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  • Writer's pictureStacy Taylor, LCSW

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds Revisited?

Updated: Jun 27

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. Just look at our streets today. For decades, we have seen the casualties of substance abuse. Most of those poor, lost souls screaming and talking to themselves are brain damaged from drugs.

After the ravages of the 60s and 70s, 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, PTSD, and other mental health illnesses. As a therapist, I'm even getting professional solicitations to join websites 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 man, handsome and athletic, who did LSD once at college and became permanantly schizophrenic. Another person did it at a frat party and has had severe OCD ever since. And the third person went to a concert, took LSD, and now has severe panic attacks. None of these people had any mental health problems before -- and none were told of the potential risks of LSD, even a single dose.

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 the suffering caused by mental health problems. Depression and other mental problems are painful and difficult, and, at times, life threatening. Sufferers can feel desperate for relief.

But it's important not to make matters worse. Using drugs that can and do cause brain damage is not the answer for PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. in my view.

Also, follow the money! There are millions, if not billions, to be made in producing and selling hallucinogens for a widespread audience. A huge amount of money is currently being made from ECT and TMS.

There's one final point I want to make about the dangers of an overly medicated population. While this isn't a political blog, I feel compelled to add this part.

As you may remember, Aldous Huxley wrote the prescient novel, Brave New World, in l931. Huxley predicted a dystopic future, where citizens will be so drugged out that when they lose their civil liberties, they will be too medicated to care. I'll let Huxley have the final word here:

“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution”

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