Secret history of psychedelic psychiatry

A couple weeks ago, I posted about a new scientific paper looking at how an increased understanding of psychedelic drugs may lead to new anti-depressants. Over at Science Blogs, neuroscientist Moheb Costandi responds in a fascinating essay on "The Secret History of Psychedelic Psychiatry." From the article:
 Lamaworkshop Carygrantlsd1960 LSD therapy peaked in the 1950s, during which time it was even used to treat Hollywood film stars, including luminaries such as Cary Grant (at left, dropping acid). By then, two forms of therapy had emerged. Psychedelic ("mind-manifesting") therapy was practised mostly in North America and involved intensive psychotherapy followed by a single megadose of LSD. It was thought that the transcendental experiences induced by such large doses, as well as heightened self-awareness, would enable the patient to reflect on their condition with greater clarity. Psycholytic ("mind-loosening") therapy, on the other hand, was practised mostly in Europe, and involved regular low to moderate doses of the drug in conjunction with psychoanalysis, in order to release long-lost memories and reveal the unconscious mind.
"The secret history of psychedelic psychiatry"


  1. “heightened self-awareness” from LSD?! Whaaa?

    How about “a qualia of heightened self-awareness”. I mean, reeeaaaaalllyyy…

    While you’re reading the long Wiki entry on “qualia”,
    load up these entries:

    Alternately, spend some quality time with Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained”.
    or if Dennett is too much ‘diving into the deep end of the pool’ for you, Douglas Hofstadter’s delightful “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid”.,_Escher,_Bach
    (or even just read the intro to the 25th anniversary editon).

    Whatever you do, DO NOT load this Wiki page, unless you think Star Wars was a documentary.

    1. Your addition of the word “qualia” seems completely tangential and the subsequent link- fest comes across as pedantry. The “heightened self awareness” was the author of the original article describing the ideas of past researchers. As you cannot be sure that this writer (Mo, apparently) reads BoingBoing, perhaps your objection to the phrase should be aired where you know it will have an effect. Currently it appears to be an attempt to display the breadth of your knowledge on a subject only tenuously related to the actual article which was historical in nature. This is merely my qualitative analysis which may be affected by the fact that I done blew my head up with too many tabs and shrooms.

  2. I’ve read at least 5 articles about therapy with LSD, mentioning Cary Grant as an example (to me, the best one still being John Whalen’s article from the LA Weekly in 1998 – There was a Boing Boing post on Cary Grant and LSD just a few months back. A Google search of “Cary Grant LSD” returns over 30,000 hits. So when can we stop calling this a “secret history”?

  3. There was a terrific article in Maclean’s in the early 80’s about Leary and Alpert’s experimental psilocybin therapy at Concord Prison, Massachusetts. Can’t seem to dig it up, but the upshot was a dramatic decrease in recidivism.

    This was the subject of my 10th grade Health report. I got an A!

  4. I think it’s interesting to notice the quantity of posts on Boing Boing about psychedelics and LSD in particular.

    While I have no complaints, especially as of my recent discovery of the effects of LSD, I think it says something about BoingBoing’ers, which makes me like the community here even more.

  5. Awesome links here, but re: Cary Grant – I can’t imagine dropping acid while wearing a tie and jacket

  6. If by “secret” the author means “widely reported in hundreds of popular books, newspapers, and periodicals,” then I agree it’s a secret history.

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