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(The following statement was released by the University Health Services last Friday. It was signed by Dana L. Farnsworth, M.D., UHS Director, and by Curtis Proud, M.D., Chief of Medicine--ed.)
The taking of drugs, especially marijuana and L.S.D. (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide), is becoming a fad among college and high school students who wish to assert their independence by breaking the law and offending their parents, and who wish to experiment with new physical and psychological sensations.
A brief account of marijuana and L.S.D. from the medical side may be useful.
Marijuana comes from the dried flowering tops of a hemp plant, cannabis sativa. Other names for it include hashish, bhang, and "pot." It is hallucinogenic and has no medicinal use. It may be smoked in cigarettes, chewed, or sniffed. Marijuana acts mainly on the central nervous system, and does not produce true addiction.
What takes a few minutes...
When marijuana is smoked its effects are noted in a few minutes and usually last three to five hours. The drug causes a combination of excitation and depression. There may be an increase in the pulse rate, a slight rise in blood pressure, and small increases in blood sugar and appetite for sweets.
Marijuana has a chemical effect on ordinary consciousness; ideas are rapid, disconnected, and uncontrollable. There may be feelings of well-being, exaltation, and excitement--that is, being "high." Or, at other times there may be a "down" with moodiness, fear of death, and panic. Ideas may occur in disrupted sequences. Seconds may seem like minutes, minutes may seem like hours. Distance and sound may be magnified. Space may seem expanded, the head may feel swollen and extremities heavy.
Some people who take it think that it fosters physical intimacy; but the reverse is usually true. The subject may have sensations of floating, ringing in the ears, and tremors. Persons taking the drug may be quiet and drowsy when alone; restless, talkative, laughing, or joking when in company. Large doses may produce confusion, disorientation, and increased anxiety. In a few instances marijuana has produced psychoses, as does L.S.D.
A dangerous effect from marijuana is the slowing of reflexes. Since marijuana also causes a distortion of reality, particularly of the sense of time, the drug is frequently a cause of automobile accidents.
The medical evidence is mounting that a good deal of marijuana currently sold to students is adulterated, indeed often "laced" with mixtures of other hallucinogenic drugs to strengthen the effects of the drug. Marijuana is not a specific product but a variable mixture of flowers, leaves, stems, and sometimes the roots of the hemp plant. The mixture may be weak or strong in its physiological effects, and where it is weak, invites adulteration. The fact is a person buying "marijuana" has no way of knowing what he is actually getting.
Marijuana does not produce physical addiction, but it does produce significant dependence, to a serious degree. This is a fact well known to doctors working with college students. The social influences surrounding the use of marijuana also encourage experimentation with other drugs, notably L.S.D., and, of course, may lead into addiction to narcotics.
L.S.D. is a far more dangerous drug than marijuana, and in the opinion of many informed persons is a greater menace to users than even the addictive narcotics.
During the earlier years of experimentation with L.S.D. the adverse effects were not considered to be very serious. However, in recent years, numerous cases have been reported of prolonged psychotic reactions to L.S.D., lasting from a few months up to two years. Hospitals in large cities, particularly New York and Los Angeles, have had many cases of acute psychoses arising from ingestion of this drug.
...Has Long-Lasting Effects
L.S.D. differs from most other drugs because its effects occur at varying periods after the ingestion of the drug. What it does, in effect, is to start in motion processes, as yet not understood, which produce effects after the drug itself has left the bloodstream. There may be severe depressions lasting for several months, or psychotic reactions, or at other times both pleasant and frightening episodes.
Another observed effect of L.S.D. is a reduction in responsibility-that is, the individual's judgment is impaired. In our judgment now, after a careful study of the effects of L.S.D., we consider it inadvisable for an individual who takes even one dose of L.S.D. to make a major decision about himself for at least three months.
When one is under the influence of L.S.D., one can ignore the facts that were previously held to be valid and construct new beliefs, no matter how irrational. Such forms of thinking bear many similarities to psychosis. A person may feel that he has powers which he did not previously have, or that certain laws of the environment (such as vulnerability) are not operative in his case. For example, feeling omnipotent, he believes he can jump out of the window with no harmful results.
Those who are enthusiastic about L.S.D. are often given to wishful thinking. They see in their experiences only what they wish to be true above all other truths. Medical records indicate that most people now taking the drug are young, mainly between 17 and 25; but a number of older persons also turn to L.S.D, especially persons having some difficult personality conflict.
It Stops Everything
One significant statement about the use of L.S.D. was made by Freedman and Powelson in the Nation on January 31, 1966: "L.S.D. enthusiasts talk of religious conversions, the awakening of artistic creativity, the reconciliation of opposites. The main change to be observed in such individuals, however, is that they have stopped doing anything.
The aspiring pianter talks of the heightening of his aesthetic sensibilities and skills, but he has stopped painting. The graduate student who withdrew from writing his dissertation in philosophy talks of the wondrous philosophical theories he was evolved. But nothing is written. It seems that the world of fantasy has become far more compelling than external things. Indeed, fantasy is substituted for reality."
We know now that long-term psychological damage may result from L.S.D. Such damage may be glossed over by the pleasure and enthusiasm engendered by the substance, but we have seen too many cases of psychic breakdown to doubt the serious dangers of the drug. It is even possible that the brain is structurally damaged. There is recent evidence that L.S.D. attacks hereditary genes.
In short, our professional medical opinion is that playing with L.S.D. is a desperately dangerous form of "drug roulette." The medical evidence is clear. Any person taking L.S.D. runs the clear risk of psychotic breakdown and long-run physiological damage
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