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Why Are You Trippin'?

wdegue's picture

The I-function, as explained in Neurobiology 220, at Bryn Mawr College is one’s ability to make internal executive decisions that can and do affect one’s overall behavior and life. In order for one to make decisions that are socially-sound and ethically-viable, one needs the I-function, better known as the ego[1]. The I-function is highly important in exhibiting caution, thoughtfulness, and logical pattern in any one individual. However, it does not exist within a sphere that is not influenced by other factors.

In this paper, using Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25) as an example, I will examine how interested parties, including high ranking government officials and organization, have put many people’s lives at risk to find “the truth drug” that has the potential to completely alter one’s personality and the I-function. First I will provide a short summary on the book Acid Dreams the complete social history of LSD: the CIA, the sixties, and beyond. Furthermore, I will explore how controlling people’s minds and perceptions are some of the most sought after effects in many fields today, including the media. Then I will delve into a discussion of whether or not the I-function truly exists, or is simply a making of our social environment.

Natural and chemicals drugs have always been points of contention for both the public and the government. For years, spiritual leaders have focused on finding natural herbs that can lead to a higher state of being, while secret government departments pour money into chemical research to find drugs that can modify human behavior and enable better espionage projects. However, nothing captured the attention of the world as much as the Hallucinogenic drug; Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25). Created in 1943 by Dr. Albert Hoffman, the drug took a slow start and then exploded into the market to become not only a government secret but created a social movement that we continue to see the remnants of to this day.

In the early 1980’s, with new information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain embarked on a project, investigating the government and the public’s social use of LSD. In 1985 they produced a historical and sociological account through their book Acid Dreams the complete social history of LSD: the CIA, the sixties, and beyond.

The book can be separated into two segments. It first provides data and reconstructs the use of LSD within the government and its many departments that were involved in search of the mysterious “Truth Drug” or “TD” that would make spies talk and possibly make them vulnerable enough to change loyalty from one government to the next. (Lee and Shlain, 1985). The book explains how through desperation, at times confusion, LSD became a central research area for project MKULTRA, the code name for a CIA mind-control research program that began in the 1950s and continued until the late 1960s when the drug was deemed too unpredictable for their purposes.

The second part is a sociological account of the sixties when LSD found a niche in the ideologies of free love, liberation, and hippies. It explores the continually growing drug trade, its influence on the social psyche of the west and the world. It provides the etymology for current colloquial language such as ‘tripping’, ‘bomb’, and ‘knockout.’ It exposes how the CIA and other high governmental agencies gave immunity to chemists from the Nazi-regime to further their goals, completely disregarding social morals. In addition, it illustrates how trials by secret government agents on college students, prostitutes, and lay citizens got the drug out of the lab and into the hands of coerced citizens. The authors explain how the outsourcing of the drug gave rise to the psychedelic revolution that took place in the late sixties and continued well into the seventies. Ultimately LSD became a double-edged sword. The drug that the CIA had hope would serve as an espionage weapon, psychiatric pioneers came to believe was an acid that would shed light on the perplexing problems of mental illness. All the while artists, hippies, and college students, among others see the drug as an enlightenment enabler to the greater meaning of the world and humanity.

The various ways through which LSD came to be interpreted lead us to another point of this analysis: mind control. Changing people’s perceptions of themselves and their surroundings is the ultimate goal for many institutionalized bodies. It is not something that is particular to the US government; it is a practice that is evident in what movie makers, commercials, schools and a plethora of other institutionalized groups are trying to achieve. However in order to further a cause, belief, or way of reasoning a certain level of conditioning needs to occur, and that is where the I-function becomes important.

Take for instance three dimensional (3D) movies. They are becoming increasingly popular and focus on giving one the experience of altered perception. “The picture [of a 3D movie] contains two differently filtered colored images, one for each eye. When viewed through the color coded anaglyph glasses, they reveal an integrated stereoscopic image. The visual cortex of the brain fuses this into perception of a three dimensional scene or composition” (Wikipedia, 2007). This experience produces a superficially altered sense of reality. Changing viewers’ perception, thus, the working of their I-function assists in causing them to react to matters differently to stimuli at a 3D movie. Therefore, when a drug like LSD, can facilitate this process on a regular basis it is always welcome, for with intake, LSD influences one on various levels and often strongly inhibits the I-function.

Subsequently I would argue that the I-function does not really exist as an automatic aspect of the human experience. What one claims to be right is wrong for another. The I-function as a product of one’s environment, determines what one sees as good and bad and leads one to respond to those stimuli accordingly. Take sleep for instance, regardless of how one fights it, at the end of the day, one will fall asleep against their best wishes. However, one’s personality is a continuum that is constantly being readjusted and can be altered completely by drugs. Therefore, drugs like LSD, that can completely shatter one’s I-function/ego, are just another way through which we can examine how the I-function is of a making of our social/cultural environment.

Today, in 2007, LSD is returning to the public eye after being banned for over three decades. According to Times magazine, the Beckley Foundation, a British trust, is the first research organization to receive permission to re-open what some might call a Pandora’s Box. The trust will be researching LSD’s therapeutic benefits for mentally ill patients; a route that has been ventured before, but this time with renewed techniques and higher hopes. It is evident that all drugs have positive and negative aspects; it is now up to the newer generations to decide how they will perceive and use LSD. In the meantime, it will remain the drug that changed the relationship between men and chemicals forever by threading fear, frustration, betrayal, and much heartache in its wake.

In this paper, I aimed to begin a discussion on how playing with reality has always been highly important in various circles, from the government to the entertainment industry and beyond. We came to see that the I-function; as an entity that is able to sustain itself, has many flaws. In these matters, there is yet to be a conclusive voice, and I doubt there ever will be, for the beauty of it all is that we are constantly changing and so is the world around us

[1] I am making that connection for I believe that the I-function does serve as a the ego to keep us; as humans, in line with societal norms.

Work Cited:

1:Lee, Martin A. and Shlain, Bruce., Acid Dreams the complete social history of LSD: the CIA, the sixties, and beyond. Revised Evergreen Edition, 1992

2:Wikipedia ., Anaglyph Image , 2007