One of the more interesting tidbits to emerge from the curious case of Angus T. Jones, the young star of the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men who appeared in a recent YouTube video flanked by a preacher denouncing his TV program as godless “filth,” is that the actor began experimenting with LSD prior to stumbling across the radical organization’s videos online.
“The summer of senior year, I started doing acid,” Jones says on the now-viral video. “This drug could change the world ... if this was legal, everyone would be different.”
It appears Jones, 19, has become an acolyte of Christopher Hudson, the creator of the website ForeRunner Chronicles, a Seventh-Day Adventist ministry, who delivers bizarre sermons online. Some of Hudson’s greatest hits: accusing rapper Jay-Z of being a devil-worshipping Freemason; denouncing Oprah Winfrey as a disciple of Satan; declaring masturbation a sin; and calling superstorm Sandy a harbinger of a food-shortage crisis and cannibalism.
“Your videos have no doubt been a blessing to me,” Jones tells Hudson in the video, and later adds, “I don’t want to be contributing to the enemy’s plan … You cannot be a true God-fearing person and be on a television show like [Two and a Half Men]. I know I can’t. I’m not OK with what I’m learning, what the Bible says, and being on that television show.” (Jones is paid a reported $350,000 per episode, and has since apologized for his comments.)
But back to the acid.
Jones’s comments about the transformative powers of the drug echo those famously made by Apple founder Steve Jobs in the 2005 book What the Doormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer.
“Doing LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life,” said Jobs, further alleging that Microsoft’s Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.”
Unlike Jobs, however, it seems Jones wasn’t in it for mere experimentation. His parents had recently split and Jones describes in the video being haunted by feelings of inauthenticity; that he had, in essence, become a materialistic windbag who purchased fancy cars and dated girls, but felt empty inside.
Lester Grinspoon, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has been studying psychedelics since the mid-’70s, and authored the books Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered and Psychedelic Reflections. He also testified on behalf of Leslie Van Houten, a former member of Charles Manson’s LSD-taking cult convicted of the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, in determining if she was of sound mind while the crimes were committed. While Hudson is no killer, Grinspoon says he sees parallels between the two cases as both young, unassuming people became drawn to a Svengali-like leader after experimenting with mind-altering LSD.
“Van Houten felt her life was inauthentic and took it to try and steer a different course; as a measure of dissatisfaction and wanting to discover something new,” Grinspoon tells The Daily Beast. “LSD can be used to create an absolute commitment to a leader and his philosophy. I looked at Angus Jones and I thought, I’ve seen that before with LSD. A very important change occurs in their lives. Now, will this epiphany last very long? I have no idea.”
David Nichols, professor emeritus in pharmacology at Purdue University and an expert in psychedelic studies, explains how LSD works: it targets a serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2A), which is expressed in the areas of the brain responsible for perception, emotion, and cognition. It disturbs all of these processes, so it affects the sounds and colors that come in, as well as the area in your brain that decides what gets sent to your cortex for processing. The cortex functions like a supercomputer—it’s where you ingest information that’s coming in from all your senses and form opinions and ideas, thus motivating you to behave a certain way. LSD affects the gating process—so much more information is sent to the cortex to be processed. The drug changes the extent to which things seem novel, the way you perceive things by altering the input from your senses, and the way your cortex functions. It “reshapes the architecture of your consciousness,” Nichols says.
But the effects of the drug vary on a case-by-case basis.
“How LSD works depends on the set and the setting: the set being your mind-set, or your expectation of what’s going to happen, and the setting being the environment in which you take it in,” Nichols says. “If you take LSD in search of a religious experience and go to a cathedral, the probability is very high that you will have a religious experience. If you take the same drug and go to a Freddy Krueger movie, you’re going to have a very different experience.”
After reading up on the drama surrounding Angus T. Jones, as well as watching his “confession video,” along with some ForeRunner Chronicles clips containing very trippy graphics, Nichols says he believes LSD could have “served as a catalyst” for Jones’s turn to fringe Christianity.
“He was raised in a Christian school and his parents read him Bible verses, and suddenly he’s this child actor who’s making a ton of money; he was programmed that way from an early age,” says Nichols. “So for him to go off the deep end and follow this preacher doesn’t seem that surprising to me. He may have had a crisis of identity and LSD, for a lot of people, can cause them to reexamine where they are and what they’re doing and in general, most people who take LSD develop an increased interest in spiritual things.”
He adds, “Back in the ’60s, there was this group of people called “Jesus Freaks” who took LSD and then suddenly became convinced that they needed to be devoted to Christianity and Jesus.”
Nichols cautions, however, that LSD isn’t addictive, and “doesn’t melt your brain or destroy who you are when given in the proper context.” It’s also proven quite effective for some. In addition to Jobs, Francis Crick is rumored to have conceived of the DNA double helix after taking LSD, and was known to have LSD parties at his home. And, according to Nichols, the drug brought people of different racial backgrounds together during the counterculture movement of the 1960s by breaking down societal barriers. “If you’ve been inculcated to think a certain way, LSD can change that,” he says.
While LSD does leave your body within a day, Nichols says it can cause certain psychological changes. “Your brain has feedback circuits and if you disrupt those, you set up new circuits—it’s called neuroplasticity, or the ability for the brain to remold itself after certain events—like post-traumatic stress disorder, for example.”
Whether or not LSD is to blame for Jones’s mysterious transformation is anyone’s guess. But the Warlock himself, Charlie Sheen, who used to star alongside Jones on Two and a Half Men before his epic meltdown, referred to Jones’s YouTube confessional as a “Hale-Bopp-like meltdown,” referencing the Heaven’s Gate cult.
The next day, after he had processed everything, Sheen released a statement to TMZ that read: “Obviously, not having been there for some time, the Angus T. Jones that I knew and still love is not the same guy I saw on YouTube yesterday.”