Thursday, January 15, 2009

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.