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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

New Hope for Alcoholics.

Hoffer, Abram, and Osmond, Humphry. (1968).
New Hyde Park, NY: University Books.

ISBN: none

Description: Hardcover, 252 pages.

Contents: Introduction, 13 chapters.

Excerpt(s): About four o'clock one morning, sometime in 1953, in a hotel room in Ottawa, Ontario, we were discussing LSD and its uses, and delirium tremens in alcoholism. We hit upon the idea that perhaps the LSD experience could be made a model of delirium tremens and could therefore be developed into a treatment for alcoholism. If we modeled the worst in natural DT's, we thought, we could persuade our alcoholic patients not to drink anymore and so avoid the unpleasant result of drinking too much for too long. (page 54).

By 1957, however, it was apparent that even though many of our patients were helped by LSD, it was not the psychotomimetic (model-psychosis type) experience which was responsible. In spite of our best efforts to produce a frightening experience, some of our subjects had been escaping into a spiritual or religious type of experience. The LSD experience, pleasant or unpleasant, seemed sufficient to maintain the 50 percent sobriety rate established from the beginning.

We found that the experience was influenced to a great extent by the attitude of the people working with the patient, and the environment in which the drug was taken. Staff members who had had an insightful LSD experience, or who had participated in many sessions as observers, knew what the subject was experiencing and were better able to help him. On the other hand, staff who were unsympathetic, hostile and without feeling brought about fear and hostility in the patient. Allowing staff members to have an LSD experience automatically changed their attitudes by greatly increasing their empathy with the subject or patient. (pages 57-58).

Dr. Hubbard's method was designed to create a relaxed, pleasant situation most apt to lead to a transcendental or psychedelic experience, which some describe as being mystical or religious. This method was not radically different from the methods which had been developed in Saskatchewan. But he did demonstrate the value of visual and auditory aids such as paintings, art and music. He also showed great skill and sensitivity in his discussions with patients under LSD. In general, it appeared his method would be more apt to give alcoholic patients the psychedelic experience that we considered was important. (page 58).

This method was tried in Saskatchewan and proved successful. It was found that music and paintings had a profound effect. One volunteer wrote, "The music was inside my head and floating out through my closed eyes and I was outside my body feeling and hearing with my soul. When I opened my eyes, I looked upon a familiar yet unfamiliar room, and saw familiar yet unfamiliar people, and I was looking down upon them as from aeons of space away and with an overflowing feeling of love, happiness and pity my home was all the world. My beginning was the beginning of time, the past, the present and the future. I saw the world I had left as gray and meaningless, where people bound themselves to manmade reckoning of time and space and divided themselves into hostile competitive groups, and tried to find God in rigidly organized ritualistic religions."

Many investigators about this time had also become aware that LSD did not always model schizophrenia as we know it. On the contrary, many subjects had unusually vivid, insightful and happy experiences from which they derived a good deal of understanding about themselves, about others and about their relation to the cosmos. (page 59).

The only factor which was significant to abstinence was the kind of experience the subject had. Those claiming a transcendental experience, without signs of physical distress or disturbance after the treatment, were much better even though they may have experienced depression as well. Only 6 percent of those who continued to drink had this kind of experience. Only one patient of the 68 later developed paranoid symptoms. (pages 61-62).

The objective of the therapist is very important. The therapist who treats his patients with the purpose of getting them well will look for and emphasize factors in the experience which he believes to be relevant to the problem. Sometimes this means dampening other facets of the experience, such as using drugs to reduce perceptual changes. Often it means encouraging the patient to think about alcohol and what it is doing to himself and his family. We encourage our patients to think about God and this frequently brings about the psychedelic reaction. Some of them, though they can't find God, will nevertheless respond by having an insightful or revelatory reaction during which they can see themselves and others with clinical objectivity. (page 96).

In spite of our success, and the success of others in treating alcoholics with LSD, many psychiatrists and some psychologists reject this treatment on the grounds that people cannot change permanently in a short time. Personality, they believe, is a stable attribute of man, and cannot change rapidly and permanently. ...

Yet history is full of sudden transformations. Alcoholics Anonymous originated from such changes. Religions have sprung up from transcendental experiences. ...

Dr. S. E. Jensen, who used our large-dose technique while in Saskatchewan, sees the spiritual transcendental experience as having such a strong and powerful emotional impact that the patient is overwhelmed and has what can be described as a conversion. This type of experience, he says, makes it easier for the patient to accept AA's idea of a Higher Power, and with it comes the humility which AA considers so important in maintaining sobriety. (page 101)

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