The ’60s was the golden age of LSD research. The U.S. government subsidized at least 116 experiments (that we know of) over this interval to unlock its secrets. Dr. Stanislav Grof, one of the early experimenters, described LSD as a “non-specific amplifier of the unconscious,” for both good and bad. The suggestion was that LSD might be a primary modulator of the unconscious mind, and unlocking its mysteries would answer the questions of who we are, why we are here, and what’s to become of us. Big questions indeed. Maybe too big to be left to scientists?
As hard as you may try, you can’t keep something this big locked up in the lab. These molecules escaped from the ivory tower and started a (relatively) bloodless revolution within America, especially among young people, who were disillusioned with the U.S. government, and the handling of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Psychedelics were all the rage in the late ’60s throughout the country. College campuses were the testing ground for this social experiment, and some still are.
Who on this earth is in greatest need of happiness, or at least the alleviation of the severest form of dysphoria or distress? Terminal cancer patients, that’s who. Standard hospice care provides such patients with opiates like hydromorphone (Dilaudid), which, while alleviating pain, dope them up to the point where they can’t and don’t care, and can’t even respond: they can’t tell their doctors that they are scared, or their loved ones that they love them. And of course these opiates are highly addictive. You could argue: Who cares about addiction if you’re already dying? Both of my parents died in hospice care, both doped up on opiates at the end. I couldn’t tell them I loved them, and they couldn’t communicate back. Prescribing opiates is more humane than letting patients suffer but nonetheless not an optimal way to depart this world. We all deserve a better exit than that, at peace with our own imminent mortality.