Sunday, August 25, 2019

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A History in Technicolor

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Disclaimer:  I don't care much for LSD's effects personally.  The one time I tried it was so unpleasant it actually marked the last time I took any psychedelic.  I fixated on the banality of social interaction, death & other unpleasant thoughts.  Just when I thought the misery was ending I was struck with a bolt of painful diarrhea as the 'cid apparently reached my large intestine, causing all kinds of havoc.  I made about 8 trips across the festival grounds in the scorching August sun to the Port-O-Potties until a friend gave me some Imodium to end my suffering.  

Still, I find reading about psychedelics like LSD fascinating.  The typical response to acid is waves of electrified bliss & an expanded consciousness streaked with visual hallucinations like fractals & colorful distortions.  It leaves users in awe of their surroundings much like a child experiencing the world for the first time.  A bad trip, on the other hand, can cause immense feelings of fear coupled with dark & frightening hallucinations & negative thoughts.  My "bad" trips don't ever include fear or panic...just a depressed mood & physical fatigue.  I always turn inward on psychedelics & find myself not wanting to be social whatsoever which is just a magnification of my normal personality.  

LSD's history is as colorful as the hallucinations it causes.  After the government experimented with it on unsuspecting volunteers under the MK-ULTRA program, it leaked out into the general population via Ken Kesey & other brave psychonauts where it began to be synthesized in clandestine labs on a gigantic scale.  Acid was actually legal in California for the first half of the 1960s, during which time Owsley Stanley & his apprentice Tim Scully made the bulk of the street acid taken by hippies.  Their White Lightning batch contained 270 micrograms & was produced at their rented house in Point Richmond, California.  Owsley claimed it to be 99.9% pure.  They pumped out more than 300,000 tabs of this batch before LSD was banned in '66 in California & they moved their lab to Denver, CO, across the street from the Denver Zoo.  

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  Owsley "Bear" Stanley (left) & Tim Scully

The next famous batch turned out by Scully & Owsley was Monterey Purple, named for the seminal Monterey Pop Festival where it was to be distributed.  This batch also contained 270 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylemide & 100,000 tabs were produced.  The Monterey Pop Festival kicked off the Summer of Love & featured artists like Jimi Hendrix (seen below taking a tab of Monterey Purple), The Mamas & The Papas, Janis Joplin & Otis Redding.  Things were still innocent & idealistic at this point--the hippie movement was just being born & the counterculture was in full bloom.  Lighting Director Chip Monck, whose film of Woodstock drew thousands of lost kids to San Francisco, accidentally ingested some Monterey Purple when he swallowed what he thought to be a Dexedrine tablet in the shape of a purple heart.  It was his first acid trip & totally impaired his ability to film.  As a result, the second half of the movie was filmed in red.   


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Hendrix taking Monterey Purple at Monterey Pop Festival

Of course things wouldn't remain hunky dory forever.  

Stanley & Scully had synthesized a new amphetamine-based psychedelic called "STP" ("Serenity, Tranquility, Peace") in their Denver lab around this time that was sold at the Golden Gate Park Summer Solstice Festival of 1967.  (The drug was actually a discovery of Alexander Shulgin called DOM).  In small doses of 2-3mg, this substance produces physical stimulation & visual hallucinations lasting many hours.  But the 5,000 tablets produced by Stanley & Scully contained a whopping 20mg & were responsible for a rash of disastrous bad trips.  Worse, the drug takes a long time to kick in so some people took even MORE than the 20mg & ended up freaking completely out or injuring themselves.  The media attributed some of these "bad trips" to LSD which brought more bad press to the drug.  Owsley Stanley was also arrested for drug manufacturing around this time.  


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Nick Sand

In 1968, another eager young apprentice named Nicholas Sand joined the duo, purchasing a farmhouse in Windsor California & setting up a huge acid lab with Tim Scully.  There, they churned out over 3.6 million tablets of high-dose 300 microgram LSD hits dubbed Orange Sunshine, which became their most famous 'brand' ever.  This batch was name-dropped on Saturday Night Live & was well-known in other pop culture circles for years to come.


Nick Sand's Orange Sunshine (268ug) tabs

If you're not well-versed in the chemistry of LSD, you may be wondering:  what's the difference between White Lightning, Blue Cheer & other "strains" of acid?  Aside from the dose & purity, nothing.  LSD is LSD regardless of the name or form it comes in.  Owsley, Scully & Sand believed you could influence the effects by listening to certain music or meditating as a finished dose rolled off the production line, though this is obviously magical thinking.  Some batches came in tablet form while others were on blotters & others were dropped on sugar cubes.  All have the same effect as long as the dose is the same.  Set & setting (i.e. mindset & physical surroundings) however do play a large role in the direction of an LSD trip, so if someone has especially fond memories about a specific batch of acid it's likely due to those factors.  

Even as the idealistic 1960s drew to a dark close with the disastrous Altamont Free Concert, Manson Murders & Kent State shootings, LSD remained a staple of the drug culture.  Unfortunately, more addictive substances like cocaine, heroin & meth began to eclipse the popularity of "hippie" drugs like pot & psychedelics.  Speed Freaks overtook the Haight Ashbury district & there was a backlash against the whole youth counterculture not only by older generations but by many young people themselves.  As early as 1967, the Diggers organized a march called "The Death of Hippie" in which they carried a coffin down the street & chanted:


Hippie met its ugly death
In Buena Vista Park;
Buried with the smack and meth
With candles in the dark;
Vietnam the only trip
That had the people in its grip.

Heavy shit, maan.  😟


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"Speed Kills" ad (late '60s/early '70s)

However, as one last testament to the Golden Age of peace, love & freedom, a cargo plane flew over a rock concert in 1970, dropping thousands of packets of Orange Sunshine to cheering crowds below.  The Brotherhood of Eternal Sunshine's mission to turn on the world was complete.  What the world chose to do with their gift was up to them.  


To this day LSD is among the top 10 most popular street drugs at any given time.  It can be found at concerts & festivals like Coachella & Burning Man as well as on various Dark Net markets.  There will likely always be a fond place for this substance in the hearts of the drug culture.  Neither a tryptamine nor a phenethylamine (but containing features of both in its molecular structure), LSD is a unique psychedelic with a long history of human use & a well-documented safety profile.  It's been enjoyed by the likes of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs & Susan Sarandon & will continue to be used by many others who want to expand their inner vistas.  It's been sold in every imaginable form over the years, from windowpane squares to microdots to pure crystal, each generation having their own fond memories of the form they liked best.  

With the rise of research chemicals like 25i-NBOMe & Bromo-DragonFLY, taking LSD has become a more risky proposition.  A lot of these chemicals can be put on a blotter and sold as "acid" but are far more potent & dangerous at the same dose, making it very important to know & trust your source.  

Would love to hear your most interesting LSD story in the comments.  


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LSD microdots

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"Windowpane" acid
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LSD blotter squares
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LSD microdot & blotter vs. other substances

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