BBC: Psychedelic Science

PSYCHEDELIC SCIENCE – Documentary by Bill Eagles

Aired on: February 27th, 1997, BBC

NARRATOR (HUGH QUARSHIE):
Controversial human experiments with the psychedelic drug LSD held new promise for psychiatry in the 1950s. They were closed down when the drug was made illegal in 1966. Today a new generation of American scientists are risking their professional reputations to make this work begin again. They believe that psychedelics could transform our understanding of the relationship between mind and brain and now they have finally overturned 30 years of government resistance to this controversial research.

DR CURTIS WRIGHT (Director of Addictive Drugs, FDA, USA):
In the ’60s they were terrified of these drugs. We didn’t know what they would do to people long-term, we didn’t know what we had done to people already. In the ’90s it’s very clear that there’s a role for these agents and the understanding of how the mind works and there’s also a role for them as potential ways to help people.

NARRATOR:
Government hostility was kindled by the widespread illegal street use of these mind-bending chemicals in the late 1960s. The hippy claims of psychedelic peace and love were rapidly overtaken by darker connections with anarchy, madness and even murder. Charles Manson’s use of LSD transforming college drop-outs into psychopathic killers confirmed the Establishment’s view that this was one of the most dangerous chemical agents. But mainstream science has a long and distinguished record in the study of these controversial agents. In London Dr. Karl Jansen was concerned at an increase in consumption of psychedelics. He warns of the dangers of unsupervised use, but believes that in a scientific setting psychedelics offer insights into the chemistry of consciousness.

DR KARL JANSEN (Psychiatrist, Maudsley Hospital, London):
Psychedelics are drugs which cause very major changes in the way in which people see the world, changes which are not really possible by any other means.

The way in which they make the world look is something which can’t be achieved really by any other kind of drug. There can be very bright colours, everything may become suffused with a sense of meaning and significance, often mythic significance, and people may gain a new insight into themselves and into the world around them, but the way in which they change the world is not one that is really possible by any other method. It’s an altered state of consciousness which isn’t part of the normal human range.

NARRATOR:
The best known psychedelic is LSD which was discovered by the Sandos Laboratories in Switzerland. Keen to find a legitimate medical application for the drug, the company mass- produced it in the late 1950’s and supplied psychiatric researchers around the world.

Drug therapy for mental illness was in its infancy and psychiatric hospitals were full of patients that the medical community could not help. At first LSD was used to mimic schizophrenia, but then in 1958 a totally unexpected therapeutic application was discovered by two psychiatrists in Canada.

DR ABRAM HOFFER (Psychiatrist, Canada):
We had had to deal with alcoholics and we were trying to see what we could do for them. All of a sudden I got an idea, a crazy idea. I said to myself if we could produce controlled delerium treatments maybe we could frighten these guys away from drinking thereafter, and the theory was that they had to hit bottom and often DT’s is when they hit bottom.

The problem with that is there’s a high death rate from DT’s so you can’t really encourage people to go through it and secondly, that very often you’re in such a state of confusion that when you come out of the DT’s you don’t remember what happened.

NARRATOR:
The tablets in Knott’s hand each contain a microscopic trace of LSD. The experience itself looks undramatic. The drama is internal. To an observer the atmosphere seems strangely cloying, closer to faith-healing than medicine.

DR HUMPHREY OSMOND (Psychiatrist, Alabama):
We would get them in fairly pleasant surroundings, as pleasant as we could do, and then give them the LSD and then introduce them to the changes and talk about them as being something that they could use, and this I think is the sensible, or the essential thing is to be able to make sense of their experiences and to relate these experiences to their drinking.

MAN:
I want you to lie back. Put the eye-shade on, and the headphones, and let the music carry you down.

HUMPHREY OSMOND:
The changes in one’s sense perception produces perhaps an increased suggestibility and, at the same time, the changes in perception also can be used to see oneself and one’s affairs differently.

ABRAM HOFFER:
It wasn’t our intention to replace one addiction by another. We never even thought of that. In fact I would be very much opposed to that, so it wasn’t as if we would give them LSD over and over and over. No, that’s what happened in the streets, but that was not under our control. We would give them one or two peak experiences and hope that this would do it. And it did, it was really quite effective, and in one case that I remember vividly was a Canadian soldier who went through the whole Italian campaign of the last war and doesn’t remember any of it ‘cos he was drunk the whole time. So we gave him two hundred micrograms of LSD, which was our standard approach. Nothing happened, so a week later I said John, like to try it again and he said OK, so this time I gave him four hundred.

I gave it to him at nine or ten thirty. He became very quiet and very tense, didn’t say a word, he just cried, you could get nothing out of him, so we sat there and spoke to him and watched him. The next morning I spoke to him, I said “What happened John?” He said “You know something tremendous happened.” he said “God came to me, and God said ‘John, no more'”. Never touched it ever since. He became a minister.

By the time we stopped using LSD about ’60/61/62 we had treated about two thousand alcoholics and we reported, we didn’t report the whole two thousand but we published a series of papers showing that we were able to help around forty-five or fifty percent of these alcoholics who, having had the experience, wouldn’t drink anymore.

NARRATOR:
In Prague, news of Osmond and Hoffer’s results inspired another psychedelic researcher to apply the technique to a more notorious type of addiction:
heroin.

DR STANISLAV GROF (Psychiatrist, USA):
In 1967 I joined a project that was specifically focusing on heroin addicts. What we were trying in this research was to sort of induce, facilitate deep mystical experiences and then see if that somehow will change the drug habit. In this study one-third of the patients were considered to be essentially rehabilitated.

NARRATOR:
Traditional techniques of psychotherapy required years of treatment. The quick fix of psychedelics seemed to offer unlimited advantages.

STANISLAV GROF:
Well I think one important lesson is that psychedelics are by and large catalysts. What happens very much depends on who uses it, under what circumstances, for what purpose. In psychoanalysis the idea is that healing occurs by bringing sort of deep contents of the unconscious into consciousness & here was a substance that could give, get you there faster and can get you deeper.

NARRATOR:
As news of LSD spread, supplies moved from the laboratory to less formal settings. After taking the drug with a friend in San Francisco, an academic at Stanford University was inspired to explore psychedelic-enhanced creativity.

DR WILLIS HARMAN (Former Prof. Engineering, Stanford University):
We get people from various professional areas such as architecture, commercial design and so on. They would come in in the morning and they would take their psychedelic. They would have several hours in quiet, listening to music, having a personal experience and then we’d turn them loose for several hours to work with whatever the problem was that they’d brought in. Almost everybody, I can’t even remember an exception, definitely had a rise in creativity as measured by these tests. I should emphasise that the people that were involved with this creative problem-solving study, most of them were PhDs and they were working in highly technical areas.

There were a couple of examples of people who were more, in more artistic professions, but for example, this was a time in which the most basic circuits in computer work had not really been devised yet and some of that work was fairly complex. We had one fellow from a local research institute that was concerned with circuit design and he discovered that he could not only see the image of this whole circuit, but he could also imagine closing a switch and watching the electricity flow through this circuit and seeing what happened. And if it wasn’t quite the right thing he could redesign the circuit and then close the switch again and watch this whole thing happen. He was totally convinced that what was happening there was exactly the same thing he would find in a laboratory when he went back to do it.

KARL JANSEN:
Psychedelics can block the transmission of messages from the outside world to the inside. It does that by selectively blocking the action of chemical messengers which carry the message from neuron to neuron. If you block that perception, all that sensation from coming in, there’ll be a bit of a vacuum in your mind and nature tends to abhor a vacuum. So your mind fills it up with memories, perceptions and meaning if you like, so there’s a lot of changes going on in a neuro-electrical sense and your mind gives it meaning. As a result of that you can see the world in a new way and gain some insight, perhaps into what underlies your everyday activity. You might have a new idea. Parts of your brain which don’t normally talk to each other might end up talking to each other.

NARRATOR:
The idea that psychedelics could short-cut traditional therapy was viewed with antagonism by mainstream psychoanalysts.

STANISLAV GROF (REMARK IN CZECH ON FILM):
Psychedelic therapy is not something that just can be added and you sort of maintain everything else, so I think those were the major problems within the profession itself. I think that the revolution that it would require to simulate the psychedelics will be comparable to what the physicists had to go through in the shift from Newtonian physics to the theories of relativity and then to quantum physics, and I think, you know, many people are not ready for that.

NARRATOR:
In Canada the hostility from the profession was more direct. Osmond and Hoffer found their research was being undermined by colleagues in a more traditional psychiatric institution.

ABRAM HOFFER:
There was an attempt made to confirm or deny our work. We had published our technique which was to be kind and gentle and increase insight and make ’em comfortable. Now they ignored that, they took their alcoholics, they gave them eight hundred micrograms of LSD which is way too high for most people. They were afraid they’d run away so they chained them to their bed with handcuffs so they couldn’t leave the bed. They didn’t have any interaction whatever. The doctor would flit in and out making notes. That’s all they did and at the end of the experience they wrote up and said it didn’t work and I later, many years later, I saw a lot of these patients that had been treated and they told me how horrible it was. It was an absolutely monstrous experience. They made no attempt whatever to repeat the basic psychedelic methods that we had developed.

KARL JANSEN:
There was some very good work done in the 1960s. I think at that time Humphrey Osmond, for example, and Hoffer did some very good work with psychedelics looking at what they did, how they produced changes in people’s consciousness and what the benefits and risks might be. And then there was some people who somehow got taken up into the world of the drug itself, such as Timothy Leary, and that was a cause for considerable concern because he was at Harvard, he was really at the heart of a lot of the research that was being done. And then he suddenly turned round and went out there, gave a lot of lectures telling everybody to take LSD and became quite religious and science seemed to go out the window.

TIMOTHY LEARY:
The ancient which we follow can be defined in modern terms in the metaphors of the present as “turn on, tune in and drop out”.

KARL JANSEN:
There’s been a lot of resentment about what these people did, these maverick elements because it did shut down the whole operation and a lot of responsible researchers had to give their psychedelic drugs back and stop doing that work and they were quite bitter about it. I don’t think they were necessarily all bitter against the government. I think some of them were quite bitter against these people who had turned the research enterprise into a party.

NARRATOR:
When LSD hit the streets the dark side of psychedelics was revealed. Uncontrolled recreational use could lead to visions of insight and beauty, but also of psychotic breakdown. All psychedelics were made illegal in 1966 and the research ground to a halt. The next decade was to be a frustrating time for scientists keen to follow up the work of the 1960s. Dr. Charles Grob, now head of child psychiatry at the UCLA Medical School, was a student in New York in the early 1970s.

DR CHARLES GROB:
Many years ago I had a job as a research technician in Brooklyn, New York. I became very, very taken with the tremendous potential that these substances might have in terms of helping us to explore new models for treatment. You know when I made my decision to, to go back to school and to go to medical school in ’72/73, I was optimistic that by the time I finished my schooling at the end of the 70s it would be a relatively simple matter to join someone’s active, on-going psychedelic research project as a junior faculty member. As things turned out, however, this was not to be the case. I had been overly optimistic and there were no psychedelic research studies that were happening by the time I finished my schooling.

NARRATOR:
The outlook for research was bleak in the USA, but unexpected developments lead Charlie Grob to Brazil on the trail of the legendary plant-based psychedelic, ayathuasca. Made by the Indians of the Amazon from a combination of jungle vines and leaves, it is brewed into a herbal tea and produces a psychedelic experience every bit as powerful as LSD.

CHARLES GROB:
The use of hallucinogens can be traced back to prehistoric times when the aboriginal peoples utilised plant hallucinogens as an integral part of their healing practices, to give them access to the divine, to facilitate social bonding, communal cohesion. It was an integral part of their lives.

NARRATOR:
But what had drawn Grob to the Amazon was the news that the mystical traditions of the Indians had seeped out from the rainforest into modern, urban Brazil. The UDV, or Unja de Vegital, is a Christian church operating in many Brazilian cities. Its members drink the ayathuasca tea every fortnight, but in newly created rituals. Here was a modern urban community that had successfully adopted regular psychedelic use, and no Western scientist had previously had a chance to study this phenomenon.

CHARLES GROB:
These are not the hippies, these are not the, the people on the fringe, these are not even necessarily the avant garde trend-setters, these are average citizens. If this was in the US you would say this was middle America. Since this is Brazil perhaps we could say this is middle Brazil.

After the members of the congregation drink their tea, the ritual sacrament, they sit down in their seats and they basically remain in their seats for pretty much most of the next four hours. With eyes closed they often have well-formed images often of thematic content. Individuals will ask to speak, they’ll be granted permission and they will talk. They will talk about the importance of the Unja de Vegital in their lives, they will talk about how important the precepts and the principles and the guidance they receive have facilitated them to become more responsible family members, more responsible workers.

NARRATOR:
Dr Glacus de Silva Brito is a medical doctor and UDV member who has taken ayathuasca regularly for twenty years.

DR GLACUS DE SILVA BRITO (Leader of UDV Church):
Basically for me I have no longer visions. I just have a clear mind about my role as a man, my role as a father, my role as a professional, my duties and the things of relate in my life. I’m more clear about the things that I should do to improve myself, to improve my life, a normal person and happy.

NARRATOR:
If the claims of the UDV were true their experience would challenge all of Western science’s hostile preconceptions about psychedelic drug use. The UDV had asked Grob to conduct a scientific evaluation of their ritual.

CHARLES GROB:
If you’re concerned that a psycho-active substance is toxic you’re naturally concerned about neuro-toxicity, you’re concerned that there might be some effect on mood stabilisation, that there might be some effect on aggression, anger control, there might be some effect on overall behaviour, capacity to function responsibly and effectively out in the world. You might be concerned that there could be some degree of cognitive deterioration as manifested by poor memory, poor concentration. These would be the areas that would have to be examined.

NARRATOR:
Grob’s team of researchers carried out a study of UDV members who were long-term ayathuasca users, alongside control subjects who never took the drug.

CHARLES GROB:
We found that there was no evidence of toxic manifestation of the substances in these long-term users. We conducted pretty careful neuro-psychological assessments on our ayathuasca subjects and a like number of matched controls who had never taken ayathuasca and we found that the ayathuasca subjects had, on certain parameters, had significantly better neuro-psychological function, particularly in regards to concentration and short-term memory than did the controls.

NARRATOR:
Another potential benefit of ayathuasca echoed the findings of the 1960s.

GLACUS DE SILVA BRITO:
We think it’s important that the teenager, specifically after fourteen, to have free access by the authorities to have the tea because we think it’s a vaccine against drugs abuse. My nephew was involved with drugs in the schools and he was sixteen. I invited him to drink the tea. After he drink twice and he give up these drugs and started to become more responsible, more engaged in more evolution in school and he changed his life when he was sixteen.

CHARLES GROB:
They no longer drink alcohol, they no longer take drugs of any sort outside of the context of taking ayathuasca. If you consider ayathuasca a drug, that might be controversial in some quarters. Some might consider it a medicine, some might consider it a sacrament, but they simply do not take alcohol or psychoactive drugs of any sort, period.

NARRATOR:
Grob wasn’t the only one impressed by the UDVs use of ayathuasca. In 1992 the Brazilian government clarified the drug’s hazy legal status. They approved its use by the UDV because of the apparent benefits to individuals and to the community in general.

CHARLES GROB:
I think this is a fascinating area to study. Nobody has looked at it. This is new knowledge of an ancient process. We’ve been allowed into what were formerly secret mysteries and I believe that we can take away very valuable knowledge that perhaps, perhaps we can apply within the context of our own culture.

NARRATOR:
Grob’s work in Brazil was soon to have an impact back in North America. A consultant on the study had set his sights on resuming human tests with psychedelics in the USA. Dr. Rick Strassman had to convince the authorities that if the setting was controlled and the experience was supervised, psychedelic drugs could be given safely.

RICK STRASSMAN (Neuroscientist, Canada):
In 1984 I had a paper that was published on the adverse effects of psychedelic drugs and I concluded if people are carefully screened, supervised and followed up, that the chances of adverse effects to psychedelics in an experimental setting were quite small, and that the stories of bum trips, adverse effects, hospitalisations, emergency room, casualties, that almost ninety nine point nine percent of those took place in um, in people in an uncontrolled environment.

NARRATOR:
The controlled use of psychedelics by the UDV supported Strassman’s claims and the drug is chose to test his ideas was dimethyl triptamine or DMT, the pure synthesised ingredient of the Brazilian jungle drug ayathuasca.

RICK STRASSMAN:
I had no idea it would take me 2 years of three times a week phone-calls to every possible agency under the sun to finally be able to get approval to be doing this work, so it was a Herculean task which I’m not sure if I would have done if I’d known how long it would have been. But every step of the way seemed slightly more encouraging, well not as discouraging as it may have been, and I persevered.

NARRATOR:
The Food and Drug Administration in Washington had to be persuaded to allow the manufacture of an illegal drug to be given to human volunteers. It would create a legal precedent, a fact that weighed heavily with the new departmental head at the FDA when he assembled a committee of experts to discuss the proposal.

CURTIS WRIGHT:
It was quite a meeting, I can tell you that. It is one of the most memorable of my life because all of the issues that you think might come up did come up:

is it proper to do hallucinogen research? is it proper to expose people to potential long-term risk? how much of a defect do you need to see in order to feel comfortable taking a drug into man? and the committee weighed all of these things and it went on late into the evening. Their decision in that case was that it was possible to go forward, but that we should proceed very carefully and that’s really been the principle to this day.

RICK STRASSMAN:
Once I received permission I almost fainted, I almost passed out ‘cos I’d been knocking my head against this all for 2 years. And I also was scared like – oh now I’ve done it, I’ve finally opened up Pandora’s box all over again, now we are going to be able to give psychedelic drugs to people and perhaps everybody was correct in saying they shouldn’t be studied and they shouldn’t be used and it ought to be all underground and psychiatrists aren’t the ones to give drugs. And I was incredibly excited. It seemed like a wide open field just appeared in front of me. It had been closed and now it was just completely wide open.

CURTIS WRIGHT:
There’s a world of difference between what we’re allowing now and what happened in the 1960’s. I must confess that I am old enough to remember the 1960’s and at that point in time these agents were handed out like party favours at a teenage sleep-over. It was extraordinarily irresponsible behaviour by many people who should have known better and the initial response was to try to gain control of the situation and to pick up the pieces.

MAN:
Hey that’s free enterprise. What are you doing there man, that’s free enterprise.

CURTIS WRIGHT:
In the intervening years it’s very clear that there’s a role for these agents and so in the case of Dr Strassman’s research we just needed to know that what he wanted to do was safe, it was basic research, it didn’t have a direct clinical application, but we needed to make sure he wouldn’t harm his subjects.

KARL JANSEN:
He showed that people could be given a very powerful psychedelic, which DMT is, at very high doses without going mad or requiring hospitalisation, didn’t require psychiatric treatment or jump out of windows, or sustain any sort of damage really, and I think it was important to show that, for example that this could be done with safety to the individual, safety to their psyche and physical safety. I think he also showed that one could be engaged in this type of research without turning it into a party, which he certainly didn’t, in going out and preaching on, on platforms and so on, and I think that was reassuring to the government. In some ways you could say he treated their phobia about psychedelic research through a form of gradual desensitisation.

NARRATOR:
At the University of Miami a team of researchers was quick to take advantage of the DMT breakthrough. Using Strassman as a consultant they followed his procedure to the letter to secure permission to work with psychedelics in a clinical setting. This new project would test the 60’s claim that psychedelics could help with addiction, but this time tackling the 90’s scourge of cocaine. Based at the Department of Neurological Diseases, the team was led by neuro-scientist Dr. Deborah Mash.

DR DEBORAH MASH (Neuroscientist, University of Miami):
When I began this work I did it because of a very heartfelt desire to, to bring something that could be a fundamental breakthrough for addiction, and I myself had been studying the epidemic of cocaine overdoses. And when you sit there and you go into the medical examiner’s department, and you see young people in their 20s and 30s dying from the effects of cocaine, you can’t help but feel a very deep pain. It’s a very heartbreaking experience because you see the best and the brightest from children to adults to young people.

We see the impact of cocaine addiction on all walks of life, from executives who’ve lost their fortunes to young crack moms who show up at Jackson Memorial to give birth to crack- exposed infants to young people who are dropping out of schools and hitting the streets who are lost souls. It’s touched everyone in our community at all walks of life. OK we’re going to take the ibogaine now so I want you to drink a lot of water with it, OK.

NARRATOR:
Mash had heard claims that a tribal drug from central Africa had therapeutic potential.

DEBORAH MASH:
Is that enough water?

NARRATOR:
Ibogaine is another plant-based psychedelic.

DEBORAH MASH:
…on you in a second and it’ll be about thirty minutes before you feel any effect of the drug.

NARRATOR:
For the past 2 years she has been using it to treat patients with cocaine addiction.

DEBORAH MASH:
When we give the ibogaine it’s a very simple procedure. It’s basically we administer the drug orally and the person is allowed to rest in a quiet way and we monitor all the vital signs to make sure that there are no adverse events. While the person is quiet and under the acute phase of the drug is when the active visualisation occurs. At the end of that acute visualisation period people sort of run through the information that came up in the earlier part of the experience. At the end of that time which can be anywhere from twenty four to thirty six hours, the individual feels almost as if they’d been in a deep sleep and they wake up rather refreshed and ready to very much talk about what information came about while they were under the influence of the ibogaine.

MAN:
He wasn’t with me very much when I was younger…

DEBORAH MASH:
If you expose the brain to cocaine and the chronic pattern of binge-use, or you’ve been on opiates for a very long time your brain neuro-chemistry changes in a very fundamental way. Somehow ibogaine seems to treat a lot of the symptoms of withdrawal and the symptoms of drug craving that are important triggers for keeping people hooked into an intractable pattern of drug taking. Ibogaine has another property that I think makes it very unique and that is it deals with addiction on a second level and that is the addiction of the spirit. When you think about why someone gets locked into an intractable pattern of drug taking behaviour, how they visualise themselves in the world, it seems that ibogaine allows them to step back from where they are locked, to go back to a time in their life when they weren’t addicted to cocaine or heroin, to go back and to revisit their mythology about who they are and why it is that they need to take drugs in the first place. For cocaine addiction we have nothing, so here was something that might hold promise and it needed to be studied and it needed to be studied in a well- controlled, scientific and clinical environment.

That’s what we have tried to do at the University of Miami, is to bring this information that comes from the jungles of Africa to take something that’s pygmy-medicine that has 100 years of pharmacological data behind it and to say let’s test it, let’s test it in a fundamental way, let’s test it in a well characterised clinical population and we might find out that we learn something fundamental, not only about the addictive disorder, but about brain function itself. And so I think that these psychedelic medications, these psychedelic substances do offer windows, if you will, to the brain and behaviour and may teach us something very fundamental about how the brain works.

CURTIS WRIGHT:
I think ibogaine represents a new kind of use of a chemical agent, if it is to be successful. I think it reflects an attempt by pharmaco-therapy to incorporate the concept of a life change, a transition-based therapy, the notion being that ibogaine experience will, in some way, help the individual to break from the past and enter into a new life. I maintain a hopeful expectancy.

NARRATOR:
With psychedelic experiences being on the scientific agenda again, could other claims from the research of the 1960’s be reconsidered?

HUMPHREY OSMOND:
I think it’s very definitely time to resume a broad kind of research in creativity and I think that the psychedelics would be one very useful tool in that. One of the factors that’s very important here is the, the openness of a group of people who’s becoming more and more numerous all the time who have had experiences of psychedelic problem-solving.

MAN:
Dr Kary Mullis, I’ll now ask you to receive the Nobel Prize from the hands of His Majesty the King.

NARRATOR:
Biogeneticist Dr Kary Mullis had won the Nobel Prize for inventing PCR, a revolutionary technique for multiplying tiny amounts of DNA for use in genetic research, a creative breakthrough he claims came from psychedelic drug use.

DR KARY MULLIS:
PCR’s another place where I was down there with the molecules when I discovered it and I wasn’t stoned on LSD, but my mind by then had learned how to get down there. I could sit on a DNA molecule and watch the go by and I didn’t feel dumb about that, I felt I could, I mean that’s just the way I think is I put myself in all different kind of spots and I’ve learned that partially I would think, and this is again my opinion, through psychedelic drugs. If you have to think of bizarre things PCR was a bizarre thing. It changed an entire generation of molecular biologists in terms of how they thought about DNA. It scared a lot of people when they saw it and they said that’ll never work, it’ll never work ‘cos they didn’t like the answer, which was if it does it’s going to change my life. I said yeah, it’ll change my life and make me a Nobel Prize winner and I can deal with that. You know my life is one long thing and I don’t know what, I don’t do experiments often, you know in big things like what if I had not taken LSD ever would I have still been in PCR? I don’t know, I doubt it, I seriously doubt it.

NARRATOR:
There have long been rumours connecting the birth of the American computer industry with psychedelic drug use. Founding member of Microsoft, Bob Wallis, is one of the first to speak openly on the subject.

BOB WALLIS:
I think the success is Silicon Valley in the early personal computer industry had a lot to do with the people using psychedelic stand. The Humber computer club was the real core of the start of the personal computer industry outside of Microsoft and many of the people there were involved in psychedelics. I think it was opening up their minds. The big quandary for software companies was getting into the marketplace, finding shelf-space, but there was a new way of doing that I thought of called shareware, and I think the concept was very unusual and I think the concept came, to some extent, from my psychedelic experience. In shareware you give away the software and then you encourage people to pay for it and even though a low percentage of people might pay for it, so many people use it that the percentage return back is normally pretty good, so that worked, that worked pretty well.

NARRATOR:
Shareware revolutionised the distribution of software and provided Bob Wallis with sufficient means to spend time pursuing his own informal psychedelic research.

BOB WALLIS:
I think psychedelics help you in general go beyond the normal way of doing things and to really open up your mind to more possibilities that maybe seem obvious in retrospect but you’d never think of if you were going along in the regular way of doing things.

CURTIS WRIGHT:
Would we have the potential for approving the drug that helped well people become weller or more creative or brighter or smarter or something? Well fortunately it hasn’t come up yet because no-one’s come forward with such an agent. There is no, nothing in the Act that prohibits it, but we would want to make very sure there was no price to pay. We’ve paid a bitter price for people in the past who’ve said that things will make you be smarter, or better, or more creative. I’m a veteran of those years.

NARRATOR:
The FDA is rightly cautious about any signals of approval that it gives. Naturally occurring psychedelic drugs are now the height of fashion amongst illegal users, many of whom have become experts at ethno-botany and tribal medicine. But whilst cacti, mushrooms and even toadslime are for the few, synthetic psychedelics, such as LSD have never been more popular. Amongst high school leavers it is the only category of drug-taking on the increase, and street psychedelics are appearing in uncontrolled doses and in lethal cocktails. The Internet feeds the underground’s hunger for knowledge on this subject, with hundreds of pages of drug data updated regularly and even details of the new scientific research. The horrors of illegal use are never far away. In Japan the Aum Shinrikyo cult was thought to have used LSD to prepare their members for the murderous nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway, echoing the darkest days of the 1960’s. In such a climate the new psychedelic scientists are careful to remain in step with the drug regulators. In the labs and clinics they use pure drugs in controlled doses and distance themselves from the mistakes of their over-enthusiastic predecessors.

CURTIS WRIGHT:
I’ve never taken ibogaine. I don’t have any intention of taking ibogaine, but I think that my decision to not use the substance myself does not affect my ability as a researcher, so you hear it both ways. You’re criticised from the left and you’re criticised from the right, but my own personal judgement is that you can’t get too close to these substances, that you have a very grave responsibility and a burden, if you will, to take these types of studies forward and with that comes the necessity to monitor your own self and to be very careful about how these substances are used. These are very potentially important substances, but they also carry risk. They’re not to be used in a recreational way. They cannot be used outside of established medical centres. That was the mistake of the 60’s, and we don’t want to replicate that mistake again, so those of us that are involved in these types of studies need to police ourselves and we need to police those that are working with us on projects. I think it can be done and I think we can move with these studies in a very careful way and bring the information to the public and to the scientific community to begin to open the doors for even more novel substances that may be haven’t even been discovered yet.

KARL JANSEN:
The brain and the mind are the final frontier really, possibly the most exciting one ‘cos it helps us to learn about ourselves and who we are and these are tools which allow us to do that. Quite dramatic tools, very powerful tools, which allow us to explore the mind/brain interface. We are accepting that we’re biological, we’re accepting that our minds are produced by our brains. The fact that our sense of self can be dramatically altered by a drug is not quite as frightening as it was twenty years ago.

ABRAM HOFFER:
I think with LSD after the government put their clamp on it and the whole thing went into a deep sleep. It’s like Rip van Winkle, just now Rip’s beginning to wake it up again and it’s kind of amazing to me that the book we published in ’67, which we thought was pretty good, in fact it is pretty good, it was considered a classic by one of the Harvard reviewers. Why it’s still timely today. It should be totally out of date today, of no value to anyone, and yet when you look at it you find there’s been hardly any advance since that time when we summarised the literature in that particular book. I think that’s a dreadful shame, but I am delighted that old Rip van Winkle’s waking up.

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