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University officials indicated yesterday that they have known for at least two years about the psilocybin research being conducted by two members of the Center for Research in Personality but did not interfere because to do so would be an invasion of academic freedom.
Commenting on this information, Dana L. Farnsworth, director of University Health Services, said yesterday that his department has not interfered with the experiments "because there is no evidence of any direct harm to any individual involved. If a student were affected in any way, the Health Services would take action, he declared.
A University student who once took psilocybin is now in MacLaine Hospital suffering from a mental breakdown, but hospital doctors have determined that the drug in no way contributed to his breakdown. Psilocybin produces hallucinations and visions lasting from three to five hours and, if used properly, can be very effective in personality research.
The most serious objection to the research being conducted by Richard Alpert, assistant professor of Clinical Psycholgy and Timothy Leary, lecturer on Clinical Psychology, is that people not registered as medical doctors are experimenting with and prescribing potentially dangerous chemicals.
Alfred J. Murphy, senior food and drug inspector of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, has launched an investigation to determine if Alpert and Leary are violating State laws by possessing or prescribing the drugs.
If found guilty, they will be forced to suspend their research, but Murphy has indicated that any illegal act was committed inadvertently, and the men will not be prosecuted. Had a psychiatrist been connceted with the research, there would have been a person to take clear-cut legal responsibility for errors.
Alpert and Leary began their psilocybin research two years ago with experiments in Denmark. At that time, the University reportedly received complaints from the Danish government about the work being done.
Experiments with a similar consciousness-expanding drug, LSD, were conducted by researchers at the University in the early 1950's. At that time, the experiments got out of control, with LSD even being put into punch bowls to test its effects on people at a party.
After one such experiment, a University student was almost killed when, under the effects of LSD he walked onto Huntington Ave. at the height of the rush hour "believing that he was God and nothing could touch him."
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