else. It looked like a comic book with one depth level and lines cutting out shapes of everything. We went to a tree. My friends told me not to stay from the tree, which I interpreted in many ways. Someone said the leaves looked like slugs, and then everywhere there were slithering slugs. I wasn’t scared, just fascinated.” If the bright orange pages of Liquid Sound Design seem to signify a typically inchoate Internet — and drug — society, might be its antithesis, and perhaps the end of drug culture as such. Looking at its LSD page — a meticulously organized list of histories, warnings, and linked scientific studies — one can’t help but feel a twinge of epochal despair. Has Gen-Y succeeded in rationalizing and disenchanting even drug use? Even the testimonials are


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