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Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD [Paperback]

Martin A. Lee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Aug 2000
Few events have had a more profound impact on the social and cultural upheavals of the Sixties than the psychedelic revolution spawned by the spread of LSD. This book for the first time tells the full and astounding story--part of it hidden till now in secret Government files--of the role the mind-altering drug played in our recent turbulent history and the continuing influence it has on our time. And what a story it is, beginning with LSD's discovery in 1943 as the most potent drug known to science until it spilled into public view some twenty years later to set the stage for one of the great ideological wars of the decade. In the intervening years the CIA had launched a massive covert research program in the hope that LSD would serve as an espionage weapon, psychiatric pioneers came to believe that acid would shed light on the perplexing problems of mental illness, and a new generation of writers and artists had given birth to the LSD sub-culture. Acid Dreams is a complete social history of the psychedelic counter-culture that burst into full view in the Sixties. With new information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the authors reveal how the CIA became obsessed with LSD during the Cold War, fearing the Soviets had designs on it as well. What follows is one of the more bizarre episodes in the covert history of U.S. intelligence as the search for a "truth drug" began to resemble a James Bond scenario in which agents spied on drug-addicted prostitutes through two-way mirrors and countless unwitting citizens received acid with sometimes tragic results. The story took a new turn when Captain Al Hubbard, the first of a series of "Johnny Appleseeds" of acid, began to turn on thousands of scientists, businessmen, church figures, policemen, and others from different walks of life. Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg and the Beat generation, the Diggers and the Age of Golden Anarchy in Haight-Ashbury, William Mellon Hitchcock, Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, the Beatles--these are just some of a motley cast of characters who stride through the pages of this compelling chronicle. What impact did the widespread use of LSD have on the anti-war movement of the late Sixties? Acid Dreams traces the way the drug intensified each stage of counter-cultural transition to break the "mind-forged manacles" of a new generation in rebellion. In Acid Dreams, Martin Lee and Bruce Shalin have written the history of a time still only dimly understood. The events they recount and the facts they uncover supply an important missing piece of the puzzle of a crucial decade in our recent past. Praise "Engaging throughout. . . . At once entertaining and disturbing."--Andrew Weil, M.D., The Nation "Marvelously detailed . . . loaded with startling revelations."--Los Angeles Daily News "Excellent. . . . Captivating. . . . A generalist's history that should replace all others."--San Francisco Chronicle "A landmark contribution to the sociopolitical history of the U.S. . . . Some of the liveliest, most absorbing, best-documented historical analyses to appear in recent years. . . . A seminal contribution to understanding America's most turbulent modern decade."--Choice "This funny and irreverent book brings it all back."--The Washington Post "Recounts some of the most bizarre incidents in the history of U.S. intelligence."--The Boston Globe "A monumental social history of psychedelia."--The Village Voice "A blistering expose of CIA drug experimentation on Americans. It's all there."--John Stockwell "Highly readable. . . . Well researched. . . . Filled with entertaining and bizarre episodes."--The Detroit Free Press "An important study of cultural history. . . . The scholarship is exquisite and the methods sensible."--Allen Ginsberg "An engrossing account of a period . . . when a tiny psychoactive molecule affected almost every aspect of Western life."--William S. Burroughs "A missing link, a work of combat history, a devastating combination of facts and poetry that is bound to arouse controversy."--Paul Krassner "An important historical synthesis of the spread and effects of a drug that served as a central metaphor for an era."--John Sayles

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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: 23.1 x 15.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a revelation - read it! 19 July 2001
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Kids, Sh'it out a Singularity !! 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on the subject! 17 Jan 2002
By A Customer
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 otherwise.....giving 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 informed.........read 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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By A Customer
Thankfully there are more level-headed souls around to chronicle these heady, swirling mythopoeic days than the curmudgeonly old troll of Aciddom, Art Kleps: The Chief Boo-hoo himself. (Read the review after this for classic Kleps ranting.)
From someone who also lived with Leary-- through Millbrook, Berkeley and The Brotherhood (and makes his living lecturing, writing and consulting on the subject) Martin Lee's and Bruce Shlain's magnum opus is a must for anyone interested in what may prove to be one of the most exciting times in American history and human evolution.
Sure there are minor discrepancies, but given the transcendent nature of the subject matter it's a wonder they got so much right. I find this book to be indispensable. In fact, I am so tired of borrowing and reborrowing it from the library. I am putting in my order right now!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good start but gets a bit less useful as it progresses
The early parts which detail the CIA's interest in and development of LSD as a possible weapon were revealing and some of the data given illustrates the grisly practice of the... Read more
Published 24 months ago by A. C. Phipps
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
Even though I haven't yet completed this book, I'm compelled to give it a five. Having been acquainted with the substance in question, it's fascinating to look back at its amazing... Read more
Published on 11 Aug 2009 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A wild ride indeed
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... Read more
Published on 2 Jun 2009 by David M. Hart
5.0 out of 5 stars so interesting
A super book, just the sort of thing to read when you are pondering about the world and what other have though on the subject of LSD and other types of psychedelics, and its always... Read more
Published on 7 Nov 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Mother Should I Trust the Government?
Well, Well, Well, so Uncle Sam has some blood on his hands after all. For any good conspiracy buff this is the book: mass testing of LSD on unwitting civilians, cover-up and... Read more
Published on 10 Dec 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars GROOVEN
Published on 13 Jun 1998
4.0 out of 5 stars Whatever happened to Owsley?
I read this book six or so years ago, and still remember it well. I was most amazed by the fact that once LSD got into the hands of the counterculture, it changed from a possible... Read more
Published on 20 Aug 1997
5.0 out of 5 stars A jnightmare the US can never live down.
This book is the definitive source for the stupidity of the CIA and the US government for every using this horible stuff on any US service man or woman. Read more
Published on 7 Feb 1997
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