Drug Use & Abuse

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I just need to response to this assignment,

responses should be complete paragraph  and should further the conversation using personal experience, information from the textbook or other outside sources, asking questions, and more.  Think about how your classmates answered differently or similarly to you. What did you learn from their post?  What was most surprising or interesting?  What do you agree with or disagree with? Your responses might spark some comments and feedback for one another.


Substance: Hallucinogens

2.  Time Period: 1960s

3.  Attitudes

The use of psychedelic and hallucinogenic drugs during the 1960s in America was sparked by the culmination of various major world events, political attitudes, and a populous with a desire to break social norms. Characterized as the “drug renaissance” (Wesson, 2011) this movement is most notably recognized as building its foundations in the city of San Francisco, CA during the mid-sixties when thousands of people were moving to the Bay Area in search of change and new ideologies. Historically referred to as the “hippie movement”, the world saw the advent and boom of the creation and widespread recreational use of psychedelics. Although this movement evoked a massive change in social attitudes toward psychedelics, the establishment as it were, of American society and authority was openly in opposition of this psychedelic drug counterculture. The mainstream media popularized hippies as rebellious youth, anti-Vietnam activists, and psychedelically crazed advocates of free love and rock and roll. America’s youth (in opposition of the mainstream media and society) flocked by the tens of thousands from all over the country to the San Francisco Bay Area to partake in the hippie movement (Wesson, 2011).

4.  Availability

During the 1960s specifically, there was a far higher rate of availability and use of psychedelics as legal and political enforcement had yet to ramp up and regulate these drugs. Today, most hallucinogens are still classified by the DEA as scheduled drugs and are therefore illegal and meticulously controlled and regulated. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2016), roughly 15.4% of people ages 12 and older reported using some form of hallucinogenic drug, a small number when compared to the production and use during the 1960s (NIH, 2016).

5.  Widespread Use

Psychedelics during their height in the 1960s were most readily available as little was known about them in present-day society and therefore drug enforcement laws were scarce. First synthesized by Albert Hoffman in 1943, lysergic acid diethylamide would be the fuel that would ignite the hippie movement of the 1960s. The drug itself was manufactured by the company Hoffman worked for, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals of Switzerland. Although Sandoz let their patent expire in 1966, the drug itself was manufactured until that point and flowed into the United States (Levinthal, 2016, p.113-118). Perhaps two of the biggest key players in the domestic synthesis of LSD during the 1960s were underground chemists Tim Scully and Owsley Stanley. The two with the later inclusion of Nicholas Sand, had several underground labs in the San Francisco Bay Area and Denver, Colorado. In 1964, Owsley was given 400 micrograms of pure LSD that had been manufactured by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals. With this prized batch of pure LSD, Owsley and chemistry undergrad Melissa Cargill set out to synthesize an even purer form of the drug by the end of that year. Their combined efforts would of course be the stepping stone that would lead to the grandeur of the LSD production during the 1960s (Greenfield, 2007). Although the number of individual doses of LSD produced during this timeline is incalculable, combined estimates purport that the combined efforts of LSD producers in the United States (underground chemists, pharmaceutical companies, the CIA) alone may have produced anywhere from many hundreds of millions to potentially a billion doses of LSD (NSDUH, 2002).

6.  Groups Affected

There is little data regarding racial/group demographics of hallucinogen use during this time period seeing as a majority of the drugs themselves were in their infancy stage of social use and introduction and it was not until 1972 that the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse was formed. However, some percentages and estimates do exist. In a survey conducted by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (1997) it is estimated that approximately 17% of all Americans reported taking some form of hallucinogenic drug between 1960 and 1970. By the time of the first NHSDA survey conducted in 1972, at least 5% of Americans under the age of 18 had reported trying some sort of psychedelic. In terms of race, the same survey also purports that Whites used hallucinogens at the highest rates, followed by Hispanics, and then Blacks (Hunt, 1997).

7.  Regulations/Laws

Almost all known natural and synthetic hallucinogens are presently considered ‘Scheduled’ drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the United States currently (DEA, 2018). On October 24, 1968, Congress amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to include banning the use and possession of specifically lysergic acid diethylamide and any other drug (OLRC, 1968). Presently, administering and consuming psychedelics is illegal, however, the Food and Drug Administration has granted use of clinical trial psychedelic testing to a select few physicians. Dr. Michael C. Mithoefer, a psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina is one of those few physicians. Dr. Mithoefer has been researching the effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), a Schedule I class hallucinogen since 2001. In his study, Dr. Mithoefer and his team were approved and conducted a randomized, double-blind, dose-response, phase 2 clinical trial that shows promising results of MDMA’s effectiveness in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychotherapies (Mithoefer, 2011).

8.  What Has/Hasn’t Improved

The query of if American society as a whole improved or deteriorated in regard to the use of hallucinogenic drugs is most definitely a complex qualm. After the hippie movement, Americans moved into the age of disco in the 1970s and with disco came cocaine. Although psychedelics were still somewhat popularized, the era of the “Summer of ‘69” had surely passed. In 1971 after President Richard Nixon had declared a “war on drugs” in light of the widespread use of LSD, harsher penalties were enforced on recreational drugs as a whole and deterred such activities to a certain extent (DPA, 2018). It would seem that since the widespread use of psychedelics in the 1960s, the focus has moved to other far more harmful drugs, such as highly addictive pharmaceutical drugs and opiates/opioids. I have read many books from authors such as Michael Pollan, Dr. Richard Strassman, and Timothy Leary and truly believe that psychedelics hold much more than just a “trip”. However, I do not believe it has ever been in the interest of any government in the history of mankind to expand the consciousness of the general populous. Therefore, these drugs remain regulated, restricted, and punishable upon use. My hope is that the archaic mindset of the previous generations of man will come to an end and further use and research (such as Dr. Mithoefer’s) of psychedelics will continue and become more mainstream.

9.  What surprised me most

The most surprising finding in my research is most definitely that some psychedelics (despite being federally illegal) are today being used in clinical research to treat a variety of mental disorders. This is proof that psychedelics still may yet have a chance to reveal some secrets of the human brain and humanity as a whole. I also had a personal realization that I was surprised I had not thought about previously. If the 1960s counter-culture had perhaps operated with a bit more discretion, LSD and other psychedelics may have had a chance to gain social acceptance and even further medical use. Another surprising fact is that our own government admittedly used psychedelics on unsuspecting victims to observe their effects and in fact had their own scientists synthesize LSD and disperse it amongst the American public. This, of course, means that a percentage of the LSD produced during the 1960s, was produced by the United States government.

10.  Harm Reduction vs. Zero Tolerance Laws

Zero Tolerance laws are another perfect example of the archaic mindsets of our American politicians still in office. The only thing that these laws have proven to do are increase the number of Americans currently incarcerated, which in turn costs our entire country more money in prison related costs. Drug addictions, abuse, and mental illness are just a few of the most overlooked issues in the United States presently. Instead of tackling these issues head-on, we have instead tried to find a “quick fix” for these problems with overprescribing and incarceration. At this point, America and her citizens know full well that our government’s tactics in rectifying these issues has and are currently failing at an embarrassing rate. I believe we need to focus more energy on drug abuse/addiction and mental rehabilitation via psychopharmacology and psychiatry. Also, adopting legislation similar to that enacted in 2001 in Portugal with decriminalization of all drugs (to a certain degree) may benefit those in serious need of help (Ferreira, 2017). The key to solving our current drug epidemic does not lie with punishment; it simply lies with helping one another overcome and combat addiction.


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