LSD as therapeutic tool

Andrew Feldmár (the Canadian psychotherapist who was denied entrance to the United State last year when a US border guard Googled his name and found a research paper in which Feldmár described two acid trips he took 1967) has an essay in the Guardian about psychedelics as a useful took in psychotherapy.
After three LSD sessions, a patient emerged from what was labelled chronic psychotic depression (she had attempted suicide three times, had been hospitalised, and given several courses of ECT, major antipsychotics and antidepressants), and was able to hold a job, derive pleasure from her days, and look forward to cultivating a varied garden of delights. She moved from cursing me for not letting her die to blessing me for the surprising freedom that opened up for her as a result of her LSD experiences. Psychotherapy, without LSD, would not have been enough, I'm afraid.

I can only hope that if new research with psychedelics proceeds in a responsible, careful and creative manner, the powers that be can begin to support and foster further research into this fascinating realm. I was 27 when I first tasted this incredible substance called LSD. Now I am 68 and for the last two years have been persona non grata in the US, because a border guard Googled my name, and found an article I wrote many years ago on entheogen-assisted psychotherapy. I hope I will be invited into the US before I die to teach professionals how to use psychedelics for the benefit of all.

Psychedelic drugs could heal thousands


  1. The Feds: DEA/FDA show no indication of including LSD for any form of therapy. I agree that it has been shown to have great potential with regrad to re-imprint therapy. With the right therapist, 5th circuit therapy might be able to open up a whole new reality for a lot of people. I’ve never tried LSD, so I don’t know for sure.

  2. I can’t say it cured me of anything. But psychedelics are calming and centering for me and an LSD trip is what got me interested in botany as a hobby.

  3. Cap. tim, do you think you have found anything of “spiritual” significance while using LSD? I’ve read accounts, and some of it does sound profound.

  4. I’m an atheist, but I like to do psychedelics in places with a lot of plant life. It can be a very naturalist spiritual experience. I don’t believe its anything more than chemicals acting on my brain, but it doesn’t make it any less awe inducing. Especially during your first few trips.

    But if you’re a spiritual person by nature then I absolutely recommend trying something. I like shrooms because they seem more natural to me, but you have to fight off an initial wave of nausea. Make sure you’re in a good mood when you decide to trip, and have a babysitter.

    One of my more recent mushroom trips delivered an epiphany moment where I let go of a longtime grudge against someone who’d hurt me. It can be really good stuff, but you have to accept the risk that you may have a bad trip.

  5. @#1, Jeff:

    WTF is “5th circuit therapy”? Googling for either “5th circuit therapy” or “fifth circuit therapy” gives 0 hits and no useful correction.

  6. #11 none i’d guess, if they were illiterate they wouldn’t have been able to read about the LSD thing.

  7. I need to try something like this desperately. I am completely socially non-functional. I simply do not leave the house because I don’t trust anyone, regardless of how lucidly aware I am of how irrational I’m being. I am in a constant state of panic stemming from my childhood of abuse and neglect and ignorance. I’ve learned how to live and actually try to give advice to people but still I cannot live. I’m not looking for spiritual, I’m looking for physical change.

  8. I have tripped hundreds of times and never had a “bad trip.” It is certainly possible in that the entheogen will magnify anything you set your mind to, so try not to fixate too much on one thing. Try to avoid unpleasant thoughts. As the Tibetan Book of the Dead recommends: “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream. It is not dying.”

    It is best to start out when you are in a really good frame of mind. Be in a good space where you don’t have an influx of random people, and avoid people with scattered energy or those who might bring you down, emotionally. (I’d recommend avoiding public places for your first several initial forays. You also don’t want to do any driving, or run into any cops.) Have a guide with you initially who has had a lot of experience with tripping and can help keep you grounded.

    Have a regimen of music that can illuminate and be the soundtrack to your trip: Anything where you get a positive “vibe” from it, without being sickly sweet. Anything “psychedelic” or made by people who have had such experiences and seek to expand consciousness will do. You may be surprised at the new depths you will discover beneath the surface of any music you listen to, so I’d recommend avoiding anything shallow, base, or top 40. I could provide a huge list of such music, but I will limit it to a top 10 list for beginners, in no particular order: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, by Genesis; Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by the Beatles; Live Dead, by the Grateful Dead; Kind Of Blue, by Miles Davis; Electric Ladyland, by Jimi Hendrix; Initiation, by Todd Rundgren; Maggot Brain, by Funkadelic; Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd; Future Days, by Can; and any of the Sacred System albums, by Bill Laswell.

    Make sure you are going to have a good 12 hour stretch uninterrupted, for the main stage of the trip, and then plan to spend the next day or so relaxing to let your previous night’s experiences seep in with quiet contemplation.

    Common mistakes to avoid:

    Take the dose you are going to take and then add no more. Do not take half a hit and then decide an hour later that it’s not kicking in and do more. Chances are you were already tripping and didn’t realize it because… you were tripping. Just let it expand and stay calm and try not to worry about such things. Put on some music and chillax.

    Don’t take another dose of LSD for a minimum of a week. Your brain needs time to assimilate such experiences and your body builds up a tolerance very quickly that will nullify much of the effects of subsequent trips within that time period.

    Don’t mix your trip with alcohol or ecstasy, and best to avoid mixing mushrooms or other psychedelics with your LSD trip as well. Marijuana is a synergist, so be prepared to have a much more vivid experience if you mix pot. If you must, use it in moderation.

    INDIVIDUAL: The above is recommendation for recreational / spiritual explorative use only. If you have deep seated issues, you will probably want to seek out counseling or therapy with a licensed professional in lieu of trying anything like this, or with their professional guidance; as all of your issues will come up. (RE: the movie Altered States has examples of this.) I do think LSD might help you work through your issues, but you will probably need the psychiatric assistance of a very experienced and trusted guide.

  9. Individual,

    I would not advise any self administered psychedelic therapy in your case. Therapy should be well planned and guided by someone who has experience and hopefully some training. Unfortunately finding a competent therapist who will even consider this therapy is near impossible because the police state and the mainstream medical licensure establishment can destroy a doctor or therapist sometimes for even discussing it with you.

    Bad trips are made of the stuff you describe in your past, unless you have a VERY good guide and setting and start slow with low doses the past will all come up too fast and if a patient is already vulnerable, it may push them over the edge. LSD forces us to see the stuff we are hiding or denying, it removes the walls we have built around our pain and also our happiness but the walls are also there to protect us, they are kind of a speedbump for our brain. Acid is like a turbocharged Porche and an empty Autobahn for your brain, are you ready to hit 200mph?

    If you want to continue down this treatment path take maybe a year or two finding a really compassionate and competent guide and start slowly, probably not even with LSD at the start.

    I am not certified to give any advice of any kind, so take it with a grain of salt.

  10. Another thing to keep in mind, LSD is a powerful tool but it does not fix all problems. Don’t put all of your trust in it, it is just a brain tool in the end.

  11. Phikus,

    good rundown for a first time user. I agree with everything except Funkadelic and Miles Davis. While lucid? Absolutely. But when I’m skipping through elfin mindscapes, anything with brass instruments or jazz timing rubs my soul with sandpaper.

    Not a rule for everyone, just for me.

  12. Individual, you may want to look into MDMA therapy. check out some of rick doblin’s work at MAPS.

  13. phikus, on the way down next time, try Pink Floyd’s “atom heart mother suite” it takes you thru that ‘wierd period’ between the worlds, and puts your toe back in concensus reality.

  14. If we didn’t allow anyone who had done drugs in 1967 to be in the US, we would have no baby boomers left at all.

  15. LSD is a tool. A monkey-wrench (in all senses of the words) for the subconscious.

    It can be used to tighten, looses, or bludgeon – but your conscious mind does not choose the application.

  16. Seems to me that border crossing guard was over zealous in the extreme. Did he go home that day with his chest puffed out, thinking he had protected America from a dangerous man?
    It would be funny if it weren’t for the responsible Canadian citizen who was humiliated and unjustly persecuted. The more I hear about American paranoia the more I fear the world is heading down a very dark path….

  17. it seems that quite a few people here are curious about trying these drugs. i would strongly recommend steering clear of mushrooms or acid if you are in any sort of “down” mental/emotional point. i’ve found in the past that these only heighten any paranoia, sadness, etc. the mdma would be the way to go for you. i’ve never experienced anything other than happiness with this.

    all of that being said, i firmly believe that most people should try tripping at least once. it really does open up a part of your brain that you would never have contact with otherwise.

    p.s. my opinion has no scientific basis. it is exclusively based on experience (many years ago, haha).

  18. REBDAV@16-17, MDHATTER@23: Very good points.

    KAOSMONKEY@18: I hear what you’re sayin’ and it is probably a good caveat to add. I personally think Kind Of Blue is pretty mellow and accessible, though. Note I did not suggest Bitches Brew (though awesome for the advanced) or Miles and / or Coltrane’s more chaotic work. Maggot Brain: Well, you’ve got to have a little abrasion to knock the funk loose! Ok, substitute with Funkadelic’s first, self titled LP if you must.

    MINT@21: I totally agree, AHM is lovely. I have an awesome boot from the Filmore West (4-29-’70) where they play the whole main suite in its entirety, albeit w/o orchestrations & choir. It’s a soundboard recording, so the quality is superb. Find it if you can! (or if you can’t maybe I can get a copy to you somehow.) Also, good suggestion @19-20.

  19. Correction: It would be more accurate to say that the orchestrations & choir are canned in the above referenced recording.

  20. LSD, the first time and with sufficient dose, dissolves all the pillars of how you have built your world view and memory of experience. This is its great therapeutic value to the individual in distress and beyond other medicine. The wiping away of the foundations of your mind allows a genuinely new beginning. Once.

  21. @kaosmonkey – I would have to disagree that Kind of Blue is not a good choice. I put it on during one of my first trips many years ago, and was completely mesmerized. It’s beautiful.

    Granted, I was already a jazz fan to a certain extent, but this made me a Miles Davis disciple for life. It’s definitely more on the mellow tip, as phikus mentioned.

    Eventually I got to the point where I could handle the more abstract stuff. I think I saw god when listening to Live Evil once.

  22. My LSD and mushroom experiences have certainly helped me cope with lifelong depression and open my mind to a great degree. It would be nice if the US would grow up and start dealing with drugs in a more logical way.

    While “bad trips” are, by definition not fun, I feel that from a therapeutic angle they can be quite useful. At least for me, those experiences really helped to face some demons and turn my life around.

  23. Glad maps gets a hit here. If you’re interested, maps is the place to start.

    I have had ‘bad’ trips, painful yet insightful. You have to be with good people. And the culture of the trip is important…the intent, the context. Read Aldous Huxley’s Island.

    As far a spirituality is concerned, i find it interesting that a physical, molecular structure as done more for me that anything else in convincing me of a non-physical reality. Great medicine for recovering christians. If all human spirituality turns out to be ‘just’ biology, which changes?

    oh…and the film Altered States is the most ridiculous thing ever. “I’m…eating…a goat…I’m…drinking…its blood…” Then he turns into an ape (non human variety).

  24. When I was a teen my friends and I followed Tim Leary’s “How to Imprint the Tibetan Buddhist Experience while on LSD” with totally unpredictable results.

    The problem was that we lacked the maturity and knowledge to properly integrate the experiences that we had in a useful and meaningful way.

    I agree that entheogens can produce profound changes in a personality. But so can other intense experiences: Training in Shaolin kung-fu, participating in shamanic sweat lodges and meditation have all produced much more lasting and grounded positive effects in my life.

    But that’s just me.

  25. WINGO@30: Live Evil is the shit! The Cellar Door Sessions box is LE expanded. I highly recommend it if you like that side of Miles (but certainly not for a first time trip unless thoroughly steeped in Miles.)

    MOONRACER23@31: Good point. Yes, there can certainly be issues to overcome; and they will make you stronger for your perseverance, but as for a whole trip being “bad”, that all seems to depend on whether you allow yourself to spiral into your fears. If you overcame your fears, I’d say that could not have been overall bad.

    QUERENT@32: I was with you on the Huxley reference. “The Doors of Perception” should obviously be on the reading list too. As for Altered States: That’s like saying Peter Pan is a Fairy tale: It is indeed a work of fiction. I was merely referencing the visual imagery used in the film to depict the issues that came up when the protagonist has his first psychedelic experience. It’s not easy to describe such things to those who have not experienced them personally, so I went for an accessible reference. Sorry that your suspension of disbelief was broken such that you could not enjoy that classic.

    TULSATV@33: Yes, we should add that to the list: Try not to get tasered by anyone while tripping!

    And if it doesn’t go without saying, don’t mix other drugs that went unmentioned with your LSD experience either. Bad Juju.

    JEZRAEL@36: Good Leary recommendation! It’s not just you. Transcendental meditation can also get one there. There are perhaps an infinite number of ways to reach the same place. The ones that are not as readily accessible as ingesting something leave you much more grounded and in control. The trade off is that they require much more time and discipline, but are certainly worth it.

  26. It has always struck me as wasteful not to study LSD more – it obviously does powerful things with the human mind.

    There was a lot of study in the early days, but then suddenly cut short.

  27. I spent a long time struggling with depression. While trying to get out of that state I learned about LSD. Fortunately I was given very good advice – I was told not to try it until I was ready, and depressed is a really bad starting point. I waited for several years. (I eventually cycled my way out of depression – Dr. Hofmann would be proud). Then, one fine day, I tried a trip with some very good friends. It was amazing, facinating, truly incredible. It taught my mind new tricks. I’ve never felt the need to take another trip, but I’m very glad I took the one.

    I have heard about LSD since I was a child. I grew up near Powick Hospital in Worcestershire. Much of the British LSD/psychotherapy work was done there. Locally, we only ever heard about disturbed patients committing suicide. Maybe it was just local gossip, it’s hard to say.

    The best advice I have received, and could give, is wait until you feel good in yourself. LSD tends to amplify your feelings – if you feel relaxed, happy and good about the world, you should have an amazing time. Everybody should try it once, but choose your time carefully. When I was depressed I never felt good about anything. It seems like an odd way to treat depression.

    A little more info here:

  28. Individual: I wouldn’t focus on any particular therapy at this point– the most important thing is finding a therapist that you can trust and collaborate with on finding out what treatment works for you, and keep in mind that no matter what you choose, there will be a LOT of talk therapy included, too.

    Having said that, there are many, many options now open to people with depression and post-traumatic disorders. Psychedelic therapy is finally being re-examined (after some early promise in the late 50’s early 60’s) MDMA therapy seems to work for some people very well. The new-generation antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft can be extremely helpful, too, and practices like EMDR (a non-chemical technique that focuses on retraining the brain’s fight-flight response to traumatic memories) and even ECT (aka, electroshock, which seems to work on intractable, deep depressions).

    Nothing is a magic bullet, and like I said, you will need to do a lot of on-the-couch talking with a therapist you trust. But the wonderful part of living in the future is having the capacity to tinker with our own consciousness, so we can choose not to be made miserable by the stuff of our past or an accident of brain chemistry.

  29. Hokono, I meant Eight, not Five. I have a strange relationship with numbers and sometimes they get mixed up. I love the theory and some of it makes good sense, at least to me.

  30. While I was retouching some images last night I was listening to some internet radio and, perfectly enough, Miles Davis came on. Kind of Blue. It reminded me of my post from earlier in the day, and I suddenly remembered that it was, indeed, Bitches Brew that scared the hell out of me many years ago.

    For the record:

    Kind of Blue: Worthy in the extreme and quite kind.

    Bitches Brew: Unless you want to feel that you are a flower and Miles Davis is a 200 foot tall sorcerer mercilessly pummeling fields of your brethren with his angry magic horn then you might want to avoid it.

  31. I am absolutely against all for-fun messing with neurochemistry, but if LSD has any potential as a medicine, it certainly should be looked into.

  32. HAGBARD@39: I have not, though a big fan of Moebius, if the film is an adaptation of his series by the same name (Blueberry.) A little search on the imdb revealed this, at your prompting: confirming that it would appear to be! How did this slip past me? Eddie Izzard and Colm Meaney in character roles? Ok, this is going on my Netflix queue immediately. Thanks!

    KAOSMONKEY@42-43: Yeah, if I had to choose one of all the huge amount of material he released, Kind Of Blue is my desert island Miles to be sure. Coltrane deserves a lot of the credit too. Your description of BBrew made me laugh resoundingly! (It’s funny ’cause it’s true…)

  33. PHIKUS

    I’d guess loosely based on the Moebius title (though Blueberry is about the only thing by him I haven’t read). Nevertheless, you will want to see it, I assure you.

  34. I have many questions with this article, and call the poster on his journalistic ethics. There is no data backing up this article, and many of these ideas have been proven to be more dangerous than helping.

    As everybody (especially here) must know, the effects of LSD as any hallucigenic are bound to time and place, to prove effective.
    Next to this, hallucigenics can give temporarily insight on the mind, but if deep inside the root of mental impurities, (psychological complexes, traumas, etc) is unhealthy, there is a very big chance that the patient will relapse.

    I find it saddening when these “hype-stories” come around about any successtories about hallucigenics and mental ilness, it seems like they will be posted immediately, without closely researching the source. I do not say LSD is dangerous, but the random posting of such ill-defined, unprofound stories, is and can be very dangerous to the reader.

  35. Correction: (If anyone cares at this point…) I have just had a fresh listen to the Floyd recording I referenced earlier. It had been over a year since I heard it last, and now I can definatively say that my memory was more correct on my first post about it. Yes, I’m correcting my correction! There is pre-recorded foley on the live rendition of the Atom Heart Mother Suite, as only Floyd can pull off so well, but not canned orchestrations and choir, (in fact they are missing entirely.) Sorry to cause any confusion, even if it was just my own.

    While I’m here, I’d like to go ahead and post my faves for the advanced class of entheogenic voyager, for all who give a shit at this point. If it was not obvious, I recommend a good set of headphones for all of this, as well as the above.

    Robert Hunter: “The Flight Of The Marie Helena” -Hands down the best piece of hypnocracy ever written. Play it for your peak. Therapy indeed!

    Gong: The Gong Trilogy: Radio Gnome Invisible, Angel’s Egg, & YOU. Play these three albums back to back from the start of your trip. -Pure rocketfuel!

    The aformentioned Miles Davis Bitches Brew, for the aformentioned reason. (What can I say? I like feeling like I am a flower and Miles Davis is a 200 foot tall sorcerer mercilessly pummeling fields of my brethren with his angry magic horn.)

    The first Jerry Garcia solo album, Garcia. Another one for the desert island. A real gem. Play this one right after the Robert Hunter, slightly post-peak.

    Frank Zappa: We’re Only In It For The Money. Zappa’s answer to Sgt. Pepper’s and Are You Experienced, released the same year as both: ’67. Features the most bizarre and psychedelic instrumental of all time: The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny. All from the mind of a man who didn’t do drugs. (He was drugs!) Play this just after the Garcia, and before Bitches Brew, and giggle like hell.

    The Grateful Dead: Infrared Roses. Ok, I know it’s a lot of Dead here, but they really were the best at this. This album was entirely composed improvisationally before an audience, during sections of Dead shows known as Space because they dropped all musical preconceptions and rules in order to find what lay beyond the chaos. (-A higher order perhaps.) The very definition of out there.

    Ok, between the Gong Trilogy and the Hunter (I guess it would have helped if I had put these in order, but that would have been too linear.) I recommend the Paul Kantner / Jefferson Starship album (bear with me, this is before they wanked out) Blows Against The Empire. It makes a few predictions that sound quaint (from 1970) but if taken metaphorically, you might find they did become true to some extent. Truly the culmination of the Airplane’s dream as they finally hit orbit.

    After Bitches Brew, I recommend the mellower stuff that came from those same sessions, which were released as Miles’s Big Fun. Same players, soaking in sitar and tabla for your mind to relax into and breathe.

    Lastly, I heartily recommend, right as you begin to drift into sleep, an album by Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream called Epsilon In Malaysian Pale. Melodious synths to soothe your brain and ease you into unconsciousness.

    Trust me, with a good environment and this regimen, you will have interstellar adventures hitherto untold. Happy mutating!

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