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Acid redux: revisiting LSD use in therapy

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Abstract:

Recently the use of hallucinogens in therapy has resurfaced in clinical research. Decades after dismissing Timothy Leary for his experiments, Harvard approved clinical trials using psilocybin (mushrooms) in therapy with terminally ill patients. This article re-evaluates the research on LSD as a therapeutic element. A re-assessment of the earlier legal research on hallucinogenic therapy reveals both limitations to and the possible utility of these therapies. In this article I focus primarily on three cases: Stanislav Grof's work with LSD psychotherapy in a Freudian framework; research at the Mendota Mental Health Center on psychedelic therapy for alcoholics; and Harriet Whitehead's discussion of Scientology auditing and Piagetian schemata. This article is divided into three sections: a review of sociological and pharmacological perspectives on psychedelic drugs; a discussion of therapies using LSD during the 1960s and 1970s; and an evaluation of this research in light of intellectual developments in the understanding of cognition. While early enthusiasm about the benefits of hallucinogenic therapy was overstated, LSD may still have some utility in therapy when combined with other elements of therapy.

Keywords: LSD; MDMA; Mendota Mental Health Center; Stanislav Grof; hallucinogens; psilocybin

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10282580802482652

Affiliations: Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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