Life Magazine, March 25, 1966: LSD

Life Magazine    March 25, 1966



The Exploding Threat
of the Mind Drug
that Got Out of Control

Turmoil in a Capsule
One dose of LSD is enough to set off a
mental riot of vivid colors and insights — or of terror and convulsions


'A Very Private Kind of Story'


The forces locked in the tiny pill of LSD on this week's cover are the subject of the lead story in this issue. Gerald Moore, a correspondent in our Los Angeles bureau, and Larry Schiller, a West Coast photographer, were assigned to investigate this new phenomenon. Their task was not easy. As Moore puts it, "We were really trying to move into people's minds." 

It was Schiller who made first contact. He knew a girl who had taken LSD. She introduced him to her "salesman" and Schiller bluntly told the latter who he was and what he wanted—pictures of ordinary people, not kooks or beatniks, reacting to the drug. The salesman, intrigued by such frankness, took Moore and Schiller on a tour of LSD hangouts and parties. 

In the beginning, the people they ran into were youngsters experimenting with the drug. The two found out that, even in this strange atmosphere, frank disclosure of their mission worked out best. Ignoring a suggestion that they camouflage themselves in sweatshirts and tennis shoes, they stuck to ordinary street clothes. They were glad they did. "You can't fool these kids for a second," says Moore. "A girl at one party asked why I wasn't dressed like the rest. I told her I didn't feel up to the role and she said, 'Well, at least you're honest, and that's better.' "One friendly contact often passed them on to the next, until they met the ordinary people they were also looking for. Over a period of weeks the trail led them from Los Angeles to New York, from Houston to Detroit, and to Laredo, Texas, for the trial of Dr. Timothy Leary. Meanwhile our bureaus and regional correspondents across the country were checking on the prevalence of the drug. 

The first question Moore and Schiller were asked was always, "Have you tried it?" To register disapproval was to end the conversation. Schiller had to answer no. Moore was able to give a qualified yes. At the University of New Mexico in 1958 he had once experimented with peyote, which has an effect comparable to LSD. 

This is a very private kind of story, and we found ourselves feeling terribly protective about these people. We wanted to show they weren't just the antisocial fringe.

Neither man tried LSD (they were told this proved they belonged to "that middle-class alcoholic generation"), but bit by bit they began to feel members of a world Moore describes as "a strange subculture all its own. This is a very private kind of story, and we found ourselves feeling terribly protective about these people. We wanted to show they weren't just the antisocial fringe." 

Moore, 27, comes from Albuquerque and went to the University of New Mexico, where he worked his way through his last two years as a patrolman on the Albuquerque police force. He wrote for the Albuquerque Tribune and came to us last year. Schiller, 29, is a Californian. He took up photography in high school, won a Graflex award at 15, and that year came to New York to cover part of the Rosenberg spy case for the United Press. He has since shot enough stories for us to net him six LIFE covers—counting this one.

GEORGE P. HUNT,   Managing Editor     

Pleasure and pain of the undrugged man

The View from Here by Loudon Wainwright

Loudon Snowden Wainwright Jr.

Loudon Snowden Wainwright Jr.

Oh, yes, I've had a little experience with drugs, and it's been all bad. When I was 12 and had polio, the doctor gave me a shot of morphine and I wandered off on a terrible fantasy safari which involved hunting huge killer rats in China. I was supposed to be chasing these great, gray monsters, but they wound up almost catching me. Another time much later I got some kind of knockout potion in a dentist's chair and sank into the feeling that a black spot was growing at the very center of my consciousness, that it was gradually cutting out all the light and that when it did, I would be dead. These limited but frightening events have left me with the sense that my psyche is at its hair-raising worst when it is being assaulted with chemicals and that the best me is the undrugged one.

Now along comes LSD (see following pages), and it looks as if my safe world of normal consciousness is going to be revealed as a wasteland inhabited by dull men and their dreary ideas. If the evangelical users and promoters of LSD are right, we might just be awfully lucky to be on board the planet at this time of discovery. To judge from the ecstatic endorsement of the "acid heads," no one has really lived until he has launched himself on a "trip" powered by LSD, no one has really explored his psyche until its true convolutions and colors have been bathed in the wondrous illumination of the drug. It is variously touted as the touchstone to religious revelation, personal fulfillment and creativity. For some it carries the blinding realization that human society, as it has developed through history and as it exists now, is a lot of nonsense-restrictive, unimaginative and totally futile. To muddle along in it without ever having been "turned on" by LSD-well, baby, that's like dead.

That's quite a catalog to resist, even if a fellow is fearful about aspirin. When you think of it, the world is a grisly place, stupefyingly dull some of the time, terrifying at others; and it is full of various sorts of un-turned-on creeps who couldn't tell their psyches from a slice of corned beef. Imagine the possibilities of a world on LSD, as billed by its admirers. I mean, no more sex problems, the same God in everybody's heaven, all sorts of people popping up for air to write beautiful music and poems, Rusk and Fulbright and Mao and L.B.J. and De Gaulle and all the big boys ironing out the kinks on beautiful trips they take together. Now there would be a world, and the stuff is cheap, too. 

Of course, this isn't really the first time this sort of temptation has arisen for me. My circle of acquaintance is full and low enough to include some generous pot smokers, and I've never figured that a stick of marijuana was much more than a phone call or two away. There have been times when I've thought it might be nice to float right out of this wretched scene for a while, but I have never made the call; and in Saigon last year I somehow couldn't bring myself to follow up on a sincere invitation to spend a lazy evening smoking opium, with pipes kept full by charming attendants who were certified not to be sympathizers of the Vietcong. 

How could one pass up such an easy chance for a new adventure? It certainly isn't a question of morality for me. I can get pretty outraged about the morals of other people, but I have discovered with some regret that most of my own "good" choices are actually made on a pragmatic rather than a moral basis. My decisions, perhaps tarnished, are often neither more nor less than what seems best for me at the time. And it isn't a matter of fear of the law or of apprehension either. Surely I'd be clever enough not to get caught, at least not for a while. 

Possibly I share still another inhibiting trait with the great square army of non-users of drugs. It involves the simple reluctance to let some unknown side of my nature do the driving. How do I know how fast that side will go and what strange routes it will follow? Under my own conscious control the speeds have sometimes been too great, directions erratic, destinations uncharted. But with the many risks of collision that exist all along the line, the chances have been clearly mine, and I would still much prefer to keep the wheel. 

Now all that sort of argument is ridiculous to those truly turned on with LSD. No spirit, no guts, no vision, they would say, and they might further label my caution as the self-protective rantings of a man whose arteries have already hardened beyond the ability to recognize a marvelous new world when he sees it. Besides, they might add, I would probably have a lousy trip anyway. 

Maybe so, and maybe I should at least screw up the courage to peek inside that psychedelic world to see what horrors or treasures it holds for me. But I doubt that I will, and it isn't really a matter of nerve. It has much more to do with the straightforward belief that life offers the average undrugged man a trip overwhelmingly full of possibilities—for revelation, growth, pleasure, insight—and that if he fails to find any of these he has been too blind, too lazy or too cowardly to look.

Naturally there is a fine lot of pain available, too, in the drug-free world. The touch of one's child, for example, brings joy sometimes and at others it is a reminder that such joy is a moment and that death comes. A good, hard look at one's self is not always a particularly pleasant undertaking either, and I have the distinct impression that a lot of people who insist on giving great weight to the selves they find in their acid-induced illusions are reluctant to look at the real thing. 

One hears much talk from the LSD cultists, for example, about how the drug heightens creative powers. Far more likely, I think, is that it obscures real limitations or at least the anxieties that one has about them. This seems a particularly dangerous side effect for the young people who are so substantially embracing the LSD craze. By envisioning power in themselves that does not exist, by wiping out limits that are there, by taking the quick, free ride to what feels like everything, they might not find out what they really are.

Vol. 60, No, 12 March 25, 1966


A Remarkable Mind Drug Suddenly Spells Danger   


A girl sits enraptured in an LSD hangout.

The colorless, odorless, tasteless substance called LSD can be made in any college chemistry tab. A black market dose costs only $3 to $5. But that is enough to send a person on a 10-hour "trip"--sometimes into a world of beatific serenity and shimmering insight, sometimes to frenzy and terror. In either case the person who has taken this remarkable drug never sees life quite the same way again. 

A pioneer in LSD use and research, Psychologist Timothy Leary, who was fired from Harvard after his early experiments, waits with daughter before Texas trial for smuggling marijuana.

A pioneer in LSD use and research, Psychologist Timothy Leary, who was fired from Harvard after his early experiments, waits with daughter before Texas trial for smuggling marijuana.

Los Angeles "acid heads" (LSD users) and spectators watch member of troupe called the Acid Test dance under the influence of the drug, using flashing lights to heighten its effects.

Los Angeles "acid heads" (LSD users) and spectators watch member of troupe called the Acid Test dance under the influence of the drug, using flashing lights to heighten its effects.

A young boy in Los Angeles  (left)  drifts off into a dreamy euphoria.

A young boy in Los Angeles (left) drifts off into a dreamy euphoria.

Within the last three years the use of psychedelic (consciousness- expanding) drugs has exploded. No longer just a promising psychological research tool, LSD has been taken up by a large underground cult. Starting in artistic, bohemian and intellectual circles, the cult has now become a dangerous fad on the college campus.

At least one million doses of LSD (which stands for lysergic acid diethylamide) will be taken in the U.S. this year. Hospitals and doctors are suddenly treating scores of panic-stricken young patients who have "taken a trip" on LSD with disastrous psychological effects. Some have been hospitalized for weeks. Now the federal Food and Drug Administration is moving in with new laws which will outlaw LSD's illegal manufacture, sale or transportation.

Many states already make mere possession of the drug a crime. Only last week, former Harvard Psychologist Timothy Leary, a long-time user of and proselytizer for LSD, was sentenced to a 30-year prison term for smuggling marijuana and was pointedly held for psychiatric tests. The government crack-down has already cut heavily into legitimate research on LSD, but declaring it illegal may only make it more tempting to thrill-seekers who take it for kicks. At any rate, the genie of LSD, with all its tantalizing possibilities for good and evil, is out in the open.

A sculptor attending an LSD party in Detroit   is so moved by the pattern of a shabby chair covering that he spends half an hour trying to take a picture of it.

A sculptor attending an LSD party in Detroit is so moved by the pattern of a shabby chair covering that he spends half an hour trying to take a picture of it.

A trancelike, slow-motion state envelops most people on an LSD trip, although in their own minds their thoughts seem to race with fantastic speed and clarity. They will stare at the most trivial objects for minutes at a time, transfixed by the sudden beauty and significance they find there.

A half hour after taking the drug, a girl  (right)  begins to feel its effects. She crouches in a kitchen corner to begin a typical withdrawal into self-contemplation.

A half hour after taking the drug, a girl (right) begins to feel its effects. She crouches in a kitchen corner to begin a typical withdrawal into self-contemplation.

In San Francisco  (below)  a girl stares in wonderment at a bare light bulb against the background of a gilded ceiling.

In San Francisco (below) a girl stares in wonderment at a bare light bulb against the background of a gilded ceiling.

The Vital Facts about the Drug and Its Effects

LIFE Science Editor

Ignorance about LSD is almost universal. Here is a medical report on the risks and benefits insofar as they are known.

What is LSD?

It is a relatively simple chemical compound, lysergic acid diethylamide. It is easily synthesized from lysergic acid, which comes from a parasitic fungus that grows on rye heads. It is called a hallucinogen and is similar in its effects to marijuana, peyote and certain "magic" mushrooms.

How potent is it?

A single ounce of it would provide an average dose for some 300,000 people. A few pounds of it dumped into the water supply of a major city would be enough to disorient millions.

How does it work?

This is only partially understood. It seems to affect those parts of the brain (the forebrain, midbrain, hypothalamus and hippocampus) where the input of information from the senses is decoded and processed. A substance that plays an important role in organizing and channeling this sensory information is serotonin. LSD is known to inhibit serotonin activity. But other substances inhibit serotonin function without producing the effects of LSD, so this cannot be the whole story.

What is the state of LSD research?

It is still primitive. Although the drug has been known for 28 years, it has attracted really intensive research interest only during the past few years. Medical science is still trying to determine just what it does to different people under different circumstances.

What are the physiological effects of LSD?

These are surprisingly mild, considering the monumentally disruptive nature of the psychic effects. There is an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, but not enough to be alarming. The blood sugar also goes up slightly. There may be other sporadic symptoms: nausea, chills, flushes, irregular breathing, sweating of palms, trembling of extremities. These manifestations are all transitory. Appetite is affected, but mainly because the subject is too enthralled by his own sensations to be interested in food; later he is ravenously hungry. Sleep is virtually impossible until at least eight or 10 hours after the whole LSD episode is over. The pupils of the eyes are widely dilated so that dark glasses are often worn even at night for protection against the light. With an average dose, .0001 of a gram, the effects begin within an hour and last for eight to 10 hours. A bigger dose speeds up and intensifies the experience, increasing the possibility of panic.

Does LSD cause hallucinations?

No. A true hallucination has no existence except in the imagination, yet the person experiencing it believes implicitly in its reality. The visions conjured up under LSD are usually based on something real. A stick may become a writhing snake, for example, and though the person may be frightened by the snake, he realizes that it is not a real snake but an illusory one.

Might there be long-range adverse effects on the brain?

Yes. In a small number of cases people under LSD, even people with no prior history or suspicion of epilepsy, have been seized with violent epileptic convulsions. A young bull elephant in an Oklahoma zoo was shaken with gigantic fits and died an hour and 40 minutes after the administration of what was mistakenly considered to be a moderate dose of LSD. Cats on high dosages of LSD for a three-week period underwent significant changes in their brainwave patterns, changes that persevered for six weeks after LSD was discontinued. No one knows what long-term changes would occur in the human brain as a result of sustained dosage, and no responsible scientist would dare carry out the experiments necessary to find out.

Is LSD habit-forming?

No. At least, it is not an addictive narcotic in the sense that heroin and morphine are. But the body builds up tolerances to it. Taken on successive days, larger and larger doses have less and less effect. Conversely, someone who has once been on LSD may, in the company of someone else who is on a "trip," undergo the experience on a very small dose-or even on none at all. Moreover, the psyche can build up a subtle dependence upon it.

Are there bona fide medical uses and benefits?

Yes, though these remain to be proven by further research. LSD may be extremely useful in psychotherapy. Some psychiatrists, using LSD in conjunction with hypnosis and standard psychiatric techniques, believe it has helped give their patients astonishing insights into themselves, thereby accelerating their recovery. LSD has been helpful in the treatment of alcoholism. It has also been used as "death therapy," to help dying people face the end more serenely and with less pain. Aldous Huxley, a dedicated advocate of such drugs, is reported to have taken LSD in his last days.

Are there really major risks?

Yes. They stem mainly from the bizarre psychic effects. A person whose sanity may be more precarious than he realizes can become permanently deranged through a single terrifying LSD experience. Hospitals report case after case where people arrive in a state of mental disorganization, unable sometimes to distinguish their bodies from their surroundings. To calm such patients, large doses of tranquilizers and barbiturates are usually given. There have been instances where LSD symptoms have recurred weeks after taking it, leading the victims to believe they were losing their sanity. A policeman took home some confiscated sugar cubes he did not realize were saturated with LSD. His 10-year-old son ate a sugar cube by accident, and it took weeks of treatment before he recovered his mental balance. People on LSD sometimes believe they have the power to fly, or to walk on water. One young Californian walked in front of a speeding car, convinced it could not harm him-and was killed. A woman in Europe, into whose drink a prankster dropped some LSD, thought she was going crazy and committed suicide. For these people and others like them, LSD was not merely dangerous-it was lethal. Anyone who drops LSD into someone's drink and thinks it is fun should not be surprised if the jury thinks it is murder.

Who should never take LSD?

People with any kind of heart trouble or liver malfunction, as well as epileptics or suspected epileptics, are routinely screened out of serious LSD experiments. LSD is especially risky for anyone with an unstable personality, and certainly for anyone who, knowingly or unknowingly, might harbor preschizoid tendencies. LSD can encourage weak and irresponsible people to even further irresponsibilities, and it can convince those with criminal propensities that they are above the law.

How important are setting and circumstances?

"Their importance," says Dr. Joel Elkes of Johns Hopkins University, "can hardly be overemphasized." Even when conditions are carefully controlled, mishaps occur. All the risks are intensified whenever LSD is used by an amateur. The appalling fact is that for every legitimate LSD experiment, a thousand or more probably are carried out by people experimenting on themselves, either alone (the most perilous circumstance) or in groups.

When will LSD be legally and generally available?

Perhaps never. LSD is considered so dangerous that its sole legitimate manufacturer, Sandoz Inc., has commendably limited its distribution even beyond government requirements. Even with a prescription it is not legally available over the drugstore counter. Whether it should ever be so available is considered questionable by Dr. Jonathan 0. Cole of the National Institute of Mental Health. Anyone who has a strong desire to try the LSD experience is urged to seek professional assistance from a qualified scientist. Taking LSD, Dr. Elkes warns, "is not minor surgery."

Should everybody have the right to try LSD?

Emphatically not. Those who are vociferously pushing this point of view think of themselves as courageous, pioneering individuals. But an LSD trip is not always a round trip. What the LSD user may be buying is a one-way ticket to an asylum, a prison or a grave.


A bad trip—a sudden vision of horror or death which often grips LSD users when they take it without proper mental preparation-overtakes a teen-age girl at an "acid party" near Hollywood's Sunset Strip. She had taken LSD twice before, both times with pleasant results. This time she "went up" slowly at first, wandering about the room, savoring her heightened perception. Then she began to turn nervous and furtive, and started rubbing her face with her fingers. Sucking her thumb, she rolled out of her chair and onto the floor, then bit down on her whole hand (above). For a while she lay silent, but soon began to sob, pushing herself about the floor as if trying to escape something that was biting her from within. After about 15 minutes she calmed down and the trip turned pleasant once more. When it ended she explained her convulsion: "It was horrible ... I saw my face. It was very large and it had scars running down it. I experienced the desire to die, but not actual death, the desire to rip my skin off and pull my hair out and my face off, things like that. ... I definitely won't take acid again." Two weeks after the episode she returned to her parents' home for the first time in a year. [Trippingly note: examine photos below… most look like states of joy to us.]

Scientists, Theologians, Mystics Swept Up in a Psychic Revolution


Religious disciple


Religious Psychologist Walter Clark, a professor at Andover Newton Theological School, had a vision after taking a psychedelic drug, "like Moses' experience of the burning bush… These drugs present us with a means of studying religious experience in the laboratory," he says. "No psychologist of religion can afford to be ignorant of them."

  Financial angel


Millionaire investment banker William Hitchcock, 26, a financial backer of Leary and Alpert's work, rents out a mansion (background) on his Millbrook, N.Y. estate to a foundation which does psychedelic research.

He has used LSD, feels that it helped him reach a more positive attitude toward his family and job.

  Pioneer propagandist


Psychologist Richard Alpert pioneered in LSD experiments with Timothy Leary at Harvard, now lectures on psychedelics on the West Coast.

He advocates government-run centers where responsible adults could take LSD in a safe, pleasant environment.

  Worried expert


Dr. Sidney Cohen, whose The Beyond Within is the best popular book on LSD, is alarmed at possible brain damage among indiscriminate users.

"Many people are doing to themselves what we would never consider doing experimentally. Some day their brains may wind up in the laboratory and give us the answers."


Technician's testimonial


Retired Navy Captain John Busby, 44, used LSD just once and solved an elusive problem in pattern recognition while developing intelligence equipment for a Navy research project.

"With LSD, the normal limiting mechanisms of the brain are released," he says, "and entirely new patterns of perception emerge."

A hard-headed businessman's vivid memory

I'm a hard-headed, conservative, Midwestern, Republican businessman. Under no circumstances would I consider myself a person who goes around taking strange drugs. But my wife took LSD at a friend's house, and in order to get her to agree to come home, I took the stuff myself. 

We got in the car, and I had only driven about three blocks, when suddenly the pavement in front of me opened up. It was as though the pavement was flowing over Niagara Falls. The street lights expanded into fantastic globes of light that filled my entire vision. I didn't dare stop. 

It was a nightmare. I came to traffic lights, but I couldn't tell what color they were. There were all sorts of colors around me anyway. I could detect other cars around me, so I stopped when they stopped, and went when they went. 

At home, I flopped in a chair. I wasn't afraid. My conscious mind was sort of sitting on my shoulder-watching everything I was doing. I found I could make the room expand—oh, maybe a thousand miles—or I could make it contract right in front of me. All over the ceiling there were geometric patterns of light. To say they were beautiful is too shallow a word. 

My wife put on a violin concerto. I could make the music come out of the speaker like taffy, or a tube of toothpaste, surrounded by dancing lights of colors beyond description. 

A friend showed up. He was talking to me, and I was answering, all in a perfectly normal way. Then, I saw his face change. He became an Arab, a Chinese, a Negro. I found I could take my finger and wipe away his face and then paint it back again. 

I made a chocolate sundae and gave it to him for a head. A great truth appeared to me. The reason he had all those faces was this: he was a reflection of all mankind. So was I. 

I asked myself, 'What is God?' Then I knew that I was God. That really sounds ridiculous as I say it. But I knew that all life is one, and since God is Life, and I am Life, we are the same being. 

Then I decided to examine my own fears, because I wasn't really afraid of anything. I went down into my stomach and it was like Dante's inferno--all steaming and bubbling and ghastly. I saw some hideous shapes in the distance. My mind floated to each one, and they were horrible, hideous. 

They all got together in a mob and started to come up after me--a flood of bogeymen. But I knew I was stronger than all of them, and I took my hand and wiped them out. 

Now, I think there lies the real danger with LSD. Anyone who motioned with his hand and couldn't wipe out those creatures. He has to stay down there with them, forever."

The game is about to be changed, ladies and gentlemen. Man is about to make use of that fabulous electrical network he carries around in his skull. Present social establishments had better be prepared for the change. Our favorite concepts are standing in the way of a floodtide, two billion years building up. The verbal dam is collapsing. Head for the hills, or prepare your intellectual craft to flow with the current…

So ran the manifesto with which Drs. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert embarked three years ago on what both continue to believe is the psychic revolution of man. Waves of odium have since washed over both of them, and Leary is now headed for jail with a sentence that suggests the government considers him a very dangerous man. But the revolution, if that is what it is, has long since slipped out of Leary's or anyone else's control. People are taking LSD for as many reasons as there are minds to imagine what lies in the universe behind the surface of the eye.

Leary and Alpert consider LSD "a sacred biochemical" that clears the path to mystic understanding. Normal consciousness, they say, is a dim and stunted thing, and LSD and the half-dozen other psychedelic drugs are the magic means of piercing through centuries of cultural conditioning to free, full psychic life. An all-fronts movement has sprung up around this view on big city campuses and in young intellectual circles all over the Western world, and it comes complete with quarterlies, lecture courses, a barrage of guide books to the cosmos and even two or three psychedelic churches.

There are many others whose interest in the drug has nothing to do with psychic revolution. Mathematicians have used it as a lens through which they sometimes glimpse the physical reality of concepts that the mind can only imagine--advanced number theory, for example. Theologians and divinity students have taken it as a Host, and most experience what they take to be direct evidence of their faith. There are psychedelic corporation presidents, military officers, doctors, teachers--each with a reason to risk a voyage on the unpredictable terrain of the deep brain dreamscape. And there are those, of course, who are taking LSD merely because it is the latest excitement around. 

Official supplies of LSD are limited in the U.S. to 72 tightly controlled research projects. Anyone who sets out to experiment privately may do so with ease, however, by dealing in a vast and growing black market. As contraband, LSD cannot be improved upon: it is odorless, colorless and tasteless, and there are 300,000 doses in an ounce. Starting with ingredients freely available to anyone who knows where to shop--there are sources in Mexico, Canada and Czechoslovakia--a chemist can cook up pure LSD using nothing more complex than a vacuum pump. Single doses are absorbed and preserved almost indefinitely in a sugar cube or a sheet of blotting paper, and without leaving the slightest visible trace. One dealer had a six-gram bottle break inside his suitcase just after clearing customs with it, and for months thereafter he and his friends launched themselves into inner space simply by sucking on his suits. 

LSD salesmen often have the air of men engaged in holy work, and they operate with a messianic conviction that is completely unknown in the rest of the drug world. Most LSD is sold or given away among friends, and it usually comes with a cautionary lecture--"Now you be cool with this." In New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles, though, a girl just off the bus from Boise can find it quicker than the YWCA merely by asking around for "a trip." There is nothing furtive about the "acid scene," as it is called, and in some places the cognoscenti even wear lapel buttons: LSD--SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL TRAVEL AGENT. A trip, which sells for 35 cents wholesale, brings $3 to $5 in major cities, and in other places as much as $10. The biggest black market dealer in the country sells a steady 50,000 doses a month, perhaps half the total market--for the moment.

Not many people take more than three or four trips a year. Some fast a little beforehand, or read Huxley or dwell on Zen koan to limber up the brain; others say they concentrate mainly on their own psychological "hang-ups." All but the real psychic desperados who try to stay high most of the time are careful to find someone they can trust to stay with them for the 10 or so hours of the trip--a "groundman" to keep trouble and distraction at bay. They wait for a long weekend, find a congenial spot, and ... pull anchor. 

A good experience is bizarre, extreme, profound. Thirty minutes after the exploding ticket is swallowed, life is dramatically changed. Objects are luminescent. vibrating, "more real." Colors shift and split into the spectrum of charged, electric color and light. Perceptions come as killing insights--true! true! who couldn't have seen it before! There is an oceanic sense of involvement in the mortal drama in a deeply emotional new way. Colors are heard as notes of music, ideas have substance and fire. A crystal vision comes: how full is the cosmos, how sweet the flowers! 

The illusions beckoned to the surface by the drug are greatly influenced by expectation, atmosphere and the traveler's mental balance. Knots in the nervous system project out upon the universe, and a wife's face can be a blood tulip, a Greek coin, a glob of lazy ill-humor--all depending on how one feels about her. Forgotten secrets are found still glowing with pain behind the dissolved rock of Ego, and the discovery can be too much to bear. The voyager must be strong enough to drift through all manner of terrifying moments like a curtain blowing in the wind, and not everyone can manage it. There can be screaming and tears, trembling-misery throughout. 

No matter how thrilling and illuminating a trip may be, only a good mind can return from it without some serious re-entry problems. Many perceive their past life as the pathetic, surrendering performance of an absurd cosmic clown, and they change it accordingly: get divorced, quit work, read aloud from The Book of the Dead. They discover that life is only a game, then begin playing it with less and less skill. Their vision becomes a beguiling scrim drawn over a life of deepening failure. 

Others break bad habits or learn German in a week--really accomplish something of value in their lives. Yet nearly everyone who has taken LSD to whatever effect is left with a sense of mystic freemasonry about it. "Have you taken a trip?" is a question asked with unnerving frequency these days, and usually it suggests that if you haven't the conversation is about to end. LSD has become the cornerstone of a great many lives already, even among people who use it infrequently and with care. It can change their attitudes toward everything, transforming them into mumblers about Reality, sometimes with the merest terrestrial hook. "You may be making Buddhas out of everyone," Leary and Alpert were told when they were fired from Harvard, "but that's not what we're trying to do." 

The highly circumspect research now being done on LSD touches very few of the questions raised by the arrival of the drug in the streets. There have been no studies on the effect of long-term use, and nothing at all is known of the subtle personality changes that are being witnessed inside the LSD culture. Does seeing with the Third Eye alter one's vision with two? Do easy, frequent visits with Reality genuinely heighten awareness or do they put odd new kinks in it? And what about the children? What becomes of visionary kids? 

With so much LSD around, it becomes urgently important to learn how to aim it toward doing some good. There is no reason to suppose that doctors are the only men serious enough to approach the drug with official encouragement. Yet present restrictions have shut off a critical amount of study from everyone else--behavioral scientists, for example. Already it is evident that clinical research alone is insufficient, partly because it is so seldom concerned with social questions, partly because it is inimical to the psychedelic state of mind: a white-coated researcher seems the prince of fools to someone living inside a sugar cube. 

A user, "freaking freely" at a session of the Acid Test group in Hollywood, gyrates with his own shadow until he collapses.

A user, "freaking freely" at a session of the Acid Test group in Hollywood, gyrates with his own shadow until he collapses.

The government has now arrived at the stage of declaring LSD "a problem worse than the narcotics evil," and there is reason to fear that it may soon become just that. After all, what are the police going to do? Odorless, colorless, tasteless, every scrap of paper suspect--what are the police going to do? Even the most active enforcement of the law as it stands may well have the effect of worsening the problem by driving away people with prudence and intelligence while scarcely inconveniencing the really reckless, dangerous ones. 

It is frightening to think what will happen if this awesome drug becomes available only to those willing to risk jail for it. For it brings out the very worst in some people. LSD is being dropped in girls' drinks. Terrifying parties are being given with a surprise in the punch. The Humane Society is picking up disoriented dogs. People are even having "beautiful experiences" with their baffled children. "When my husband and I want to take a trip together," says the psychedelic mother of four, "I just put a little acid in the kids' orange juice in the morning and let them spend the day freaking out in the woods."

A San Francisco mathematician takes a trip on LSD with his cat, who is on the drug too. He does this every other week.

A San Francisco mathematician takes a trip on LSD with his cat, who is on the drug too. He does this every other week.