Friday, January 16, 2009

LSD's Final Gift

The Legend: When you die, all the LSD you've ever taken is released at once so you have the best trip of all

Status: False


We can only hope this is true. Unfortunately, since LSD does not remain in your body after 8-10 hours, it's not there to be "released" at the moment you die. Sorry.

LSD Briefly Made Legal

The Legend:  LSD was legal for awhile in the 1960's due to testing with psychiatric patients.

Status: False


LSD and other hallucinogens have indeed been researched as therapeutic agents with psychiatric patients. It was even explored as a treatment for alcoholism (with remarkable success). But the legal status of this drug was not changed to accommodate research during this time.

In 1965 Congress passed the Drug Abuse Control Amendment that made the manufacture and sale of LSD a misdemeanor. In 1968, the sale of LSD become a felony. Under Nixon's watch, in 1970, the Controlled Substance Act was passed and LSD became a Schedule I controlled substance.

During the 1970's and 1980's there was a strong political climate against hallucinogens. Most LSD research was done outside of the U.S. during this time. Since the 1980's, the FDA has granted IND (Investigational New Drug) status to several hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD and Ecstasy, so that research in this country can resume.

Secret Government LSD Testing

The Legend:  The U.S. government has done secret testing of LSD for use in warfare.

Status:  True

  • LSD has been used by the government to treat combat fatigue or as an interrogation aid.
  • LSD was tested on marines in Vietnam by putting it in the water supply. They were deceived, being led to believe they were testing a new sleep aid. One guy went crazy and killed his own men.

Both of these claims are largely true, except for the part about killing people.  But then it wouldn't be a cool story to repeat without some insanity or homicide.

The U.S government did research on LSD most extensively between 1942 and 1963. Beginning in 1942, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, was looking for a speech-inducing drug to be used when interrogating prisoners. General William Donovan, then chief of the OSS, challenged scientists to:

"... create a substance that could break down the psychological defenses of enemy spies and POWs, thereby causing an uninhibited disclosure of classified information. Such a drug would also be useful for screening OSS personnel in order to identify German sympathizers, double agents, and potential misfits."

The government did indeed test on military personal. Between 1947-1953 the research, initiated by the Navy, was supposedly called "Project Chatter," and similar research conducted by the CIA was called "Project Bluebird." All with the goals of extracting classified information from the enemy.

In 1953, Dr. Gottleib headed a project called "MKULTRA," (later renamed "MKSEARCH"). This was the CIA's effort to find the perfect mind control drug.

In 1972, most of the MKULTRA records were deliberately destroyed by order of then CIA director Richard Helms. It was estimated that there were more than 150 individually funded research projects sponsored by MKULTRA and MKSEARCH.

Many experiments involved dosing subjects with LSD without their knowledge and then observing their reactions. Subjects were often agency and other government employees, but they also experimented on mental patients and members of the general public. Some have described these experiments as cruel and sadistic.

[Taken from the Internet]

"The Deputy Director of the CIA revealed that over 30 universities and institutions were involved in an 'extensive testing and experimentation' program which included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens 'at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign.' Several of these tests involved the administration of LSD to 'unwitting subjects in social situations.' At least one death, that of Dr. Olson, resulted from these activities. The Agency itself acknowledged that these tests made little scientific sense. The agents doing the monitoring were not qualified scientific observers." 
U.S. Senate Wednesday, August 3, 1977
Select Committee on Intelligence
And Subcommittee on Health
And Scientific Research
Of the Committee on Human Resources

It is estimated that 1500 soldiers were dosed with LSD during these years of experimentation, some unknowingly. The government abandoned LSD research in 1963 in favor of other less erratic and more effective hallucinogens. Read more about this at:

Which Witch is Which?

The Legend:  The Salem Witch Trials were the result of Puritans inadvertently tripping on LSD

Status: Quite Possible


The Salem Witch Trials are an intriguing piece of American history, taking place between 1692-1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. What happened to cause townspeople to suspect each other of being witches has been debated for centuries. One of the most logical explanations is ergotism.

Ergotism is the result of eating baked goods that have been made with flour that has been contaminated with ergot. The ergot fungus grows on rye and can create compounds that are very similar to LSD. In fact, LSD was discovered by a chemist who was researching ergot chemicals.

At this time in history, no one suspected that the bread was causing these bizarre affects. After all, bread? What could be more benign than bread? Yet, when people ate the ergot-infected rye it was possible for entire villages to experience ergotism, or LSD-like trips. The symptoms of ergotism are paranoia, hallucinations, spasms and twitching. The spasms suffered are involuntary, irregular, jerking and twitching movements that came to be called St. Vita's Dance.

Beyond the hallucinations, paranoia and involuntary movements there was also an intensely painful burning sensation in the arms and legs that was called St. Anthony's Fire. In severe cases, constriction of the blood supply to the extremities would be so profound that it would cause gangrene or the hands and feet.  In less severe cases, it would cause a person to feel uncomfortably hot, maybe even hot enough to take off their clothes and appear to be dancing.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, ergot poisoning symptoms were blamed on the devil. People with ergotism were described as being bewitched and it was thought that they could see the devil and whoever was with him.  In these visions, people who were seen consorting with the devil were obviously witches. By naming names, based on their hallucinations, the accused were labeled as witches and sentenced to death. 

In the end, 19 "witches" had been executed; 14 women, 5 men, and one dog.

Don't Take the Brown Acid

The Legend:  There was a brown-colored LSD at Woodstock that caused many people to have bad trips.

Status: Most likely false


Drug use was prolific in 1969. As the Woodstock story goes, in the midst of the 3-day music festival, the medical tent was overwhelmed with concert goers having adverse drug reactions. It has been reported that nearly 800 Woodstock attendees sought medical attention for drug-related problems, and one person even died from their drug use. The problem was traced to a specific drug and announcements were made from the stage to "not take the brown acid."

What is brown acid? LSD is often put onto blotter paper that is adorned with colors and sometimes extravagant artwork, everything from Disney characters to psychedelic patterns. Long before Woodstock, myth had developed about the quality of the LSD based on the color or artwork of the blotter paper.  For example, the blue acid might give you more of a body trip, while the red might give you more of a head trip.

In reality, acid is acid. There is little variation in the actual chemical properties between batches of LSD. However, user expectation is a significant determining factor when predicting the quality of the trip.

Was there really bad LSD at Woodstock? There may have been a bad batch of blotter treated with something other than LSD. There also might have been people happily tripping on brown acid until they heard the warning, and then their trip became a bummer. But the LSD was probably all just about the same, no matter what color blotter paper it was on.

In the end, there were three documented deaths at Woodstock. One from a heroin overdose, one person was run over by a tractor while he slept in a sleeping bag, and a third person fell from some scaffolding. No one died from the brown acid.

The LSD Spinal Tap

The Legend:  You can never work for the federal government because they can take a spinal tap to see if you've ever used LSD.

Status:  False

  • You can ever work for NASA because they perform a pre-employment spinal tap to make sure you've never done LSD.
  • A spinal tap is required before you can become a pilot.

I can see it now. One line of applicants for urine testing, a second group lined up for a pre-employment spinal tap. Not gonna happen. For starters, LSD does not remain in your spinal fluid, as discussed earlier, so there is nothing there to test for.

Additionally, spinal taps are not a minor, non-invasive procedure like a urinalysis. You might be given a hair or urine test before employment, but it's a pretty safe bet that you will not ever be given a pre-employment spinal tap.

Many employers, including the federal government, have guidelines and policies prohibiting them from hiring anyone who has used certain illegal drugs a specified number of years before applying for the job. Many employers also have Drug Free Workplace policies that prohibit current use. However, no one is administering spinal taps as a method of screening employees.

The Man With Two Brains

The Legend:  When you use LSD the right and left hemispheres of your brain separate.

Status: False


The brain is separated into two halves, the right and left cerebral hemispheres, which are connected by a thick bundle of nerves called the corpus callosum. This nerve bundle bridges the two sides of your brain and allows the two halves of your brain to communicate with each other. In cases of extreme epilepsy, the corpus callosum has been severed surgically. There are also a few cases where the corpus callosum has been severed by trauma. There is not a single case of the brain "splitting" or the corpus callosum being severed due to LSD use.

The brain also cannot separate and then reconnect 8 hours later when the LSD is gone, it just doesn't have that kind of rejuvenative abilities. And no, severing the corpus callosum isn't something that "might" have happened to you but you're not sure. Believe me, if it happened you would know it.

Liquid LSD - The Final Solution

The Legend:  LSD can be used in solution as either a drink or a spray, and given to unsuspecting people.

Status:  False, but it's been tried.

  • A police officer pulled over a speeding motorist and took a swallow of an unidentified liquid found in the glove compartment to determine if it was alcohol. It turned out to be LSD in solution.
  • A police officer borrowed a water bottle from a motorist he's pulled over. He took a few swallows of what turned out to be LSD in solution.
  • There is a trouper who has a brother in the Adirondacks. He found a bottle that used to contain LSD, swished some water around in it, put it into his eyes, and now he's tripping for life.
  • LSD in solution is sprayed into the faces of police or customs agents by drug smugglers.
  • The CIA is spraying LSD on citizens in San Francisco.
  • LSD in solution is sprayed into the faces of girls at rock concerts.

This is one of those urban legends that portrays authority figures, in this case police officers, as stupid or irresponsible, or show the common man somehow getting one over on their boss, or the police. No police officer is going to drink an unknown liquid from a jar that is found in the glove compartment of a motorist. Would you? And no police officer is going to accept a drink from an open container from someone they are in the process of ticketing or arresting. As for the trooper's brother, human nature would probably not lead a person to rinse their eyes with contaminated water.

Spray LSD stories prey on our fears that there are very bad people out there who will hurt us. We also have a fear of losing control, so spray LSD fits nicely into this particular paranoia. The message to not trust people who listen to rock music is an old one.

If you were a predator who wanted to disable girls at a concert, there are many other, quicker and more effective methods for doing that.  LSD would not be a logical choice. LSD doesn't work instantaneously, so using this on police or customs agents won't disorient them and allow the bad guys to get away.

LSD can be dissolved in water, so theoretically it can be put into solution and absorbed and ingested in that way. While there are no reports of troopers or rock concert attendees being victimized by spray LSD, there is an unflattering chapter of U.S. History in which federal intelligence agents experimented with LSD in just this way.

George White, a federal narcotics officer, was charged with finding a chemical method that could be used as a truth serum to turn enemy agents. White chose LSD as the focus of his research. Most of White's experiments were performed on unwitting subjects who had no idea they were going to be dosed with LSD. It is even documented that Agent White threw parties where he would spray the air with aerosol LSD, then sit back to observe what happened, (Marks, 1979). In most cases nothing happened, the LSD was eventually abandoned by the U.S. government for use as a truth serum.

Then, in 1995, Japan's Supreme Truth doomsday cult, the group that was responsible for the nerve gas attack in the Tokyo Subway that claimed 12 lives and made thousands sick, is reported to have studied LSD as a chemical weapon. Their plan was to spray it from the sky. Since LSD itself is fairly non-lethal, it's hard to imagine what outcome the Supreme Truth was looking for, (CNN; 10/95).

I Can See Clearly Now

The Legend: If you put LSD in your eyes you'll have better hallucinations.

Status: False


The theory is that you will have better visual hallucinations if there is a high concentration of LSD in the eyes. However, the mechanics of action for LSD take place in the brain, not the eyeballs. Hallucinations are caused by a change in neurochemistry, not any specific stimulus to the eye, so logic suggests this is not true. There is no research on this at this time.

Tripping for Life

The Legend:  There was a guy who had LSD in his pocket and got caught in the rain, now he's tripping for life.

Status: False


This rumor warns that residues of LSD will remain in your body forever, suggesting that you might be one of the unfortunate few who will actually hallucinate forever. During the 1970's and 1980's, one of the methods for teaching drug prevention was the use of scarelore, telling drug stories that would scare the crap out of kids, and hopefully keep them scared long enough that that they wouldn't use drugs. Tripping for life was one of those scare stories that was told not just between kids, but by teachers as well.

Over the years students have insisted that this particular legend was true, even saying that they had seen it on TV. And if it's on TV, it must be real, right?

So, is it possible to trip for life?

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

The jury is still out on whether or not LSD causes flashbacks, or the recurrence of the LSD experience in the absence of the drug. Both users and professionals disagree within their ranks. Considering the number of people who have used LSD over the past 50 years one would think that there would be some more definitive science surrounding the flashback phenomenon, but there isn't.

Some say that flashbacks are simply a manifestation of schizophrenia. Others argue that it is a type of biochemical post-traumatic stress reaction. The accepted theory in the 1970's was that flashback-like experiences were not caused by any biophysiology, but by user expectation and a selective attention to naturally occurring alterations in consciousness. Bright flashes, halos, and trails are all visual phenomenon that happen, generally unnoticed, in most people. After you've used LSD, you now have a way to label them, (Heaton, 1975).

What we do know for sure is that a very few people who use LSD will develop lasting visual problems. This has been labeled Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) (Halpern & Pope, 2003). Unlike flashbacks, HPPD tends to be a fairly continuous experience of visual interference rather than a series of acute episodes.

HPPD is a condition where one or more of the perceptual disturbances associated with LSD use occur without taking the drug. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes this disorder, but also reminds us that such visual disturbances can be symptoms of other medical conditions. For many, the visual problems resolve on their own after a few months, for others the visual disturbances can last five or more years.

HPPD is strictly a visual disorder. Symptoms can range from mild to so severe that they interfere with work or school. People with these symptoms know that what they are seeing is not reality. There are no concurrent symptoms of depression, confusion or panic attacks, though people with HPPD often report anxiety, (Halpern & Pope, 2003).

The good news is that for people who suffer from HPPD, benzodiazepines, such as Clonidine, can significantly reduce symptoms, (Lerner et al, 1998; 2003).

LSD Leaves Crystals in Your Spine

The Legend: Using LSD leaves crystals in your spine, which can reactivate and cause the user to experience flashbacks.

Status: False

  • LSD leaves bubbles in your spine.

This is one of many, many LSD legends that pop up with some regularity. As has been discussed elsewhere, LSD, a water-soluble hallucinogen taken in microgram quantities, has a half-life of about 4 hours. There is no research that indicates that any is left behind in the body, or that the residue will form semi-permanent "crystals" in a user's body, or spine.

The most interesting thing about this particular rumor is its connection to the Church of Scientology. One of L. Ron Hubbard's programs was Narconon and the New Life Detoxification Program. This program has undergone recent scrutiny and the few doctors that support it are, themselves, Scientologists. Narconon and the New Life Detoxification Program have no real credibility in the medical or scientific community. That has not slowed the celebrity endorsements.

In his book, Purification: An Illustrated Answer to Drugs, Hubbard claims that he has made the discovery that LSD flashbacks, themselves hotly debated in the drug using and treatment communities, are caused by LSD that has been trapped in the body as crystals and can be restimulated at a later date. In fact, according to Hubbard, it's not just LSD that is trapped and restimulated, it's all illegal drugs, medicines, chemicals, preservatives, pesticides and even radiation and x-rays. He never says how he made this discovery. Naturally there is no scientific evidence to support his claims. While it is true that some things, like dioxins, metals some medication and vitamins, really will build up in the body over time, LSD is not on that list.

The New Life Detoxification Program involves weeks of extended sauna sessions that are supposed to release all of these stored toxins as patients sweat them out. Certainly this is good for your pores, but the "sweating it out" process has no basis in real science as a detoxification procedure for drug users.

So, are L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology's New Life Detoxification Program responsible for the widely held belief that LSD crystals remain in the body indefinitely, posing a risk of being restimulated at a later date? If not responsible for starting this rumor, they certainly are embracing it and making $15,000 from each person who believes it and seeks out their program for treatment.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Snap, Crackle Pop - I'm Tripping!

The Legend: LSD remains in your spinal fluid for a lifetime.

Status: False

  • LSD can stay in your spine for up to 30 years.
  • LSD sticks to your spine and weakens it.
  • LSD is in your spine, travels up to your brain stem to your brain and makes you instantly insane.
  • LSD robs spinal fluid from the spinal cord.
  • LSD is stored in the spinal cord and if you crack your back you can have a flashback.
  • Chiropractic adjustments can release LSD and can cause flashbacks.
  • Because LSD is stored in your spine if you crack your neck while on acid it sends you into a never ending rip and you eventually die.
  • LSD is stored in the bottom of your spine, which is why right before you start to trip you feel a tingling up your spine.
  • When you take LSD your spine will move upward, releasing chemicals that cause you to trip.
  • LSD is stored in your spine and once it reaches a critical level you will die.
  • LSD forms a mucus layer around your brain, then drains spinal fluid from your back.

So, once it's in your body it stays in your body forever, working in your spine to become active again, on and off throughout the rest of your life? These rumors persist as a way of possibly explaining why some people (very few) have experienced flashbacks. "I'm hallucinating, therefore it must be those drugs I took back in 1978," Um, no, more likely something else is going on and you need to get yourself to a doctor.

This spinal fluid belief is so widely held that message boards on the topic are full of pregnant women afraid to get epidurals for fear of triggering a flashback, and pain patients refusing spinal injections as a course of treatment for the same reason.

Ask yourself what the phrase "robs/drains spinal fluid" means. How is it robbed and where does it go? How does the spine "move upwards" independently of everything that's attached to it? Doesn't make much sense, does it.

For starters, let's take a look at the physiology involved. Your brain, spinal cord and cerebro-spinal fluid is a closed system. That means that spinal fluid is not going to drain or flood your bloodstream without a massive trauma, and cracking your back, getting an injection, or visiting a chiropractor is not a massive trauma.

There are dormant viruses, like chicken pox, that really do stay in your body throughout your lifetime, making occasional reappearances. LSD is not a virus, nor does it hang around in your spinal fluid for years after use - especially considering that your spinal fluid replaces itself on a very regular basis.

LSD is a water-soluble chemical that is metabolized and excreted from the body rapidly. The metabolic half-life of LSD in the human body is 3-5 hours. After 5 hours, most of what remains are water-soluble metabolites that have no neurological effects. Because of its high solubility in water, LSD does not form deposits in your body.

Since the trippy effects of LSD can last up to 12 hours, it has been suggested that LSD triggers some type of neurochemical chain reaction that creates experiential changes that persist long after the drug has left your body.  

And how about those flashbacks being caused by dormant LSD that is stored in your spine? Flashbacks have spotty science behind them. The term "flashback" has been used in so many ways to mean so many things that it is virtually meaningless now. Some believe they are a purely psychological phenomenon, where the brain responds to a stimulus that reminds a person subconsciously of the LSD experience, and they re-experience some of those sensations all over again. Sort of like when you smell your lover's cologne on a stranger and feel a wave of warmth for this person even though you don't know him. Another explanation for flashbacks is that the user is schizophrenic, which explains the hallucinations in the absence of the chemical.

Since we've already determined that LSD is not being stored in spinal fluid, chances are pretty good that it's not weakening your spine either. What is more likely is that all those LSD users from the 60's and 70's are getting older and developing age-related spine and back problems. Is there some residual paranoia that makes us attribute back pain to LSD use that took place 30-40 years ago? Maybe, but we'd be wrong. Do aging LSD users develop back pain? Yes.  Do aging LSD non-users develop back pain? Yes.

There is mention of this myth in popular culture as well. You will hear reference to this in the Eminem song, Drug Ballad, "Let the X destroy your spinal cord."  It is also mentioned in the 1998 movie SLC Punk, where it is said that once LSD stored in your spine reaches a critical level you will die.

Here's what's next...

There seems to be a recent expansion of this idea of linking other drugs to spinal fluid or spinal problems. The following material came from some "ask the experts" type of Internet forums, mostly on college websites.
  • Is it true that MDMA (ecstasy) drains the fluid from your spinal cord, and if it does, can that happen after about 3 uses?
  • Can taking DXM (dextromethorphan) cause problems with your spinal cord later on after use? For example, draining spinal fluid?
[Insert eye-roll here]

LSD Makes You Insane

The Legend: Use of LSD in specific quantities or frequencies can render a person "legally insane."

Status: False

  • You can take no more than 7 hits or you will become "legally insane."
  • The number of times you have to take it to be considered "legally insane" varies from 5 to 25.
  • If you use LSD more than two times in a month you are considered "legally insane."
  • In NY there is a law on the books that you will be considered "legally insane" after 25 hits.
  • You can take no more than 1 hit every three days or you will be considered "legally insane."
  • Once you are determined, through your pattern of LSD use, to be "legally insane," you can be committed involuntarily.
  • If you've taken LSD more than 3 times you can't testify in court.

It's always good to see drug users concerned about their quantity/frequency choices. However, these limits seem rather arbitrary, making one wonder where they came from. For starters, when you see a phrase like "on the books" or "legally insane" you've got to ask - Which books? Insane by what definition?

If "on the books" means Penal Law, there is nothing there that defines legal insanity.

The professional, medical and psychiatric community does not use the term "insane." They use more descriptive diagnostic terms like "schizophrenic" or "psychotic episode." The term "insane" is not used in the psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM IV).

The words "sane" and "insane" are more likely to be used as legal terms. "Insanity" will show up in legal arenas such as, "He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity." Despite what you see on TV, this defense is rare. A typical test of competency in criminal cases is whether the accused knows the difference between right and wrong, or has a mental disorder that renders him out of touch with reality or out of control of his impulses. Past use of LSD, no matter how much was used, is not a mental disorder, does not leave you incompetent to stand trial, and will not qualify a person for an insanity plea.

The connection between LSD and insanity may have been made by a few high-profile court cases that involved LSD. In 1966, medical student Stephen Kessler, dubbed by the media as the "LSD Slayer," admitted he had killed his mother-in-law while under the influence of LSD. It turned out he was not under the influence of LSD at the time of the murder, he was drunk and suffered from schizophrenia, and was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The second major LSD-related trial was that of the Manson Family in 1969. When Linda Kasabian was cross-examined, Manson's lawyer repeatedly objected to her testimony on the grounds that she was "insane" because of previous and frequent LSD use. He was overruled.

There is a rumor that during the Vietnam draft there was a limit to how much LSD a draftee was allowed to have used before they could enlist, but I've never found written proof of this. Rumor said if you you had used seven or more times you would be labeled 4F - unfit for military service. If true, this may be the source of the quantity limits suggested in all the variations listed above. If you know anything definitive about this, please contact me.

And finally, it is possible for anyone to be committed against his or her will, not just LSD users. In order to be subjected to a mental health arrest, also known as involuntary civil commitment, which is done by the police, a physician or the county's Director of Mental Health, you have to engage in behavior that could constitute a danger to yourself (suicide) or others (homicide) right at that minute. You can't be involuntarily committed for things you did in the 60's or 70's or even last year. The drug most often associated with suicide and homicide is alcohol, not LSD.

Microdot Brewery

The Legend:  LSD can be made from Foster's Beer

Status: False

  • DMT (dimethyltriptamine, a hallucinogen) can be made from bar soap and balsamic vinegar.

There is a chain mail story going around that tells of a guy who was down on his luck and hounded by creditors.  He managed to turn his life around by somehow turning a distillation of Foster's Beer into tens of thousands of dollars worth of LSD.

Let's look at this logically, shall we?  First, if the guy was so poor, how was he buying Foster's Beer? If he did scrape some scratch together for the higher end beer, would he then waste it by doing beer experiments in his kitchen? And if he was dumb enough to do those two things, would he be smart enough to know that he had made LSD?  And if you could turn beer into LSD, wouldn't everyone be doing it?

We love the idea of dumb luck, get rich quick stories and being victorious over The Man, in this case the creditors. But the reality is that LSD is a very complicated compound to make. Any suggestion that it can be synthesized from household products is not true. 

This story was intended as humor. Read it here:

As for making DMT out of soap and vinegar, there will be people who will swear they tried it and it worked. Remember that smoking anything will change how you feel, but smoking soap? Good luck with that.

Burn Baby, Burn!

The Legend: LSD can burn a hole in your skin.

Status: False

  • LSD burns holes in your brain, that's what causes the hallucinations.
  • There was a guy who had a few hundred hits of LSD in his pocket. He got caught in the rain, the LSD got soaked and actually burned a hole in his leg.

Most acid is corrosive, like hydrochloric acid or sulphuric acid. LSD, even though it is called lysergic acid, is not really an acid. It falls into a category of compounds known as amids, which are not corrosive or caustic to your skin. LSD can be used transdermally without causing burns.

Fly Like An Eagle

The Legend: People who take LSD jump from windows believing they can fly.

Status: False


This is largely false if you're thinking it means numerous people have jumped from windows, ledges and balconies and flown to their deaths while tripping on LSD. However, we know where this rumor might have started.

In November, 1953, Dr. Frank Olsen, an employee of the federal government, was unknowingly dosed with LSD during a 3-day CIA working retreat. At this time, the CIA was routinely dosing it's employees believing that having this experience would make them better prepared if they fell into enemy hands and the enemy used LSD during interrogation.

Dr. Olsen was understandably angry that he had been given this drug without his consent, so he refused to be cooperative for experimental purposes. Three weeks later Dr. Olsen jumped through a closed window, falling 10 stories to his death.

Dr. Olsen's death wasn't a big news item at the time as the government experiments were quite secret. It wasn't until the late 1960's when the government's LSD research came to an end, followed by Senate hearings and investigations that the LSD connection to Dr. Olsen's death was made. It wasn't long after this that Diane Linkletter's similar jump from her 6th story kitchen window took place and was also linked to LSD use. The public was left with the connection that users of LSD leap from windows.

It is important to know that neither Diane Linkletter nor Dr. Olsen were using LSD at the time of their deaths so they most likely jumped without any belief that they could fly.

Art Linkletter's Daughter Jumped to Her Death While Tripping

The Legend: Art Linkletter, well-known TV personality, lost his daughter when she jumped out of a window thinking she could fly while on an LSD trip.

Status: False


It is true that Diane Linkletter died October 4, 1969, after jumping from her sixth-floor kitchen window. Art Linkletter himself made public statements that, "A bad LSD trip," led to his daughter's fatal jump. He later became an activist in the war against drugs. All of this would lead most people to believe that LSD was the cause of Diane's fatal plunge, but it's not that simple.

There were no witnesses to the alleged drug-taking, and postmortem toxicology reports show that there was nothing unusual in Diane's blood at the time of her death. This means Diane was not on drugs at the time of her jump, and most likely had not taken drugs within 24 hours of her suicide.

This is a very interesting and complex story. For an excellent accounting, go to:

LSD Damages Chromosomes

The Legend:  LSD breaks chromosomes and that can cause birth defects in your future offspring.

Status:  False


This one has been circulating for over 40 years. The story goes like this. If you use LSD, your chromosomes will "break" and when you have children of your own they are likely to be deformed.

This rumor started back in the 1960's, largely fueled by Dr. Cohen, a geneticist, who published research claiming to have found an unusually high number of "broken chromosomes" in a 57-year-old patient who had previously used LSD, (Cohen, Marinello & Back, 1967). He also said that human tissue, when exposed to LSD in a test tube, was damaged.

Naturally, this research, with a sample size of only one, got huge media attention. When colleagues tried to replicate Dr. Cohen's research they found that just about anything put into a test tube with human tissues will cause damage at the chromosomal level, including milk and water. Naturally, this was not picked up by the media. Researchers also found that while chromosomal damage might be done to white cells, that did not translate to passing on birth defects to offspring.

They also found that many LSD users have chromosomal damage, but that it might not have been caused by the LSD. That's right, news flash here - people who use LSD might also use other drugs and toxic agents - like alcohol, nicotine, and amphetamines.  All that chemical soup might have been what caused the chromosomal damage, but it couldn't be traced back to the LSD with any accuracy.

Most of that LSD-using generation have become parents by now. Do you see an alarming number of teenagers with birth defects? Have you read anything about an upswing in the number of children with birth defects? Has your local school district asked for a tax hike to cover services for this growing population of children?

LSD is no longer considered a toxin that can do genetic damage to you or your progeny. The LSD you took 20 years ago isn't the problem. The real problem with birth defects is alcohol and other illegal drugs ingested by pregnant women leading to often profound fetal damage. The research on this is conclusive.

Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds

The Legend:  The Beatles song, "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" is about tripping on LSD.

Status:  John says False, Paul says True


For decades the Beatles denied it, but the public held fast to the idea that the song's title must be more than mere coincidence, especially at a time when LSD was popular and on an album featuring psychedelic designs. What else could they mean by "marmalade skies" and "Kaleidoscope eyes" unless they were singing about tripping?

John Lennon explained that the title was just a coincidence.  It was taken, verbatim, from the name John's four-year-old son Julian had given to a painting he made of his friend Lucy, a classmate of Julian's at Heath House School. (You can see the watercolor at  Lennon claimed he had no idea that the title formed the acrostic L-S-D until it was pointed out to him after the album's release. Lennon never changed his story.

Ron Shaumburg, author of Growing Up With The Beatles, agreed that it was a coincidence, saying that Lennon had always been quite honest about his own drug use, so why would he lie about a song?  Additionally, Bill Harry's Encyclopedia of Beatles People (1997) says the Lucy in question was Lucy the classmate and not LSD.

Then, in June 2004, in an interview with Uncut magazine, Paul McCartney admitted that Lucy in the Sky was indeed about LSD, obviously.

It's no secret that John and Paul had their differences over the years, so with John gone, you'll need to make up your own mind about who is telling the truth on this one.

Ellis Pitches No-Hitter While High on LSD

The Legend:  Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD.

Status:  True


It happened on June 12, 1970.  Ellis was home in LA, relaxing.  Thinking this was an "off" day for the Pirates, he took some LSD around noon.  About an hour later, his girlfriend saw in the paper that the Pirates had a double-header that night in San Diego and Ellis was the scheduled pitcher.  He caught a flight and was on the field with his team by 6:00 p.m.

In that game against the Padres, Ellis pitched a no-hitter. News accounts described his pitching as wild and out of control. More than a decade later, Ellis revealed that he had taken LSD earlier in the day and was still under the effects of the drug while pitching that night in the game. "Sometimes the ball was big, and sometimes the ball was small," he said.

Dock Ellis may very well have taken LSD before pitching a no-hitter. However, no accounts from that day, from people who were close to him, suggested that he was high. He took the LSD six hours before the game, so most likely the effects of the drug had peaked hours before he took the field. And now we know that steroids aren't the only drugs being used by professional athletes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Whoops! We Cooked the Baby!

The Legend:  Hippie-type babysitter uses LSD and then accidentally cooks the infant thinking it is a turkey.

Status: Mostly False

[Taken from the Internet]

(This story isn't generally emailed, but told orally.  This is how it often goes...)  This story was told to me by a friend who heard it on the news on the radio about a year or so ago. It is a factual account. A couple left their infant at home with a teenage, hippie-type babysitter so they could go out for the evening. Later in the evening, the mother phones home to check up on things. The babysitter says everything is fine and that she's put the turkey in the oven. Shortly, the couple realized that they didn't leave a turkey at home, so they better go home to see exactly what's going on. They arrive to find the babysitter, high on LSD, has cooked their baby in the oven.

  • The babysitter thinks she's cooked a roast instead of a turkey.
  • Sometimes there are other drugs besides LSD involved, including marijuana and alcohol.
  • Some versions have no drugs at all, the babysitter is just frustrated that the baby won't stop crying so she puts him in the oven.
  • In one variation the babysitter is driven insane by the baby's crying and puts him in the oven.
  • Sometimes the parents get home in time to save the baby.

This legend feeds on some very basic fears, especially the vulnerability all parents feel surrounding the safety of their children.  There is the reminder that strangers and teenagers are not to be trusted, especially "hippie-type" teenagers. Innocent children once again fall victim to evil drug users. The "LSD makes you crazy" message is loud and clear as well.

This is an old rumor started as early as the 1960's. At that time there were no documented cases of this ever having happened.  That all changed in 1999.

While there are no documented cases of an LSD-using baby-sitter mistaking the baby for dinner, there is record of a baby being cooked by his caregiver. In 1999, the body of 1-month-old Joseph Lewis Martinez was found in the microwave of his parent's home. His 19-year-old mother, apparently in a state of confusion, (no drugs or alcohol involved), had put him into the microwave and turned it on, killing him. She pled no contest to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison. This is a mental health tragedy, not an LSD tragedy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sunkist by LSD

The Legend:  Excessive LSD use left a young man in a psychiatric hospital, believing himself to be a glass of orange juice.

Status:  False

[Taken from the Internet]

This guy goes down to the States from Canada.  He comes across this amazing deal on acid, so he buys a hundredlot. He figures that it's not likely they'll strip search him, so he tapes the whole sheet to his stomach when he goes back. At the border he's ordered to get out of his car and wait in a room while they search the car. He gets so freaked out, thinking that they're going to strip search him after all, that he starts sweating. The sweat soaks the sheet taped to his body and he absorbs a hundred hits of acid through his skin. Pretty soon he thinks he's an orange and decides he'll have to peel himself, so he starts peeling off his clothes. To this day he's confined to a psychiatric ward, still convinced that he's an orange.

  • A guy was running from the cops and had a sheet of LSD in his pocket. He knew he was going to get busted so he ate the whole sheet. Now he thinks he's a glass of orange juice and his biggest fear is that someone will drink him.
  • In some versions the victim believes himself to be an orange (rather than a glass of orange juice), although he may also harbor fears that he will turn into orange juice if anyone touches him.
  • The patient is sometimes said to be afraid to lie down (lest he spill), go to sleep (because someone might drink him), or allow anyone to approach him (for fear he might be peeled).
  • Often this story is told about a guy "right here in our town."  You remember Dave, I think he graduated with your brother...
  • Drinking orange juice will intensify the effects of LSD.
  • Drinking orange juice can help a person come down from a bad trip.

What I really want to know is why are there so many urban legends and myths that connect LSD to oranges?

This rumor shows up in a few places, including a book called Storming Heaven, by Jay Stevens, and a book called Mind Drugs, by Margaret Hyde. Despite these scholarly references, a search of medical literature using the terms "LSD" and "orange" together turns up exactly zero articles.

These rumors are classic LSD scarelore. As improbable as it may seem, this tale and similar others about the "LSD psychotic" were taken quite seriously by the anti-drug community of the mid-1970's, when the long-term effects of LSD use were still unknown.

This "orange juice man" story is repeated as if it were a case study, by health care professionals who should know better.

As for the rumor that drinking orange juice, or some other specified type of fruit juice, will intensify an LSD trip, there is no science, research or physical evidence to support this claim, and no biochemical reason for this to be true. However, if a person tripping on LSD thinks that a glass of OJ is going to enhance their experience, it probably will.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

LSD Users Go Blind

The Legend:  Several students tripping on LSD stared at the sun until they were blind.

Status: Some Truth

Example: [Taken from the Internet]

Here is how the story was written up by the Los Angeles Times, 1967:


Four LSD Users Suffer Serious Eye Damage
Exclusive to The Times from a Staff Writer

SANTA BARBARA -- Four college students have suffered permanent impairment of vision as a result of staring at the sun while under the influence of LSD, according to a spokesman for the Santa Barbara Ophthalmological Society.

One of the youths told his doctor he was "holding a religious conversation with the sun." Another said he had gazed at the sun "to produce unusual visual displays."  The students, all male, suffered damage to the retina, the sensory membrane which receives the image formed by the lens.

In the same way that a piece of paper will burn when bright light is beamed through a magnifying glass, a pinhead-sized hole was burned into the retina of each eye of the students as sunlight passed through the lens.

What this has left the students with is not total blindness but a blind spot in the center of their vision. As a result, the victims have lost their reading vision completely and forever, the ophthalmological spokesman said. [snip]


A Staff Writer? A spokesman? The students? We want names!  What medical facility treated them? Who rescued them? What school did they attend? Even worse, this particular LSD horror story was picked up by the Associated Press and quickly spread all over the U.S., appearing in The New York Times and Time magazine. Does no one learn to fact-check in journalism school anymore?

This story showed up a second time in the news, 8 months later, only this time it supposedly happened in Pennsylvania. The PA version of the story, which eventually appeared in Newsweek, was planted by Dr. Norman Yoder who admitted he had made the whole thing up because of his concern over illegal LSD use by children. He was suspended from his post and checked himself into the Philadelphia Psychiatric Center. See, sometimes the truth is far more interesting than the legend.

A review of current medical literature finds two cases of solar retinopathy associated with LSD use. The earliest article appeared in 1973 (Schatz & Mendelblatt, 1973), 6 years after the California and Pennsylvania incidents were reported. The second article appeared in 1976, (Fuller, 1976).

There are a few articles about solar retinopathy acquired after sun-gazing in prayer or as the result of mental illness, (Mwanza et. al., 2000). However, the bulk of research on solar retinopathy focuses on "Eclipse Burns," or eye damage resulting from watching a solar eclipse, (Hallmark & Ygge, 2005).

So is it true that people tripping on LSD stared at the sun until they were blind? We don't know if the California report of this taking place is true because there is no way to fact-check an article that contains no facts. What we do know is that it is possible to cause permanent damage to your eyes if you stare at the sun, and there is reliable record of a few LSD users doing this.

Road Tripping

The Legend: Two friends are under the influence of LSD and get pulled over for going too slow.

Status: Probable

Example: [Taken from the Internet]

"Two buddies are road-tripping to a Grateful Dead show, and to make the drive more interesting, they each eat a dose of LSD. They're rolling along the interstate and start to trip out, they're laughing and having fun driving along. Suddenly, they notice a cop car with its lights on in the rear-view mirror, and start freaking out. The driver repeatedly says, "OK I'll just admit to speeding, I'll get a ticket, and it will be OK." He rehearses this plan over and over until the cop knocks on his window, and then he says to the cop, "I'm really sorry officer, I know I was speeding, I know I was wrong. I'm sorry I was going too fast." The befuddled cop then says, "Well, that's all well and good, but you were doing 10 mph."


There are a few things about this emailed gem that make it more of a story and less of a true account.  It is littered with puns. "Road tripping," is an LSD reference. "Rolling along," is an ecstasy reference. Of course they are going to a Grateful Dead show, right? Never mind that Jerry Garcia, leader of that band, died in 1995 and this email started circulating in 2001.

This email is also similar to a scene in a 1996 Chris Farley/David Spade movie called Black Sheep. In that movie the driver and passenger become high on a nitrous oxide leak while driving. When they're pulled over by the police they think they were speeding when it turns out they were only going 7 mph.

Even though this particular emailed account is just a story, there are many instances of drivers being ticketed for going too slow, some of them stoned. Being under the influence of a hallucinogen, whether it is a mild one like marijuana or a stronger one like LSD, is going to change your perception of your environment. That is the reason you did the drug to begin with. One of the outcomes of that changed perception is going to be that you become a lousy driver, so let someone sober drive.

Gnome Sweet Gnome

The Legend:  Teens high on LSD steal a talking garden gnome that turns out to be a small child.

Status:  False

  • They believe they've caught a goblin, which turns out to be a small child.

The story goes like this.  A group of friends are high on LSD and driving around the countryside when they think they see something run across the road in front of their car.  One of them declares it was a goblin, and because they are high, this makes perfect sense to everyone. They get out of the car, find the goblin, bring it home with them, and eventually shut it into the closet so it can't get away.

The next morning in the sober light of day, they open the closet to find a small boy cowering in fear in the back of the closet. Some versions say the child is a girl too scared to speak, others say the child is an autistic boy. One ending has the boys recognized as heroes for finding a lost child, another has the boys arrested for child abduction.

It seems reasonable that teenagers tripping on LSD might see a garden gnome as animated and talking to them. But there are no news stories of small children ever having been mistaken for a goblin, abducted and hidden away in a closet overnight. Garden gnomes have been stolen and taken on vacations and any manner of silliness, but not by tripping teenagers who thought it was Yoda.

This is another scare story about LSD, similar to the babysitter who accidentally cooks the baby thinking it is a turkey. The message is that drug users can hurt our children, and that using illegal drugs can lead to horribly tragic events.

LSD and Strychnine

The Legend: Most LSD contains strychnine and can poison the user.

Status: False

  • Strychnine is cheaper so unscrupulous drug dealers sell it as a substitute for LSD.
  • Strychnine is a byproduct of LSD synthesis, so it's in all real LSD.
  • Strychnine is necessary to bind the LSD to the blotter paper.
  • For you to be able to get high from the LSD there has to be some strychnine in it.
  • The body produces strychnine as a result of LSD metabolism.
  • Body aches and fatigue after LSD use are caused by the strychnine.

None of these statements are true, but that hasn't stopped well-meaning drug educators and health teachers from repeating them for the past 20 years. Even drug users repeat these rumors, as evidenced by browsing through online chat rooms and message boards.

If this were true, if there was strychnine in LSD, it would follow that people would die from using LSD. Conversely, if people were dying from using just LSD there would be some backward logic in saying that there must have been a poison involved. In fact, while there are a few cases of LSD overdoses and massive ingestions, there are few if any deaths reported to have been absolutely caused by LSD.

The active does of LSD for a human is 50-200 micrograms. A microgram is a millionth of a gram.  It takes over 12,000 micrograms, or "mikes," of LSD to kill a lab rat. Do the math. If it takes 120 hits of acid to kill a 1 lb. lab rat, and a human weighs about 150 lbs., a lethal dose for a human would be, well, a whole lot of LSD. Something like 18,000 hits. Considering the extremely low potential for overdose deaths, it seems odd that rumors about poison-laced LSD would originate and persist, but they have.

If you consider our culture's ingrained message that illegal drugs are deadly and to be feared, then add the belief that drug dealers are unscrupulous people who would think nothing of selling strychnine as LSD, then this rumor makes a little more sense. Or at least it is understandable why it has persisted.

LSD is commonly absorbed into blotter paper, the user then consumes the small square of paper. A dose of blotter is not big enough to hold enough strychnine to harm a human. You just can't get enough poison on a tiny square of paper.

Strychnine is an odorless white powder. However, it is very bitter and can be detected in miniscule quantities way below a toxic dose. Since most LSD in ingested orally, the user would notice this adulterant.

There have been a few murder investigations where one person tried to poison another person by mixing strychnine with LSD or other drugs, but it has never been associated with recreational LSD sale or use.

Human strychnine poisoning is rare with less than 100 cases a year being reported.  That does not stop the rumors, though.

LSD on Pay Phone Buttons

The Legend: Gang members apply a deadly mixture of LSD and strychnine to the buttons of pay phones.

Status: False

Email example: [Taken from the Internet]

Subject line:  FW: Please be careful using payphones!
Text:  "Hello, this is to warn everyone of a new thing happening in communities as a gang initiation and such.  If you care about anyone, please forward this to them immediately so they can learn of the possible harm. Even if you don't read this, at last forward it to people.

My name is Tina Strongman and I work at a police station as a phone operator for 911. Lately, we've received many phone calls pertaining to a new sort of problem that has arisen in the inner cities, and is now working its way to smaller towns. It seems that a new form of gang initiation is to go find as many pay phones as possible and put a mixture of LSD and Strychnine onto the buttons. This mixture is deadly to the human touch, and apparently this has killed some people on the east coast. Strychnine is a chemical used in rat poison and is easily separated from the rest of the chemicals. When mixed with LSD, it creates a substance that is easily absorbed into the human flesh, and highly fatal.

Please be careful if you are using a pay phone anywhere. You may want to wipe it off, or just not use one at all. Please be very careful. Let your friends and family know about this potential hazard."


OK, public telephones can be pretty disgusting, but chances are that you won't get an unexpected LSD trip from using one. The Centers for Disease Control has debunked this rumor. There is no proof that anything like this has ever happened. This is just another "death by LSD" scare story.

The rumors about strychnine being found on surfaces like buttons of pay phones and killing people through transdermal absorption also aren't true. Strychnine absorption does not occur easily through intact skin. Dermal absorption is possible and can make you sick but it takes a large amount, much more than what could be put onto pay phone buttons, (Greene & Meatherall, 2001).

This email has all the earmarks of a hoax. You are told to forward this to everyone you know, even if you don't read it yourself.  The information is being given to you by a pseudo-authority. We are told that this gang/drug problem has originated in the inner city, because you know that is the only place where there are drugs and gangs. [insert eye-roll here] Be afraid of touching things in the city. Cities are dirty. There is some inaccurate science about how these immoral gang members are getting the strychnine, and then you are reminded again to forward this to everyone, that is "if you care about anyone."

Some versions of this email are signed by a military official and contain a phone number to the Pentagon. The Pentagon denies any connection to this rumor. Some versions contain a hotmail address that is supposed to belong to Tina Strongman. No such hotmail account exists.

Bottom Feeders

The Legend: Blotter LSD doses on the bottom of the sheet are stronger.

Status: False


This one is interesting. It is said that when LSD is manufactured, the sheet of perforated blotter paper is soaked in a pan of LSD solution. After the LSD is absorbed the sheet is hung to dry, presumably clipped to a line like how you would dry photographs. While hanging, the LSD solution is pulled to the bottom of the blotter paper, leaving the doses along the bottom significantly stronger and the doses along the top weaker.

This makes sense, if LSD were actually manufactured in this way.  The definitive text on LSD manufacture is an underground book called Practical LSD Manufacture (1995) written by  the pseudonymous Uncle Fester.  In this book it is explained in great detail that manufacturing LSD involves delivering a single carefully measured droplet from the tip of a burette onto each sugar cube or perforated square of blotter paper. No wetting pans or clotheslines are involved.

To support this manufacturing process, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that virtually all of the LSD that they have seized and tested has been of relatively uniform dosages. Assuming the DEA's LSD seizures have included doses from both the top and bottom of sheets of blotter, if the hits at the bottom were indeed stronger then there would be greater disparity in their reported dosage levels, and there isn't.

'Blue Star' LSD Tattoos

The Legend: LSD-laced tattoos with a blue star or Mickey Mouse design are being given to young children on playgrounds.

Status: False


This legend is most often seen as a flyer sent home from school or church, an article in the local paper or school newsletter, or a warning from local police department.  It is not often circulated as an email.

It often reads:  [Taken from the Internet] "A form of Tattoo called "Blue Star" is being sold to school children. It is a small piece of paper containing a blue star. They are the size of a pencil eraser and each star is soaked with LSD. The drug is absorbed through the skin simply by handling the paper. There are also brightly colored paper tattoos resembling postage stamps that have the pictures of Superman, Mickey Mouse, Clowns, Disney characters, Bart Simpson and Butterflies.  Each one is wrapped in foil. This is a new way of selling acid by appealing to young children. These are laced with drugs. If your child gets any of the above, do not handle them. These are known to react quickly and some are laced with Strychnine."

Supposedly, this is a scheme to get the kids "hooked" on LSD so they become regular customers, a doubtful notion since LSD is not physically addictive.

This particular rumor persists because well-meaning teachers, parents and police officers duplicate and distribute the flyers. The flyer often has a heading such as "Warning to Parents." There is enough true information included that even reasonable people may believe it. For example, some LSD does indeed have cartoon characters on it, and handling LSD really can be dangerous as it can penetrate your skin and enter your bloodstream that way.

During the mid-1980's when this legend was in full swing, New York State conducted a systematic examination of all police departments to determine if there had ever been even one case of children mistaking blotter acid for tattoos and accidentally getting high.  There were no documented cases.

The greatest danger to children is exposure to drug use by the adults around them, high levels of availability of drugs and alcohol in their environment, and misinformation like this.