dancing condom blotter

LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the most powerful mind-altering chemicals. Commonly called acid, it is a clear or white odorless material made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. LSD can be 1) swallowed as a tablet or pill; 2) swallowed as a liquid; and 3) absorbed through the lining of the mouth using drug-soaked paper pieces. In the Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” the Brad Pitt character smoked a cigarette dipped in acid.

LSD was initially produced in crystalline form, which can then be used to produce tablets known as “microdots” and thin squares of gelatin called “window panes.” It was also diluted with water or alcohol and sold in liquid form. The most common form, which is still widely found today, are LSD-soaked paper punched into small individual squares, sometimes with an emblem on them. Classic forms of LSD from the 1960s and 70s included sugar cubes and orange tablets called "Orange Sunshine". [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 2015]

LSD physical and psychological effects include: 1) increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature; 2) dizziness and sleeplessness; 3) Loss of appetite, dry mouth, and sweating; 3) Numbness, weakness, and tremors; and 4) Impulsiveness and rapid emotional shifts that can range from fear to euphoria, with transitions so rapid that the user may seem to experience several emotions simultaneously [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, February 2015]

LSD is not considered an addictive drug because it doesn't cause intense craving or uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior. However, LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take higher doses to achieve the same effect. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug. In addition, LSD produces tolerance to other hallucinogens, including psilocybin.

Origin and Early History of LSD

Albert Hoffman

LSD was invented by a Swiss scientist named Dr. Albert Hofmann in 1938. The drug’s psychedelic qualities were discovered in 1943 when Hofmann accidently ingested some of the potent hallucinogen, and starting getting off on a bicycle ride home. "As I pedaled furiously along on my bicycle, the world looked like a reflection in a curved mirror," he said, "Fantastic colors and kaleidoscopic colors surged upon me. I couldn't seem to make any speed, though my assistant told me later that we were really racing. Somehow we survived the Basel traffic." LSD is the world's most powerful drug. Dr. Hoffman discovered it while searching for a cure to the common cold.∥

LSD is synthesized from ergot, a common fungus, also known as rye mold. The Assyrians used ergot in ancient times as a treatment for post-natal bleeding. In the Middle Ages mysterious plagues, called St. Anthony's Fire, swept through the rye growing regions of Europe causing hallucinations and convulsions. As late as 1951 food contaminated by ergot in France made people believe they could fly and leap out of windows to their death.

Hofmann worked for Sandoz Laboratories, which introduced LSD as a psychiatric drug in 1947 and marketed it as a psychiatric panacea and "a cure for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, 'sexual perversions,' and alcoholism." In the early 1960s people like Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and Al Hubbard, began to advocating its use. LSD became a big part of the music scene and hippie culture in the 1960s.

Beginning in the 1950s, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began a research program code named Project MKUltra. The CIA introduced LSD to the United States, purchasing the entire world's supply for $240,000 and propagating the LSD through CIA front organizations to American hospitals, clinics, prisons and research centers. Experiments included administering LSD to CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, prostitutes, mentally ill patients, and members of the general public in order to study their reactions, usually without the subjects' knowledge. The project was revealed in the US congressional Rockefeller Commission report in 1975.

Ken Kesery and Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” is a 1968 nonfiction book by Tom Wolfe that chronicles the experiences of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, who traveled across the US in a colorfully painted school bus, Furthur, and hosted Acid Tests (parties with LSD-laced Kool-Aid) attended by members of the Hells Angels and Allen Ginsberg, among others, with the Grateful Dead serving as the house band. The books ends with Kesey escaping to Mexico after several arrests.

At the time the Acid Tests began Kesey was a well known writer. His book “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” — set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital — was published in 1962 to wide acclaim. The book was written in 1959 and inspired by Kesey's experience working as an orderly at a mental hospital in Menlo Park, California, where he only spoke candidly with patients and witness the workings of the institution first hand but also took psychoactive drugs, including mescaline and LSD, as part of the CIA’s Project MKUltra (See Above). In addition to this, Kesey took LSD recreationally.

Tom Wolfe portrays Kesey as and individual trying to create of a new religion. The first Acid Tests started at Kesey's house in the woods of La Honda, California and often featured with lights and noise to enhance the psychedelic experience. When The Pranksters hit the road, the bus was driven by Neal Cassady, who was the inspiration for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's 1957 novel On the Road. Throughout the journey, the individuals take acid. One their goals was to meet with Timothy Leary and unite the counterculture from East to West coasts but the meeting never comes off.

LSD and Pop Culture

Among the bands that participated in the Acid Tests and related events were Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Janis Jopplin. British academic Michael Hollingshead, who first tried LSD in America in 1961, is is reputed to have introduced to LSD to Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Donovan and Keith Richards. The drug was also used by other members of the Rolling Stones as well as the Moody Blues, the Small Faces, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix and was a major inspiration for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Cream's Disraeli Gears.

In a 2004 interview, Paul McCartney said that The Beatles' songs "Day Tripper" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" were inspired by LSD trips. In an interview while was a Beatle he said he did LSD four times after a newspaper reporter leaked he tried the drug. John Lennon has consistently denied that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" intentionally was meant to spell out L-S-D. He said it was just a coincidence and the song was inspired by a picture drawn by his son Julian. and that the band members did not notice until after the song had been released. McCartney corroborated that story and also said "it's easy to overestimate the influence of drugs on the Beatles' music."[223]

Jerry Garcia told Relix Magazine in 1989: My feelings about LSD are mixed. It's something that I both fear and that I love at the same time. I never take any psychedelic, have a psychedelic experience, without having that feeling of, "I don't know what's going to happen." In that sense, it's still fundamentally an enigma and a mystery."

Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., said, "Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life."Bill Gates implied in an interview with Playboy that he tried LSD when he was young. Kary Mullis credited LSD with helping him develop DNA amplification technology, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993.

Aldous Huxley, author of “Brave New World:, became a user of psychedelics after moving to Hollywood and was a pioneer of the counterculture's use of psychedelic drugs, which led to his 1954 work “The Doors of Perception.” Dying from cancer in November 1963, he asked his wife to inject him with 100 micrograms of LSD. He died later that day

“Fear and Loathing” on the Road to Las Vegas

ergot fungus, the ultimate source of LSD

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is a novel published in 1972 that first appeared as a story in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971. It is based on two trips to Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson and his attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta in March and April 1971. The first trip was for an exposé Thompson was writing for Rolling Stone magazine about the Mexican-American television journalist Rubén Salazar, who killed by a tear gas grenade fired at close range by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The second trip was to cover Mint 400 desert motorcycle race for Sports Illustrated. The story follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke (Hunter Thompson), and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo.

In “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, first published in Rolling Stone in November 1971, Hunter Thompson wrote: “The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers … and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

All this had been rounded up the night before, in a frenzy of high-speed driving all over Los Angeles County – from Topanga to Watts, we picked up everything we could get our hands on. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next gas station. We had sampled almost everything else, and now – yes, it was time for a long snort of ether. And then do the next 100 miles in a horrible, slobbering sort of spastic stupor. The only way to keep alert on ether is to do up a lot of amyls – not all at once, but steadily, just enough to maintain the focus at 90 miles an hour through Barstow.

“Forget ether,” he said. “Let’s save it for soaking down the rug in the suite. But here’s this. Your half of the sunshine blotter. Just chew it up like baseball gum.” I took the blotter and ate it. My attorney was now fumbling with the salt shaker containing the cocaine. Opening it. Spilling it. Then screaming and grabbing at the air, as our fine white dust blew up and out across the desert highway. A very expensive little twister rising up from the Great Red Shark. “Oh, jesus!” he moaned. “Did you see what God just did to us?”

“God didn’t do that!” I shouted. “You did it. You’re a fucking narcotics agent! I was on to your stinking act from the start, you pig!” “You better be careful,” he said. And suddenly he was waving a fat black .357 magnum at me. One of those snubnosed Colt Pythons with the beveled cylinder. “Plenty of vultures out here,” he said. “They’ll pick your bones clean before morning.” “You whore,” I said. “When we get to Las Vegas I’ll have you chopped into hamburger. What do you think the Drug Bund will do when I show up with a Samoan narcotics agent?”

“They’ll kill us both,” he said. “Savage Henry knows who I am. Shit, I’m your attorney.” He burst into wild laughter. “You’re full of acid, you fool. It’ll be a goddamn miracle if we can get to the hotel and check in before you turn into a wild animal. Are you ready for that? Checking into a Vegas hotel under a phony name with intent to commit capital fraud and a head full of acid?” He was laughing again, then he jammed his nose down toward the salt shaker, aiming the thin green roll of a $20 bill straight into what was left of the powder.

“How long do we have?” I said. “Maybe 30 more minutes,” he replied. “As your attorney I advise you to drive at top speed.” Las Vegas was just up ahead. I could see the strip/hotel skyline looming through the blue desert ground-haze: The Sahara, the landmark, the Americana and the ominous Thunderbird – a cluster of grey rectangles in the distance, rising out of the cactus. Thirty minutes. It was going to be very close.

“Fear and Loathing” at a Las Vegas Hotel

Dr. Gonzo by Ralph Steadman

Hunter Thompson wrote “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”: “The objective was the big tower of the Mint Hotel, downtown ...When we finally arrived at the Mint Hotel my attorney was unable to cope artfully with the registration procedure. We were forced to stand in line with all the others – which proved to be extremely difficult under the circumstances. I kept telling myself: “Be quiet, be calm, say nothing … speak only when spoken to: name, rank and press affiliation, nothing else, ignore this terrible drug, pretend it’s not happening. …”

There is no way to explain the terror I felt when I finally lunged up to the clerk and began babbling. All my well-rehearsed lines fell apart under that woman’s stoney glare. “Hi there,” I said. “My name is … ah, Raoul Duke … yes, on the list, that’s for sure. Free lunch, final wisdom, total coverage. … why not? I have my attorney with me and I realize of course that his name is not on my list, but we must have that suite, yes, this man is actually my driver. We brought this red shark all the way from the Strip and now it’s time for the desert, right? Yes. Just check the list and you’ll see. Don’t worry. What’s the score, here? What’s next?”

The woman never blinked. “Your room’s not ready yet,” she said. “But there’s somebody looking for you.” “No!” I shouted. “Why? We haven’t done anything yet!” My legs felt rubbery. I gripped the desk and sagged toward her as she held out the envelope, but I refused to accept it. The woman’s face was changing: swelling, pulsing … horrible green jowls and fangs jutting out, the face of a Moray Eel! Deadly poison! I lunged backwards into my attorney, who gripped my arm as he reached out to take the note. “I’ll handle this,” he said to the Moray woman. “This man has a bad heart, but I have plenty of medicine. My name is Doctor Gonzo. Prepare our suite at once. We’ll be in the bar.”

The woman shrugged as he led me away. In a town full of bedrock crazies, nobody even notices an acid freak. We struggled through the crowded lobby and found two stools at the bar. My attorney ordered two cuba libres with beer and mescal on the side, then he opened the envelope. “Who’s Lacerda?” he asked. “He’s waiting for us in a room on the 12th floor.”

I couldn’t remember. Lacerda? The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t concentrate. Terrible things were happening all around us. Right next to me a huge reptile was gnawing on a woman’s neck, the carpet was a blood-soaked sponge – impossible to walk on it, no footing at all. “Order some golf shoes,” I whispered. “Otherwise, we’ll never get out of this place alive. You notice these lizards don’t have any trouble moving around in this muck – that’s because they have claws on their feet.”

“Lizards?” he said. “If you think we’re in trouble now, wait till you see what’s happening in the elevators.” He took off his Brazilian sunglasses and I could see he’d been crying. “I just went upstairs to see this man Lacerda,” he said. “I told him we knew what he was up to. He says he’s a photographer, but when I mentioned Savage Henry – well, that did it; he freaked. I could see it in his eyes. He knows we’re onto him.”

“Does he understand we have magnums?” I said. “No. But I told him we had a Vincent Black Shadow. That scared the piss out of him.” “Good,” I said. “But what about our room? And the golf shoes? We’re right in the middle of a fucking reptile zoo! And somebody’s giving booze to these goddamn things! It won’t be long before they tear us to shreds. Jesus, look at the floor! Have you ever seen so much blood? How many have they killed already?” I pointed across the room to a group that seemed to be staring at us. “Holy shit, look at that bunch over there! They’ve spotted us!” “That’s the press table,” he said. “That’s where you have to sign in for our credentials. Shit, let’s get it over with. You handle that, and I’ll get the room.” Hideous music and the sound of many shotguns … rude vibes on a Saturday evening in Vegas

“Fear and Loathing” at a Las Vegas Hotel Room

Hunter Thompson wrote “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”: “We finally got into the suite around dusk, and my attorney was immediately on the phone to room service – ordering four club sandwiches, four shrimp cocktails, a quart of rum and nine fresh grapefruits. “Vitamin C,” he explained. “We’ll need all we can get.”

I agreed. By this time the drink was beginning to cut the acid and my hallucinations were down to a tolerable level. The room service waiter had a vaguely reptilian cast to his features, but I was no longer seeing huge pterodactyls lumbering around the corridors in pools of fresh blood. The only problem now was a gigantic neon sign outside the window, blocking our view of the mountains – millions of colored balls running around a very complicated track, strange symbols & filigree, giving off a loud hum. …

“Look outside,” I said. “Why?”
“There’s a big … machine in the sky, … some kind of electric snake … coming straight at us.”
“Shoot it,” said my attorney.
“Not yet,” I said. “I want to study its habits.”
He went over to the corner and began pulling on a chain to close the drapes. “Look,” he said, “You’ve got to stop this talk about snakes and leeches and lizards and that stuff. It’s making me sick.”
“Don’t worry,” I said.
“Worry? Jesus, I almost went crazy down there in the bar. They’ll never let us back in that place – not after your scene at the press table.”
“What scene?”

“You bastard,” he said. “I left you alone for three minutes! You scared the shit out of those people! Waving that goddamn marlin spike around and yelling about reptiles. You’re lucky I came back in time. They were ready to call the cops. I said you were only drunk and that I was taking you up to your room for a cold shower. Hell, the only reason they gave us the press passes was to get you out of there.”

He was pacing around nervously. “Jesus, that scene straightened me right out! I must have some drugs. What have you done with the mescaline?” “The kit-bag,” I said. He opened the bag and ate two pellets while I got the tape machine going. “Maybe you should only eat one of these,” he said. “That acid’s still working on you.” I agreed. “We have to go out to the track before dark,” I said. “But we have time to watch the TV news. Let’s carve up this grapefruit and make a fine rum punch, maybe toss in a blotter … where’s the car?”

Blotter LSD

“We gave it to somebody in the parking lot,” he said. “I have the ticket in my briefcase.”
“What’s the number? I’ll call down and have them wash the bastard, get rid of that dust and grime.”
“Good idea,” he said. But he couldn’t find the ticket.
“Well, we’re fucked,” I said. “We’ll never convince them to give us that car without proof.”

He thought for a moment, then picked up the phone and asked for the garage. “This is Doctor Gonzo in eight-fifty,” he said. “I seem to have lost my parking stub for that red convertible I left with you, but I want the car washed and ready to go in 30 minutes. Can you send up a duplicate stub? … What … Oh? … Well, that’s fine.” He hung up and reached for the hash pipe. “No problem,” he said. “That man remembers my face.”

“That’s good,” I said. “They’ll probably have a big net ready for us when we show up.”
He shook his head. “As your attorney, I advise you not to worry about me.”
The TV news was about the Laos Invasion – a series of horrifying disasters: explosions and twisted wreckage, men fleeing in terror, Pentagon generals babbling insane lies. “Turn that shit off!” screamed my attorney “Let’s get out of here!”

A wise move. Moments after we picked up the car my attorney went into a drug coma and ran a red light on Main street before I could bring us under control. I propped him up in the passenger seat and took the wheel myself … feeling fine, extremely sharp. All around me in traffic I could see people talking and I wanted to hear what they were saying. All of them. But the shotgun mike was in the trunk and I decided to leave it there. Las Vegas is not the kind of town where you want to drive down Main Street aiming a black bazooka-looking instrument at people.

Turn up the radio. Turn up the tape machine. Look into the sunset up ahead. Roll the windows down for a better taste of the cool desert wind. Ah yes. This is what it’s all about. Total control now. Tooling along the main drag on a Saturday night in Las Vegas, two good old boys in a fireapple-red convertible … stoned, ripped, twisted … Good People.

LSD Chemistry


LSD is an ergoline derivative. The chemist Alexander Shulgin said LSD "is an unusually fragile molecule ... As a salt, in water, cold, and free from air and light exposure, it is stable indefinitely."

Of the four possible stereoisomers of LSD. Only (+)-LSD is psychoactive. LSD and iso-LSD, the two C-8 isomers, rapidly interconvert in the presence of bases, as the alpha proton is acidic and can be deprotonated and reprotonated. Non-psychoactive iso-LSD which has formed during the synthesis can be separated by chromatography and can be isomerized to LSD. Pure salts of LSD are triboluminescent, emitting small flashes of white light when shaken in the dark. LSD is strongly fluorescent and will glow bluish-white under UV light.

Pioneering LSD chemist Tim Scully told The Verge: Lysergic acid compounds are very fragile, and they have to be handled with much more care than many chemists would believe. So someone who hasn’t had experience working with those compounds is likely to not have very high yields and not get very good purity. [Source: Angela Chen, The Verge, January 26, 2017]

“You have to protect LSD from UV light because if LSD is exposed to UV light in the presence of moisture, moisture attaches and it becomes an undesirable compound, lumi-LSD, which would be a waste of the raw material... Another thing” I learned “was that you can’t heat up lysergic acid compounds above room temperature unless it’s absolutely necessary, and if you do so, do it for the shortest possible time. They decompose all the time they’re heated up. So we used cold tap water as a heat source and that meant doing vacuum evaporation, which is a way of making the liquid evaporate at a lower temperature than normal.

Producing LSD

Methods for producing LSD are complex and require an experienced chemist. Several methods are known, but the majority use lysergic acid as the precursor. Lysergic acid itself is also often produced in clandestine laboratories using ergometrine or ergotamine tartrate as the starting material. One of the hardest things about makeing LSD is getting you hands lysergic acid or making it. [Source: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)]

Ergometrine, also known as ergonovine and sold under the brand names Ergotrate, Ergostat, and Syntometrine among others, is a medication used to cause contractions of the uterus to treat heavy vaginal bleeding after childbirth. It can be used either by mouth, by injection into a muscle, or injection into a vein. Ergotamine is an ergot alkaloid medicine that is used to treat or prevent a vascular headache (such as a migraine or cluster headache).

Ergotamine occurs naturally in the ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea), a common parasite on rye. Depending on the method used, other essential reagents include N,N-carbonyldi-imidazole, diethylamine or hydrazine. Absorbent paper doses (blotters) are prepared by dipping the paper in an aqueous alcoholic solution of the tartrate salt, or by dropping the solution onto individual squares.

LSD is commonly synthesized by reacting diethylamine with an activated form of lysergic acid. Activating reagents include phosphoryl chloride and peptide coupling reagents. Lysergic acid is made by alkaline hydrolysis of lysergamides like ergotamine Lysergic acid can also be produced synthetically, although these processes are not used in clandestine manufacture due to their low yields and high complexity. [Source: Wikipedia

A single dose of LSD may be between 40 and 500 micrograms—an amount roughly equal to one-tenth the mass of a grain of sand. Dosages of LSD are measured in micrograms (µg), or millionths of a gram. By comparison, dosages of most drugs, both recreational and medicinal, are measured in milligrams, or thousandths of a gram. For example, an active dose of mescaline, roughly 0.2 to 0.5 g, has effects comparable to 100 µg (0.0001 g) or less of LSD.

In the mid-1960s, the most important black market LSD manufacturer (Owsley Stanley) distributed LSD at a standard concentration of 270 µg, while street samples of the 1970s contained 30 to 300 µg. By the 1980s, the amount had reduced to between 100 and 125 µg, dropping more in the 1990s to the 20–80 µg range, and even more in the 2000s Reactivity and degradation

Owsley Stanley: Pioneering LSD Maker

Augustus Owsley Stanley III (1935 – 2011) was an American audio engineer, clandestine chemist and a key figure in the San Francisco Bay Area hippie scene in the 1960s. Under the professional name Bear, he made LSD for the Ken Kesey Acid Test parties and was the soundman for the Grateful Dead, whom he met at a Acid Test party. As their sound engineer, Stanley frequently recorded live tapes behind his mixing board and developed their Wall of Sound sound system, one of the largest mobile public address systems ever constructed. Stanley also helped Robert Thomas design the band's trademark skull logo. Called the Acid King by the media, Stanley was the first known private individual to manufacture mass quantities of LSD. By his own reckoning, between 1965 and 1967, he produced at least 500 grams of LSD, enough to make more than five million doses.He died in a car accident in Australia (where he had taken citizenship in 1996) in 2011. [Source: Wikipedia]

In 1966, Stanley rented a house in Point Richmond, Richmond, California. He, Tim Scully, and Melissa Cargill (a skilled chemist, Cargill family scion who later became Stanley's girlfriend) set up a lab in the basement. The Point Richmond lab turned out more than 300,000 tablets (270 micrograms each) of LSD, dubbed "White Lightning". When LSD became illegal in California on October 1966, Scully decided to set up a new lab in Denver, Colorado. The new lab was set up in the basement of a house across the street from the Denver Zoo in early 1967.

In late 1967, Stanley's La Espiral, Orinda, lab was raided by police; he was found in possession of 350,000 doses of LSD and 1,500 doses of STP. His defense was that the illegal substances were for personal use, but he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison. The same year, Stanley officially shortened his name to "Owsley Stanley". After he was released from prison, Stanley resumed working for the Grateful Dead as their live sound engineer. In January 1970, at 3:00 am, 19 members of the Grateful Dead and crew were arrested for possession of a variety of drugs at a French Quarter hotel after returning from a concert at The Warehouse in New Orleans. The Jefferson Airplane had been arrested two weeks earlier in the same situation. Stanley was charged with illegal possession of narcotics, dangerous non-narcotics, LSD, and barbiturates. According to an article in the Baton Rouge State Times, Stanley identified himself to the police as "The King of Acid" and technician of the band. Stanley was confined to federal prison from 1970 to 1972. He rejoined the Dead afterwards but lost his influence with the band after that.

Tim Scully: Another Pioneering LSD Chemist

Angela Chen wrote in The Verge: Tim Scully was 20 when he did LSD for the first time, and the experience “was like getting struck by lightning.” It was 1965. Scully had been studying math and physics” at Berkeley — on track to do government research — but acid changed everything. Instantly, he decided that his purpose was to make as much LSD as he could and give it away to anyone who wanted it, in order to “turn on the world.” When LSD became illegal he became an underground LSD chemist. “Along with fellow chemists Nick Sand and Owsley “Bear” Stanley, he spent years opening various labs, synthesizing raw materials to make millions of doses, and trying to avoid the Feds. He learned to produce Orange Sunshine, some of the purest LSD ever made — 99.99 percent pure. The popular substance was once considered the standard for quality LSD, and even mentioned in an SNL skit. Two different labs were busted, and Scully ended up receiving a 20-year prison sentence, of which he served three years. Scully, who now works in electronic design, and was the subject of the documentary Sunshine Makers, directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen. [Source: Angela Chen, The Verge, January 26, 2017]

Scully told The Verge: if his original aim had “been successful, we would’ve been able to make approximately 200 kilos of LSD, about 750 million doses, and given them away to anyone who wanted to take it, for free. We thought that if people took LSD, they would see through hypocrisy and dishonesty. They’d be gentler with each other because they would have felt at one with each other, gentler with environment because they’d feel at one with the environment. Those beliefs were all somewhat naive. In the end it didn’t turn out quite like that, but that’s what we wanted.

“For months after the first trip, I spent time in university library reading up on how to use raw material to synthesize LSD, initially from aboveground sources and then later from underground sources. So by the time I hooked up with Bear I had a rough idea from the published literature. What I learned eventually is that that’s just a drop in the bucket. Really, the information you need for making LSD is mostly lab technique and tricks of the trade.

I was interested in electronics work, and Bear originally did electronics work for the Grateful Dead while they traveled. So we had about six months of time that we spent taking LSD together at least once a week while I was doing that work. At the end of that time, when he’d completely run out of money and acid and wanted to set up a lab, he decided I’d passed the acid test and let me become his apprentice in the next lab.

Bear was obsessed with purity and yield. The overwhelming majority of what he taught me was basically lab technique and how to handle lysergic acid.” To protect LSD from UV light “the lab was lit with bug lights, incandescent lightbulbs with a coating on the inside so the light looks yellow. They’re sold because they don’t attract insects. We could easily buy those in a supermarket, so that was a good solution to protecting the LSD. Bear” also “designed vacuum evaporators and also designed a clever trap to catch any powder that might fly over with the vapor. He didn’t want any of the good stuff, any of the material, to get lost or wasted.

Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Turning the World On to LSD

Tim Scully told The Verge: “I do think part of what made Orange Sunshine very popular was that the Brotherhood of Eternal Love distributed it, and they were very sweet people who did a good job. They were nonviolent spiritual people. [Brotherhood founder] John Griggs had gone to [psychedelics advocate] Tim Leary and gotten advice that he should set [themselves] up as a religion to protect themselves legally. [Source: Angela Chen, The Verge, January 26, 2017]

He formed Brotherhood of Eternal Love as a religious organization and their purpose was to spread psychedelics. The Brotherhood guys started out in their youth as motorcycle gangsters, but they had held up a movie producer who had some LSD at gunpoint. They held him up, took his LSD, threw away their guns, and decided that they were going to be nonviolent LSD dealers. But they were having trouble getting as much as they wanted to distribute, so when I came and said, “I’d like you to distribute the LSD I make,” they were very happy.

When I was working with Bear, he and I took an acid trip with Richard Alpert one day in 1967 where we were planning the strategy of turning on the world, modest as we were, and one of the things we agreed on was that if we just turned on the United States it would be like unilateral disarmament. We really had to make sure that every country in the world got turned on, particularly those behind the Iron Curtain, or else it would be a very bad thing geopolitically. And so we talked to the Brotherhood and they made an effort to spread it around the world. And they did get our LSD into Vietnam and behind the Iron Curtain and all over.

LSD Busts in the Pioneering Years in the 1960s

Tim Scully had two LSD labs in Denver, He told The Verge: “The second Denver lab was busted when I was out of town getting equipment and materials. It was a comedy of errors. I lost all my lab equipment, though fortunately I had my raw material because it wasn’t in the lab. I had all this raw material and no money because I had spent it bailing assistants out of jail and getting money to pay their legal fees. I needed to get lab equipment and a place to cook. That’s where I ended up hooking up with Nick [Sand] because he had the money and agreed to fund the final lab, the Windsor lab in California. [Source: Angela Chen, The Verge, January 26, 2017]

“We always knew it wasn’t going to end well and we knew that the Feds usually get their men in the end. From the beginning, lysergic acid — the raw material to make LSD — was already hard to get, and we believed that governments would be opposed to this. One of the things that taking LSD made both of us feel very strongly — and made a lot of people feel strongly [about] — is a deep skepticism of large corporations and governments. And from December 1966 on, every time I went home I was followed by federal agents and I had to lose them before I went anywhere important.

We thought saving the world was worth the risk, and if we ended up spending a bunch of time in prison, it’d be the price we’d have to pay for having done this community service. We knew they were closing in on us when we were setting up that Windsor lab, it wasn’t like we didn’t know that bad things were likely to happen.

Europe’s Biggest Ever LSD Bust

a precursor for making LSD

In June 2018, Europol reported: The Spanish Guardia Civil and the Austrian Federal Police, supported by Europol, have dismantled a criminal network producing and distributing synthetic drugs worldwide, known as new psychoactive substances (NPS), on the Darknet. The criminal group was also involved in money laundering their share of the profits by selling cryptocurrencies, mainly Bitcoins. More than EUR 4 500 000 in Bitcoins, IOTA and lumen was seized by law enforcement authorities. [Source: Europol, June 28, 2018]

Over 100 different types of NPS were seized in two laboratories in the provinces of Granada and Valencia in Spain, whose market value would exceed EUR 12 million. Nearly 800 000 doses of LSD were confiscated, marking the biggest ever haul of this type of substance and derivatives in the European Union (EU).

The eight people arrested were of Spanish, Austrian and French nationality. They were accused of drug trafficking, money laundering and membership of a criminal organisation. Six house searches in Spain (Granada, Valencia and Madrid) and one house search in Austria took place. Two synthetic drug laboratories were dismantled. Three real estate properties were seized and ten luxury vehicles were impounded.

The Synthetic drugs were sold in the Darknet and shipped by post. “The organised crime group had been operating in Spain since 2012 and imported the raw material to make the psychoactive substances from Asian countries, mainly China. The organisation installed a laboratory in Amsterdam, which served as the production unit of the synthetic drugs. From this laboratory the narcotic substances were shipped to two other laboratories in Spain (Granada and Valencia), which were directly managed by the organisation and where the drugs were packaged and distributed to the final consumer.

Packages and postal envelopes were sent to more than 100 different countries, containing narcotic substances camouflaged as other legal products, such as additives for cement. Among the substances that were distributed were more than 100 different types of NPS: synthetic cannabinoids, depressants, dissociatives, stimulants such as amphetamines or cathinones, nootropics, psychedelics and synthetic opiates. The organised crime group offered the synthetic drugs exclusively through Darknet webpages where access was restricted to previously invited users redirected from forums. Two of the webpages managed by the organisation enjoyed a great reputation, being the most known and exclusive worldwide in this field.

Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry

According to a 2020 article in Frontiers in Psychiatry: LSD “was studied from the 1950s to the 1970s to evaluate behavioral and personality changes, as well as remission of psychiatric symptoms in various disorders. LSD was used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, psychosomatic diseases and addiction. However, most of the studies were not performed under contemporary standards, and it has taken several decades for a resurgence of interest in LSD research and its therapeutic potential for psychiatry. [Source: “Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry: A Systematic Review of Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trials” by Juan José Fuentes, Francina Fonseca, Matilde Elices, Magí Farré and Marta Torrens,nstitut de Neuropsiquiatria i Addiccions, Hospital del Mar, Barcelona, Spain,Frontiers in Psychiatry, January 21, 2020, ]

“The aim of this review is to identify controlled and randomized clinical trials that assess the potential use of LSD in psychiatry. A final selection of 11 articles was made after considering inclusion and exclusion criteria. LSD was administered to 567 patients in a dose ranging from 20 to 800 mcg. Despite the design heterogeneity of clinical trials, positive results were observed, thus revealing the therapeutic potential of LSD to reduce psychiatric symptomatology, mainly in alcoholism. The vast majority of authors describe significant and positive short-term changes in patients.

Sandoz LSD from the 1950s

“Multiple variables regarding LSD treatment therapeutic approach and quality of experience were revealed and related to therapeutic outcomes. LSD is revealed as a potential therapeutic agent in psychiatry; the evidence to date is strongest for the use of LSD in the treatment of alcoholism. Despite the difficulty of designing proper double blind clinical trials with this substance, new studies that conform to modern standards are necessary in order to strengthen our knowledge on its use and open new doors in the future.

LSD is part of the pharmacological group known as “classical hallucinogens” or “psychedelics”. Regarding its therapeutic potential, LSD was used from the 1950s to the 1970s to achieve behavioral and personality changes, as well as remission of psychiatric symptoms in various disorders. LSD was used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, psychosomatic diseases and addiction. During that time, it was also observed that LSD together with suitable accompaniment during its administration, could reduce pain, anxiety and depression in patients with advanced cancer. Other studies involving larger patient samples also established its safety and promising results in patients with terminal cancer. Studies in schizophrenic patients, however, reached less response to the same dose and worse clinical outcomes compared with non-schizophrenics patients, and negative effects on these patients have been described, both in LSD experience itself and later benefits. The data indicate that the responsivity of schizophrenic patients to the administration of lysergic acid is less than that of normal subjects.

Prediction of individual responses to LSD depends on several variables. LSD reaction involves a series of complex interactions between doses, “set” (thoughts, mood and expectations of the subject prior to treatment) and “setting” (the physical and interpersonal environment in which the subject undergoes treatment). Three different major approaches to LSD use as a treatment were then applied to clinical research: “psycholytic therapy”, “psychedelic-chemotherapy” and “psychedelic-peak therapy”.

In psycholytic therapy, mainly practiced in Europe, low-moderate doses (25-200 mcg) of this drug were used in more than one therapeutic session of psychodynamic orientation. In psychedelic-chemotherapy, drug use itself was emphasized at relatively high doses (200 mcg or more), with a very limited or absent psychotherapeutic approach. As for psychedelic-peak therapy (or “psychedelic therapy”), it involves administering a single and relatively high dose with the aim of triggering a mystical-type experience (“peak experience” or “ego dissolution” as synonyms). This approach should include the proper prior preparation of the patient (set) and a comfortable environment during the session (setting), as well as a discussion on it during subsequent follow-up sessions with the subject (after-care related to LSD session). Mystical experiences are referred to as those in which a sense of unity with the environment is experienced achieving a vivid transcendental experience at an emotional, cognitive and ego-structural level, after a previous and personal therapeutic preparation. The aim is to catalyze rapid and fundamental changes in the value system and self-image of the subject (65).

Despite the foregoing, most clinical studies involving the use of LSD were published between the 1960s and 1970s, up to the strict prohibition of its use in research. Obviously, most of these studies were not performed under contemporary standards. The purpose of this systematic review is to identify controlled and randomized clinical trials that assess the potential use of LSD in psychiatry and identify variables controlled by the researcher as potentially related to therapeutic outcomes. This is with the aim of informing a discussion on the benefits and challenges of integrating contemporary classic hallucinogens research into modern clinical trial designs and providing a guide for further research involving LSD as a therapeutic agent.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)

Text Sources: 1) “Buzzed, the Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy” by Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Scott Swartzwelder Ph.D., Wilkie Wilson Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center (W.W. Norton, New York, 2003); 2) National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 3) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and 4) National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, The Independent, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, , Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2022

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