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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Tirril Harris

Turn On Another Reformism


From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Utopiates: The use and users of LSD
Richard Blum and associates
Tavistock, no price given

In the last few years LSD 25, the most powerful of all the mind-altering drugs, and the most like mescaline in its effects, has attracted a movement in the US, thereby becoming an issue with all the usual sensational undertones. This collection of essays examines various aspects of this movement in an attempt to separate fact from sensation. The main stress of the volume is somewhat academic, reporting on various social aspects of the drug’s use as revealed by questionnaires and interviews with rejectors, continuing and discontinuing users. There are also two chapters describing the Mexican Psychedelic Training Centre, one written by the leader of the centre, Timothy Leary, whose dismissal from Harvard in connection with LSD is now notorious, and chapters giving comments on the drug movement from mystical, pharmacological and police administration viewpoints. The research reports on such factors as LSD availability, expectations of effects, motives, reactions, repetition of use, readiness to try other drugs, the growth of in-groups, proselytising, and concealment – factors which vary according to the different sources from which the drug is obtained; users are divided into five sub-samples, the informal professionals, the therapy patients, those attending a religious-medical centre, experimental subjects and the informal black-market sample. Effects such as euphoria are found to be a function of expectation and setting as well as pharmacological effect. The authors blend their conclusions with a peppering of speculations more familiar in psycho-analytic writings, talking of the sensational impact of the movement on public and police in terms of its ‘anti-compulsive’ character among many users – they found some of their interviewees referred to marihuana not only as ‘pot’ but also as ‘shit.’ And alienation? The authors conclude:

‘LSD helps the user to feel more intense and alive, but whether or not it allows him “being” in the existential sense remains an open question. If commitment to private experience is sufficient, it does. If commitment must be as a human being with other human beings ... then one must wonder if LSD will provide lasting fulfilment.’

Despite the sampling difficulties inevitable in the study of such an activity, the information collected here is useful, sensitive and interesting for anyone concerned that in the present political climate increasing numbers of people may take two steps backward into euphoria.

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