Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal

Shroder_Tom_AcidTest_cover_expandedAttitudes towards the healing powers of psychedelics seem to be changing, says Tom Shroder, the author of a new book on the subject. And, according to some researchers, their incredible efficacy is due to their ability to unleash the mind’s own “innate healing intelligence”.

The award winning journalist and ex-editor of The Washington Post Magazine spoke to The Eternities podcast about his latest work, Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal, which looks at the history of psychedelic therapy from the fifties to the present day.

He said, “Our system, as biased as it might have been against psychedelics, certainly was based on [a] belief that science could prove something, and science [has been] proving the efficacy of these drugs … in clinical conditions. They’re plenty safe enough. In fact, they’re much safer than most other drugs used in psychiatry. So, you can’t argue with the science.”

One of the three main figures in the book is Dr Michael Mithoefer, a psychiatrist at the forefront of psychedelic therapy research. In the podcast, Shroder tells how Mithoefer, previously an emergency room physician, saw a parallel between his two clinical roles. As an ER doctor, he couldn’t directly heal his patients but only remove obstructions to the body’s own natural healing pathways. “He felt it was the same in the psyche,” said Shroder. “If you remove the obstructions, and give the psyche the room it needed … it [can] heal itself. There is an innate healing intelligence.”

Shroder tells of therapists in the seventies and early eighties – before the DEA decided, against the evidence, to ban the therapeutic use of MDMA – allegedly achieving in just a few sessions the kind of successes that couldn’t even be accomplished in fifteen years of traditional therapy.

Also discussed in the podcast is the case of one of Mithoefer’s patients, Nick Blackston, a former Marine who served in Iraq, now seemingly cured of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), thanks largely to MDMA assisted therapy. The third main personality in the book is the indomitable campaigner Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), whose organization is currently raising funds for clinical trials of MDMA as a tool to assist PTSD psychotherapy.

Shroder told The Eternities, “[W]e have a trillion dollar commitment to these half a million vets who have come back with PTSD, in terms of disability and healthcare. The Pentagon has enough loose change in their couch cushions to fund this research … and the FDA has the regulatory authority to declare this an urgent need drug and to put it on a fast track. Neither of those things are happening. The Pentagon hasn’t contributed a dime.”

“There is another side to this,” said Shroder. “The nature of the psychedelic experience does not only benefit people with mental illness. Johns Hopkins university is also researching psychedelics and they did an initial study [with] problem free volunteers. [S]eventy per cent of the people who participated said this was one of the five most significant experiences of their lifetime, and thirty percent said it was the single most significant experience of their lives.”

“I’ve had a lot of excerpts [of Acid Test] printed in various places [from] The Atlantic to Psychology Today to Salon and the Washington Post. There are not many comments that say ‘oh, these crazy drug fiends!’ Instead, they’re saying ‘yes, I’ve had experiences, I know how valuable these drugs are’. There are millions of people in the US and around the world who have had experiences with psychedelics that they’ve found to be valuable many years later, and, in fact, the people moving this research forward all along are in that group.”

Listen to The Eternities podcast interview with Tom Shroder.


Martin Higgins

Martin Higgins is a journalist, podcaster and novelist. In 2012 he published Human+, described by as "a science-fiction page-turner inspired by futures studies, psychic spy research, and the transhumanist movement". In 2017 he became a co-Founder and Media Director of Ankorus. He is based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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10 Comments on "Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Oct 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm |

    the most powerful drug on earth
    is the placebo (aka: the human mind)
    it would be intetesting to see if psychedelics
    can top the placebo
    since reality is in reality
    not even as substantial as a psychedelic trip

    • sharkonwhisky | Oct 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm |

      In a similar vein, the Inca considered maize to be of their most sacred hallucinogens, as consuming it would sustain a person and allow them to hallucinate reality into being, so they considered it up there with their psychedelic sacraments in terms of power. But on the psychedelics/placebo front, psychedelics can and do trump placebos and have done in a range of different studies looking at quite different things.

      • BuzzCoastin | Oct 6, 2014 at 8:29 pm |

        essentially the psychedelic treatment
        is about money
        some % of 1 trillion
        these “psychedelics”
        are all pig pharma based
        and LSD was/is a CIA supported drug

        wanna cure these poor souls
        stop sending them there in the first place
        cause there’s no puttin the tothpaste back in with LSD
        juz ask Charlie

        • sharkonwhisky | Oct 7, 2014 at 4:18 am |

          I don’t know man, if it were about money it would make much more sense to keep people on pharmaceuticals that they need to consume daily, like the current band-aid, symptom treating approach of depression. Psychedelics will I guess need to be supplied by the pharmaceutical industry as this is simply how the current system works regarding drug supply.

          And just because the CIA used LSD in experiments does not in any way detract from the very expansive body of scientific research showing how useful it can be in helping and healing people. A tool itself is not good or bad, it is how it is used that decides this. I’m all for no more silly wars, but with 22 US vets committing suicide ever day we need to come up with some viable solutions to healing them, and fast.

          • BuzzCoastin | Oct 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm |

            I personally know
            a retired army air calvery major
            who eats prescribed special k
            like candy
            to treat his ptsd
            he’s been on it for years now
            that’s how it will go with the others

          • sharkonwhisky | Oct 7, 2014 at 12:43 pm |

            Well that sucks man but recent studies have found that MDMA can relieve PTSD in military veterans at a rate of around 80% with just a view sessions in a psychotherapeutic context. And once this is complete one doesn’t need to keep dosing, that ain’t how it works. Cannabis may be a better buffer against the effects of PTSD in the meantime.

    • Reuben the Red | Oct 7, 2014 at 9:40 pm |

      Well said Buzzer: “The most powerful drug on earth is the placebo, aka the human mind.” Also the most important sexual organ. Highly quotable. Meaning I will be quoting this and pretending I thought of it myself.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Oct 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm |

    “[W]e have a trillion dollar commitment to these half a million vets who have come back with PTSD, in terms of disability and healthcare.

    this trillion dollars has everyone trippin balls
    wanna stop PTSD?
    let then trip before they enlist

    • Reuben the Red | Oct 7, 2014 at 9:45 pm |

      Not joining the military radically lowers your chances of developing PTSD. Not joining the military radically lowers your chances of murdering innocent civilians and having nightmares about it for the rest of your life. Not joining the military also radically reduces your chances of being a homeless helpless alcoholic for the rest of your life. Not joining the military is also good for the people you would have killed, and their families. Everyone should really consider not joining the military.

  3. ‘They’re plenty safe enough. In fact, they’re much safer than most other drugs used in psychiatry. So, you can’t argue with the science.”’

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