Best Of The Web
“In the fall of 1951, Humphry Osmond, a thirty-four-year-old British psychiatrist, travelled from London to Weyburn, Saskatchewan, to become the clinical director of the town’s mental hospital. About 110 kilometres southeast of Regina, Weyburn was a small community in the middle of nowhere, and its grubby, ill-equipped hospital was sometimes referred to as the last asylum in the British Commonwealth. The building was a mess, and it wasn’t uncommon for its ceilings to be spattered with patients’ feces. “Screams, stench, nudity—it was a place to keep out of your dreams,” was how Osmond poetically described it. But this prairie outpost was also a haven.
Back in London, Osmond had become fascinated by hallucinogenic drugs, particularly lsd and mescaline, which is found in the peyote cactus. He thought that these substances had the potential to unlock the mysteries of mental illnesses, but the British psychiatric community, still enthralled by Freud and psychoanalysis, was dismissive of Osmond’s outré biochemical theories. Saskatchewan, in contrast, was a hospitable place for new ideas of all kinds: it had the first democratic socialist government in North America, and the groundwork was being laid for the creation of medicare. Tommy Douglas’s ccf government had begun to reform hospital conditions, administration, and training, and it had also initiated a massive recruitment drive in medicine, bringing in the best researchers from around the world and granting them almost unlimited freedom and resources. Osmond was one of those researchers, and at Weyburn—initially, at least—he was considered a visionary.
Along with his colleagues John Smythies and Abram Hoffer, Osmond found that mescaline produces symptoms that are almost identical to schizophrenia, and he hypothesized that the drug could be used to essentially induce schizophrenic symptoms in healthy patients in order to help develop treatments for the illness. Osmond later experimented with lsd, finding particular success in using it to treat alcoholism. What Osmond realized was that the drugs’ promise wasn’t due to their ability to mimic madness but rather their ability to do something more nebulous, less quantifiable, and more revolutionary: induce a radical reorientation in what users saw, felt, and thought. As anyone who’s taken psychedelics knows, the drugs can refresh and enlarge the world even as they provide a glimpse of other meaningful worlds.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"During the debate on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal in the United Kingdom’s Parliament on Saturday—which ended, as these things often have, with a vote calling for another delay—Johnson exposed the most basic blindness of Brexit..."
"Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, wants to change his story about Ukraine. On Thursday, at a press briefing, Mulvaney confirmed that when President Donald Trump suspended military aid to Ukraine in July, one reason was that..."
"I travelled with Bedouin in the Western Desert of Egypt. When we got a puncture, they used tape and an old inner tube to suck air from three tyres to inflate a fourth. It was the cook who suggested the idea; maybe he was used to making food..."
"The ultrasound technician places the wand on my daughter’s lower abdomen and moves it slowly across taut skin glistening with gel. I’ve been holding my breath since being ushered into the dimly lit cubicle to witness a sonogram that will..."
"Even many Democrats are criticizing Senator Elizabeth Warren for refusing to admit, in plain words, that her Medicare for All plan will require taxes to increase. They’re right to complain. The point could hardly be simpler: All presidential..."
"How do you update Watchmen for 2019? That might sound like a question with an obvious answer: You just do Watchmen. After all, the graphic novel, which has been consistently in print since its 12-volume run ended in 1987, is pretty terrific..."
"The climactic face-off of the 2019 Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg took place on a wide, sunny plaza, between a statue dedicated to the millions of anonymous miners who had toiled under inhuman..."
"Mark Zuckerberg has rarely been so compelling. Facing increased scrutiny — especially after leaked audio of an internal meeting in which Zuckerberg called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) an existential threat — the Facebook CEO outlined his..."