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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds Revisited?

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

When I moved to Berkeley from the East Coast in l982, I expected that the area would be awash with drugs. Shockingly, I found the opposite.

Berkeley and the nearby cities were practically clean and sober communities. Events were held everywhere that had no liquor served and where you didn't smell the aroma of marijuana. Local dance and music venues would announce clean and sober events only.

Given Berkeley's reputation as a drug mecca, what happened? What happened was the 60s and 70s.

While those times are glamorized, there were many casualties from drugs, especially around Berkeley. As a Baby Boomer, I am not unfamiliar with the drug issues of the 60s and 70s and the damage done to so many people. For decades, we have seen some of the casualties on the streets of Berkeley.

By the 1980s, a lot of people were burned out on the drug scene. They wanted a calmer and more peaceful life, especially given the horrors of the AIDS epidemic at that time.

So it is with a bad sense of deja vu that I'm hearing more and more about hallucinogens gaining in popularity (cocaine too). Not only are more people using LSD and psilocybin (mushrooms) recreationally, but scientists are testing their usage on people with depression and other mental illnesses. As a therapist, I'm even getting professional solicitations to join services to accompany people on their psilocybin journeys, whatever that means.

What are my thoughts? I am concerned. I have worked with three clients in just the last few years who have sustained brain damage from just a one-time use of LSD.

One was a young adult who did LSD at a party at school and became schizophrenic. Another person was offered it at college and developed permanent OCD. And the third person went to a concert, took LSD, and now has panic attacks. None of these people had these problems before -- and none were told of the potential risks.

My advice: Buyer beware. All drugs have the potential for harm and should be used carefully and sparingly. I have the same advice around ECT (the new name for electroshock therapy), which is being used more and more for people with intractable depression. I've seen clients who have undergone ECT as well, and now live with permanent memory loss and seizures.

There is a new brain stimulation called TMS that hasn't been tested for long-term safety. No one knows if this treatment could also cause brain damage, seizures, or other problems.

I don't want to sound cavalier about suffering. Depression and other mental problems are horrible to contend with. Sufferers can feel desperate for relief. But it's important not to make matters worse.

And at the risk of sounding cynical, I will add one more note. There is a lot of money to be made in producing and selling hallucinogens for a widespread audience. A huge amount of is money is currently being made from ECT and TMS.

Again, buyer beware. Remember that we only get one brain this time around.

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