Crowd Funding the Psychedelic Renaissance: How the Internet is Reviving LSD Research

LSD research is experiencing a renaissance, with an influx of financing coming from internet crowdfunding sites like Walacea, Indiegogo, and Reddit. 

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By Andrew Arnett, orangebeefpress.com

On London-based Walacea, the Beckley Foundation for Psychedelic Research has raised £48,804.00 for a study dubbed “The World’s First Study of the Brain on LSD.” This research will use MRI scanners to determine how LSD influences creativity and problem solving in the human brain.

Due to overwhelming response, the Beckley Foundation has doubled the original pledge goal to £50,000.00. Those interested still have until April 18 to donate.

[quote_right]This research will use MRI scanners to determine how LSD influences creativity and problem solving in the human brain[/quote_right]

The results of the study could have an impact on a wide range of mental disorders. In previous brain imaging studies, the Beckley Foundation discovered that psilocybin, the main ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms, positively affected the Default Mode Network (DMN), an area in the brain which plays a role in depression, Alzheimer’s, autism, and OCD. The current study will determine if LSD has a similar effect upon the brain.

The non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has already run three successful fund-raising campaigns on Indiegogo, one of which netted $130,000 for researching the medical benefits of psychedelics and marijuana.

Earlier this year, MAPS won $82,000 from reddit.com users after being voted into their top ten favorite charities.

Brad Burge, director of communications for MAPS, told NBC News “It’s probably the best time in history to be doing psychedelic research.”

[quote_right]”It’s probably the best time in history to be doing psychedelic research”[/quote_right]

The non-profit organization EmmaSofia has just launched a fund-raising campaign on Indiegogo for the purpose of making MDMA and psilocybin available at no charge for medicine, therapy, and research. Backers of the campaign have been promised first priority to access these psychedelics.

“I treated my alcohol issues and PTSD with MDMA and psychedelics, now I want to help others,” say’s Pål-Ørjan Johansen, co-founder of EmmaSophia.

With his wife Teri Krebs, Pål-Ørjan has conducted the first meta-analysis of LSD as a treatment for alcoholism as well as a large population study of mental health in people who have used psychedelics.

However, certain risks have been associated with LSD use, mainly LSD flashback phenomena and exacerbated mental health problems.

According to the Beckley Foundation, studies show persistent hallucinations are rare in recreational users and such incidents have been widely exaggerated.

Regarding mental health problems, evidence suggests psychedelics are more associated with improvements in mental health outcomes rather than decrements.

LSD blotter close-up
A LSD blotter close-up

Teri Krebs, co-founder of EmmaSophia and a research fellow within the Department of Neuroscience at the Norway University of Science and Technology has published, with her husband, a letter in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal stating that psychedelic drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin are safe and that bans against them are  “inconsistent with human rights.”

On October 24, 1968, possession of LSD was made illegal in the United States. President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substance Act in 1970, designating LSD and other psychedelics as Schedule 1 drugs, effectively plunging psychedelic research into the dark ages for decades to come.

In addition to the legal hurdles, big foundations have hesitated to fund projects due to fear of being stigmatized, a hangover rooted in LSD’s murky past.

[quote_right]Early LSD research was championed by Harvard researcher Timothy Leary[/quote_right]

Early LSD research was championed by Harvard researcher Timothy Leary.

He helped advance the knowledge base with notable research including the Harvard Psilocybin Project and the Concord Prison Experiment.

The Harvard Psilocybin Project, conducted with Dr. Richard Alpert, ran from 1960-1962, and utilized psychedelics including mescaline. However, concerns raised by other professors regarding legitimacy and safety of the experiments resulted in Leary’s firing from Harvard.

The Concord Prison Experiment, conducted between 1961-1963, utilized psilocybin combined with psychotherapy to affect a change in prisoners antisocial behavior. Positive results were noted by altered recidivism rates.

LSD tv / Picture: thestonedsociety.com
LSD tv / Picture: thestonedsociety.com

Leary went on to become the poster boy for LSD with the catchphrase “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Unfortunately, this helped to marginalize the drug, as it became adopted for recreational use by the 1960’s counter-culture movement. Leary himself was imprisoned in over 29 prisons world-wide on various drug charges, and Richard Nixon once described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America”.

An even darker backdrop to the LSD story concerns the use of LSD in the CIA mind control program Project MKUltra. The clandestine program ran from 1953-1973 with the intention of developing drugs and methods for interrogation, torture, and mind control.

[quote_right]Richard Nixon once described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America”[/quote_right]

Conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in coordination with the Special Operations Division of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps, the program surreptitiously administered LSD and other drugs to unsuspecting Americans in an attempt to manipulate brain functions and behavior.

Some of these experiments were so nefarious that it boggles the mind. One such experiment involved hiring prostitutes to seduce men, dosing them with LSD then raping them for the purpose of extracting information and sexual humiliation. Brothels were equipped with one-way mirrors and subjects were filmed for later viewing.

Another experiment involved dosing a mental patient in Kentucky for 174 days.

These numerous acts of dosing the general public without their consent was a clear violation of the Nuremberg Code, signed by the U.S. after World War 2.

There were over 150 research projects sponsored under MKUltra, utilizing 80 institutions including 44 colleges plus hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies.

Such outcomes were far from the original intentions envisioned for LSD by its inventor, Dr. Albert Hofmann.

Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann first synthesized  LSD in 1938 while working at Sandoz Laboratory in Basel, Switzerland. Sandoz introduced the drug commercially in 1947 under the trade name Delysid, for use in psychiatry.

[quote_right]Hofmann saw the psychiatric potentials in LSD[/quote_right]

Hofmann saw the psychiatric potentials in LSD. For instance, whereas more commonly prescribed tranquilizers tended to suppress patients mental problems, LSD would expose them, making them more susceptible to psychotherapeutic treatment.

Also, long suppressed traumatic content could be made conscious again, rendering them treatable in a proper psychiatric setting.

Medicinally, LSD could be used to alleviate pain in patients who no longer responded to conventional pain-relieving medications, such as severe cancer patients, or the dying.

Hofmann expressed misgivings for the deleterious route taken by LSD in his book LSD – My Problem Child.

He writes: “This joy at having fathered LSD was tarnished after more than ten years of uninterrupted scientific research and medicinal use when LSD was swept up in the huge wave of an inebriant mania that began to spread over the Western world . . . bringing an upsurge in the number of untoward incidents caused by careless, medically unsupervised use, the more LSD then became a problem child for me and for the Sandoz firm.”

Ultimately, Hofmann envisioned a higher potential for LSD. “I see the true importance of LSD,” he writes “In the possibility of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality. Such a use accords entirely with the essence and working character of LSD as a sacred drug.”