December 11, 1996
He pulled the cassette tape case out from the inside of his jacket and for the first time in my life I got to see what a hit of acid truly looked like. All my friends were doing it, talking about it and loving it. It all made me curious and now my turn had come. No bigger than the tip of a pen’s cap, the tablet was black and square. And I thought all forms of acid were paper based. For only five bucks a hit, it was sitting right there, awaiting my purchase.
“This is the best the market has to offer,” he told me. “Two hits of the regular stuff is equal to one off the blotter. They call it Black Pyramid. And I’ve seen people do some kooky stuff while on this.”
So many new terms, I worried, as an rush of excitement coupled with danger ran throughout me. What will this do for me?
He handed me the cassette tape case and as I stared at the little tablet, I wondered why people were afraid of such a tiny little thing. Sure I had heard all the rumors about the hallucinations, the delusions one was supposed to have while being on it, not to mention the idea of going crazy or having permanent problems scared me. But staring at the hit of acid really made me wonder what it could do for me.
“Have you ever done acid?” I asked him.
“Sure many times. And I have never had a bad trip. The stuff is supposed to be mind expanding. And the visuals you’ll see are awesome. Compared to `shrooms, this stuff is way better. Wish it wasn’t so illegal. Fucking government officials don’t know what they’re missing out on. They’re just making rules without knowing how good for the mind this stuff really is.”
“But, what are the side effects. And if this is such a cool drug, then why are people dying from it. And why is it considered illegal?” I wondered.
What is LSD (acid)?
LSD, otherwise known as lysergic acid diethylamide, was “discovered in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist” purely by accident (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 53) while trying to develop a “series of compounds derived from ergot alkaloids” (Ray and Ksir 326). It wasn’t until 1943, however, when he actually ingested 25 micrograms of it to record the effects (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 53). LSD itself is a clear and odorous liquid that is ingested to produce strong hallucinations and perspective altering chemicals. The average dose is equal to that of ” 30 to 50 micrograms” in which the effects of higher doses can “persist for 10 to 12 hours” (Lyman and Potter 35).
There are many different types of acid available on the street. Lyman and Potter’s book, Drugs in Society, describes three different forms :
1. Window Pane, a gelatinous square, that is ingested throughout the mouth and contains one dose (hit) of acid. (35)
2. Blotter Acid, the most common form on the market, which is composed of tiny squares of paper that has LSD dropped on it. (35)
3. Micro Dot, or the tablet version, is a recent form of acid that contains the most potent forms of the drug. (35)
In order for the effects to occur, LSD must be ingested. The most common effects of ingestion of this drug include modification of one’s perceptions (mostly visual) and distortions in spatial relations ( Ray and Ksir 331). I’ve also been told stories about how some people “hear colors and see sounds” while under LSD’s influence.
Why would someone drop acid?
People take drugs for various reasons. Some do it to expand their perspectives of the world, others do it to escape from their daily routine. Taking LSD is no different than any other drug, and like any other drug these reasons apply to those who drop acid. The government, hoping to discover a drug to cure mental disorders, used LSD as a test drug due to its properties of accessing different brain areas (Ray and Ksir 328). Aldous Huxley, an American writer and LSD user, stated once that, “psychedelic drugs wash away the many years of rigid socialization and programming we have been exposed to, and permit us to perceive that which we have learned to ignore” (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 54).
It triggers emotions, visions and sometimes it even paralyses. There are even stories about how it triggers something in the brain that allows one to “bowl a 220 score” or get straight A’s in class. The grid appeared after 15 minutes of my digestion. My guide (one that helps first timers through their experience) warned me about this. He was there the entire time, showing me the world through my new vision. For the most part, I was completely unaware he existed. It was a voice inside my head, a reassurance that things were going to be aright and that nothing would happen to me. The world melted together in a rush of color and sound, my mind awake to take in the new beauty. I felt as if the world had been transported into a computer and everything composed of byte-sized squares. God I never hope this feeling leaves my soul, I whispered. But this thought , along with the thousand other ideas my mind reaches to grasp, fleet.
I had taken only one hit. Yet the trip lasted for over 6 hours and each wave receding a little less than the last. I talked to God and learned what it is like to be a part of a higher organization, free from the limitations of this mortal coil. I melted into the past, I danced with the future. That day, I learned what it was to really be alive and free from worry.
Why does society label LSD dropping a form of deviance?
The social construction of LSD as a deviant behavior mostly appeared because it “posed a uniquely damaging potential; to some, the threat it seemed to pose [against our society and its moral fabrics] was massive” (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 56). Therefore a panic occurred in the late 1960’s over the behavior of taking acid. It was during this period that dropping acid was considered amoral and deviant not because of overuse and abuse but because of the “effects” LSD allegedly has. These effects were then reported falsely by the media who in turn fueled the public’s acid scare.
Fueled by the media and inaccurate reports sent out by scientists, this moral panic began at a grassroots level (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 54). The grassroots theory of moral panics occurs when the panic begins at the public level. The media during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s portrayed drugs as a popular way to escape the social issues of the changing world. Namely, LSD provided Americans with a way to escape from thinking about the Vietnam conflict or the civil rights movements fueled by student “hippie” activists, during the 1960’s. In March 1967, Science magazine published a report demonstrating “that LSD damaged human chromosomes” when in fact later it was reported that it “is an extremely weak gene-altering agent, exceedingly unlikely to cause chromosomal abnormalities in the doses typically taken (Dishotsky et.al. cited in Goode and Ben-Yehuda 56).
This type of reporting and false information lead the public to believe that LSD was indeed a major problem and that the government had to do something about the problem. However, once the public and sensationalized media targeted LSD as a source of concern in the United States, the government had to do something about it. Contrary to many beliefs, LSD is the only drug “taken by users most episodically and occasionally, least regularly and chronically” so much so that the Great Acid Scare of the 1960’s nowadays seems comical to us (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 56). Yet, the proponents for the use of LSD in controlled environments believed otherwise.
Proponents for the use of acid included scholars and writers who were using the drug to expand their mental awareness. Writers like Aldous Huxley who, in 1954, “took mescaline and described his experiences in slim, poetic volume” that fueled the public’s desire to experiment with the drug along with psychologist Timothy Leary who spearheaded the advocacy of LSD as a beneficial drug to humanity (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 54). Once the book was published, the American youth decided that acid may be a new thrill and they wanted to “try it and see what it was like.” This aspect of the thrill seekers along with the scientific reports on the effects of acid on the human chromosome lead the government to crack down the FDA drug laws, so that LSD became outlawed and an example of deviant behavior.
Re-entering the Test
So that was it. My first experience. Nothing wrong with me at all. As a matter of fact I feel better, more aware of life and what it offers than I had been before I took it. I will probably do it again and again, to regain this incredible experience. Even the thrill of buying it, defying the government sent shocks up and down my spine. Let the public think what they want about acid. It’s their fault that such a mind altering drug isn’t available to them.
To buy and try or not to buy and try is a personal question. Even though the government believes there are destructive physical and emotional effects of dropping acid, ultimately the decision to use it is up to the individual. In controlled environments, usually done with a guide or used for medical research purposes, LSD can be a benefit to our society.
Goode, Erich and Nachman Ben-Yehuda. Moral Panics : the Social Construction of Deviance. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994. 54-56.
Lyman, Michael D. and Gary W. Potter. Drugs in Society. Ohio : Anderson Publishing Co., 1991.
Ray, Oakley and Charles Ksir. Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior,6th edition. St. Louis : Mosby, 1990. 324- 335.