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Chandler and Hartman - LSD treatment can be dangerous unless the psychiatrist has had plenty of it himself

Identifier

025822

Type of Spiritual Experience

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A description of the experience

Time Magazine, March 28, 1960

In Hollywood, it was only natural that psychiatric patients undergoing analytic treatment should have visions in wide screen, full colour, and observe themselves from cloud nine. What is remarkable is that these phenomena - experienced by (among others) such glossy personalities as Cary Grant and his third exwife [sic], Betsy Drake - are reported in the cold, grey scientific columns of the A.M.A.'s Archives of General Psychiatry ... Now from the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills, Drs. Arthur L. Chandler and Mortimer A. Hartman report using LSD as a "facilitating agent" in treating 110 patients.

... After four foodless hours, patients are ensconced on a couch in a comfortable, carpeted room with classical music piped in. After the tasteless shot of as little as a millionth of an ounce of LSD in water, they lie down and are fitted with blinders (a "sleep shield"). To make sure that they shut out external stimuli, some also wear wax and cotton earplugs ... Even with all [the] safeguards, say Drs. Chandler and Hartman, LSD treatment can still be dangerous unless the psychiatrist has had plenty of it himself. It is not enough for him to have taken it once or twice "to see what it's like"; they insist that the psychiatrist should have had 20 to 40 sessions with it ... the patient has illusions - not hallucinations, the doctors insist, because he does not believe in them. Instead of "hearing voices," as in schizophrenia, he enjoys visions. These visions may be timeless and seemingly unrelated to past or present experience. But often they consist of incredibly vivid, colourful scenes from the recent past, or from a childhood remembered with superhuman accuracy:

 'Some patients describe it by saying that it is as though a 3-D tape were being run off in the visual field."

Long-forgotten childhood fantasies may be mixed with real memories, some going back (as patients testify that their parents have confirmed) to life's first year ... Whatever the visions' content, most important is the fact that the patient seems able to stand aside and report vividly observed conflicts, dredged from his deepest unconscious and acted out before him. Somehow, his sharpened insight is able to function independently of his emotions. The more he "goes with the drug," the more he can stand aside and see himself as he has been.

Who benefits from LSD plus psychotherapy? Drs. Chandler and Hartman had 44 neurotics, 25 cases of personality disorder ... and 17 who had been addicted to alcohol or narcotics or both ... No fewer than 50 of their patients took LSD dozens of times in stepped-up doses ... No fewer than 50 of their patients, the doctors report, showed considerable to outstanding improvement, while 38 more showed at least some improvement. Only 22 were rated as having shown no benefit. Most gratifying was the success with victims of notoriously resistant types of illness - addicts and obsessive-compulsives.

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