This article is excerpted from Tom Shroder’s “Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal,” which comes out Sept. 9. The book focuses on researchers’ attempts to determine whether psychedelic drugs administered with talk therapy can help people with post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric ailments. Such studies flourished in the 1950s when more than 25,000 doses of psychedelic drugs were administered to thousands of patients and the accepted assessment held that the drugs would be “of utmost value in psychotherapy.”
Rampant recreational drug abuse in the ’60s provoked government restrictions on research, but a small group of scientists persisted in the belief that psychedelic drugs were too potentially valuable to be discarded. In the past decade, a number of clinical trials have won approval at major research institutions, including Johns Hopkins.
These studies have shown promising results using MDMA, psilocybin and other psychedelics in controlled clinical settings under close medical supervision, even as abuse of drugs sold on the street as psychedelics continues to claim victims.