Sunday, April 11, 2010

A. A., LSD, and SZ

Doctors Abram Hoffer and Humphrey Osmond had a pronounced biochemical approach to alcoholism and schizophrenia. Their research showed niacin (vitamin B3) was an effective treatment in combination with vitamin C and other B-vitamins. Bill W. and A.A. had taken a more spiritual approach to the understanding of alcoholism, which had been derived from the teachings of the Oxford Group (later renamed Moral Rearmament).

Bill W. was introduced to these doctors in the 1950s, initially because of their work using LSD and mescaline on their schizophrenic and alcoholic patients in Saskatchewan. In the case of alcoholics they noticed that many who had once experienced an attack of delirium tremens swore off alcohol for good. Hoffer and Osmond thought that if they introduced LSD under controlled settings to alcoholics, it would give them a taste of what was in store for them if they continued to drink.

Bill W. at first resisted the idea of giving alcoholics more drugs, but later changed his mind. His thinking was not what Hoffer and Osmond were thinking, though. "It was not the material itself that actually produces these experiences. It seems to have the result of sharply reducing the forces of the ego -- temporarily, of course. It is a generally acknowledge fact in spiritual development that ego reduction makes the influx of God's grace

Many psychiatrists at this time also acknowledged that a high percentage of alcoholics were also schizophrenics and reasoned that LSD was one way of shortening the long process of psychotherapy. I couldn't agree more. Should we have to wait for a random chance encounter with God's grace if there is some way we can experience it sooner?

The non-chemical experience that Chris has been undertaking recently with the sound shaman seems as close to LSD as you can get and still be legal. Chris tells me he feels happy, but he knows he doesn't look especially happy and he is very unsure of what he wants. Chris these days reminds me of Aldous Huxley's quote. "The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance but better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries forever, vainly, to comprehend."

A.A. outside of Bill W. wasn't keen to align itself with LSD. It was nonetheless a controversial drug and only became more so once it found its way into street use in the 1960s.

From 'PASS IT ON' The story of Bill Wilson and how the A.A. message reached the world, Alcoholics Anonymous World Service, Inc. 1984, pg. 383-385.


  1. I would advocate against introducing more chemicals that alter brain function. What needs to be altered is the context within which the individual thinks and from this context the individual's brain will produce its own chemical responses that will allow her to function.

    With respect to the individuals who were alcoholics and coincidentally schizophrenic in many cases likely experienced psychosis because of their alcohol use. Similarly, many individuals who use marijuana and are coincidentally schizophrenic are experiencing psychosis as a consequence of their marijuana use.

  2. For me, whatever pathway allows someone to heal is valid. There is also a body of opinion that holds the opposite of what you put forward, that alcoholics drink to cover signs of psychosis. Very heavy lifetime alcohol use can also lead to eventual florid psychosis. It is also said that people smoke to self-medicate psychosis in many cases. Whatever the cause, it's certainly a problem.

  3. I've heard all the arguments regarding use of alcohol and marijuana as attempts to self medicate and I don't buy them. They serve the biochemical model of the condition and the proposed need for medication.

    People drink and use drugs for the same reasons they break into a psychotic state. They are attempting to alter their reality because they cannot cope with the context within which they are living their lives.


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