UBC Theses and Dissertations
"Safe from Utopia?" : the LSD controversy in Saskatchewan, 1950-1967 Anderson, Erik Murray L.
The controversy surrounding the use of LSD as an adjunct to psychotherapy for alcoholics in Saskatchewan has not been explored by social or medical historians. From 1950 to 1967, Saskatchewan psychiatrists developed new treatments for chronic alcoholism by using LSD on themselves, on volunteers and finally on patients. Despite early success and praise, the use of LSD in psychotherapy was later condemned by the media, the general public, the medical profession and eventually the federal government and was discontinued after being banned in 1967. The reasons for the ban were far-reaching and diverse. LSD was exploited by the counter-culture for "kicks" and was later abandoned by pharmaceutical companies because of the negative reputation lay-professionals and the media had bestowed upon its therapeutic use. As it turned out, legitimate LSD research became too clouded in controversy to survive the 1960s as researchers failed to convince the masses that the drug did not pose a threat to the well-being of society. In many respects, the LSD controversy can be seen as more of a moral panic than a scientific debate. Nevertheless, the LSD controversy provides a unique and much needed look into the history of medicine from a social perspective, illustrating that social values often have more impact on medical research than empirical validity. As recent evidence suggests, the psychotherapeutic potential of LSD -- as developed by Saskatchewan psychiatrists -- has not been forgotten. Indeed, a renewal of interest in LSD research has surfaced in several U.S. states as American psychiatrists are discovering, once again, that LSD can be a valuable psychiatric research tool.