To make this trivial world sublime, Take half a Gramme of phanerothymeAldous Huxley
To fathom hell or soar angelic Just take a pinch of psychedelic.Humphry Osmond
Even more interesting was her discovery of a former asylum located in the outskirts of Weyburn, Saskatchewan that had been the birthplace cutting-edge LSD research. In her book, she focuses on the work of two psychiatrists: Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond (father of the term ‘psychedelic’), researchers based in Saskatchewan who were trying to find new ways for treating mental illness with hallucinogens like LSD and mescaline.
“The work at Weyburn was cutting edge,” says Dyck in an article published by University Affairs. “I grew up in Saskatchewan and I had never even heard of it, so I kept digging.”
The two collaborated in 1951 and their work centered around the use LSD to induce a “model psychosis” to allow practitioners and medical researchers to develop a more accurate understanding of schizophrenia. Around the same time they also began testing LSD as a possible treatment for alcoholism and other addictions.
The most remarkable aspect of this experimentation was the fact that Osmond and Hoffer used LSD by themselves before experimenting on volunteers. They even convinced an architect, Kiyoshi Izumi to ingest LSD while working on designs for a futuristic mental hospital in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Their findings led to them encouraging other professionals at their institute to use mescaline LSD as a way to build empathy while treating mental illness in their patients.
Today, their research is considered invaluable for a number of reasons: it helped establish an alternative to otherwise dangerous methods of treating mental illness such as electroconvulsive therapy, and it further played a major role in redefining alcoholism as a disease.
“They were engaged in radical psycho-pharmacological therapy that attracted a lot of international attention before LSD became part of the 1960s counterculture and lost credibility,” states Dyck.
Dyck argues that drug regulation is “inseparable from its cultural context”. In her book, she states how cultural context played a massive role in ending any research into psychedelics. The public hysteria over LSD fueling counterculture, coupled with government propaganda and fear mongering, resulted in moral panic. Researchers were finding it increasingly difficult to secure funding, volunteers, and retain staff for any clinical trials based on LSD.
By 1968, the Canadian and U.S. governments made it completely illegal. They claimed LSD had “a high potential for abuse; it has no legitimate medical use in treatment; and, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision.”
Dyck’s work goes to show how cultural attitudes, public perception, and political climate all play a significant role in research. While we are seeing a resurgence in research on psychedelics today, it’s important to note that professional, political, and moral pressure goes a long way in defining a country’s history.