Acid Test

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Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

by Tom Shroder

From the Publisher:

It’s no secret that psychedelic drugs have the ability to cast light on the miraculous reality hidden within our psyche. Almost immediately following the discovery of LSD less than a hundred years ago, psychedelics began to play a crucial role in the quest to understand the link between mind and matter. With an uncanny ability to reveal the mind’s remote frontiers and the unmapped areas of human consciousness, LSD and MDMA (better known as Ecstasy) have proven extraordinarily effective in treating anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress–yet the drugs remain illegal for the millions of people who might benefit from them.

Anchoring Tom Shroder’s Acid Test are the stories of three men: Rick Doblin, the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), who has been fighting government prohibition of psychedelics for more than thirty years; Michael Mithoefer, a former emergency-room physician, now a psychiatrist at the forefront of psychedelic therapy research; and his patient Nick Blackston, a former Marine who has suffered unfathomable mental anguish from the effects of brutal combat experiences in Iraq.

Acid Test covers the first heady years of experimentation in the fifties and sixties, through the backlash of the seventies and eighties, when the drug subculture exploded and uncontrolled experimentation with street psychedelics led to a PR nightmare that created the drug stereotypes of present day. It’s a story that people may feel they know made fresh, surprising. Rick, Michael and Nick are exemplary leading men; each flawed, each resilient and each eccentric yet very familiar and very human. This is not a freak show, but a quest, a serpentine journey of surpassing complexity and beauty. Meticulously researched and astoundingly informative, it is at once a personal story of intertwining lives against an epic backdrop, and a compelling argument for the unprecedented healing properties of drugs that have for decades been characterized as dangerous, illicit substances.


Praise for the Book:

"A well-respected journalist offers evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drugs….this clear-eyed account [explores] both the complex history of the issue and the current thinking on the use of LSD, Ecstasy and other psychotropic substances for healing troubled minds….Occasionally, the stories are amusing…often, they’re moving…a perceptive criticism of the failings of America’s war on drugs, and Shroder delivers an important historical perspective on a highly controversial issue in modern medicine. " -- Kirkus

"[Acid Test] explores the therapeutic possibilities of LSD and Ecstasy (MDMA), and, more broadly, the potential of the human mind….Guided by Shroder’s easy narrative tone, readers follow an activist, a marine, and a physician-turned-psychiatrist who developed a philosophy of psychedelic therapy through self-experimentation….Shroder both informs readers about the drugs’ shadowy pasts and provides insight into the future of mental health."--Publishers Weekly

"This is not about the 60′s. This book reveals the ongoing struggle to create valuable lasting therapies for PTSD in all its forms. Funny, hopeful, and sad by turns, these stories make me believe that someday soon, MDMA will be accepted as valuable, even desirable, to counteract the despair of so many returning veterans and other souls whose lives are turned upside down by PTSD. If ever interventions are needed, it is now. Acid Test presents an alternative to anguish and anxiety, showing a route of return to balance by use of compassionate therapies along with an outlaw drug. Millions of Americans suffer from the terrors of war or crime , and perhaps soon, we can say help is on the way. " -- Carolyn Garcia, also known as Mountain Girl, a former Merry prankster and wife of Jerry Garcia

"Over the last thirty years women have gone from the kitchen to the boardroom, people of color from the woodshed to the White House, gay men and women from the closet to the altar, and all of us have embraced a new vision of life itself on this fragile blue planet. Yet when we recall the factors that unleashed these dramatic transformations there is one ingredient in the recipe of social change that is always expunged from the record: the fact that millions of us lay prostrate before the gates of awe having ingested LSD or some other psychedelic. Tom Shroder’s Acid Test is an inspiring and profoundly hopeful book. "--Wade Davis, author of The Serpent and the Rainbow

"Tom Shroder has written a book that is at once captivating and utterly surprising, with mind-blowing revelations of a lost history. The scourge of war and trauma and the mysteries of human consciousness fills virtually every one of the gripping chapters. With its impressive research, masterful storytelling and ultimately, the possibility of hope and healing, Acid Test is destined to be an important book. "--Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed

"Acid Test is a trip of a different kind. Tom Shroder makes the hunt for relief from modern wars’ biggest killers—depression and post-traumatic stress disorder—come alive in bright, unforgettable colors, characters and emotions. "--Dana Priest, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and author of Top Secret America

"Acid Test is a breath of fresh air after half a century of general hysteria, misinformation, confusion and questionable decisions of scientific, political, and legal authorities concerning psychedelic substances. Tom Shroder’s fascinating, well-researched, and clearly written account of psychedelic history, from the discovery of LSD to the current worldwide renaissance of interest in these remarkable substances and revival of research in this area, is a tour de force. Most important—socially, economically, and politically—is the book’s focus on the psychedelic newcomer MDMA (Ecstasy). The pilot studies of this substance suggest that it might play an important role in helping to solve the formidable problem of PTSD that kills more American soldiers than the weapons of enemies. "--Stanislav Grof, M.D., author of LSD Psychotherapy, The Ultimate Journey, and Psychology of the Future

"I read Acid Test with wonder and excitement. Wonder at seeing a controversial topic through Tom Shroder’s fresh and lucid eyes. And excitement at the promise of healing that he reveals. "--David Von Drehle, author of Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year

"Tom Shroder weaves together three compelling stories with such mastery that Acid Test reads like a first-rate novel. The book is that much more intriguing and consequential though because the stories are true and the subject matter—the healing of post-traumatic stress—of great currency and importance. We need to know how to treat the trauma that afflicts most of the world or we’re in deep trouble. "--Richard Rockefeller, former chairman of U.S. Advisory Board of Doctors Without Borders

"If you think LSD is a relic of the Sixties, or good for nothing except getting high, you need to read this riveting and important book. It’s the fascinating story of how LSD and MDMA can, with controlled use, bring near-miraculous benefits to people suffering from mental trauma. Tom Shroder is a fine journalist and a terrific writer; in Acid Test, he’s written a book that should start a long-overdue national conversation, and someday may help to end a lot of unnecessary suffering. "--Dave Barry

"A captivating narrative with irresistible characters. It will leave you wondering whether we have the moral right to oppose this breakthrough therapy. "--Gene Weingarten, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Fiddler in the Subway

"Acid Test is a superb book. The people Tom Shroder introduces us to are across-the-board fascinating, the reporting he’s done is deep and persuasive, and the writing is dazzling. Best of all, though, is what any open-minded reader will feel after finishing Acid Test: In a world of hurt, here is a new version of hope. "--David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Good Soldiers and Thank You for Your Service

"Acid Test represents such a critical contribution to our societal awareness, one that I am honored to wholeheartedly support. Faced with the challenge to alleviate the suffering of today’s combat veterans, we must open ourselves to considering new modalities, revisiting therapeutic agents criminalized by fear and ideology, and harnessing the power of healing rituals and ancient wisdom. Tom Shroder offers a timely and compelling story of stories, illustrating the struggles and opportunities for hope and healing. Put politics and preconceptions aside; open your mind; read this book; follow the data; and speak truth to power so that scientific rigor and emerging knowledge can lead the way. We owe our fellow humans no less."--Loree Sutton, psychiatrist, retired US Army Brigadier General and founding director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury



In the 1960s, LSD was hyped and feared. “Tripping on acid” was dangerously unpredictable. In 1970, the psychedelic drug group including LSD was designated Schedule I (the most restrictive class of controlled substances), the same as heroin. Here journalist Shroder filters the psychedelic world. He explores the use and abuse of these drugs. He examines the motivations and personalities of those who investigate, advocate for, and consume these kinds of psychoactive chemicals. Shroder presents a compelling case for supporting responsible, rigorous research of psychedelic compounds. Although he discusses LSD, mescaline, ibogaine, and psilocybin, it is MDMA (Ecstasy) that garners special attention. That substance shows effectiveness (even after treatment with a single dose) and safety in treating the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but larger studies are necessary. Shroder shares three very different stories about MDMA: a young veteran of the Iraq War suffering from severe PTSD, a compassionate psychiatrist-researcher, and the flamboyant leader of a movement to switch the drug to Schedule III status (which allows prescription by a doctor and permits clinical research). Empty your mind of any preconceptions about psychedelic drugs and enjoy a fascinating trip through the politics, science, history, and promise of these controversial chemical compounds. — Tony Miksanek, Booklist Review Afterword to the Paperback Edition — Tom Shroder, Author Acid Test: The Long Strange Trip of Psychedelic Therapy — David Burr Gerrard, Biographile Acid Test by Tom Shroder Book Review — Dr. Ben Sessa, psychiatrist and MDMA researcher Book Review of Tom Shroder's Acid Test — Professor Thomas B. Roberts Book Review: 'Acid Test,' on psychedelic drug therapy for PTSD, by Tom Shroder — Gregory Crouch, The Washington Post Top 10 Books for September 2014 — Bethanne Patrick, The Washingtonian Book Of The Day: Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy And The Power To Heal, By Tom Shroder — Rebecca Oppenheimer, The Ivy Bookshop


About the Author:

Tom Shroder has been an award-winning journalist, writer and editor for more than 30 years. His book editing projects include two New York Times bestsellers; Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time (2014), by Brigid Sculte; and Top Secret America (2012), by Dana Priest and William Arkin. As editor of The Washington Post Magazine, he conceived and edited the story, Fatal Distraction, which was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. He also edited and contributed to Pearls Before Breakfast, which was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. In addition to being an author and editor of narrative journalism, Shroder is one of the foremost editors of humor in the country. He has edited humor columns by Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tony Kornheiser, as well as conceived and launched the internationally syndicated comic strip, Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson.


Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Blue Rider Press (September 9, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0399162798
ISBN-13: 978-0399162794
Shipping Weight: 1 lb, 9 oz


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