Assisted by a small group of colleagues I first used LSD as a means of promoting and facilitating the psychotherapeutic process in 1952 and the results were written up and first published in the Journal of Mental Science (afterwards the British Journal of Psychiatry) in 1954. This was the first of a long series of papers coming from our own hospital and also from many other psychiatrists in the UK and around the world.
New drugs that have dramatic effects tend to create a lot of noise. Our work was no exception, but the problem in those early days was to find a model that could be understood by lay people. The press plumped for The Alice-in-Wonderland model, after we described episodes in which our patients regressed to childhood and felt themselves to have shrunk in size. Psychiatrists working in mental hospitals made schizophrenia their model, not very convincingly as it happened. Religious thinkers and philosophers saw the drug as inducing mystical and religious experience.
The stir created by our work was as nothing to the noise generated by the street use of LSD in the Sixties. This has no medical interest except as a social phenomenon and for the doctor who is called on to treat one of its victims. Once this had happened there was no further possibility, in my view, of the valid therapeutic use of LSD. It may be that LSD will once again play a part in the practice of psychotherapy, but not yet.
17 AprilReuse content