By: Jane Skrypnek
LSD, a drug that was originally created to treat mental illness, was swept into the black market, illegalized, stigmatized, and chained with fear. Recently, it re-emerged alongside other psychedelics to be once again researched in the medical field.
The way in which LSD stimulates the brain differently allows the mind to open up to new perspectives and see reality in a different manner. This is both why the drug can be dangerous and why it has such potential in treating mental illness such as depression and debilitating fear of death.
Most non-medicinal users of the drug describe their experiences with it as mind expanding as it opens them up to utterly unimaginable feelings, ideas, and thought processes.
A 24 year old Algonquin student holds one blotter of LSD, about 120 micrograms.
“Once when I took it, I was sitting outside a friend’s place and everyone else had gone to bed. I was still very much awake at dawn and the sun was just coming up,” Greg, a 58 year old who works with intellectually challenged individuals, said.
“At one point, I looked up to the neighbour’s house and at the peak of the roof there was a cardinal singing as the sun rose up behind it. The sun is causing a sort of silhouette of the cardinal and I can see the beak moving to every syllable of the song. It creates a sort of aura around the head of the cardinal. I felt like I was in this amazingly, timely place. That it was just so fantastic that I was there right at that moment. It was so pregnant with synchronicity and meaning for me. It was beautiful,” Greg said, continuing to describe one of his best experiences on LSD.
Greg was 15 the first time he took LSD and has taken it about a dozen times since.
“Since then it’s probably evolved into a curiosity that has more to do with cognitive liberty."-Greg
“I think the first time I took it it was out of curiosity that stemmed from being spiritually dissatisfied. Maybe philosophically dissatisfied. Really, being a fairly tormented teenager,” said Greg.
“Since then it’s probably evolved into a curiosity that has more to do with cognitive liberty; a sort of longing to have a last frontier to be able to explore. I guess I fancy myself a bit of an explorer.,” said Greg.
A single blotter is less than a centimetre in length and would cost this Algonquin student about 10 dollars.
Greg admitted that he has had a couple very bad trips from taking LSD and that there are certainly risks involved with taking the drug. However, he stressed that any bad experience he had was because he had not thought out the situation properly and either over-stimulated himself off the drug or found himself in a hostile environment.
Greg described one particular instance last summer when him and a friend attended a festival in Ontario. They took some LSD together but ended up separated and Greg immediately started spiraling into a negative space.
He explained how he ended up in a techno tent that over-stimulated his senses with loud music and lights and he began to believe he was in a game show. In order to earn points Greg had to encourage people to help each other and pick up litter off the ground. However, as Greg began to guide people to do so it was misinterpreted and security was called.
Greg described how his mood immediately polarized, as he believed these people intended to kill him and he resisted as security restrained him. He woke up sometime later in a hospital haven been taken there by an ambulance.
“It was almost mystically synchronistic."-Greg
Despite the negative experience, Greg explained how on his way back home he met a man involved in harm reduction programs at festivals, and Greg in turn began to get involved in that work.
“It was almost mystically synchronistic,” said Greg.
“I think it was apparent the reasons I got into that situation were using it at such a highly attended concert like that where people had very different attitudes toward drug use. Also, there was no harm reduction effort at that particular festival which I think could have made all the difference,” said Greg.
The LSD is typically kept wrapped in foil for better preservation.
The way Greg described his experiences with the drug was very similar to the ups and downs of everyday life but more extreme and deeper felt. Similar to everyday life then, the hard times and mistakes made are what make you grow as a person and learn to do better next time.
“I would go outside and look at the stars and would talk out loud addressing the larger universe."-Albertan rancher
A 59 year-old rancher from Alberta described his experiences with LSD as feeling at one with the universe and having the ability to let his mind travel new pathways.
“I would go outside and look at the stars and would talk out loud addressing the larger universe. Talking to the larger things and acknowledging them and feeling at one with them,” said the Albertan rancher.
“There was quite often this great feeling of oneness and connectedness,” he said.
This student would typically divide the 120 microgram blotter into quarters to microdose with. The 30 microgram sections will typically last him four hours and are mild enough that he goes about everyday life while on it.
Interestingly, the Albertan rancher has not done LSD since 1992, and although not opposed to doing it again feels no need to.
“Now if I go out at night and look up at the sky, I’m almost on it. I’m aware of how it feels when I am on it without actually taking it anymore. I can do it for myself now,” he said.
“Addiction is unnecessary for an intelligent person."-Albertan rancher
The rancher refers to an author, William Burroughs who has written on addiction.
“Addiction is unnecessary for an intelligent person. You do the drug a time or two and you experience it and pay attention to those experiences. Having done this, a sensible, observant person doesn’t have to do that drug again because you’ve experienced it and you’ve felt it coursing through your body, and then you can do it for yourself,” said the rancher, explaining Burroughs’ writing.
Rory Batchilder, counsellor and psychotherapist of 10 years, explains how several of his clients have utilized LSD and other psychedelics to reach a different state of mind and help self-medicate themselves.
Batchilder was an Engineering Officer in the Canadian Navy before studying meditation and Buddhism and finding his way into counselling and psychotherapy.
“It’s relaxing and allows people to have a different state of mind. I think it releases the imagination to allow for different perspective on a situation or conflict. It allows for perspective that they never would have otherwise come to. It can change their awareness of the whole thing. It can change their attitude and emotional content around it. Sometimes it can be liberating,” said Batchilder.
Batchilder also believes addiction is unnecessary for most people. In fact, although people can become psychologically dependent on the drug, LSD is not chemically addictive in and of itself.
“It could be dangerous for certain people. I mean give certain people a 40 ouncer of alcohol and they can use it very responsibly and not overdose or use it inappropriately. Other people, give them a 40 ouncer, and invariably they’re going to use it in dangerous ways. I think it’s the same with anything. Food, cigarettes, whatever,” said Batchilder.
Batchilder’s clients would have been taking full doses of the LSD. They would have been using the high to contemplate life events and personal feelings from a new perspective in order to hopefully overcome them.
Batchilder describes how with proper research and regulation he believes psychedelics have a future in therapy and treating mental illness.
However, recently there has been talk of microdosing LSD regularly to get through day-to-day life.
Ayelet Waldman, author of “A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life”, experimented with microdosing LSD to treat her bipolar disorder and extreme depression. She had huge success.
“My mood improved substantially, and though it was hardly perfect, I was better able to handle the stress of day-to-day life and better able to make use of the tools I learned in therapy to manage and tolerate distress,” said Waldman via e-mail describing her experience microdosing LSD.
For a 24-year-old Algonquin student, microdosing LSD has allowed him to focus and study better in school.
The Algonquin student described how he suffered from major depression when he was younger but psychedelics like mushrooms and LSD helped him out. Currently, he microdoses LSD to help with everyday life.
“I like the way my thoughts are and I can solve solutions and problems on it. Say I’m doing badly in school, all of the sudden I can understand my homework better,” said the Algonquin student.
To be sure, taking LSD, like any drug, holds legitimate dangers. It can be laced with something, or an individual can take it in an unsafe manner or environment, or they can experience lasting negative psychological effects from a bad trip.
However, in a legalized, regulated, clinical environment LSD, similar to medical marijuana, could hold potential.
“The worst problems we’ve had with drugs have been caused because they are illegal not because they are inherently good or bad. The opioid crisis we are having right now is not from illegal drugs but ones that were prescribed to average people. Then, they can no longer get them legally and they’re addicted so they head to the black market and they end up being laced with fentanyl or something. If addicts had access to good, clean drugs in safe places they could actually function quite well,” said the rancher.
“It potentially could be really, really good. It is producing fast movement in people’s psyches in a positive way. It doesn’t seem to have poisonous effects on people like alcohol does for example,” said Batchilder, referring to LSD.
Batchilder believes that given LSD's ability to open up one's mind to new areas, it could hold a bright future for mental illness, given proper regulation and policy.
"It allows you to reconsider."-Greg
“I think it’s useful to experience how one feels apart from their body, how one feels on the inside. I think it’s useful as a certain spiritual preparation, what one might feel like after death. It opens up a person to possibilities or different ways of seeing the world. I think it’s very healthy for that reason. It can challenge paradigms, challenge your personal apprehension of what reality is. It allows you to reconsider,” said Greg.