History of LSD and Its Beneficial Impacts on Culture

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The non addictive drug, LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide), first found and created by Albert Hoffman, taken by accident, he stated in a book he wrote about the drug that it is “medicine for the soul”. LSD was first synthesized in 1943 by Albert Hoffman while searching for a blood stimulant. He was working with chemicals from the ergot plant which is a fungus that grows naturally on rye and other grains. Hoffman accidentally ingested a small dose of LSD and experienced “extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” After he experienced this, he purposely ingested 250 micrograms into his body by mouth.

This was the first ever LSD trip to happen. Hoffman ingested too much of the drug, the standard is 100 to 200 micrograms. When Hoffman ingested this, he not only had the world’s first trip, but he had the world’s first bad trip. After an hour, his perception began to ebb and flow rapidly. He began to freak out, convinced his neighbor was a witch and that he was losing his mind. Hoffman needed to go home but had no mode of transportation by car so he rode his bicycle home. Once the peak of the trip had passed he went from a weird, unfamiliar world, to a reassuring everyday reality. Afterwards he began to write down his experience. This encouraged scientists to begin researching and experimenting on LSD. The use of LSD changed the mind, music, and culture of the 60’s and paved way for a new era to begin, psychedelic culture.

LSD was first tested by many many researchers. LSD was first synthesized as a prescription drug and sold commercially for psychological therapy. It allows people to go through there subconscious behavior patterns to improve well being, and go through repressed memories. LSD was not used for improper behaviors. Psychological therapy is therapy for problems in the mind for mental, emotional issues, stress, anxiety, and even depression. Many uses for LSD to help depression in particular have been improving the patient’s overall mood, creativity and mindset. Yet, scientists didn’t fully know how LSD affected the mind and the terrible side effects, the government got ahold of the drug. The CIA saw this drug as something that could be useful for war. The testing they started was going to be psychological warfare. LSD started to get used by the CIA with the intention of mind control. They used very strong and high dosages on unsuspecting victims and watching there reactions towards different scenarios they are put through. This was also known as project MKUltra.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s the cold war was at its height. The U.S Government had feared that countries like the Soviet Union, China and North Korea had been brainwashing U.S prisoners of war in Korea. Then in 1953, Allan Dulles, a director of the Central Intelligence Agency had approved project MK-Ultra. This project included over 150 experiments with several different psychedelic drugs, paralytics and electroshock therapy. They would hire seductive women to lure men to cabins that were in the woods. A scientist who would be researching this experiment would be sitting in another room with a one sided mirror. He would dose cocktails with LSD and then sit and watch the actions take place. This was conducted many many times. The test subjects were put through activities and certain conflicts to see their reactions in hope of influencing them to have a breakthrough with brain washing or mind control. The details of this program were not released until 1975. The use of LSD began with medicinal use then evolved to government use. Although when drugs are used for medicinal purposes at first, the commercial use will be used improperly.

The 1960’s began the psychedelic era with use of LSD commercially, publicly, medicinally, and within festivities. Bands such as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The 13th Floor Elevators, The doors, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix. This was considered Psychedelic rock. The beatles were a very popular band during this time who did experience with the use of this drug. Many believed that “The album Stg. Peppers Lonely Heart Club hailed as serious art for its ‘concept’ and its range of styles and sounds, a lexicon pop and electronic noises”. The use of psychedelics in festivals began to rise. The use was mainly to get a better experience and a more eye opening experience.

In 1967, there was a blast of glamour, ecstasy, and utopianism that brought up to 100,000 people to the streets of San Francisco which would be known as the Summer of Love. The Summer of Love embarked a new kind of music, acid rock. The effects of this summer “nearly put barbers out of business, traded clothes for costumes, turned psychedelic drugs into sacred door keys, and revived the outdoor gatherings of the Messianic Age, making everyone an acolyte and a priest. It turned sex with strangers into a mode of generosity, made “uptight” an epithet on a par with “racist,” refashioned the notion of earnest Peace Corps idealism into a bacchanalian rhapsody, and set that favorite American adjective, “free,” on a fresh altar.”. The hippie culture was rising and things were beginning to change with how people lived life and the thought of how they should live. This brought unity upon a new form of unity behind the beginning of a new culture and a change of era. Without the use of psychedelics in the sixties, that style of music would have never existed. It created change to both lyrical and instrumental which shaped the path to rock music.

The rise in psychedelics gave a huge breakthrough and altered the artwork, films, and music during this time. This is when legendary artists and bands were established. Bands grew their name and music during this time. A band that experienced with this is Pink Floyd, one of the members, Syd Barrett, who was schizophrenic used LSD to help bypass it and seem more normal. He introduced the drug to the other members of the band and thus began the making of psychedelic music within themselves. Pink Floyd is a very influential of not only the 60s but for music in general, from forming the new age of rock to the promotion of open use of drugs. The instrumental changes were taken by new sounds being used repeatedly along with drum and bass with parts of the song where it had a instrumental solo, able to appreciate the music better along with the lyrics. More towards rhyming a lot more and interesting lyrics that in a way, matched the instrumentals behind it. Artists did not use psychedelics to just write music either.

Many artists used drugs such as LSD, magic mushrooms and cannabis to open creative pathways to write music and even while performing. Doing this in a way promoted the use of psychedelics. Even today, the use of psychedelics in festivals has not changed as much. A popular small festival, shambhala, takes place in the United Kingdom. It features a variety of music including pop, folk and world music. This festival is known for the use of drugs whether it comes to cannabis, to LSD, DMT, and psychedelic mushrooms. This era of doing these drugs began during the 60s when the promotion of psychedelics first began to rise. Once it was used medically, people began to experiment with it commercially. This caused many people to use this unknowingly and dangerously, causing bad trips and harm when taken too much. Bands got a hold of it to feel more alive and stay awake longer for tours and long shows. The effect of LSD didn’t just affect the party life for people, it would eventually come to change how people would think and act.

At the beginning of the 60’s conformity experiments were going on, as this occured, something new came in to make America change its mind about the idea of conformity, LSD. LSD was seen as a mind expanding, eye opening experience. It changed how people think, households and even businesses. This truly was seen as the counterculture, but not only “in the sense of being peripheral or opposed to mainstream culture [but in] rejecting the whole concept of culture.” Culture, the philosophers claimed, shut down our imagination and psychedelics were the cure. “Our normal word-conditioned consciousness,” wrote one proponent, “creates a universe of sharp distinctions, black and white, this and that, me and you and it.” But on acid, he explained, all of these rules fell away. We didn’t have to be trapped in a conformist bubble. We could be free.” Psychedelics showed and opened to people that not everyone’s the same and it’s okay to be different. Conformity was the norm and how mothers taught their children to grow up.

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Since the sixties, the 80’s started a period of mothers teaching their children individualism, and slogans like “do what makes you happy”. They taught independence, standing out of the crowd and finding “your” way. By doing this it further created the counterculture and started to turn it into something that would be the new normal. Yet this did not only affect households, all of society began to fall into this and thinking these ways. Since then it has not gone back to the individualism way of thinking. “In surveys, Americans increasingly defend individuality. Millennials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to agree with statements like “there is no right way to live.” They are half as likely to think that it’s important to teach children to obey, instead arguing that the most important thing a child can do is “think for him or herself.” LSD didn’t do all this by itself but it played a large part in affecting all this, it was a right place right time drug and helped give the ideology of being individual is better than conformity. Since the minds, raising of children and ways of living were changing and being affected, the whole scope of art, and advertising had to change with it.

This was a difficult time for advertisers and artists, needing to appeal to not only the older range of people who still believed in conformity, but also the younger age who believed in individualism. With the culture of people changing, this caused companies and businesses to change their own slogans, for instance, Burger King’s 40 year old slogan “Have it your way” changed to “Be your way” showing individualism more than conformity. Businesses have been affected greatly by changing their own slogans they have had for many years. A new type of art was unleashed during the sixties, psychedelic art. Psychedelic art is considered kitschy or banal. Psychedelic art is really more than just the artists trippy visuals he experiences.

Psychedelic art has always existed, trying to break the artists from rational restrictions, but with the release of psychedelic substances, this allows the artist to break through the barrier easier and freer. The correlation between psychedelic art and the use of psychedelic drugs was strongly criticized by the public for artists just to attempt to recreate the experience of the visuals they encountered without any further aesthetic value. Many cities were eager to get rid of all types of psychedelic art because they viewed it as insignificant. Although they viewed it as insignificant, it most certainly wasn’t. It helped the emergence of the counterculture. With the “Baby Boomers” starting to question social and political values, the birth of psychedelic art began. Protests began against segregation, war, parents, and social norms of the consumerist.

Popular artists during this time included Wes Wilson, Peter Max and Victor Moscoso. They shaped the path for future musicians, artists, and their audience. Wes Wilson was the first to introduce the popular psychedelic font which made the letters look like they were moving, and Victor Moscoso used the vibrating colors effect to achieve that specific psychedelic aesthetics in his work. That very same aesthetics, forming in the poster works was further explored in the underground comix, the other important phenomena which was at its peak during the golden years of psychedelia. During this time there were two major art movements, self-referential abstraction and pop art. Just like the counterculture, psychedelic art was subversive and liberating. Corporations realized the potential in psychedelic aesthetics. The rebellious movement was abolished once it began to be consumed by the cultural industry.

As time changed in the “seventies, the recognizable imagery of psychedelia from contrasting colors and kaleidoscopic patterns to morphing objects and surrealistic subject matter was used to sell a variety of products, stripping the psychedelic art out of its ideological properties and taming its revolutionary potential.” With corporate advertising using psychedelic art, it began to be seen as kitschy and bad art. Bruce Wiley is trying to fix that and bring it back to what it used to be like. “Bruce Riley manages to create wonderful pieces of psychedelic art which are reminiscent of those golden years of the movement but also more engaging for today’s audiences. Another American artist whom we simply have to mention is Ryan McGinness who is bringing psychedelia to a whole new level by appropriating corporate logos and symbols into his artworks, doing the same thing corporations did in the seventies when they started to borrow and exploit psychedelic aesthetic”. Psychedelic art has evolved to digital art now. Recreating the psychedelic experience is easier and more accurate due to the graphics and new technology that can be used to represent it. This is also responsible for the new subcultural revival of psychedelia. The nineties gave psychedelic art to meet the cyberculture causing a revival in the use of psychedelics and cyberdelic phenomenon. Psychedelic art still remains on the margin of contemporary art production. With the new revival in the use of psychedelics, there have been many new research with psychedelic drugs.

In 2016, the first ever picture of the brain on LSD was taken and released by the Beckley foundation. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it is shows that LSD lowers the amount of communication between the Default Mode Network. This is “a collection of hub centres that work together to control and repress consciousness. Like the conductor in an orchestra, the DMN polices the amount of sensory information that enters our sphere of awareness, and has been described as the neural correlate of the ‘ego’”. This allows for sections of the brain that don’t really communicate and are segregated, to begin communicating. This produces more connection through the brain allowing smoother modes of cognition. By allowing this it really helps for psychotherapy by letting patients break through the dark thoughts that underlie depression and anxiety which are very hard to treat. It is possible to go through a “ego-dissolution” moment while using the drug. This “means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world. This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way – and seems to be associated with improvements in well-being after the drug’s effects have subsided”. When this occurs is helps break through dark thoughts and the underlying meaning to what they are feeling or going through.

The dreamlike visualizations are very intense and calming. Since it allows parts of the brain that do not communicate, able to communicate, they contribute to the visualizations that occur. To do more research behind it, they took 20 participants and gave them a dosage of.75 micrograms and observed and wrote down what they saw. Dr. Robert Carhart-Harris undertook the job and stated, “We observed brain changes under LSD that suggested our volunteers were ‘seeing with their eyes shut’ – albeit they were seeing things from their imagination rather than from the outside world. We saw that many more areas of the brain than normal were contributing to visual processing under LSD – even though the volunteers’ eyes were closed. Furthermore, the size of this effect correlated with volunteers’ ratings of complex, dreamlike visions”. With the new research behind the brain on LSD that is happening, it could possibly leave room for more understanding of one’s consciousness and attempt to heal hard to treat issues such as depression, anxiety and it has already helped with people that suffer from schizophrenia.

LSD has helped shaped culture, music, art and the way we think. Although the true effects and the way it works within the body is not fully known yet, it leaves room for more research and breakthroughs. The whole culture changed in the 60’s by changing the whole idea of conformity, allowing people to be themselves more and a more ideal lifestyle of “being your best self”. Mothers no longer teaching their children about conformity and unity. This also affected business and marketing with corporations leaning more towards self love and personal preference. Music changed into the new age of rock and roll with the difference in lyrical, musical, and instrumental flows and melodies. Becoming more popular and caring for music more a portion of very popular bands and artists blossomed during this time.

Art changed to become more abstract and allowing for people’s own viewpoint, using more curves, brighter colors and more intricate details, changing the artwork and giving people a preview of a breakthrough that has been said as, an experience that must be shared with the world. Since the 60’s life has changed and continue to be altered for many reasons. Although LSD was not single handedly responsible for these changes it gave a push and became a large part of beginning and keeping the change going. Albert Hoffman, the father of LSD said, LSD wanted to tell me something…. It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation”. Wanting to share it with the world and give a better understanding to one’s self, he did just that and began the changing of culture, music, art, and thoughts of the 60’s.

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