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D.4 Hallucinogens PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 03 February 2010 00:00

D.4 HALLUCINOGENS

The hallucinogens include a wide variety of organic and synthetic substances (see Appendix A.5 Hallucinogens and Their Effects), but, in this section, the discussion of factors associated with motivations for their use will be largely restricted to the most commonly used preparations: LSD, PCP and MDA, or to some combination of these drugs. Virtually all of the nonmedical users of these drugs have also used cannabis, although only about one-quarter of those who have used marijuana or hashish (usually the most frequent users) have tried hallucinogens. Thus, contemporary hallucinogen use—as opposed to the ritual or sacramental use of these drugs in other cultures—must be seen in the context of North American cannabis use patterns, and, for most persons, can be considered as an extension of that use and subject to the same precipitating influences. Initial use of hallucinogens, then, can generally be viewed as a function of the availability of a source of supply and simple curiosity resulting from the enjoyment of cannabis and the comments of friends who have used hallucinogenic drugs.
Any attempt to understand the development of hallucinogen use in North American requires an historical analysis. Peyote, for example, was used by the American Plains Indians by 1870, and the use of this drug for religious purposes among North American Indians was generally established by the late 1920s.203, 258, 353 Mescaline was used for psychiatric purposes soon after its synthesis in 1919, and there are reports of European non-medical use as early as 1931.95 LSD was first recognized as a hallucinogen in 1943, and non-medical use was reported in California by the mid-1950s.51, 166 It was not until the early or mid-1960s, however, that the use of these drugs—particularly LSD—became widespread in North America. This popularization of hallucinogens can be at least partially explained by two factors: increased availability and the arousal of popular interest in their effects.'
LSD was originally marketed by Sandoz Laboratories for clinical and research purposes. Experimentation with this drug (of both a medical and non-medical nature) soon resulted in published and word-of-mouth reports of its hallucinogenic effects. The public attention given, to the early experiments with LSD conducted by Drs. Leary and Alpert certainly contributed to the growth of interest in this drug. The demand for the dwg for nonmedical use increased very sharply such that, by the time LSD was withdrawn from the licit market, the question of whether or not there was a legal pharmaceutical source was largely irrelevant; illicit laboratories were established in California in 1962 and sophisticated clandestine manufacturing and distribution networks soon followed. (See Appendix B.5 Hallucinogens, "Illegal Sources and Illegal Distribution".)

INDIVIDUAL FACTORS
The popular use of hallucinogens developed too late to attract the attention of classic psychoanalytic theorists. Some clinical studies have found users of these drugs to suffer from a variety of psychological problems, but there is no evidence that the sampled groups are representative of the total using population, and most, if not all, of the subjects have also used other drugs besides hallucinogens. One study, of subjects who had answered an advertisement in an underground paper, found that most showed evidence of personality disturbance and were poorly adjusted; no specific types of psychosis, neurosis or organic damage were, however, reported." Heavy multiple drug users (of predominantly cannabis and the hallucinogens) have been found to show abnormalities on a number of personality scales (including psychopathy, schizophrenia and social interest) to a greater extent than non-users or users of cannabis alone.248 Another study, using data from psychiatric interviews of volunteer subjects, found major difficulties in the areas of sexual identification, dependency needs and aggression.3"

A 1965 study of university students found different motives for hallucinogen use for those defined as 'stable' and 'unstable' users.191 The latter, who had a wide variety of psychiatric diagnoses, were said to use hallucinogens in an attempt to solve their personal problems. The stable users, on the other hand, were more likely to be motivated by curiosity and the influence of their friends. It should be noted, however, that members of the unstable group were also more likely to have had unpleasant drug experiences, and thus to have discontinued use.

Other data fail to support an individual problem theory, showing users either not to differ from non-users or to differ in respects which are not problem-related.51 One extensive study, covering 91 persons in ten different groups, found users to score in the average range on a variety of psychological tests, including indicators of psychopathology. The users were disproportionately high on esthetic and theoretical interests, and low on political and economic values.75 In another study, users who were not psychiatric patients were compared with matched controls who had been offered LSD but had refused it.5' The LSD accepters differed from those refusing on a number of social and attitudinal indicators, most of which were not related to any individual problems. The accepters were disproportionately young, male, religious, divorced or separated, expecting a pleasurable experience from the drug, not fearful of bad effects or losing self-control, and interested in changing themselves through drug use. The accepters were, however, more dissatisfied with life than those who declined to try LSD.

The most commonly cited individual factor in regard to the use of hallucinogens is alienation. One study cites an intense need for inter-personal closeness and lack of access to meaningful affective experiences, rather than the usual psychiatric diagnoses, as the cause of use.53 Similarly, college students have been said to be motivated by a need "to gain access to themselves and others".128 One author, in attempting to explain hallucinogen use, has referred to the traditional psychiatric diagnoses of psychosis, neurosis and psychopathy, but, additionally, has noted identity crisis, made more traumatic by the current rapid pace of change, and the search for religious experience and esthetic appreciation in his etiological analysis.57

All of the above studies share the same methodological problem: it is uncertain whether the samples used were representative of all hallucinogen users. In addition, standard psychological tests and diagnoses of young people whose orientations are toward subcultural or counter cultural values and behaviour may indicate maladjustment with regard to the dominant culture, but fail to measure what may very well be healthy integration in and adjustment to the smaller group. The final difficulty with interpretation of this psychological data revolves around the uncertainty as to whether a diagnosed pathological condition preceded hallucinogen use (and might, therefore, be hypothesized as a cause) or developed after use began and, consequently, may be a concomitant of a particular life style or a result of the use of LSD or other drugs. Although first use of LSD may be prompted by a desire to alter one's personality for the better, it appears that those with more serious personal problems are the least likely to persist in its use because of their greater likelihood of having unpleasant hallucinogenic experiences."'

SOCIAL FACTORS

Most theories which seek to explain hallucinogen use include at least some reference to the rejection of the values of the dominant society as a casual factor. Some authorities treat this rejection of conventional values in a positive fashion, emphasizing the need to create a better way of life, while others view the phenomenon negatively, indicating that this rejection reflects problems of alienation and social adjustment. It should be noted, however, that both of these perspectives are somewhat dated and may have only marginal relevance to the present situation as the contemporary meaning of hallucinogen use is, for many, very different from that of just a few years ago.

A number of authors, of whom Timothy Leary is perhaps the most prominent, have urged the use of hallucinogens as a means of altering the values of individuals and societies.215, 2" Leary, in fact, treated the hallucinogens as the sacoment of a new religion. This new religion was seen as the religion of a distinctive new community of users, and while not constituting a society in the sense of having a geographical location, its members were regarded as a new people with distinctive values, norms, beliefs and knowledge, ultimately to become a new and improved species of the human race.

The espousal and wide publicization of this philosophy should not be underestimated in terms of its influence in affecting the decision to try hallucinogens by hundreds of thousands of persons. Hoffer has suggested that a social movement requires both a ripeness of time and a leader who is able to propound a philosophy that commands the attention of thousands of followers.185 The mid-'60s, in many ways, represented the "right time" for the widespread acceptance of hallucinogens and a psychedelic philosophy which rationalized their use. The social conditions of the previous few decades did not permit the life style experimentation and alternatives that developed during the 1960s. As McGlothlin has noted:

When an adolescent grows up in a structured society which demands he assume adult responsibilities at a relatively early age, the alternative of turning on and dropping out is not available. An affluent society which allows prolonged periods of economic dependence and leisure greatly increases the possible choices as to life styles. Anything which leaves the individual without an established place in the social structure increases the likelihood for radical departures from the existing norms. Weakening of family and community groups, chronic social and technological change, and the lack of historical relatedness have been cited as [contributing factors] ... Whatever the explanation, it seems likely that if Leary's psychedelic philosophy had been propounded in the depression years of the 1930's, or the war years of the 1940's, it would have gone unnoticed.'

In a sense, then, it was a lack of demand rather than a lack of supply that delayed the widespread use of hallucinogens until the 1960s. Leary and other LSD proponents used the media and their own charismatic qualities to publicize and advocate the use of these drugs and, concurrently, espoused a radical social philosophy that justified their use. The 'Turn-On, Tune-In, Drop-Out' philosophy was readily adopted by many persons, not only because of the social conditions mentioned above, but also because the increasing demand for hallucinogens coincided with the extension of higher education, especially in the social and behavioural sciences, and with a corresponding decline of conventional religious authority in intellectual spheres. The post-sputnik science boom subsided in the middle 1960s, and the social sciences became the fastest growing area of interest of higher education, and even began to be introduced into high school curricula. More people were seeking knowledge about human existence, and conventional sources of wisdom in this sphere became increasingly discredited. Interest in religion did not decline during this period, but the nature of this interest changed radically. The coincidence of a greater search for self-understanding with fewer sources of answers perceived to be reliable prompted the search for alternative means of attaining wisdom. For many, drug use, especially use of the hallucinogens, served these metaphysical interests.

The alienation-counter culture theories are particularly important as an explanation of the use of hallucinogens. These theories are described elsewhere in this appendix, but it should be noted that, in certain respects, they seem particularly applicable to the hallucinogens, or effectively to people who use cannabis heavily as well as take hallucinogens. Thus, a particular complex of social conditions, a decline in the credibility of traditional social institutions, and the publicity accorded to a "new religion" combined to pave the way for a kind of drug consumption that promised, through increased awareness, to create an improved society, ameliorate social conditions, and put meaning into lives which were increasingly perceived to be meaningless.

A number of studies have revealed that hallucinogen use is, indeed, associated with the life styles and values of the 'counter culture'. Although these studies do not reveal whether these values existed prior to hallucinogen use or developed thereafter, it is evident that these two phenomena tend to occur together. For example, data collected by the Narcotics Addiction Foundation of British Columbia during a survey of Vancouver high school students showed that hallucinogen users disproportionately had unconventional career plans or plans to travel after high school, were more interested in music and art at school, had intentions of pursuing work in the arts afterwards, were not interested in sports or academic subjects at school, preferred `acid rock' to other types of music, and claimed not to refer to parents or friends in making decisions about drugs, careers, dating or styles of dress. The users differed strongly from their parents in their views of the world, did not get along well with them, and were more likely to live on their own.32° A more recent American study has found similar relationships between counter cultural attitudes and activities and hallucinogen use among college students.'"

On the other hand, some authors do not think that counter cultural affiliation indicates a high degree of alienation or a radical departure from the conventional normative system. Rather, this style of life and the drug use that is concomitant with it is viewed as an extension of, but consistent with, such middle-class values as self-exploration and self-improvement.101 Similarly, Janowitz has treated the use of hallucinogens as an exercise in consciousness expansion, without necessarily involving a departure from most of the other values and practices of the dominant society.'80 Esthetic enrichment, with simple curiosity about experimentation, has, in this case, been suggested as the cause. Indeed, it has been proposed that the hallucinogenic experience may prove useful for a person in enabling him to find a more meaningful place for himself within the existing order—by allowing him to see beyond it for a short time.325 If there is any element of rejection here, it is perhaps more a rearrangement of priorities than a rejection of all dominant values—the promoting of sensation, emotion and immediacy with a down-grading of ordinary cognitive processes and instrumental styles of functioning.

While all of these theories may have been useful explanations of why some people used hallucinogens a few years ago, the recent attenuation of the psychedelic ethos has severely limited their applicability to contemporary use of these drugs. Some people, no doubt, continue to use the hallucinogens to promote or enhance self-knowledge, self-improvement, religious experiences and artistic creativity. And, for some, their use may well represent a search for real meaning in an alienating world. However, for most users today—particularly the new users who, in many cases, have not even heard of Leary —the use of hallucinogens is very similar in meaning to the use of cannabis, devoid of spiritual significance or ritualized consumption patterns. As long ago as 1969, Fort suggested that hallucinogens, like most other drugs, were primarily used as a means for the promotion of immediate pleasure, not involving the enrichment of insight into self or others, the establishment of creative alternatives to conventional society or the edification of a new moral community.127 While there are exceptions, Fort's hypothesis appears to have direct applicability to much of the contemporary Canadian situation in which hallucinogens are primarily used as a leisure or recreational activity, hedonism or simple pleasure having replaced the search for the transcendent experience.

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