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 audiobook 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 20 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.
©1985 Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain. Introduction ©1992 by Andrei Codrescu. Afterword ©1992 by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
I really enjoyed this book - so much so that I want listen to it again, and soon. Having said that, it didn't deliver what I expected, especially given that I understand it's primarily regarded as a textbook. I thought it would focus on the development and dissemination of LSD, and it certainly started that way, but somewhere after the first third of the book, it became more and more an account of some key events of the late 60s and early 70s and a (selective) look at some of the personalities of that time. (I know it describes itself as a 'social history', but I still expected there to be a greater focus on the drug itself.) I liked the narrative turn, but unfortunately it felt pretty unstructured from this point: another reviewer described it as 'kaleidoscopic' - it certainly could be dis-orienting at times, as the authors focussed on one social movement or one personality, then circled back (in time) to follow another, rather than showing how these events and individuals interacted or influenced one another. I also hoped for more of a discussion about the development of the drug itself as manufacturing expanded, and the experience of users: it is clear that there is a wealth of evidence from the (then-legal) use of the drug in therapy, in government and defence contexts, and in personal journals, but the authors barely touch on this area.
Also, was it my imagination, or did the narrator change suddenly, towards the end (and then the original narrator returned)?! The narrator/s were good. The treatment of footnotes was a little odd: the footnotes seemed to be read at exactly the point they appeared in the original text, resulting in some strange diversions in already complex narratives! It would have been better to have treated them as endnotes, or at least to finish the sentence to which they related before reading the footnote in!
These negatives aside, if you are prepared to approach this book as more of a historical (though not linear) narrative of the 1960s and early 70s, albeit with a selective focus, constructed around the thread of LSD - rather than a concentrated consideration of the drug itself - then I am sure you will find plenty to keep your interest.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
You may THINK you know all about the CIA and its LSD experiments on soldiers and civilians— but you don’t know the half of it.
Thought the hippies came up with the phrase “trip?” No— it was the military. The CIA was OBSESSED in the Cold War idea of a truth serum, convinced the Soviets had their own, but their experiments went way further. Their perversion will astound you: force-fed acid trips, doses there was no way to come back from, secrets and lies.
"Acid Dreams" is a thorough and serious book, but it’s full of juicy details and the kind of improbable stories that turn history into entertainment.
There have been other books about LSD after this, but nothing has surpassed this gem. It should have been on audio long ago. Tune in and turn on!
This was an interesting history of a fascinating subject. You'll be horrified at the stupidity of the government agencies responsible for suppression of the promising medical research done in the '50s and 60's.
Mr Wyman should stop trying to do foreign accents.
Surprising, eye opening
Details of the pre-sixties government involvement.
Such a powerful part of my youth hitherto not understood. I have generally found LSD to be a taboo subject. Perhaps because the "experienced" fear a social stigma. Perhaps they are left with many questions and uncertainties better left undisturbed. Yet it remains one of the most powerful experiences of many lives.
This history of acid provided me with perspective. The authors illustrate amply the many conflicting points of view; the positive and negatives of the psychedelic experience. And, most importantly, it provides an opportunity for discussion.
Many thanks to the authors.
"OK But Not Great"
thinking on that one
This book has no pace
The author has reseached this well and got a lot of Gov papers from it. If it was shorter it would have been better. Towards the later half it was getting repetitive but there is an interesting insight into the Gov's frame of mind during this period.
This is an interesting book and the revelations about the origins of LSD and the connection between the drug and the CIA, even down to its manufacture, were fascinating. In the words of the Rolling Stones, 'it just goes to show things are not what they seem'. The book focussed on the early years of Acid which is fair enough as this was its most flamboyant and culture changing time and it was very interesting to hear about the development of the links and tensions between acid users and the Left political movement. I thought the book lost its way in the last quarter with its focus on a man who was both an Acid manufacturer and possibly (?) also on the payroll of the CIA and and I would like to have heard what those early psychedelic Acid users did next. However this was written in the early 1980s so is limited by its time but the writer was able to look at how the use of LSD later did not have spiritual connotations and was used as just another fun drug. I would like to have heard more of a discussion of this phenomenon but this may be be beyond the scope of this book which as its title says, did focus on the CIA.
The (American) reader did his best with English accents but as usual they were woeful when attempting Liverpudlian, however the book was well read apart from this.
I would recommend this if you want to know some of what was going on behind the 'flower power' of the late 60s but don't expect any great social analysis.
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