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Why was LSD banned?

In 1968, LSD was banned and classed as a schedule I drug. This was despite the drug having very low mortality rates and being used extensively in psychological studies via universities around the world. Why was LSD considered dangerous by those in power and eventually banned?

Early use of LSD before it was banned

After first being synthesised in 1938 by Albert Hofman, LSD was left largely untouched until 1943.

Despite this, it was only in the 1950s that LSD became popular within the academic circles with numerous studies being conducted.

The CIA was also involved in conducting these studies with the help of American universities, sometimes without the universities’ explicit knowledge.

It was through these scientific studies that LSD slowly but surely escaped the laboratory and became available to the public.

Dr. Timothy Leary, a psychologist from Harvard University, was conducting studies on psilocybin and LSD during this time. After leaving Harvard, Leary became one of the main proponents for popularising LSD and spreading knowledge of the drug to the public.

The 1960s – the “cultural decade”

The 1960s was a time of great change throughout the western world and psychedelic drugs such as LSD had a profound impact on this change.

The Cold War between the USA and the USSR was in its peak with the Vietnam War raging and the Cuban missile crisis occurring towards the end of the decade.

During this time was a significant amount of upheaval within American culture. The idea of the Nuclear Family ended and was eventually replaced by a new idea of consumerism, but before this occurred, there was another idea.

A new counterculture emerged from the college campuses of the U.S. and were called “hippies”. They rejected many of societies norms, they had communal living arrangements, vegetarian diets and often ignored regular jobs and careers.

One key aspect of the hippie movement was the recreational use of drugs such as cannabis or LSD, which they believed was a way to expand consciousness. Music and their festivals were also key elements of the hippie movement. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones were all closely linked with the hippie movement of the 1960s.

Why were hippies a problem for the government?

While hippies were advocating for love and peace, the American government was facing many troubles which ultimately led to LSD being banned.

The Vietnam War continued to rage longer than anyone had expected and had stoked the flames of the Civil Rights Movement as young African-Americans were shipped to Vietnam while still facing persecution back at home.

Muhammed Ali famously refused service and was sentenced to prison for doing so. The hippies were strong protesters against the war. This shouldn’t be underestimated how pivotal this is for the history of the USA.

Post world war two there and the rise of the Cold War had created a clear and distinct enemy for the American people, the USSR, and Communism. The 1950s consisted of the McCarthyite years and a culture of fear.

While the hippie culture was using LSD to expand their consciousness, the American government was engaging in secret trials of LSD for mind control.

The 1960s and the hippie movement coupled with the civil rights movement was the first time that the American government had faced severe pressure from its citizens in decades.

What was to blame for this? The American government nailed one answer, drugs and with that LSD was banned.


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