LSD: Insight or Insanity?, 1968

From the NIH. A post by Professor Erika Dyck on the history of LSD.

Circulating Now from NLM

Circulating Now welcomes guest blogger Erika Dyck, PhD, Professor and Canada Research Chair in the History of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. Today, Dr. Dyck shares some insights on a recently digitized film in the Library’s collection highlighted in our Medical Movies on the Web project.

For Rebels, it’s a Kick…

It’s the late 1960s. Teenagers, a hip voice clues us in, are always looking for kicks, and today’s teens express themselves with cool fashions, groovy hairstyles, and kooky pranks. Not so long ago, our narrator played the character of “Plato,” a troubled teenager, in the 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause. In that film, Plato idolizes the reckless machismo of young Jim Stark (played by James Dean). In an epic display of bravado, Jim and another boy play a game of “chickie run” in which they drive their cars in parallel directly toward a cliff. Jim leaps…

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Mad To Be Normal

Mad To Be Normal at the glorious Glasgow Film Theatre. The film stars David Tennant in the lead role and is directed by Robert Mullan.

I was lucky to sit on a panel afterward to offer some historical gems. It was a great conversation with Matthew Smith, Luke Fowler, Richard Warden, and the other attendees…

…oh yeah, and the film was really strong. Here’s a review in the Guardian.



Podcast Announcement – Radical Mental Health Therapy

I recently had the pleasure of joining Chris Hoff on The Radical Therapist Podcast. You can listen to our lively discussion about the 1960s, long-haired hippies, and mental health services during a period of big-time change. You can download the Pod here or through iTunes. Thanks for listening and sharing! #mentalhealthawareness #healthpolicy


More Meth? Crystal Meth Business on the Rise in SK

According to the CBC, one of the noticeable trends in Regina crime last year was the rise of methamphetamine, often called crystal meth.

According to the Regina Police Service, there were 708 grams of meth seized last year, up from 308 grams in 2014. The number of meth seizures has also spiked, from 81 in 2014 to 133 in 2015.

“There’s more meth in the city,” police Chief Troy Hagen told reporters recently. “I think that we can say that with total certainty.”

The full story is here:

This is an ongoing saga. Take a look back at “Swinging at the Shadows,” from the Globe and Mail in 2004. This Regina-based account partially focuses on Mr. Lund, who pleaded guilty to what proved to be Regina’s first case of crystal meth drug trafficking, as well as to charges of weapons offences and using counterfeit currency. His story embodies the rise of the meth business.

But what does it mean?


Although crystal meth can be smoked, it can also be injected, which has the potential to make the HIV situation in the province even worse. Crystal meth can also negatively affect the immune system and this can then accelerate the progression of HIV.

In other words, the meth business is contributing to the “third world” rates of HIV infection in Saskatchewan, or what Maclean’s magazine calls our HIV epidemic.

Here’s a small section of the the Maclean’s piece that illustrates the importance of class and ethnicity:

‘The infection rate for Saskatchewan’s non-Aboriginal population is below the national average. Yet, while First Nations and Metis account for about 16 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population, they represented about 80 per cent of all new cases of HIV diagnosed in 2011, Wong told a workshop attended by a few hundred of the 6,000 delegates here. “The incidence rate in our Aboriginal population is about 88 per 100,000 [population], which is 14 times the national average, on par with various African countries.”’


Adolf Meyer and American Psychiatry

In Susan Lamb’s excellent new book, Pathologist of the Mind, we are exposed to the history of American psychiatry and Adolf Meyer.

Her express goal, as I write in the new issue of History of Psychiatry, is to rediscover Meyerian psychiatry and establish a foundation on which future scholars of psychiatry might build. The book is both a hospital history and biography of Adolf Meyer, the “most recognizable, authoritative, and influential psychiatrist in the U.S.” during the first half of the twentieth century. (3) A Swiss neurologist and psychiatrist, Meyer created the convoluted theory of psychobiology, presided over the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins University, and helped establish psychiatry as a clinical science.

For Lamb, there is a consensus within the history of psychiatry field that Meyer is “the definitive influence on the development of American psychiatry.” (8) Yet, she makes the case – which is certainly convincing – that Meyer is underrepresented in the historiography, that neither the substance nor the reception of his ideas and practices have been analyzed systematically, and, worse still, that certain prominent historians of psychiatry have marginalized his significance. Her book thus acts as a corrective.

OAMY HR_Pathologist (1)

However, Lamb’s book is not a comprehensive history of Meyerian psychiatry. She makes this abundantly clear. In covering the years 1908-1917, Pathologist of the Mind is limited to the decade in which the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore was planned, built, and run in its earliest days. It would, under Meyers’s pioneering stewardship, employ novel investigational and diagnostic practices as well a regime of bed rest, recreation, good nutrition, and social interaction – what Lamb calls an innovative “therapeutic experiment.” (23)

The basis of Lamb’s argument is nearly 2,000 patient records and Meyer’s notes, lectures, and correspondence. And, she asserts, there is so much more to be written on Adolf Meyer. In her view, scholars have “an embarrassment of archival riches and raw data” at their disposal and it could “yield stacks of diverse monographs” from a dozen different disciplinary perspectives.” (9) Her monograph was conceived as merely a starting point for a larger conversation.

A Great Beard

To the author’s credit, Meyer is not venerated. Lamb is respectful, but unintimidated. She is balanced, but not boring. On occasion, she rightfully demolishes him.

For example, Lamb’s criticism of Meyer’s impenetrable, meandering style of writing is a constant in the monograph. At the same time, with anecdotes about his mother’s troubles with mental illness and references to his unfortunate “ominous crow” nickname, Lamb successfully revives and humanizes Meyer as a meaningful character in the unfolding drama of American psychiatry. The result, I suggest, is that the reader begins to detect the shimmering outlines of a whole being, in all its uniqueness and quiddity.

As scholars, physicians, and other critics question the rise of the pharmaceutical industry and its influence on modern society (what Healy calls Pharmageddon), Lamb’s book provides valuable historical context. Her book is worth a read! The full review is here:



Twin Addictions? Zombies (i.e., The Walking Dead) and Bath Salts

In 2015, we are grappling with the addictive properties of The Walking Dead. Based on the best-selling comic book and developed for TV by Frank Darabont, the series has proven to be as enduring and enslaving as many popular drugs.


With only a month left in Season 6, many questions surround the future of Rick, Daryl, and the rest. The zombie hordes have broken through the wall. Ron has set his sights on Carl and the next episode, which is called “Start to Finish,” will likely see the end of a character. But who will it be? Who’s going to lose a body part or two? Tune in…

But zombies don’t only frequent the big and small screen. They don’t simply occupy pages of novels and graphic novels. Quite the opposite. In recent years, drug addicts on bath salts have been portrayed as nightmarish zombies tearing at the flesh of unwitting victims. Let me explain.

bath salts

Bath salts are examples of new classes of designer drugs, which are sometimes referred to as “legal highs.” These are substances with psychotropic effects that have been or are marketed and distributed for recreational use by exploiting gaps in existing drug legislation. Another popular example is the synthetic cannabinoids (“fake marijuana”) marketed under names such as Spice.

In 2012, the Americans made bath salts illegal through the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act and then with the Synthetic Cathinones Control Act a year later. At roughly the same time, Canada introduced measures to ban the key ingredient in bath salts, methlyenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

The move to schedule and control the drug was surely warranted, yet one can easily detect how the drug was sensationalized as part of this process. Lurid and grotesque stories were reported about bath salts, including the naked zombie attacker who was shot by police in Miami while biting a victim’s face. Rudy Eugene, the face-chewing “zombie,” wasn’t on any bath salts, contrary to a majority of the stories.

Yet, the nation went into full-on moral panic mode. From PBS and Spin to Forbes and GQ magazine, the public was exposed to the new menace in American society. It was the stuff of nightmares. It was a Zombie Bath Salt Apocalypse.

The Big Picture

Cathinones are naturally occurring amphetamine-like substances that come from Khat, a plant found in eastern Africa which has been chewed since at least the tenth century. Synthetic cathinones, not surprisingly, are lab-created derivatives of this compound, dating back to 1928 or so.

By the 1990s, the use/misuse of the synthetic cathinones began to pop up on radar screens and became an issue with law enforcement and government officials.

Before the recent regulation in the past few years, the designer “bath salts” were purchased from dealers, through online distributors, or at book stores, gas stations, and head shops. They got the nickname because they resembled the everyday Epsom salts that bath-lovers pour in their water when they take a soothing soak.

But there are trade names as well: “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” “Ocean Burst,” “Monkey Dust,” “Sextacy,” “Vanilla Sky,” and “White Lightning” are just some of the varieties one can put in the body rather than the bathtub. Tough to detect, they can be snorted, smoked, or injected.

And the effects of these are similar to MDMA. Users have reported increased energy and empathy, more sociability, and mental and sexual stimulation. The negative side effects of bath salts, on the other hand, have included difficulty breathing, fatigue, insomnia, muscle twitching, nausea, paranoia, violent behavior, and tachychardia.

A Vicious Circle

Compared to traditional psychotropic drugs (cocaine and LSD, for instance), there is relatively scant medical information available. That has not prevented its assignment to the category of Schedule I, meaning it has no known and accepted medical use.

Yet certain researchers raise interesting points. One is that classifying bath salts as schedule I substances without pre-clinical or human research is very problematic.

This move restricts the number of laboratories and institutions with licenses to study the bath salts. As a result, finding an accepted medical use becomes even more difficult, even though there have been suggestions that bath salts could be a viable alternative to amphetamines in dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or severe, treatment-resistant Depression.

This is, in short, a case of the snake eating its tail, and one does not have to look any further than LSD to detect some historical parallels. In the late 1960s, the recreational abuse of LSD as well as the anti-authority, counter-cultural, and outright malevolent images associated with it helped to scuttle research. Now, after over forty years, LSD has begun to make a slow return, and perhaps even a comeback.


Hyperbole and inaccurate information played a role in the scheduling and controlling of LSD, in other words. This was also the case when it was reported that crazed Mexicans who smoked marijuana went on vicious rampages, or when it was reported that Chinese workers were raping white women in opium dens while customers were “Chasing the Dragon.” With bath salts, which are the latest in a long line of drugs used for their euphoric effects, this hyperbole was readily apparent.

No, bath salts will not turn you into a cannibalistic criminal like Rudy Eugene in Miami. And, no, bath salts will not give you super strength. But the media had no problems in pushing such narratives on news consumers.

Should we be surprised about this type of journalism? Or that it dovetailed with the first synthetic cathinone legislation in 2012, which was passed the same month as the attack? Far from. If anything, the history of drug policy demonstrates how predictable this is.

In the future, the best way to avoid cowering in bed (or hiding behind a big wall) in the face of an imminent zombie bath salt apocalypse is with candor. It’s probably best not to cut off avenues of research or focus on gory thoughts about face-chewing.


And, at the very least, it would be prudent to recognize the challenges and dangers of designer drugs like bath salts, even as we place them in a longer history of drugs. This way, like Rick and Daryl, we can create a proactive strategy for evading the zombie hordes.

Lumbersexuality in Saskatoon? Oh – and a Bit About Psychiatry

First David Beckham brought us the metrosexual look and now we have witnessed the rise of the “lumbersexual.” In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary just named it one of the most important words of 2015. (Emoji won. But “lumbersexuality” was in the mix.)

In Saskatoon, SK, you will see these particular bearded, booted, manly-men in specialty coffee shops on 20th Street as well as Broadway Avenue. They frequent the Farmer’s Market and craft breweries. Back in October, these hirsute individuals were given the label “lumbersexual” by the website GearJunkie.  And since then, popular culture has taken this term and run with it.

download lumbersexual look

While the U.K.’s Daily Mail has showcased Ben Affleck and Kanye West in flannel and denim, Cosmopolitan asked its readers, “Are you Dating a Lumbersexual?” Here at home, the CBC got it all wrong. It suggested in November, 2014 that the lumbersexual tends to reside in urban centres like New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto.

Of course, this is not entirely accurate.  Anyone who has visited the University of Saskatchewan campus recently can attest that we have real, live lumbersexuals in Saskatoon as well. This is not just a “big” city phenomenon.

However, it is a men’s fashion trend with a long history and it’s wrapped up in the history of psychiatry. At the turn of the 20th century, men trapped in cities began suffering from neurasthnenia, a new disease that skyrocketed to near epidemic proportions in 1880-1890s. There was a concern that middle-class white men were growing more anxious, tired, and depressed.

George Beard, M.D, came up with the term in 1881 and believed that the fast-paced lifestyle and modern industrial economy caused disruptions in man’s “nervous energy.” The way to balance this energy was not simply with drugs. Beard’s answer was to withdraw from the pressures of urban life and get active.

For him, neurasthenia was a catchall term for a broad set of symptoms. And whereas women were ordered to bed for hysteria (or prescribed other unmentionable treatments), men were instructed to get back to nature, find their primitive side, and be masculine. That is, be wild. Outdoorsy. Think Thoreau.

In an effort to capitalize on this diagnosis, the lumberjack image – a rugged, axe-wielding, naturalist – was created to serve as a model of manliness. He was a cure for the chronic neurasthenics and was also a tool of journalists and advertisers. This archetype came to life in magazines and newspapers and was used to sell all manner of goods.

University of Virginia
This chart from American Nervousness, Its Causes and Consequences by George M. Beard (1881) illustrates the progression of symptoms attributed to neurasthenia.


Are we seeing something similar now in the use of the lumberjack motif?  In an age of increased awareness about Depression and other mental health issues, are we seeing the cyclical return of a 135-year old fashion trend?

Of course, this is what happened with metrosexuality. And the broader lumbersexual phenomenon, according to Tim Teeman, is just straight culture’s latest attempt to theatricalize masculinity – decades after gays got there first.

In Teeman’s view, lumbersexuality is the “latest pasteurizing of sexuality…” It is, he writes (half-seriously) just another way that straights have stolen from gay culture. First it was design expertise, gym dedication, and gift-buying acumen. Now this. “What else can we give you?” jokes Teeman.

In other words, that fellow working in the coffee shop or strolling through the mall is helping reinvent a century-old fashion trend. And his long but well-maintained beard, polished leather boots, tattoos, and dark jeans – let’s be honest, the great style – has a history stretching back over a hundred years.