AA founder believed LSD could help alcoholics stop drinking

The co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) believed LSD could be used to cure alcoholics and credited the drug with helping his own recovery from often debilitating depression.

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LSD blotter close-up

His words were found in a late 50s letter to Father Ed Dowling, a Catholic priest and member of an experimental group he had formed in New York to explore the spiritual potential of LSD.

About 20 years after setting up the Ohio-based sobriety movement in 1935, Bill Wilson came to believe that LSD could help “cynical alcoholics” achieve a “spiritual awakening” and start on the path to recovery.

The discovery that Wilson considered using the drug as an aid to recovery for addicts was made by Don Lattin, author of a book published in October, 2012 by the University of California Press, entitled Distilled Spirits.

[quote_right]”The vision and insights given by LSD could create a large incentive – at least in a considerable number of people.”[/quote_right]

Lattin found letters and documents revealing that Wilson at first struggled with the idea that one drug could be used to overcome addiction to another. LSD however is non-addictive substance. Wilson thought initially the substance could help others understand the alcohol-induced hallucinations experienced by addicts, and that it might terrify drinkers into changing their ways.

But after his first acid trip, at the Veterans Administration (VA) hospital in Los Angeles on 29 August 1956, Wilson began to believe it was insight, not terror, that could help alcoholics recover.

[quote_left]”a power greater than ourselves” that “could restore us to sanity”[/quote_left]

LSD, by mimicking insanity, could help alcoholics achieve a central tenet of the Twelve Step programme proposed by AA, he believed. It was a matter of finding “a power greater than ourselves” that “could restore us to sanity”. He warned: “I don’t believe [LSD] has any miraculous property of transforming spiritually and emotionally sick people into healthy ones overnight. It can set up a shining goal on the positive side, after all it is only a temporary ego-reducer.”

But Wilson added: “The vision and insights given by LSD could create a large incentive – at least in a considerable number of people.”

For the full article, make sure to click through to the original article in The Guardian below.