An expert on psilocybin and other "consciousness expanding" drugs (LSD, mescaline) yesterday criticized Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert for raising a "false issue of scientific or academic freedom" in their charges that research on these drugs is being blocked at Harvard and other universities.
Interviewed by telephone, Dr. Gerald K. Klerman, a psychiatrist and assistant clinical director of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, said that he and his colleagues had been doing work with psilocybin for at least eight years, but that this research, along with projects at other medical centers, had been "poisoned" by the public controversy arising from the experiments conduced by Leary and Alpert.
The reason for this, according to Klerman, was that Leary and Alpert failed to observe the rules of scientific investigation in their work with psilocybin.
One source gave two instances of this disregard for scientific procedure yesterday the fact that experimental subjects were not selected art random, and may even have included persons who had undergone psychiatric treatment; and the fact that group sessions or house 'psilocybin parties' were held in which even the group leader took the drug, thereby preventing objective observation of its effects.
FBI Reported interested
There was no reaction from University officials to the charges leveled by Leary and Alpert. However, a highly reliable source reported yesterday that the FBI and the Food and Drug Administration had contacted University officials after the warning about drug usage was issued.
The source reported the FBI and FDA officials were very interested in reports of the illegal sale of drugs in Cambridge, and were anxious to apprehend any persons guilty of violating federal drug laws.
Commenting on the warnings issued by Dean Monro about the possible harmful affects of the drugs, Dr. Klerman stated that "on a purely statistical basis the incidence of these [harmful] effects is rather low. However, they do occur more frequently than, say, with aspirin."
Dr. Klerman explained that the relative 'safely of psilocybin and similar drugs exists only in carefully controlled experiments. The incidence of harmful effects would be higher in cases where persons took the drugs without supervision he said.
Klerman Describes Effects
Dr. Klerman divided the effects caused by psilocybin, LSD, and mescaline into immediate and long-range. Among the immediate effects are changes in the subjects pulse, skin temperature, reflexes, etc., "considerable" [mental] confusion, and an alteration in "the person's capacity to perceive the world".
The main dangers of the immediate effects, according to Klerman are that the subject could hurt himself by for example misjudging distances, and that the physiological changes induced by the drugs might accentuate a chronic illness, like a liver condition.
Dr. Klerman Identified the persistence of a psychotic or schizophrenic state is a harmful long-range effect that could result from taking the drugs.
Klerman said there was nothing new in the claim of Alpert and Leary that the experience of taking psilocybin creates a setting in which a person can see himself in a new light, and that, as a consequence, the drug can have a lasting effect on maturation, creativity or personality orientation.
Klerman admitted that "some of their findings have been of interest," but stated that "there have been no adequately controlled and systematic studies of "consciousness-expanding drugs] indicating benefits to maturation and consciousness-expansion."