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Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD Paperback – 25 Aug 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press; Rev. Evergreen Ed edition (25 Aug. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130624
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
In the spring of 1942 General William "Wild Bill" Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA's wartime predecessor, assembled a half-dozen prestigious American scientists and asked them to undertake a top-secret research program. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By pandorauk on 19 July 2001
Format: Paperback
I ordered this book from Amazon after reading a chapter from it posted on a website about the mysterious death of Frank Olson, a US army physician who was slipped a dose of LSD at a CIA research meeting and soon after supposedly "jumped" from an 8th floor window of a hotel while in the company of two CIA agents. This book is a revelation, particularly to those who still believe that the CIA are the "good guys" and the guardians of US security, and that LSD was not introduced into public use until the advent of Timothy Leary and Oswald Owsley in the 1960's. It outlines in detail the development of the CIA's interest in LSD as a potential weapon against spies in the Cold War in the 1950's, following it's invention in the Sandoz laboratories, its use in the MK-Ultra project, and the CIA's completely unregulated "surprise" testing of the drug on their own staff, unknowing patients in mental institutions and unsuspecting members of the public. It also gives a very thorough overview of social change, potitics, music and drugs in America in the 1960's, and the part played by LSD in this once it was taken up as a "mind-expanding" drug by Leary, Huxley, the Beatles, Haight-Ashbury and the New Left in America. This is an extremely well-researched and written book which is in turn shocking, funny, disgusting and interesting. For anyone who already has a vague mistrust of the CIA's covert operations, the information here will more confirm their doubts. I had no idea before reading this book of the CIA's role in introducing LSD into America, and I think it should be essential reading for anyone who is interested in recent American history and social change. A great read from beginning to end - never boring, always intelligent, and full of amazing information.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Halifax Student Account on 28 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Its a sad indictment of our world that there are only two books written about this amazing period. Acid Dreams and Storming Heaven. Both are quality books, but Storming Heaven is twice as thick as Acid Dreams and, I found anyway, gives a more mystical treatment of LSD. Acid Dreams is very political, but both books cover similar territory and so they can be read side by side. Prepare to have your jaw dropped by reading Acid Dreams, I know mine did!

So why should we take LSD seriously then? Well imagine this parallel history. Peasants break into Galileo's study, steal his telescope and party hard! After some hard telescopic mischief, the Pope goons smash all the telescopes and forbid the peasants from going anywhere near a telescope. Priests will from now-on scream from the pulpit that all telescopes are evil. This hysteria would have the effect of shutting down the promise of the revolution the telescope hailed and modern science. This is what happened to LSD!

Acid Dreams shows that, in the 1940's, psychedelics were not controversial and were in fact seen as the cutting edge in consciousness science. The psychedelic revolution took place at around the same time as the discovery of nuclear power. There was as much excitement about the promise of LSD as there was about the splitting of the atom. It's all in here.

I didn't know about LSD treating alcoholism, or the thousands of prestigious scientific journals raving about psychedelics and thousands of scientific research papers published on the therapeutic promise of LSD.

Acid Dreams mentions stuff about the psychedelic civil war between those following Timothy 'give it to the peasants' Leary, versus Aldous 'give it to the brightest and the best' Huxley.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jan. 2002
Format: Paperback
The Complete Social History of LSD, the CIA, the '60s, and Beyond
by Martin A. Lee, Bruce Shlain This is colorfully accurate account of the events that occurred decades ago, all of which still echo into our current era. It covers the origin of LSD, as a drug the CIA funded research on for use as a tool for mind control applications using civilians and military personnel as test subjects. At the very outset, it was obvious that the CIA was well aware of the potential power of this substance in its ability to wreak havoc on the collective psyche, to shatter current assumptions and threaten cherished ego boundaries. Yet, eventually it became available to the masses who would come to extol its use religiously and rise to the groundswell of counterculture in the 60's. This book, more than any other source explores the underlying causes of the demise of the cultural/political/self re-evolution of that time and gives us pause to reflect on the politics of consciousness - to see who really won The War Of The Mind. Proof again that truth is stranger than fiction. Be this book. Very detailed and well researched, with the whole lowdown on Albert Hoffman, Timothy Leary, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Ken Kesey and all the rest. The stories about CIA & US Army experiments using psychedelics are astonishing.
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Format: Paperback
We have here a comprehensive overview of the impact of LSD on American society in the 50s and 60s. One cannot help but be appalled at the callousness and trickery of the CIA people who went around spiking unsuspecting people with acid in their optimistic quest for a truth serum. It's also disappointing to note that the standard medical assumptions about LSD, namely that its effects are merely to produce temporary madness, with no identifiable benefits, came to be used to justify its criminalisation, rather than than any rigorous testing to see whether it was dangerous enough to justify sending those who used it to jail.
Once the drug had inevitably leaked out into the wider population, it appears to have had a powerful catalysing effect on the radicals, protesters and hippies who came to be grouped together as the 'New Left' - not by directly stirring up aggression, but by bringing those who were involved into closer contact with each other and into greater detachment from the rest of society, thus allowing them to have an exaggerated view of their own ability to change the world. I was surprised to learn just how much violence and chaos a minority of acid enthusiasts were able to cause, and just how much utopianism allowed them to justify it.
We are taken through the glory days of Haight-Ashbury, and shown how swiftly the beautiful dream of its original hippie inhabitants turned sour as tourists, gangsters and heavy-handed police took over.

As a social history, the book does not deal in great depth with the biological effects of the drug, nor about its subjective effects on those who use it (though just about everything I've ever read about LSD suggests that the effects are just too weird to be described in words).
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