Psychedelic comes from the Greek meaning, ‘mind manifesting’ which means ‘generating the divine within,’ Osmond an intellectual made this name up for these transcendent drugs. I believe that if the United States did not experiment with LSD throughout the years of 1940’s to the 1960’s then we would not be where we are today. There was three major movements that this drug caused, the psychology movement, the beat movement and then the counterculture movement. Each breakthrough shaped America into the way that it is today.
The psychology movement was placed in the 1940’s when people became very interested in mental health, mostly because of WWII. We were noticing how soldiers would come back from the war with shell shock. As well as everyone else with other mental disorders such as, depression, anxiety etc. It was a competition, whoever could find the cure of mental illnesses would deserve a Nobel award. Psychologists were also really focused on schizophrenia, there was not that much information on this disorder. Osmond, a psychologists, concluded that schizophrenia’s adrenaline is turned into mescaline (a synthetic psychedelic from peyote). Osmond took this psychedelic so he could get in the mind of a schizophrenic. After this, a whole epidemic of psychedelics started in the psychology unit of the United States. Psychologists would study LSD, mushrooms, mescaline and tests it on patients. The results were miraculous more than 50% of these patients were healed from any sort of addiction or mental illness. “In 1953, they began giving LSD to their patients, starting with some of those diagnosed with alcoholism. Their first study involved two alcoholic patients, each of whom was given a single 200-micro grams dose of the drug. One of them stopped drinking immediately after the experiment, whereas the other stopped 6 months later.” (A Brief History of Psychedelic Psychiatry) They soon concluded that this drug could cure mental illness if you had an enlightening time. If this movement did not happen then there would not be as many mental health programs and laws because, this was when these programs really started happening so the psychologists could experiment more with psychedelics on their patients.
The Beat movement started in the 1950’s, which was basically a bunch of weird writers. The way that these authors impacted the 1950’s is amazing and it’s still impacting today’s generation. Beat authors include Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, John Clellon Holmes etc. They all have interesting but sad backgrounds; Ginsberg was gay and loved to write poetry but, he had a very difficult time fitting in, Kerouac struggled with depression maybe even bipolar, Burroughs was an addict to heroin that accidentally killed his wife while playing a game of William Tell, they all came from a little bit of a broken history. So they turned to writing to help them, but there was always something missing in this movement until Psychedelics came along in the late 1950’s. The writer began to heal from their addictions, and sadness, then the amazing spiritual poetry started coming. Allen Ginsberg wrote the most powerful poem involved in this movement called Howl while tripping on mescaline. What made these authors famous was their weirdness, their oddness, the way they did not fit in, they were all different because they smoked marijuana, tripped on psychedelics but mostly were open about being broken and healing. They would have shows with an audience of hundred or thousands of people while, reciting their poetry and simply just goofing around. Writing and poetry became more popular, helping it become popular today, as well as the first bookstore was made during this movement so it could sell the works of the Beat authors! Without this yet another psychedelic movement there would have not been poetry and book stores today!
The last movement which we are all very familiar with is the counterculture movement. This movement started around the 1960’s. As soon as Albert Huffman accidentally made this very potent drug lysergic acid diethylamide, every minute it was made it became more and more popular. Famous star Cary Grant dropped acid a lot, he told reporters about his experience and suddenly everyone wanted to drop LSD, or be ‘reborn’. This was the era when everything changed. There was new technologies like planes, TV’s, radios, the list can go on forever. Music changed to rock n roll, and there was movies of teenagers rebelling causing actual teenagers to rebel. Most of these teenagers smoked pot, wore ‘different’ clothes and soon later experimented with LSD. “Everything changed then. The music, the lifestyles, and the whole culture were affected by this happening. The world was Turned On. And all Heaven and Hell broke loose. A kaleidoscopic expansion of consciousness took place, shifting paradigms and forever changing the lives of millions of souls. ” (One Lucky Soul) The hippies believed in peace, love and happiness. Most of them were vegetarians, wore scandalous clothes, and tripped on psychedelics. The American dream was now about being someone different than the old society. The good thing about this movement is that it brought other views and beliefs to the table that can still be expressed today! Now there is more diversity in the belief system, no one is exactly alike.
These three major breakthroughs helped America become who it is today. Many laws and acts for mental health was place during the psychology movement, as well as psychology facilities. There was new therapies be created all over the states, for psychologists to test LSD on their patients. Poetry and bookstores became popular because of the Beat Generation, their weirdness attracted many citizens across the country. Open mindedness and different beliefs would not have been here without the counterculture movement. People would not feel like they could express their ideas freely if they did not see another movement do it first. That’s what the hippies did, express their ideas freely. All of these breakthroughs were fueled by LSD and other psychedelics. Without these drugs and these movements I’m not quite sure where America would be today.
OneLuckySoul. “One Lucky Soul.” The LSD Experiments of the 1950s and 60s [Videos & Documentaries], 1 Jan. 1970, oneluckysoul.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-lsd-experiments-of-1950s-and-60s.html.
Costandi, Mo. “A brief history of psychedelic psychiatry | Mo Costandi.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 2 Sept. 2014, www.theguardian.com/science/neurophilosophy/2014/sep/02/psychedelic-psychiatry.
Stevens, Jay. Storming heaven: LSD and the American dream. Grove Press, 1998.