You are currently browsing churchmouse’s articles.
Did you know that most smokers will never contract lung cancer?
Experts and media economical with the truth
Studies on the subject are, not surprisingly, hard to find, but every now and then, a small item appears in a news article, such as this one in Time magazine, dated April 2, 2008 (emphases mine):
… what about the 80% of smokers who don’t develop lung cancer? Are they just the lucky ones?
The article goes on to say that lung cancer and smoking depends on a genetic variant which researchers in Europe and the United States studied:
While the variants were associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers, that genetic predisposition is not destiny.
However, this is not new. A 1985 article from the Los Angeles Times, ‘Researcher Admits that 80% of Smokers Don’t Get Cancer’ begins as follows:
A researcher who testified in a $1-million wrongful death suit that smoking causes lung cancer later admitted “perhaps 80%” of smokers do not contract the disease.
Dr. Michael B. Shimkin acknowledged under cross-examination Wednesday that “most people who do smoke–even heavy smokers–do not get lung cancer.”
Shimkin refused when pressed by R. J. Reynolds Co. attorneys to set the number at 90%, but said it is “a heavy number, perhaps 80%. . . . This is one of the many questions in medicine, why some of us have resistance to this and others do not.”
Another doctor, James P Shiepman, MD, did his own private research on many of the anti-tobacco studies available on the Internet. His short but informative essay, based on 50 hours of research, is entitled ‘Smoking Does Not Cause Lung Cancer’. I recommend it to everyone.
Those seeking actual tables from the WHO and Center for Disease Control can examine his table of risks per demographic at the bottom of the page.
Excerpts from his essay follow (emphasis his in the third paragraph):
… the risk of a smoker getting lung cancer is much less than anyone would suspect. Based upon what the media and anti-tobacco organizations say, one would think that if you smoke, you get lung cancer (a 100% correlation) or at least expect a 50+% occurrence before someone uses the word “cause.”
Would you believe that the real number is < 10% (see Appendix A)? Yes, a US white male (USWM) cigarette smoker has an 8% lifetime chance of dying from lung cancer but the USWM nonsmoker also has a 1% chance of dying from lung cancer (see Appendix A). In fact, the data used is biased in the way that it was collected and the actual risk for a smoker is probably less. I personally would not smoke cigarettes and take that risk, nor recommend cigarette smoking to others, but the numbers were less than I had been led to believe. I only did the data on white males because they account for the largest number of lung cancers in the US, but a similar analysis can be done for other groups using the CDC data.
You don’t see this type of information being reported, and we hear things like, “if you smoke you will die”, but when we actually look at the data, lung cancer accounts for only 2% of the annual deaths worldwide and only 3% in the US.**
He takes the media to task for misusing words, particularly ’cause’ (emphases his in the second paragraph):
Look in any dictionary and you will find something like, “anything producing an effect or result.”18 At what level of occurrence would you feel comfortable saying that X “causes” Y? For myself and most scientists, we would require Y to occur at least 50% of the time. Yet the media would have you believe that X causes Y when it actually occurs less than 10% of the time ...
If they would say that smoking increases the incidence of lung cancer or that smoking is a risk factor in the development of lung cancer, then I would agree. The purpose of this article is to emphasize the need to use language appropriately in both the medical and scientific literature (the media, as a whole, may be a lost cause).
Yet, his own scientific world does not dispute the media’s message; they say the same thing. The aforementioned articles from Time and the Los Angeles Times focus more on the anti-smoking aspect than the fact that only a small percentage of smokers will ever get lung cancer.
Shiepman follows his essay with a section called ‘The Untold Facts of Smoking (Yes, there is bias in science’. Among the facts are these:
4. All cancers combined account for only 13% of all annual deaths and lung cancer only 2%.**
7. Second hand smoke has never been shown to be a causative factor in lung cancer.
9. No study has shown that second hand smoke exposure during childhood increases their risk of getting lung cancer.
11. If everyone in the world stopped smoking 50 years ago, the premature death rate would still be well over 80% of what it is today.1 (But I thought that smoking was the major cause of preventable death…hmmm.)
Yes, smoking is bad for you, but so is fast-food hamburgers, driving, and so on. We must weigh the risk and benefits of the behavior both as a society and as an individual based on unbiased information. Be warned though, that a society that attempts to remove all risk terminates individual liberty and will ultimately perish. Let us be logical in our endeavors and true in our pursuit of knowledge. Instead of fearful waiting for lung cancer to get me (because the media and much of the medical literature has falsely told me that smoking causes lung cancer), I can enjoy my occasional cigar even more now…now that I know the whole story.
At the bottom of the page is this (italics his):
For those of you who actually read the whole article…
As long as I’m being controversial by presenting both sides of the story, do I dare tell you that a woman is three times more likely to die from an abortion than from delivering a baby (WHO data).
Why lung cancer rates are increasing — despite smoking bans
A British health site, Second Opinions, has an in-depth article on the puzzling rates of lung cancer from the 20th century to the present. Many people wonder about the strange rise of the disease among non- and never-smokers in an era where smoking is banned nearly everywhere in the West. ‘Does Smoking Really Cause Lung Cancer?’ which appeared at the Millennium is required reading.
The article looks at the research done by the late Dr Kitty Little who worked for 50 years as a research scientist both in Oxford and in Washington, DC. She spent the first decade of her career studying the effects of radiation on the body for the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. She went on to Oxford Medical School practising orthopaedics. She then spent time in the United States working with their armed forces as a pathologist. When she returned to England, she worked at the MRC (Medical Research Council) on DNA and the causes of dental caries. She also wrote a textbook at Oxford about bone pathology and bone cancer. Dr Little died in 1999.
In 1998, Little wrote an article called ‘Diesel Smoke and Lung Cancer’ (see aforementioned Second Opinions link). In short, she concluded (emphases mine, unless otherwise indicated):
- tobacco smoke contains no carcinogens, while diesel fumes contain four known carcinogens;
- that lung cancer is rare in rural areas, but common in towns;
- that cancers are more prevalent along the routes of motorways;
- that the incidence of lung cancer has doubled in non-smokers over past decades;
- and that there was less lung cancer when we, as a nation, smoked more.
A summary, accompanied by excerpts, of her research into the 20th century history of lung cancer follows.
It should be noted that the effect of smoke in the lungs was first debated in 1306 by the English Parliament when coal began to be used as fuel. Tobacco had not yet reached Europe.
Lung cancer rates started to rise in the 1930s, inexplicably eclipsing the incidence of other cancers. The pattern of lung cancer cases was equally unusual. In South Africa, cities with frequent breezes (e.g. Port Elizabeth, Cape Town) had lower rates than urban areas with little to no wind (e.g. Durban, Johannesburg).
Another factor was that most cities had already experienced decades of urban smoke. Why the sudden explosion of lung cancer in the 1930s?
In rural South Africa, lung cancer rates were lower, even where much of the population — both men and women — smoked. Rhodesia, which had a high percentage of smokers, had very little lung cancer.
The culprit appears to have been the introduction of diesel-fuelled vehicles which appeared at the beginning of the 1930s, first in the UK, then South Africa and New Zealand a few years later. British immigrants to other parts of the Commonwealth began contracting lung cancer before the populations of their host countries did. This included non- or never-smokers.
Statistics such as these that have been quoted provide almost complete proof that diesel smoke has been the cause of the rise in incidence of lung cancer, but statistics on their own can never provide complete proof. One also needs confirmation from an investigation into the biological mechanisms involved. This includes seeking to identify the carcinogenic agent or agents responsible.
Urban smoke and cigarette and tobacco smoke contain a chemical, 3:4 benzpyrine, that is weakly carcinogenic. However, it oxidises very easily, and has never been shown to cause lung cancer – conditions in the lungs would favour rapid oxidation to harmless compounds. There is, however, evidence that diesel smoke contains at least four strongly carcinogenic compounds. (4) It has also been shown, from field observations, that local concentrations in some traffic conditions can be very high. (5)
In 1950s Britain:
it was quite clear that the increase in lung cancer had been due to diesel smoke, and that cigarette and tobacco smoke had nothing to do with it. Yet on 27th June 1957 the anti-smoking campaign was launched, (6) with the Health Education Council being formed to help push its propaganda. (The Health Education Council, and its successor the Health Education Authority, have been primarily concerned with promoting bogus medical propaganda).
By the early 1960s, this anti-tobacco campaign resulted in fewer Britons smoking. Nonetheless, lung cancer rates continued to rise, particularly among men who worked amidst diesel emissions — notably garage attendants and lorry drivers. The solution for the former was to introduce self-service filling stations.
By 1970, lung cancer rates continued to rise as road traffic increased along with the amount of diesel emissions. Towns near motorways and cities with heavy traffic had a higher incidence than those communities in a cleaner environment:
Thus, in the Abingdon and Faringdon district lung cancer deaths rose by 65% in 1970 as compared with previous years. (7)
Regardless, the British medical establishment continued to press on with the message that smoking tobacco was deadly:
There was no attempt made to check if any doctor with an early lung cancer had some other condition recorded as a cause of death. One such case would have been sufficient to invalidate the conclusion.
Little’s research points out that researchers and physicians have completely ignored the effect of diesel smoke — now increased over the past 15 years with family vehicles running on the fuel:
This invalidates all their results, since statistics always seem to give an answer, but it is only the correct answer when all the relevant variables are taken into account – and the effect of diesel smoke is undoubtedly relevant. It is interesting that lawyers issued instruction on how to confuse a court should an action for damages resulting from diesel smoke be initiated. (9)
The fact that many of the cases of lung cancer involve non-smokers became something that could no longer be ignored. Therefore, as diesel family cars came onto the roads, an attempt has been made to implicate “passive smoking”. Evidence already quoted shows that this suggestion must be false. Not only does tobacco smoke not contain a carcinogenic agent that could cause lung cancer, but the high levels of smoking, in this country before diesel was introduced, and in South Africa and elsewhere in places where diesel had not been introduced, never resulted in lung cancer from “passive smoking”. If the suggestion was valid they would have done.
Little concluded her article by condemning the Tobacco Control industry:
Since the effect of the anti-smoking campaign has been to prevent the genuine cause from being publicly acknowledged, there is a very real sense in which we could say that the main reason for those 30,000 deaths a year from lung cancer is the anti-smoking campaign itself.
Second Opinions also examined American research on the rise of lung cancer. Dr David Abbey studied 6338 non-smoking men, aged 27-95, who lived in California between 1967 and 1992. In 1999, he published his results which centred on vehicle emissions and lung cancer in non- and never-smokers (emphasis in the original):
PM10 exposure was strongly associated with lung cancer, raising the risk by 2.38 times. PM10 exposure was also associated with all natural causes of death in men and with an increased mortality from non-malignant respiratory disease in men and women. PM10s are particles of less than 10 µm in diameter exhausted from Diesel engines. David Abbey, leading author of the study noted that men who spent longer outside were at greater risk than men who spent most of their time indoors.
In addition, ozone exposure was implicated in increased risk of lung-cancer mortality in men, and sulphur dioxide (SO 2 ) exposure was independently associated with increased risk of lung-cancer mortality in both men and women. These too are found in vehicle exhaust emissions.
Today’s ‘cleaner’ diesel is still problematic with regard to lung cancer. Abbey discovered:
these may be even more harmful … “recent studies on the short-term effects of atmospheric particles on respiratory and cardiovascular diseases have shown that PM2.5s and even smaller particles are more important than PM10s.”
It is to be hoped that the lies about tobacco which have been foisted on the world over the past 60 years — from Sir Richard Doll’s 1954 study onward — will soon be exposed.
The real cause of our lung cancer rates is likely to be vehicle emissions. More experts need the bottle to break out of the conventional mould and research this, particularly with the continuous decrease in the number of smokers and venues where smoking is allowed.
Because the original name for niacin was nicotinic acid, various misconceptions about this nutrient have persisted, including among the medical community.
In 1942, a Seventh Day Adventist missionary who might have been a doctor or scientist — H M Walton — explained what nicotinic acid (as it was still referred to at the time) is and why it is healthful.
This is not meant as an endorsement of Seventh Day Adventism, by any means, but Walton does quell the fears that some of his co-religionists had about this natural ingredient in food. It should be noted that Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarians and very much concerned with what they ingest. They also have restrictions on what they can drink, avoiding caffeine and alcohol. They do not smoke, either.
The following is an excerpt of Walton’s article from 1942 which appears in the archives of Ministry magazine, a Seventh Day Adventist publication (italics in the original, emphases in bold mine):
Some have apparently gained misleading impressions from recent press reports to the effect that nicotinic acid is now to be derived from the tobacco plant. Information at hand indicates that individuals have concluded from these reports that nicotinic acid is of the nature of nicotine, and therefore undesirable as a product in the “enriched” flour program that has recently been launched —a program that deserves hearty endorsement.
Nicotinic acid is the term given to one of the dietary essentials for complete nutrition. This factor is quite widely distributed in nature in various plants and foods, as milk, eggs, wheat germ, and green vegetables, and is also derived from brewers’ yeast. It is produced synthetically for commercial use. Nicotinic acid does not in all- respects conform to the nature of a vitamin (it partakes of the nature of a coenzyme) ; yet because of the close relationship which lack of nicotinic acid bears to dietary-deficiency disease, particularly pellagra, it is classed with the vitamins.
The name “nicotinic acid” was attached to this factor because of the fact that it was first isolated during the chemical study of the tobacco plant. However, one is not to be misled by this association, for there is no relationship, as relates to effects and actions in the body, between nicotine and nicotinic acid. In fact, authorities in the field of chemistry and nutrition are proposing that the name “nicotinic acid” be changed.
Today, nicotinic acid is also referred to as niacin or vitamin B3. In addition to Walton’s list, other niacin-rich foods are from the nightshade family, including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers and goji berries. It can also be found in offal, venison, chicken, beef, tuna, salmon and halibut.
Niacin can produce a mild flushing or tingling sensation from time to time; Thanksgiving dinner often has this effect.
A nicotinic acid — niacin — deficiency can result in pellagra. The man pictured at left (courtesy of Wikipedia) illustrates the ravages it can leave not only on the body (note the skin lesions on his hands) but also on the mind, where it can manifest itself as depression or dementia. Therefore, niacin-rich foods are essential in order to keep pellagra at bay.
It should be noted that B vitamin compounds — including nicotinic acid — are water-soluble. We expel them daily in our urine.
Nonetheless, the association between nicotinic acid and nicotine continues to disturb a number of people. The warm flush effect has also concerned them.
In 1964, S S B Gilder, a physician from Britain’s eminent Medical Research Council (MRC) wrote an article about hygiene in the UK. His article ended with this astonishing paragraph headed ‘Dusting Drugs on the Meat’:
A recent ban in Britain on the application of certain powders to meat with the object of making the latter look more attractive has drawn attention to the light-hearted way in which toxic substances are sometimes dispensed by the laity. A dusting powder in favour in the meat trade of some countries contains a sizeable dose of nicotinic acid and ascorbic acid [vitamin C]. The latter is of course harmless, but nicotinic acid can cause alarming symptoms such as flushing, itching, paresthesiae and faintness, and cases have been reported from a variety of English areas where a number of people have suffered from these symptoms after eating meat. For several years before the ban, meat in Britain had been occasionally dusted with a powder containing at least 6% nicotinic acid to make it more attractive, and it would seem that the ban comes none too soon.
Gilder’s ignorance is breathtaking. Nicotinic acid, as explained above, is not a drug. It is a nutritional compound. In the case of the meat powder he describes, it is probable that either the percentage of nicotinic acid was too high or too much powder was put on the meat. In any event, what he wrote borders on hysteria.
Yet, the nicotinic acid alarm hasn’t ended. A FORCES Tavern link describes the British Medical Association wanting to ban foods containing this nutritious essential. Unfortunately, the link does not work, however, this is what a search engine reveals:
Sep 28, 2009 … permitting the sale of foods that naturally contain nicotine, such as the … Weak acid and aqueous extracts of the teas were analysed in a similar manner. …. The BMA today called for the banning of potatoes after new research …
If true, it is incredible that these men and women have earned medical degrees, when basic science and nutrition that we learned in primary and secondary school seems to have escaped them.
I couldn’t find any articles about the BMA advocating such a ban. Perhaps they have since been scrubbed. I remember that FORCES Tavern were careful to add links to the source article or paper for their news stories.
This article on the nightshade family of foods does not exactly help, either, well-intentioned and informative though it is:
The amount of nicotine in ripe nightshade foods ranges from 2 to 7 micrograms per kg of food. Nicotine is heat-stable, therefore, it is found in prepared foods such as ketchup and French fries. The health effects of these small doses is not known, but some scientists wonder whether the nicotine content of these foods is why some people describe feeling addicted to them.
No doubt their content of sugar and fat, respectively, is what makes them so delicious.
In closing, it is best to remember H M Walton’s explanation:
The name “nicotinic acid” was attached to this factor because of the fact that it was first isolated during the chemical study of the tobacco plant ... there is no relationship, as relates to effects and actions in the body, between nicotine and nicotinic acid.
It is useful to read these entries before moving on to this final instalment in the LSD story.
LSD refuses to die, despite all the real-life mental illness and deaths associated with its use and abuse. Just as in earlier North American experiments from the late 20th century, it is still seen as a beneficial drug.
Alcoholism treatment – Norway (2012)
Most people who know something about alcoholism know that, for decades, an alcohol abuser can enter any number of hospitals for detox treatment.
This one-off treatment used to be rather onerous, albeit effective. I knew someone who went through a three-day detox with the appropriate non-hallucinogenic drugs in the 1980s. Today’s regimen sounds better, as described by a German discussing his friend who used it to effectively detox from GBL (emphases mine):
So to finally quit, he went to an hospital, told the doctors everything about his habits and they decided to put him in a detox program. He got Clomethiazol (192mg capsules), 4 times a day with decreasing dose. He was in the clinic for 5 days, the doses went down very fast. He didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms at all, only a bit of sweating in the first night. As i visited him, he was quite happy and had neither psychic nor physical problems. No craving at all. Since then, he is clean of GBL and has no intention to do it again. He is doing an ambulant therapy, where he talks to a doctor every week.
So if you have the possibility and the need of detoxing from GBL in a hospital, I can only tell you to do it this way. He told his boss he had some minor illness and only missed 3 days of work without anyone there knowing what was up (even though he went to work on GBL for several months). He didn’t have to do anything in the hospital, he was just lieing around in bed the whole day.
(FYI: The same detox is used on heavy alcoholics. Clomethiazol is used to keep your body safe in this time.)
Nonetheless, a group of Norwegian scientists wants to use LSD to treat alcoholism. Medical News Today recaps their research published in the March 8, 2012 issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Excerpts from Medical News Today‘s article follow. It begins by mentioning the experiments done from the 1950s through the 1970s. The Norwegian researchers looked at the six most promising studies from this time period:
The authors of this new study, Teri Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen, researchers currently affiliated to the Department of Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), suggest the reason that medical interest in LSD gradually waned was probably while the earliest studies showed promising results, they also had design problems …
So they took a closer look at six published experiments that they regarded as having scientifically sound methodology and put them through a rigorous quantitative meta-analysis. Those trials had randomly assigned patients to receive either LSD or a comparison treatment.
Between them, the six studies totalled 536 volunteer patients, mostly men, who were all receiving alcoholism treatment. The trials had taken place in the US or Canada between 1966 and 1970.
Hmm. How many of them were servicemen, one wonders?
Once again, as in the 1960s, the researchers trotted out the false notion that LSD is anodyne with no side effects:
Krebs and Johansen conclude that their results unambiguously show that LSD helped patients heavily addicted to alcohol and made it less likely they would relapse: “a single dose of LSD had a positive treatment effect that lasted at least six months”, they write.
Yet, the existing non-hallucinogenic three- to five-day detox with Clomethiazol lasts a lifetime.
Never mind. The researchers from Norway made rather ambiguous statements:
“There has long been a need for better treatments for addiction. We think it is time to look at the use of psychedelics in treating various conditions,” they urge.
The authors say they don’t know how LSD works to treat alcohol addiction. They explain that we know the drug is non-toxic and non-addictive, and that it has a “striking effect on the imagination, perception and memories”.
And we know that it interacts with a particular serotonin receptor in the brain. Perhaps it stimulates the “formation of new connections and patterns”, thereby creating an “awareness of new perspectives and opportunities for action,” they speculate.
‘Opportunities for action’? What does that mean? Furthermore, they admit their ignorance on the exact interaction of LSD with the brain. Yes, that sounds like a well-researched rationale for treating alcoholics with it (irony alert).
Their argument falls further with the results achieved in these six studies. They are far from stellar and they involve continuing treatment. The researchers also advocate a ‘full’ dose, which when first performed decades ago resulted in mental illness and schizophrenia in a number of cases; American servicemen who participated in these experiments in Maryland are now attempting to find out what they were given and in what doses. Yet, the Norwegian researchers purported:
In all of the studies, the results showed that the patients who received the full LSD dose fared the best.
“On average, 59% of full-dose patients showed a clear improvement compared with 38% in the other groups,” say the authors.
The patients who received the LSD dose were less likely to relapse into problematic alcohol use, and were more likely to abstain altogether.
The greatest improvements were during the first few months of treatment. This wore off with time. Perhaps this suggests repeated doses might work better.
The mind boggles, especially when a safe detox treatment already exists.
However, it will come as no surprise that one of the principal centres of LSD experiments provided the studies to the Norwegians:
The Research Council of Norway financed the study which was conducted during a research stay at Harvard Medical School.
It was at the Harvard Psychedelic Drug Research Center where Timothy Leary and other CIA contractors, including Henry ‘Harry’ Murray worked. Murray experimented on Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in the early 1960s.
One can only hope the Norwegian government takes this no further. The same mistakes will no doubt be made, especially with ‘full doses’.
There is nothing new under the sun and this proves it.
Depression – UK (2014)
I have written before about Professor David Nutt from London’s Imperial College.
Nutt is the main personality from the medical world promoting drugs and condemning tobacco and alcohol, placing them next to heroin in terms of toxicity and fatality.
His research has been all over the UK media for several years. There are many television presenters and journalists who believe what he says and advocate illegal drugs over tobacco and alcohol on daytime programmes. One example is Matthew Wright, host of Channel 5’s morning show The Wright Stuff.
Nutt was a medical adviser to the previous Labour government until he was dismissed for spurious statements, one of them being that ecstasy was safer than horse riding.
He continues to press on with his advocacy of illicit drugs and, along with Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, hopes to restart LSD and other hallucinogenic experiments in the UK in 2015.
An Observer article dated October 5, 2014 has the story. Excerpts follow:
Next year, if all goes to plan, a dozen patients with clinical depression will be invited to a UK laboratory and given psilocybin – the psychedelic ingredient found in magic mushrooms. Over the next four or five hours, many of these volunteers will experience dream-like euphoria as colours, smells and sounds become more intense, perception of time distorts and their sense of self dissolves. Some may feel a surge of electricity through their bodies, sudden clarity of thought or hilarity. Others may experience anxiety, confusion or paranoia. These hallucinogenic effects will be short-lived, but the impact of the drug on the volunteers could be long-lasting ...
Nutt and Carhart-Harris have already used MRI scanners to study changes in the brain while 15 volunteers took psilocybin. A similar study on 20 volunteers given LSD has just finished.
This article also mentions the ‘moral panic’ that caused LSD experiments to cease in the 1960s. I feel for those participants whose lives have been ruined as a result. It was much more than ‘moral panic’ — it was irreversible mental illness and experimenting with other harmful hallucinogens which had to stop.
Nonetheless, Nutt maintains:
It led to a lot of people believing these drugs were more harmful than they were. They are not trivial drugs, but in comparison with drugs that kill thousands of people a year, like alcohol, tobacco and heroin, they have a very safe track record and, as far as we know, no one has died.
Yet, many over-50s will have read of reports from the late 1960s and early 1970s when people did die from an LSD overdose. There is a fine line between saying that, technically, the drug is not toxic and acknowledging the effect that LSD has on the brain, which can differ from day to day and dose to dose. Addiction Blog explains. Excerpts follow (although I disagree with the tone of the article which seems to put forward the idea that, essentially, LSD is safe):
Cases of fatal overdose on acid are possible, but rare. Emergency room and EMS data supports the claims that, while not often, deaths can occur when a person takes LSD. This is particularly true when it is mixed with alcohol. Cases of acid trips have been reported where overstimulation of the nervous system triggered heart attack, stroke or respiratory failure. Again, these cases are rare.
A number of deaths can be indirectly linked to ingestion of acid. The actual causes of death however are not always from the actual drug itself. Some people who take LSD die because their minds trick them into doing dangerous things. And LSD-related deaths generally occur due to suicide, accidents, and dangerous behavior. Also, there is the possibility that poisonous additives may have been mixed with the drug, amplifying its danger and unpredictability …
The question you may need to ask yourself, is it really worth the risk?
Yes — that is the essential question.
Back now to Nutt and his current studies. He and his colleagues are working with the Beckley Foundation headed by:
English aristocrat Amanda Feilding, the Countess of Wemyss and March. After taking LSD in the 1960s she became fascinated with its potential for creativity and enhancing understanding.
Her foundation supports and initiates research into psychoactive substances – including LSD, magic mushrooms and cannabis, a plant used in medicine for thousands of years. “By prohibiting research into this category of substance, because of a social misconception, we are depriving suffering ill people from a potential treatment which has a very long history,” she says.
Like the Norwegian researchers, the Imperial-Beckley Foundation people admit they do not understand how LSD works on the brain, either:
The mechanisms of LSD are still poorly understood. It seems to mimic some actions of the brain chemical serotonin, which is involved in memory formation, mood and reward, but how it triggers such powerful altering effects isn’t clear.
It is incredible, then, that they can claim it is the safest drug around — moreso than tobacco and alcohol.
The article adds:
The Imperial/Beckley MRI research showed that brains of volunteers on LSD become less organised and more chaotic, while parts of the brain that would not normally communicate with each other link up. In this disorganised dream-like state, the brain is open to new leaps of creativity and flights of fancy. Dr Carhart-Harris believes that hallucinogens may temporally “loosen” the rigid structures of the brain, which have developed as we age. An acid trip is a bit like shaking up a snow globe. This loosening could help the brain break the cycles of addiction and depression.
That sounds as if the outcome is highly unpredictable — from person to person, from trip to trip.
One also wonders whether certain parts of the brain are not meant to link up. I would also question the irresponsible use of phrases such as ‘new leaps of creativity and flights of fancy’ as well as ‘shaking up a snow globe’, both of which makes hallucinogens sound vaguely harmless.
The article goes on to discuss magic mushrooms and skunk.
Would Tobacco and Alcohol Control agree? That is the big question I would like to see answered.
What follows are comments from the few Observer readers who disagree, at least in part, with Nutt and Co.
treebear1: … In my experience it doesn’t make passive individuals. Quite the opposite.
Milesawayfromhere: … In my experience there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach in these matters – they are very good for some people and very bad for others and in most cases underlying problems that were there before the drugs are the real issues. Humans just vary massively and you can’t be generally psychologically prescriptive for all of them when it comes to psychedelics. A practitioner with experience and a well-trained eye should be able to tell who would benefit and who would not after only a few sessions of psychotherapy in advance … For example most people who take Ibogain for addiction issues are already struggling with a multitude of other issues anyway. You can either paper over the cracks with prescription drugs or face the issues full on. The latter will not always be pretty.
Vincent Tayelrand: Suffering from depressions most of my life I have followed this growing trend to treat mental illnesses with psychedelic drugs for many years and have spoken to many people who went through these (illegal) programs.
It is not a sure cure for all, especially where depressions are involved
For some it can be a life changing, even life saving, reset of the brain, but for most nothing actually changes for the better in the long run.
It would be nice for a change if we put some money into research aimed at preventing depresion related mental illnesses instead of making billions by treating these patients with dangerous drugs.
TheyCallMeMrBlack: The health benefits? I took a lot of all this s[tuff] in my twenties and I can tell you there are no health benefits. There are however a lot of health issues awaiting users.
It is incredible that we are still talking about hallucinogens as we were in the late 1960s. It is even worse that so many young users (see the rest of the comments) agree with Professor Nutt.
Today’s post concludes the story, which includes British intelligence dating from the Great War — World War I.
When Aldous and Julian Huxley (first director of UNESCO) were studying at Oxford, their tutor was a fellow Fabian, H G Wells. Wells had also introduced Aldous to Aleister Crowley.
Wells headed British foreign intelligence during the First World War. He devised what he called
“The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution” … a “one-world brain” which would function as “a police of the mind.”
In her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy author Marilyn Ferguson says that, in the 1930s, the British government sent Aldous Huxley to the United States
as the case officer for an operation to prepare the United States for the mass dissemination of drugs.
Huxley went to California in 1937 and spent the whole of the Second World War there. When he wasn’t working as a screenwriter, he was establishing Isis cults:
In effect, Huxley and [Christopher] Isherwood (joined soon afterwards by Thomas Mann and his daughter Elisabeth Mann Borghese) laid the foundations during the late 1930s and the 1940s for the later LSD culture, by recruiting a core of “initiates” into the Isis cults that Huxley’s mentors, Bulwer-Lytton, Blavatsky, and Crowley, had constituted while stationed in India.
Huxley did not return to the UK until 1952. That same year, the CIA initiated MK-Ultra. It is possible that both British intelligence and OSS (Office of Strategic Services) were also involved. Allen Dulles was CIA director at the time MK-Ultra started. He had also been in the OSS when Albert Hofmann was conducting his early research on LSD.
Incidentally, James Warburg, whose banking family had an interest in Sandoz, had worked with Huxley. He founded the Institute for Policy Studies in 1963.
Huxley returned to the United States in 1952 accompanied by his family doctor, Humphry Osmond. Osmond had previously attended a seminar Huxley had organised in London. Osmond and another seminar participant J R Smythies wrote a paper called ‘Schizophrenia: A New Approach':
he asserted that mescaline — a derivative of the mescal cactus used in ancient Egyptian and Indian pagan rites — produced a psychotic state identical in all clinical respects to schizophrenia.
On this basis, Osmond and Smythies advocated experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs as a means of developing a “cure” for mental disorders.
Dulles invited Osmond to play a prominent role in MK-Ultra.
Osmond, Huxley and Robert Hutchins — from the University of Chicago, also Ford Foundation programme director — planned a series of meetings through to 1953 regarding a second, but private, initiative concerning LSD and mescaline. When Henry Ford II got wind of it, he sacked Hutchins. That said, the proposal was not dropped.
In 1953, Osmond began supplying Huxley with mescaline. In 1954, Huxley wrote The Doors of Perception, considered to be the first manifesto of the cult around hallucinogenic drugs.
Later that decade, he worked privately on LSD and mescaline research, recruiting candidates from his Isis cult centres from around California. Among them were luminaries such as Margaret Mead’s ex-husband Dr Gregory Bateson — also in the OSS working as an anthropologist — and the defrocked Anglican priest Alan Watts who went on to embrace Buddhism.
Bateson directed hallucinogenic experiments at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital. He was able to lure some of his subjects into Huxley’s Isis cult groups. Bateson was also the first to give LSD to Ken Kesey.
Watts launched the Pacifica Foundation which had two radio stations, one in San Francisco and another in New York City.
Late in 1960, Huxley was appointed visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. This enabled him to form a core group of insiders, among them Osmond, Watts, Leary and Alpert.
Whilst at MIT, Huxley wanted Leary to form a group of LSD users among the elite:
and lead a psychedelic conspiracy to brainwash influential people for the purposes of human betterment. “That’s how everything of culture and beauty and philosophic freedom has been passed on,” Huxley tells him. “Initiate artists, writers, poets, jazz musicians, elegant courtesans. And they’ll educate the intelligent rich.”
Nevertheless, only a few years later on the other side of the country in 1964, ‘Baby’ Jane Holzer — a young, beautiful New York socialite who spent much of her time at Andy Warhol’s drug-ridden Factory in Manhattan — said:
It was getting very scary at the Factory. There were too many crazy people around who were stoned and using too many drugs. They had some laughing gas that everybody was sniffing. The whole thing freaked me out, and I figured it was becoming too faggy and sick and druggy. I couldn’t take it.
Whilst at MIT, Huxley contacted the president of Sandoz. Sandoz was fulfilling a CIA contract for MK-Ultra, consisting of large quantities of LSD — 100 million doses — and psilocybin. By the late 1960s, these had flooded the streets. By the way, Leary was purchasing his LSD in large quantities from the pharmaceutical manufacturer as well, albeit privately.
In 1962, Huxley strongly influenced the founding of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, where he was one of the lecturers. Their purpose was to promote
behavior group therapy, for Zen, Hindu, and Buddhist transcendental meditation, and “out of body” experiences through simulated and actual hallucinogenic drugs.23
As described in the Esalen Institute Newsletter: “Esalen started in the fall of 1962 as a forum to bring together a wide variety of approaches to enhancement of the human potential . . . including experiential sessions involving encounter groups, sensory awakening, gestalt awareness training, related disciplines. Our latest step is to fan out into the community at large, running programs in cooperation with many different institutions, churches, schools, hospitals, and government.”24
My comments: First, I have not met any Briton yet who has a good thing to say about Aldous Huxley. Secondly, there are many American WASPs who also discount his opinions and lifestyle. Thirdly, it is quite possible that the UK government wanted to put the Huxleys in other roles — and keep the H G Wells people quiet — by transferring them to the US. That way, the UK would never have to hear from them again. It seems to have worked!
I do not think there was a conspiracy of the UK gaining supremacy over the US because, in order for the US to achieve smooth passage of the Nazi doctors and their families across the pond, diplomatic intervention would have been required. The British were in the best position to achieve this — in negotiations with the Germans and the French (who would also have had a say). Therefore, the British did what the Americans asked and … in return, the Americans got their Nazi doctors — and Aldous Huxley.
Also in 1962, the Rand Corporation of Santa Monica, California, began a four-year experiment of marijuana, peyote and LSD. (During the Second World War, Rand had a pivotal role in determining the psychological effects bombing had on the population of German cities.) Rand researchers studied 30 humans in 1963 and concluded in their report, ‘Short-Term Effects of LSD on Anxiety, Attitudes and Performance’ that
LSD improved emotional attitudes and resolved anxiety problems.
It is of note that James Warburg’s Institute for Policy Studies became the US branch of the British Russell Peace Institute. Not surprisingly it drew its operatives from British-dominated institutions, including the US branch of the Tavistock Institute, National Training Labs.
Oddly, the SDS — Students for a Democratic Society — received financing from the IPS. The general idea for this unusual financing was to promote love — hedonistic pleasure — instead of war. It didn’t work in the IPS’s favour all the time, considering the violent student protests on university campuses and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968.
According to Ferguson, all this would eventually progress to an American programme developed in May 1974
on how to transform the United States into Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The counterculture is a conspiracy at the top, created as a method of social control, used to drain the United States of its commitment to scientific and technological progress.
She refers to:
“Changing Images of Man,” Contract Number URH (489~215O, Policy Research Report No. 414.74, prepared by the Stanford Research Institute Center for the Study of Social Policy, Willis Harman, director.
The 319-page mimeographed report was prepared by a team of fourteen researchers and supervised by a panel of twenty-three controllers, including anthropologist Margaret Mead, psychologist B.F. Skinner, Ervin Laszlo of the United Nations, Sir Geoffrey Vickers of British intelligence.
The aim of the study, the authors state, is to change the image of mankind from that of industrial progress to one of “spiritualism.” The study asserts that in our present society, the “image of industrial and technological man” is obsolete and must be “discarded”:
“Many of our present images appear to have become dangerously obsolete, however . . .
Science, technology, and economics have made possible really significant strides toward achieving such basic human goals as physical safety and security, material comfort and better health. But many of these successes have brought with them problems of being too successful — problems that themselves seem insoluble within the set of societal value-premises that led to their emergence . . .
Our highly developed system of technology leads to higher vulnerability and breakdowns. Indeed the range and interconnected impact of societal problems that are now emerging pose a serious threat to our civilization . . . If our predictions of the future prove correct, we can expect the association problems of the trend to become more serious, more universal and to occur more rapidly.”
The report advised that change should come about quickly. Indeed, that is how it feels to many today: that we are too successful and have to lose our freedom of choice, action and thought.
It seems to me — whether good or bad drugs, CIA involvement, British activity and what not — that drugs can never succeed. They are simply a dangerous idea.
And, if Ferguson’s book is correct, we are well on the road to social control and technological mediocrity.
No wonder there is a drive to get us off alcohol and tobacco.
Drugs — stay away from them or risk your God-given personal identity, intelligence and integrity.
And for those who suspect a British conspiracy here, let me assure you the same thing is going on here: UK Decay (first coined by the now-defunct Spy magazine as ‘UK DK’ in the 1990s; I did not wish to copy their intellectual property directly). We have much unemployment among second-generation Britons, not to mention increased drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, ‘mum’s boyfriend’ syndrome and all the rest.
The same is going on in France, where Marseille is undoubtedly going to be renamed Detroit. Yes, it’s that bad.
So, this is not a conspiracy against America, but rather against the Western world. That said, I am sorry that so many Americans, particularly honest servicemen, were prey to government or intelligence programmes which ruined their minds and left them less than able to love their wives and children, head a household and hold down a job. May God help them and their families.
All this makes remembering our war dead next month sad and poignant. I’m sure they did not give their lives so that we could be drugged up to the eyeballs and live according to the dictates of the government. Surely that is what they least wanted for themselves and for future generations.
Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.
Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.
Jesus Heals a Blind Beggar
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem for Passover and His final days before the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Recall that in the verses immediately preceding this miracle, our Lord told them a third time that He would be ‘delivered over to the Gentiles’ and killed, although He would rise again on the third day.
Jericho was on the way to Jerusalem. John MacArthur tells us it was a beautiful city with a warm climate and an abundance of beneficial plant life (emphases mine):
It was the city of palms, that’s what it was called, about a six hour walk and it’s straight up. And to go up to Jerusalem you had to go that way, that was the path. Well known, by the way, in New Testament times, south end of the Jordan Valley, six miles north of the Dead Sea. And in those days the city was fed by springs. There were springs all around it. And when they weren’t near to the city, the water was piped into reservoirs to use in the city and also used to irrigate and make the area productive and so it was a flourishing area for certain crops. It was filled with date palms, that’s how it got its name and fruit trees were everywhere. There was a plant called balsam which was a bush that produced the juice that was used for medicinal applications and found only there. The climate was warm in the winter and really hot in the summer, some of you know. Josephus says if you’re going to live in Jericho, you only need linen clothes because even when there’s snow fifteen miles up in Jerusalem, it can be very warm in Jericho. Mark tells us that in Jerusalem during Passion Week on the Mount of Olives, Mark says in Mark 11:13, it was not yet the season for figs. But it would have been the season for figs down in Jericho, so they would have been ripening everywhere on those palms. Almonds, by the way, also grew there and flourished there as well as rose plants which are very old in the history of the world, by the way, making it a lovely place, a kind of an agricultural garden. In fact, it was such a magnificent place with the Dead Sea nearby that Marc Antony gave the city to Cleopatra. That’s a pretty good gift, according to Josephus. It was also the place that Herod loved, so much he built a fortress there, he built a palace there and he went there to die.
In order to better understand the last of Jesus’s healing miracles, it is useful to read the other two accounts. I have highlighted differences between them and Luke’s:
Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus
46 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
Jesus Heals Two Blind Men
29 And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. 30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord,[e] have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 32 And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33 They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34 And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
Jews of the ancient world considered the blind and those afflicted with other disabilities to be the lowest of the low. Even the able-bodied lowlife ranked higher in social status. This was because they considered disability to be a curse from God for sin, either parental or individual. For that reason, even the parents of such children disowned them and wanted them out of the house — permanently. The disabled had no choice but live on the streets depending on charity from passersby.
This belief in God’s judgment on the disabled crops up in the first verses of John 9. Jesus explains that there is no curse, rather God’s sovereignty manifested:
1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
As the account of the miracle opens, Luke says Jesus and the crowd are nearing Jericho (verse 35). Mark’s version agrees. MacArthur says that it does not matter that Matthew’s has them leaving; the point is that all agree this took place in the outskirts of Jericho.
The blind man could only hear the roar of the crowd and asked what was going on (verse 36). The people tell him that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by (verse 37). It is significant that ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ translates in the blind man’s mind as ‘Jesus, Son of David’ (verse 38). This indicates that he believes that Jesus is the Messiah, as ‘Son of David’ is the appellation given Him in the Old Testament. It is apparent that God’s grace and the Holy Spirit were at work, giving him faith.
We note the disdain of the crowd towards the blind man (verse 39) and many of us are no doubt silently applauding his intensity in continuing to call out to our Lord. MacArthur translates the verbs the Gospel accounts use:
“called out,” bawao (??), to literally call out loud, Matthew uses krazo which means to scream. This verb, krazo, used by Matthew, is used of the insane of epileptics, of demon-possessed people and women in childbirth in the Bible. We’re talking about really yelling…very strong word.
Matthew Henry draws a lesson from this for us today with regard to determined fervency in prayer:
Those who are in good earnest for Christ’s favours and blessings will not be put by from the pursuit of them, though they meet with opposition and rebuke … Those who would speed in prayer must be importunate in prayer. This history, in the close of the chapter, intimates the same thing with the parable in the beginning of the chapter, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.
Hearing the man’s cries — or screams — Jesus asks for him to approach (verse 40). Note that Mark’s account shows a slight change of mind in the crowd as they tell Bartimaeus: ‘Take heart …’ Mark also records the man as throwing off his cloak — no doubt it doubled as a blanket at night — and springing up to go to Jesus.
The man asks for his sight to be recovered (verse 41). From this we deduce that he had it at one point then lost this faculty at some point during his life. In Matthew’s account involving two men, they ask that their eyes be opened. We can apply this request to ourselves in a spiritual way: Lord, open our eyes that we may have more faith via more grace.
Jesus responds by saying to Luke’s blind man that his sight is recovered; his faith has made him well (verse 42). He does not add, as is recorded after some miracles, ‘Go and sin no more’. This is another indication that God has granted him faith.
Verse 43 tells us that the man glorifies God in gratitude, as does the crowd. Henry has this to say:
Note, We must give praise to God for his mercies to others as well as for mercies to ourselves.
Also of note, instead of going home, the man follows Jesus. We do not know if he stayed on past our Lord’s Passion, but it seems he might have, if only because Mark names him and his father. This could have been Mark’s saying, ‘And this is Bartimaeus’s story of faith and healing!’ I also like that Matthew includes Bartimaeus’s friend in the story and that, he, too, followed our Lord.
Once again, and for the final time, we see His infinite mercy and healing at work. This is more than an account from His ministry. We should feel free to pray to Jesus for whatever we need in life. He does hear our prayers and, even if He does not respond exactly the way we wish, He will grant us a better blessing and solution to our problems.
MacArthur notes the difference between the crowd and the blind man. He asks if we consider ourselves ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ people or ‘Jesus, Son of David’ people. Many today, even regular churchgoers, are ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ types.
Are you lining the church aisles here, or are you just sitting along the edge as Jesus passes by Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday in all His glory and His majesty and you see His miracle power and you hear His profound teaching and you think it’s nice and it’s good and it’s interesting and it might be compelling? And maybe you rise to sing the hymn and to celebrate. But when it comes down to reality, you’re really on the side of the crucifiers because you will not give Him your life. Is that your people? Or are the two blind guys your people? Are those your people? Do you identify with people who threw off everything, whether all it was was a cloak or whether it was all that the world had to offer, whether it was riches incalculable? Do you understand the self-denial, the taking up of the cross, the following Jesus? Are you one of the followers and one of the worshipers? Are the blind guys your people? This is a most important thing you’ll ever determine. Are you going to be with the many or the few? Who are your people?
I agree in him in his hope that we would align ourselves with the blind man of faith.
Next time: Luke 19:11-19
Yesterday’s post gave a brief history of LSD and the 19th century quest for higher consciousness.
If you missed reading it, it’s helpful if you do so before reading this entry.
Before I get into the rest of the story, it seems fitting that I first discuss LSD’s inventor in more detail.
Albert Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland, in 1906. It seems he was always attracted to mystical experiences of one form or another. He had a creative mind and considered studying the arts or the humanities at university. Instead he pursued chemistry, because:
Mystical experiences in childhood, in which Nature was altered in magical ways, had provoked questions concerning the essence of the external, material world, and chemistry was the scientific field which might afford insights into this.
After having discovered LSD in 1938, he didn’t really pursue it until 1943. When he resynthesised it that year, he inadvertently absorbed some of it through his fingertips. Later, at home:
I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated[-]like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.
He became the director of Sandoz Laboratories’ natural products department and studied more hallucinogenic substances. He was able to synthesise psilocybin and identified active hallucinogenic compounds in certain plants.
Before he died at the age of 102, he said that LSD was
medicine for the soul.
Hofmann criticised Western counterculture of the 1960s for misusing the drug, which several countries declared illegal in the mid-1960s. Some would say CIA programmes were also responsible. Hofmann’s product was ‘pure’, whereas experiments by others produced an impure LSD.
Hofmann was keen to see the drug used in a clinical setting under proper supervision. Swiss medical authorities approved new experiments in December 2007, which psychotherapist Peter Gasser undertook.
In theory, the drug should not be addictive. Furthermore, every trip should be as pleasant as Hofmann’s.
However, in reality, we know this is not the case. Timothy Leary said that LSD requires ‘set and setting’ (emphases mine):
the “set” being the general mindset of the user, and the “setting” being the physical and social environment in which the drug’s effects are experienced …
If the user is in a hostile or otherwise unsettling environment, or is not mentally prepared for the powerful distortions in perception and thought that the drug causes, effects are more likely to be unpleasant than if he or she is in a comfortable environment and has a relaxed, balanced and open mindset.
There are also reports of flashbacks in a minority of users. No one really understands how this process actually works. LSD supporters do not believe users experience flashbacks. I knew a woman who did. She took it with her boyfriend over a two- or three-year period. She had very disturbing ones and, just as bad, ended up on disability allowance because the drug left her with brain damage. Never once did I hear her string a sentence together. She could barely function. She certainly could not have held down a job.
She told me to never experiment with drugs; they were too risky, she said: ‘And I’m proof’.
The 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas adapted from Hunter S Thompson’s book, has these lines in the script which seem to describe the druggy reality for many:
We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled that 60’s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling “consciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously… All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.
Now back to Timothy Leary and others from the 1960s, courtesy of ‘The Sequoia Seminars — A History’. Emphases in bold in the original, unless citations come from Wikipedia; purple highlights are mine.
I mentioned yesterday that Leary met CIA agent Cord Meyer in 1948 when the former was in graduate school at UC Berkeley and the latter was infiltrating un-American organisations.
It’s possible that Leary was doing some work for the CIA after that time, since Meyer had asked for his help. The CIA was also doing research via military and civilian institutions into work on a ‘truth serum’ or ‘truth drug’ which would help the US interrogate enemies.
Between 1954 and 1959, Leary was the director of clinical research and psychology at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland, California. It seems that, during this time, he developed the psychometric test — the Leary Interpersonal Behavioral Test — which the CIA used when assessing prospective employees.
One of Leary’s grad school classmates, Frank Barron, was a CIA contractor during this period. He worked at the CIA-staffed and funded Berkeley Institute for Personality Assessment and Research.
In 1960, Barron was asked to head the government-funded Harvard Psychedelic Drug Research Center at Harvard University. Leary joined him at Harvard that year and worked as a lecturer in psychology until 1963.
Also working with or at the Center was former OSS psychologist Henry ‘Harry’ Murray, one of the monitors of the ‘truth serum’ experiments in the 1940s. One of Murray’s 1960s subjects was Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Kaczynski’s Wikipedia entry states:
While at Harvard, Kaczynski was among the twenty-two Harvard undergraduates used as guinea pigs in ethically questionable experiments conducted by Henry Murray. In the experiment each student received a code name. Kaczynski was given the code name “Lawful”. Among other purposes, Murray’s experiments were focused on measuring people’s reactions under extreme stress. The unwitting undergraduates were submitted to what Murray himself called “vehement, sweeping and personally abusive” attacks. Assaults to their egos, cherished ideas and beliefs were the tools used to cause high levels of stress and distress. These experiments were conducted at Harvard University from the fall of 1959 through the spring of 1962.
In 1963, Harvard fired Leary and fellow colleague Richard Alpert — who later became the celebrated Ram Dass. The two moved to Millbrook, New York, where they established the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) – later renamed the Castalia Foundation. They later found themselves in trouble with future Nixon adviser G Gordon Liddy, then the Dutchess County district attorney, for their black market LSD manufacturing operation.
Leary made public appearances and was seen as a counterculture hero. He was best known for a motto that Marshall McLuhan gave him:
Turn on, tune in, drop out.
Leary had scrapes with the law, served time in prison, associated with underground radicals and was married several times. He continued to be a public speaker in later years. He died in 1996.
The CIA and LSD
LSD supporters blame the CIA for ‘bad acid’ and other derivatives which hit the streets. They say the CIA deliberately laced good LSD with strychnine to create propagandistic ‘horror stories’ to put people off taking it.
These products were known as ‘psychedelics’ and comprise:
- STP, developed by Dow Chemical in 1964 to incapacitate an enemy;
- PCP, used in conjunction with LSD between 1955 and 1975, tested on enlisted men at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland;
- BZ, or brown acid, developed by Hoffmann-LaRoche (no relation to Albert Hofmann), and tested at Edgewood.
All of these have very serious side-effects which can last for days.
Incidentally, Frank Zappa’s father Francis was a chemical warfare specialist who worked at Edgewood Arsenal for several years.
Connecting with the arts and music world
Ronald Hadley Stark was a CIA operative who could speak five languages and had many senior contacts both in government and the private sector.
It was Stark who supplied LSD to Beat novelist Ken Kesey and his friends, the Merry Pranksters. Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test describes their journey across the US in a dayglo bus.
Stark gave them thousands of LSD doses which the Merry Pranksters distributed across the country.
Later, in 1969, during a shortage of LSD ingredient ergotamine tartrate, Stark managed to get production back on track. With financing from a bank in the Bahamas and help from a French pharmaceutical firm, a new type of LSD derivative entered the market: orange sunshine.
Stark was also connected with a Scientology breakaway sect called The Process Church of the Final Judgement. It attracted many rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 1960s as well as Charles Manson and his followers. Manson and his followers are thought to have taken orange sunshine prior to committing the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969.
Orange sunshine was more bad acid. It eventually put an end to the so-called love-ins and hippie utopias. By the mid-1970s, all that had died out.
My Sunday/Monday post will conclude on LSD and hallucinogens with Aldous Huxley’s extensive involvement in MK-Ultra which he was able to start contributing to in the 1930s — before it was even devised.
LSD does not disappear but ebbs and flows in the somewhat hidden world of the elite, government intelligence, those searching for higher consciousness and hopeful (probably misguided) clinicians.
I spent several hours reading a history of hallucinogens and their use in controlling others. ‘The Sequoia Seminars — A History’ tells the whole story, which makes for astounding reading. Readers with an interest in new movements in late 19th century England, 20th century American politics and the late 1960s music scene will find this fascinating.
This is the first instalment, which continues tomorrow.
Excerpts follow, except where indicated otherwise; emphases in bold from the original, purple highlights mine.
Psychical research in England and the US — 19th century
In 1882, three dons from Trinity College, Cambridge, founded The Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which still exists today. Their objective was to bring together spiritualists, scientists and scholars to objectively investigate psychic phenomena.
Sir William F Barrett, who was doing research on the subject at the Royal College of Science in Dublin was the catalyst for the SPR. The three dons had attended one of his conferences in London and, soon afterward, with his support, created the new research society.
American psychologists and professors interested in the same field of work got to know Barrett and the Cambridge dons. Barrett toured the United States discussing his work. The American Society for Psychical Research was formed in 1885 and is still in existence.
The SPR has research archives in Cambridge and London, which it updates regularly.
Their investigations include the relationship that altered states of consciousness have on the human mind and personality:
Following the general trend discerned also in psychology, towards an experimental, more biological, approach, experimental methods kept undergoing refinements and improvements. Much important pioneering work on free-response and quantitative experiments was done in the 1920s and 1930s, by researchers such as George Tyrrell. Mathematician and physicist by education, he explored a variety of methods for inducing altered states of consciousness, techniques to differentiate between telepathy and clairvoyance, and made attempts to automate the randomisation of targets.
Some members of these psychical societies were interested in eugenics and freedom restrictions. One example was Gifford Pinchot, President Theodore Roosevelt’s chief forester and vice president of the first International Eugenics Congress in 1912. As chief forester, Pinchot overturned Abraham Lincoln’s programme of free-land-to-families for farming (by then nearly 50 years old) in favour of a ‘conservation’ scheme which gave the federal government control over land acquisition. Frederick E Weyerhauser of the Weyerhauser paper company supported this new policy, especially important as he controlled much forest land for production of paper pulp. More about Pinchot and his relatives later.
LSD’s use — Third Reich and Cold War
In 1938, Albert Hofmann first synthesised LSD — lysergic acid diethylamide — from ergotamine, a chemical derived from ergot, a fungus found on rye grain. Hofmann discovered LSD’s hallucinogenic properties in 1943. This research took place at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland.
The Third Reich was the first to use it against their opponents:
Adolf Hitler’s first targets in Nazi Germany were the Gypsies and the students. LSD was a youth oriented drug that was perfected in the laboratory. When it was combined with other chemicals, and given the wide distribution necessary all that remained were the marching orders to go to war.
Dr Hubertus Strughold directed various experiments using hallucinogens:
Dr. Strughold’s barbaric “medical experiments,” for which his subordinates were tried and convicted as war criminals at Nuremburg, were nothing more than a series of bizarre and unspeakably brutal tortures. Even so, he learned a lot about human behavior and mescaline, a natural alkaloid present in the peyote cactus. Mescaline, long central to many Native American religious rituals and first chemically isolated in 1896, is a phenethylamine whose ergoline skeleton is also contained in lysergic acid (a tryptamine).
In 1947, Sandoz made LSD available for use in a clinical setting by psychiatrists.
At that time, the CIA were looking for a truth drug with a view to altering human behaviour and suppressing enemies of America. Hundreds of Nazis, including Strughold, accepted a special invitation:
“Project Paperclip,” an arrangement made by CIA Director Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, brought one thousand Nazi specialists and their families to the United States. They were employed for military and civilian institutions.
Some Nazi doctors were brought to our hospitals and colleges to continue further experimentations on the brain.
American and German scientists, working with the CIA, then the military, started developing every possible method of controlling the mind.
It appears that the CIA-sponsored product could well have had other chemicals added to it, making it different to the original Sandoz LSD:
Government agents and the ability to cause permanent insanity, identical to schizophrenia, without physician or family knowing what happened to the victim.
“No physical examination of the subject is required prior to the administration of LSD. A physician need not be present. Physicians might be called for the hope they would make a diagnosis of mental-breakdown which would be useful in discrediting the individual who was the subject of CIA interest. Richard Helms, CIA Director, argued that administering drugs, including poisonous LSD, might be on individuals who are unwitting as this is the only realistic method of maintaining the capability considering the intended operational use to influence human behavior as the operational targets will certainly be unwitting.”
“Senate Report to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities”
Book I, page 401, April 1976.
When the first reports came out that the CIA could administer a tasteless substance into the beverage of one of their most responsible co-workers, and drive that man into a mental institution, or cause him to jump out of a window to his death, all existing CIA records were destroyed.
Hippies and musicians, previously normal and creative, with families and loved ones identical to Dr. Frank Olson, responded in the same manner as Dr. Olson after their introduction to the same drugs.
Even before Project Paperclip started, however, hallucinogens formed part of an experiment by which military intelligence could use what they termed a ‘truth drug’ and began with a marijuana extract as well as peyote, morphine and others:
In September 1942, OSS director and Army Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan began his search for an effective “truth serum” to be used on POWs and captured spies …
The OSS/FBN team first tested a potent marijuana extract, tetrahydrocannabinol acetate (THCA), a colorless, odorless substance, lacing cigarettes or food items with it, and administering them to volunteer US Army and OSS personnel, all who eventually acquired the nickname “Donovan’s Dreamers.” Testing was also conducted under the guise of treatment for shell shock. [Tavistock]
Donovan’s team found that THCA, which they termed “TD,” for “truth drug,” induced “a great loquacity and hilarity,” and even, in cases where the subject didn’t feel physically threatened, some useable “reefer madness.” Peyote, morphine and scopolamine were judged too powerful to be used in effective interrogation. In light of all this, Donovan concluded, “The drug defies all but the most expert and search analysis, and for all practical purposes can be considered beyond analysis.” The OSS did not, however, end the program. By that time, faced with the terrifying ship losses the USA was suffering from German U-boats, Donovan pressed on, hoping to find some effective chemical means to help interrogate captured U-boat sailors.
Early 20th century left-wing politics
Gifford Pinchot’s brother, Amos Pinchot, was also a supporter of Teddy Roosevelt’s. However, after openly criticising the President’s Bull Moose party of being too friendly with American corporations, he ended up joining the Democratic Party and pursued a left-wing political stance.
His daughter Mary, born in 1920, attended Vassar. Amos wrote to Gifford:
Vassar seems to be very interested in communism. And a great deal of warm debating is going on among the students of Mary’s class, which I think is an excellent thing. People of that age ought to be radical anyhow.
Her education allowed her to meet more people in ever-higher social circles. She met the future President John F Kennedy when both were still at boarding school. Mary became a journalist for a variety of prestigious press agencies and publications. She joined the American Labor Party which triggered the FBI to hold a file of her activities.
In 1945, Mary married Cord Meyer, a US Marine who had been seriously injured in the Second World War. His injuries caused him to question atomic warfare and embrace pacifism. He commissioned a film, The Beginning or the End, and wrote a book about his war experiences called Waves of Darkness.
Shortly after their wedding, Mary and Cord attended the conference in San Francisco which established the United Nations. In 1947, Cord was elected president of the United World Federalists. However, by 1950, Cord’s commitment to leftism was under question. On the surface, he still seemed supportive, but it is believed he began working for the CIA around this time.
In 1950, he co-founded the Committee to Frame a World Constitution:
As a result of this work Meyer made contact with the International Cooperative Alliance, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the Indian Socialist Party and the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism. It is almost certain that this had been done on behalf of the CIA.
In 1951, Allen W Dulles invited Cord to join the CIA. He became the principal operative in Project Mockingbird:
a CIA program to influence the mass media.
Three years later, Cord became disillusioned with his work and attempted to get a job in mainstream publishing. However, none of the publishing houses would take him on. At the same time, Jack and Jackie Kennedy moved next door to the Meyers, and Mary became friends with both. As Meyer had been transferred to head an agency in Europe — the International Organizations Division, which supervised transmissions on Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty — Mary got to know the Kennedys better.
In 1956, Mary and Cord’s son Michael, aged 9, was hit by a car and died. The accident took place near their home in Virginia. Although the tragedy brought the couple closer for a while, by 1958, Mary filed for divorce, citing Cord’s mental cruelty. Mary continued to live in the house. It was during this time that she got to know Robert Kennedy. The CIA’s James Angleton was a regular visitor; he took Mary and Cord’s sons on fishing trips.
One President and LSD — 1960s
By 1961, Mary Pinchot Meyer began visiting the White House, often to see the President.
In 1962, she met Timothy Leary. A psychologist, Leary was director of research projects at Harvard at the time. He gave Mary some LSD, which she used with the President. Leary later claimed that LSD softened Kennedy’s stance on nuclear weapons and Cuba.
Kennedy ended his and Mary’s meetings early in 1963 after the editor of The Washington Post announced at a convention of American newspaper editors that the two were having an affair.
Mary became increasingly worried, particularly after Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963. Years later, it was revealed that the FBI had a file on her and that James Angleton had her phone and bedroom bugged.
On October 12, 1964, a professional hitman shot her twice: once in the back of the head and a second time into her heart. Unfortunately, a black man, Raymond Crump, was near the scene of the murder. It took some time to prove his innocence; fortunately, he was acquitted in 1965. The case remains unsolved. No one in a position of power was going to intimate that the CIA was behind Mary’s murder.
Mary’s diary of her affair with Kennedy states that they took LSD together.
Leary, incidentally, had designed an eponymous psychometrics test for the CIA which they used when recruiting agents.
How did he get involved in the CIA? He met Cord Meyer in 1948 at the yearly convention of the left-wing American Veterans’ Council in Milwaukee. Meyer was working for the CIA, infiltrating left-wing anti-American organisations; Leary was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Cord asked Leary for his help:
Leary acknowledged Meyer’s influence, crediting him with “helping me understand my political-cultural role more clearly.”
More about Timothy Leary’s work for the CIA tomorrow.
It refers to a report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) which states that Britain is now
the “addicted man of Europe” with some of the highest rates of substance abuse.
Legal highs popular
The report also tells us that one in 12 youngsters in the UK have experimented with legal highs, easily available on the Internet. Britain is also the ‘global hub’ for legal high websites.
Legal highs are not necessarily safe. The CSJ report says that between 2011 and 2012, deaths from legal highs increased from 29 to 52.
Young people from all classes are attracted to legal highs. Their friends tell them these are inexpensive, non-addictive, fun and present no problems with the law.
Furthermore, there is always a new one to try. More than 70 new legal highs went on the market in 2012.
However, the future of the legal high user is not always bright (emphases mine):
In England, 6,486 people were treated in 2011-12 for abusing legal highs, an increase of 39 per cent compared with five years previously. So many new legal highs are now available, it is impossible for researchers to keep up. They range from GBL – an industrial solvent used to clean metals that is technically banned, but easy to buy and has been linked to numerous deaths, – to nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas.
Data compiled by the Home Office on laughing gas showed that it was inhaled by at least 350,000 16-24-year-olds last year.
It is now the second-most popular drug among young people after cannabis and is freely available to buy – including on some of the best-known shopping websites. Doctors warn it can lead to strokes, seizures, even death. Last August, Joe Benett, a 17-year-old public schoolboy, suffered a heart attack and brain damage after taking what he thought was laughing gas at a party with friends. It turned out to be a cocktail of toxic gases, including butane and pentane, used to make polystyrene.
Legal highs have been around forever: glue, petrol and other substances. They are nothing new, however, they always attract new, mostly young, users. This is why the head of the UK’s strategic drugs disruption unit said:
If I told you to go and swallow bleach you wouldn’t do it, but if I told you I had this great new drink …
Kids, as we know, can be tempted to try anything. That is what I keep at the back of my mind when I ask myself why I’m doing this. If a white powder comes online tomorrow advertised as the new whizz bang pop, and no one knows exactly what it is, who knows if that isn’t going to be the next drug that kills our children?
The legal high scene revolves around clubs, parties and music festivals. That isn’t exactly news, either, although those venues are associated with a new phenomenon of mixing legal highs with unknown and unexpected results. Accident & Emergency or the crematorium might end up being the next destination.
GBL / GHB addictive and dangerous
Whilst researching for my posts on ketamine, I ran across this article on the UK edition of Vice. It is an interview with Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, founder of the Club Drug Clinic. It is located at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.
The clinic opened in 2011. Bowden-Jones and his colleagues have been so inundated with patients that they have opened up a second, more centrally-located branch in Tottenham Court Road. He thinks the Clinic’s future could well include educating general practitioners (family doctors) on what to look for in patients with legal high problems and how to treat them.
He explains the club drug phenomenon as follows:
What we’ve seen are relatively major reductions in heroin and crack use, and an increase in a new group of drugs called “club drugs” – things like ketamine, MDMA, mephedrone.
… we’re finding that quite a few of these people are beginning to inject their drugs, especially mephedrone and ketamine. So all of the very real dangers that we used to see with heroin injecting, we’re now beginning to see with these newer club drugs.
He also mentions a legal high — GBL or GHB. Before reading about the Club Drug Clinic’s experiences with patients who have taken it, what follows is an explanation of what these two substances are:
GHB, scientifically known as gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, is a depressant drug, commonly coming in the form of a colourless, odorless, salt-like whitish powder which may also be dissolved in liquid.
GHB has an intoxicating effect when used and can be naturally found in small quantities in meat, wine and some citrus fruits.
People selling GHB often claim that it has weight loss effects and promotes body building, but there is no clinical data to back these claims. It has often been used at parties but it is an addictive drug and people can develop a dependence on this.
Scientifically labeled as gamma-butyrolactone, GBL is a type of organic solvent used for various industrial purposes such as cleaning metal and stripping paint.
Usually found in liquid form, GBL is a very different narcotic substance than others because of its shape-shifting abilities it has, as once it is in the body, the liver can change it into the GHB drug.
Of GBL, Bowden-Jones says it is often used before sex and warns that it can lead to a coma:
It gives people a sense of slight euphoria but generally it’s also a sedative. It’s what we called pro-sexual … and it’s usually pipetted, one or two mils, into a drink. There are some real dangers here. The first is that the difference between the recreational dose and the toxic overdose amount is very small. Also, because people measure it in mils, the difference between one or two mils means the difference between getting the effects you want and actually going into a coma. So it’s a very dangerous drug in terms of what we call a “narrow therapeutic range”.
He adds that a user may be up every few hours to take another dose:
The other thing about it is that it’s highly addictive, so we see people setting their alarm clocks at night to wake up and dose themselves, so they dose right through a 24-hour cycle – sometimes every hour. And they walk around with little bottles – pipettes in their pockets – to make sure they’re not caught without the G. The reason for that is that, once someone’s dependent, the withdrawal symptoms are really horrendous. They come on very rapidly, they’re very distressing.
And people think this is safer than a glass or two of wine?
He describes the detox process which has to be managed particularly carefully with GBL. He begins by explaining the withdrawal symptoms:
Intense anxiety, agitation, rapidly going into a delirium. One of the things we’ve been doing here is detoxifications for people who get dependent on G, and it’s a really tricky medical detox to do because if it goes wrong people get sick very quickly. It has to be managed very carefully.
He strongly advises not to try detoxing outside of a clinical environment which actually has experience of doing GBL detoxes:
a number of people who’ve been detoxed off G have ended up in intensive care if they’ve not been managed properly, so it’s really important if any services out there are thinking of doing GBL detoxes – or if anyone’s wanting to go and get a GBL detox – that they go and get it from somewhere that does it regularly. It would be a bad idea to go somewhere that’s never done it before.
Not surprisingly, GBL/GHB users are fond of their drug. However, they have occasional questions. One drugs forum, Bluelight, has a thread about what to do if a user overdoses (language alert).
It mentions that certain US states — Illinois, for one — may charge a dead user’s friends with manslaughter. I would like to see a law like that in the UK.
An Australian doctor writing under the pseudonym of drplatypus had the best advice. He works in A&E and sees a fair number of drug-related cases. I’ve sanitised part of his commentary:
Intriguing interpretation of clinical medicine, particularly the assumption that CPR is some form of benign first aid. If you are getting CPR under the age of 75, you are in deep [trouble] …
I particularly like the idea about discharge against medical advice. It’s true, as doctors we have nothing better to do with our time than to persuade ungrateful patients to stay against their wishes. You toddle off home, because as consequence of your medical education (oh sorry, that’s right, you don’t have one) you know when it’s best for you to leave hospital… Of course you do… I mean, you’re the one who thinks GHB and it’s precursors are safe…young people continue to die under the influence of GHB and its precursors, contrary to whatever is assumed to be the case by the G using community…
Then, there is an entry on Drugs Forum concerning self-detoxing from GBL/GHB. This was also depressing and rather frightening to read. People tinkered with their doses, took other drugs, got the DTs and so on. A long-term user even insists he isn’t addicted to the stuff.
In that thread, a German man posting as Synthacious actually gave the sensible and practical answer, similar to Dr Bowden-Jones’s:
When he wasn’t dosing his GBL for 2 hours, he started shaking, sweating and wasn’t even able to hold a pencil straight and write. Taking less with every dose or leaving more and more time between the doses didn’t work; he tried this several times.
So to finally quit, he went to an hospital, told the doctors everything about his habits and they decided to put him in a detox program. He got Clomethiazol (192mg capsules), 4 times a day with decreasing dose. He was in the clinic for 5 days, the doses went down very fast. He didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms at all, only a bit of sweating in the first night. As i visited him, he was quite happy and had neither psychic nor physical problems. No craving at all. Since then, he is clean of GBL and has no intention to do it again. He is doing an ambulant therapy, where he talks to a doctor every week.
So if you have the possibility and the need of detoxing from GBL in a hospital, I can only tell you to do it this way. He told his boss he had some minor illness and only missed 3 days of work without anyone there knowing what was up (even though he went to work on GBL for several months). He didn’t have to do anything in the hospital, he was just lieing around in bed the whole day.
(FYI: The same detox is used on heavy alcoholics. Clomethiazol is used to keep your body save in this time.)
Legal highs — the devil’s playground and a living hell.
Parents, schools and church groups for teens should make sure children understand the effects of these drugs. Whilst some users can get by with no problems, for others, it might mean a life of misery — or even death.
Yesterday’s post, which highlighted an article from the October 2014 issue of Tatler, reprised a comment from a urologist who said that ketamine ‘works like paint stripper’.
Widespread but not universal
Ketamine became popular in the UK after the Millennium and went nationwide by 2005. With so many more users — most of whom start in their late teens — urologists are seeing some disturbing cases of bladder damage. This started becoming more common as early as 2007.
Erowid tells us that, in that year, ketamine users began seeking medical help for such complaints. Ketamine is popular not only in Western countries but also in Asia. Erowid‘s research on ketamine tells us that a Hong Kong study revealed that the median age of the patient was 22 years. The site emphasises that between 3.6% and 12% might experience lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Therefore, whilst not everyone will have these problems, no one is certain as to who will have them and when.
Erowid adds that it is unclear why such cases are increasing in number. It is not just the ketamine user who buys locally or on the internet. People whose doctors prescribe a short dose of ketamine for medical reasons — pain relief, depression — have also experienced bladder difficulty. These patients normally recover after they stop taking ketamine.
in 2011, BJU International, a journal for urologists, featured an article on ketamine’s effect on the bladder. It recaps a 20-year old man’s case and treatment. In his case, kidney and digestive functions and tests were normal. The site also has photos from the scans — instructive and good for adolescents to see.
Excerpts follow, emphases mine:
Cystoscopy under general anaesthesia revealed a small capacity bladder (less than 100mls). The bladder mucosa was friable and appeared to be “tearing” with distension. Due to persistent bleeding and mucosal tearing on distension the procedure had to be abandoned and a bladder biopsy therefore was not performed. The patient was then catheterised and treated conservatively.
Based on the cystoscopic findings a bladder perforation was suspected and a post operative CT scan was performed to confirm the diagnosis. The CT scan showed free fluid and gas in the pelvis. There were locules of gas and extensive haematoma within the bladder suggestive of an extraperitoneal bladder perforation (Figures 1 and 2).
A more detailed history at this point revealed that he has been abusing ketamine intermittently as a recreational party drug (not daily usage). His weekly consumption of ketamine was variable and the patient was unable to quantify the amount used. His haematuria settled with conservative management. The catheter was left in situ for four weeks. At the time of discharge from hospital he was advised to stop ketamine abuse. After cessation of ketamine abuse and catheter removal he reported remarkable improvement in his symptoms. There was no further recurrence of haematuria. One year after discontinuing ketamine abuse he has ongoing frequency which he does not find troublesome.
Once his symptoms resolved a repeat cystoscopy and bladder biopsy under general anaesthesia and a frequency volume chart to assess functional bladder capacity were recommended. However the patient repeatedly failed to respond to our requests to attend urology department for further evaluation. He was subsequently discharged from follow up.
Hospital study of patients prescribed ketamine
A thesis paper by Khurram Shazhad attempts to make sense of ketamine’s effect on the bladder. He was part of a team that conducted a study at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesborough. The study examined tissue from patients who had been prescribed ketamine (‘analgesic ketamine’).
Shazhad concludes (p. 85) that the casual user’s bladder problems may heal by themselves once ketamine use stops.
Patients taking analgesic ketamine may experience problems within weeks or months. One patient who had been prescribed ketamine over a period of three years required surgical intervention. Shazhad’s paper also posits that increased concentration and daily use of ketamine may exacerbate bladder problems.
Symptoms to watch for
A 2013 article from The Mirror reported findings from prominent urologists and other physicians who hoped to persuade the British government to reclassify ketamine from a class C to a class B drug. Home Secretary Theresa May did so in 2014.
ACMD member Dr Paul Dargan, consultant physician and clinical toxicologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, is preparing a report for the Home Secretary to be released shortly.
He said: “The main area where there’s significant evidence is around bladder toxicity. There is clear evidence of significant bladder toxicity in those who are regular high dose, dependent ketamine users with potential severe and disabling symptoms.
“Significant pain is often a feature which may lead users to take higher doses of ketamine to treat their pain, and therefore a vicious cycle is developing of pain leading to more ketamine use, leading to more bladder damage, passing blood in the urine, having to go to the toilet frequently and having incontinence.”
He added: “Those who have severe bladder symptoms may require significant and life-changing surgery that can include removing the bladder and ending up with a bag to pass urine into, or diversion of the urine into the bowel. Clearly that’s a significant thing for a user to have to end up with.”
Dr Dargan said users across the age-spectrum are having bladders removed, including people in their “20s, 30s, 40s and 50s”.
A young woman described her urinary tract damage after several years taking ketamine (see last comment). She passed jelly-like tissue and blood clots. Her doctor told her that ketamine was altering the inner tissue of the bladder; the jelly-like substance was the affected tissue. The woman was urinating every 10 minutes. Now, having stopped taking the drug, her bladder has healed. She can hold her urine for five or six hours.
After about two years of using ketamine, I was spending more and more time in the toilet, and urinating was beginning to hurt.
I developed a stoop because my penis was always burning. One day, on a train, I had my first cramp attack; I thought my lung had collapsed. I went to a doctor, who told me to stop taking K or I would die, but then an older user told me not to worry, it was “just K cramps“. He said that they wouldn’t kill me, but I might wish that they would. Apparently they could last for days.
I still didn’t stop. The cramps got worse, the blood and mucus began to appear frequently in my urine and I had to pee every 20 minutes. I lied more than I told the truth, particularly to my girlfriend, and I hated myself. I couldn’t stand to be around myself and wanted to cause myself harm. K worked on both fronts.
Graphic photos of ketamine-related bladder treatment
In 2013, the BBC aired an anti-drug programme called Old Before My Time.
One of the addicts featured, Chris from Hampshire, had to have bladder surgery and a catheter put in place. He was only 23 by the time this happened. He began smoking dope when he was 12 and moved to ketamine in his mid-teens.
By the time he was 17, he had problems urinating. He ended up with the bladder of an 80-year old and required drastic surgery.
Any youngster who thinks ketamine won’t harm them really needs to see the Daily Mail‘s pictures of what Chris looks like today and the ongoing treatment he needs to undertake.
The Mail describes — with the aid of documentary stills — what he has to do for the rest of his life:
Although he has a new bladder, he is by no means free of health problems.
Every two weeks he must insert a catheter – a thin, flexible tube – into his belly button and syringe out mucus sitting in his bladder.
Viewers see the stomach-turning moment where the mucus fills the syringe attached to the tube in his stomach – a far cry from the hard core raver he once was just a few years ago …
A normal bladder can hold up to 500ml – but Chris’ could hold just 5ml.
Normally, the bladder wall expands when filled with urine and contracts when emptied.
But extreme ketamine use can cause stiffness and scarring in the bladder walls which means it can only expand to a tenth of its normal size.
To avoid a lifetime of incontinence, Chris had two options. He could have a bag attached to his hip – or have his bladder removed totally and a new one made from his bowel – surgery typical in someone 60 or 70 years of age.
He went for the latter – but must now syringe mucus out of his bladder for every two weeks of his life.
His days of playing rugby are over and he is at risk of dangerous kidney infections.
His new bladder won’t forever, either – he will need it replacing again in 20-30 years.
It’s nothing short of tragic.
The Mail article also looked at Dave’s case, featured in the BBC documentary.
Extensive ketamine use has left Dave with a form of dementia more common to elderly people.
Ketamine blocks certain brain receptors.
Today, Dave has problems with memory recall: words beginning with ‘f’ and remembering the names of fruit, to name but two.
At the time the documentary aired, Dave wasn’t yet able to stop using ketamine, although he said he was only taking it once a month. Yet, tests show that he must stop completely for the sake of his cognitive abilities.
Conclusion – make sure young people understand the dangers
The aforementioned anonymous writer for The Guardian (who has now gone back to smoking pot, although he is working and recovered) says:
… people should know what they are dealing with. By the time I did, it was too late. There is so much media coverage of illegal drugs, yet K is rarely mentioned, although it is everywhere and spreading fast. Most people who try it won’t develop any major problems, but a minority of users get very sick. A friend of mine lost so much control over his bladder that he had to have a catheter fitted when he was 21, and there are going to be a lot more cases like this. He didn’t know it was addictive either.
Ketamine is not a safe drug, by any means.
Until a few weeks ago, I was under the impression that ketamine was a lesser ‘party’ drug.
However, an article in the October 2014 issue of Tatler put paid to that notion.
Ketamine is far from harmless.
Some recreational users turn into addicts who end up losing their jobs and friends. An increasing number of habitual users have also permanently ruined their bladders, stomachs and muscles.
In 2014, the UK government reclassified ketamine to a class B controlled drug. Possession now carries the risk of a five-year prison term and unlimited fine. (The government had declared ketamine illegal in 2006, declaring it a class C substance.)
The Tatler article explains more, both from a clinical and personal perspective. What follows is taken from ‘Ketamine: Only for Fools and Horses’ by Sophia Money-Coutts (pp. 111-116). I was shocked by what I read.
- Why ketamine? It’s cheap (£15-£20 per gram), relaxes the user from a cocaine or MDMA high, makes him giggly and is a hallucinogenic (pp. 111-112).
- Any legitimate uses? Ketamine was invented in 1962 in the United States for use as an anaesthetic for animals and humans. It is best known as a ‘horse tranquilliser’. It is still used clinically on humans. Vietnam War medics used it on injured troops; it is a powerful, fast-acting anaesthetic which can suppress pain without affecting vital functions (p. 112).
- How did it become recreational? After the Vietnam War ended, psychiatrists began examining the hallucinogenic side of ketamine. It became a party drug in the 1990s and went mainstream after the Millennium. Max Daly, author of Narcomania: How Britain Got Hooked on Drugs calls it ‘the modern LSD’ (p. 112).
- Early anecdote? In 1978, Sheraton Hotels heiress Marcia Moore published a book called Journeys into the Bright World in which she wrote that the world would be a ‘Garden of Eden’ if only government leaders and captains of industry took this ‘love medicine’. In 1979, she mysteriously disappeared from her California home. In 1981, her skeleton was found in a nearby forest. It is thought that Moore climbed a tree, took ketamine, lost consciousness and fell to her death (p. 112).
- What’s it like? In addition to hallucinations and giggling, the user also experiences floating sensations and numbness. It is difficult to walk straight and a strong enough dose may result in drooling and slurred speech. Mandy Saligari of Charter Harley Street, a rehab clinic, describes the K-hole state after a large dose as the relaxed state one experiences when lying comfortably in bed — with an added hallucinogenic edge (p. 112). Users might wander the streets in a daze. Max Daly warns that ketamine is ‘dissociative': one can stare at a bed without knowing what it is for (p. 114).
- Recent deaths? In 2014, ketamine was attributed to two deaths: that of a 15-year old Londoner and a 26-year old Glastonbury festival goer. In 2013, an 18-year old girl died after taking ketamine at a music festival in Winchester (p. 114).
- When do users start? Mandy Saligari, who tours schools giving talks about drugs, says that users are getting younger with an increasing number starting at age 14 or 15. She adds that they are ‘confident’ that they will suffer no negative side-effects (p. 112) However, many more young people begin taking the drug at university, including students who had no prior drug history (p. 114). No doubt ketamine is presented by their peers as being a harmless weekend drug.
One woman’s ketamine story
The Tatler feature ended with an anonymous first-person account (pp. 114-116) by a young woman who began using ketamine at university, where she lived with five friends of hers.
She had no previous drug history, although she did get into trouble at boarding school for drinking.
She was attracted to ketamine because it was cheap. A £20 gram sufficed for an evening out with friends.
Within a few months she began taking ketamine several times a week: a small quantity for a buzz or a larger one for a K-hole with its hallucinations. She described her K-hole experiences as ‘euphoric’ and, even though they lasted only a half hour, she said she discovered she ‘liked getting totally out of my mind’.
Later, she wanted more of an escape. Near the end of her first year at university, she mixed ketamine with valium, coke and MDMA. She passed out. Panicked, her friends rang her parents. She woke up three days later in a rehab clinic, where she stayed for a month.
Only 19 at the time — 2008 — and attending the clinic’s outpatient programme, she resumed drinking and taking ketamine in her flat with the curtains closed. She no longer saw the point in living. Her counsellor suggested going to South Africa to cure the addiction once and for all.
This woman spent three years in a South African rehab centre. She returned to London in 2011 to reconnect with friends and to find a job.
Now 26, she works for an estate agent. She still goes out with her friends but restricts herself to a drink or two. She knows of only one friend who hasn’t taken drugs: ‘Lucky her’.
Warnings to parents
Two people in the know warn parents about the effects that K-holes can have on users (p. 114).
Mandy Saligari of Charter Harley Street urges parents to talk to their children about the dangers of ketamine. She mentions the ‘heartbreaking’ YouTube videos of ketamine users ‘wandering around off their heads’.
Max Daly, author of Narcomania: How Britain Got Hooked on Drugs, says that parents should be ‘really worried’ if their children start taking ketamine, ‘much more so than if they’d taken cocaine’.
Bladder, stomach and muscular damage
The thing that really shocked me was reading that ketamine may cause irreversible bladder and stomach damage.
In fact, the article begins by talking about users in their 20s who are incontinent. British urologists are seeing more and more cases of ketamine users with serious — sometimes permanent — bladder disorders. Some of them are only teenagers (p. 111)!
Users with stomach damage are bent over, holding their gut because of the pain (p. 112). This is known as K-cramp.
Dan Wood, a urologist at University College London Hospitals, said that ketamine is toxic to the bladder lining: ‘it works like paint stripper’ (p. 112).
Urologists held a conference in 2013 — K-Day — to discuss the phenomenon. In some cases, they need to reconstruct a ketamine user’s bladder from bowel tissue — then attach a catheter (p. 112). This is no temporary measure. This is for life.
Other users with bladder problems might need to wear incontinence pants or pads (p. 111). Some might recover, provided they stop using ketamine. For others, however, it will be too late.
Another serious side-effect of extended ketamine use is muscular damage. The drug can stiffen and damage muscles over time. One parent was horrified that his son couldn’t stop ‘walking like a chicken’ (p. 112).
Tomorrow’s post will have more from ketamine users and urologists.
Ketamine is not to be taken lightly or dismissed simply as a horse tranquilliser which is safe for humans. The highs are short and their effect can last a lifetime.