LSD is more “mainstream” than you think. Many influential figures have either experimented with or habitually used LSD. Scientists, inventors, writers, business figures, and musicians.
What follows is a comprehensive list of well-known figures who have used LSD.
Peter Matthiesen is an American travel writer, best known for his book “Snow Leopard.” “Snow Leopard” is a narrative of exploration in the high Himalayas in hopes of catching a glimpse of the near-mystical snow leopard. The book focuses on spiritual exploration, and thus, Matthiesen sporadically digresses into his past experiences with LSD.
Matthiessen claimed to be an early pioneer of LSD, experimenting with it in the early 60s. He worked with a shrink who claimed, “he could treat 40 people more effectively [with LSD] than he could work with one person in conventional analysis.”
When asked if LSD is still of value, Matthiessen said,
“Virtually anyone who was not seriously disturbed, and even then if under medical supervision, could benefit from LSD. It could clear away neurosis so much better than conventional therapy.”
Dr. Andrew Weil is an American author and physician, best known for establishing and popularizing the field of integrative medicine.
Weil first used psychedelics in the mid-1950s with Leary, Alpert, and Huston Smith. Although only a freshman at Harvard (psychedelic research was restricted to graduate students), he forged documents to procure his own supply of mescaline.
Due to intra-group conflict and jealousy, Weil wrote a scathing rebuke of Leary’s research in psychedelics in the Harvard Crimson in 1960. Weil’s letter led to the firing of Leary and Alpert. Although Weil has tried to apologize for his letter, he remains partly responsible for catalyzing the downfall of psychedelic research.
First experimented with LSD between March and July 1965. Took it without a choice, as George and John’s dentist slipped it to them after a private dinner party. George was quoted as saying, “In fact, he had obtained some lysergic acid diethylamide 25. It was, at the time, an unrestricted medication – I seem to recall that I’d heard vaguely about it, but I didn’t really know what it was, and we didn’t know we were taking it. The bloke had put it in our coffee: mine, John’s, Cynthia’s and Pattie’s.”
Once the LSD finally hit, George felt something unbelievable, “We’d just sat down and ordered our drinks when suddenly I feel the most incredible feeling come over me. It was something like a very concentrated version of the best feeling I’d ever had in my whole life. It was fantastic. I felt in love, not with anything or anybody in particular, but with everything. Everything was perfect, in a perfect light, and I had an overwhelming desire to go round the club telling everybody how much I loved them – people I’d never seen before.”
Ken Kesey published “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1962. His novel instantly catapulted Kesey to fame. Once he had the attention of mainstream America, he leveraged his position as a thought leader to popularize LSD use.
His antics involving LSD reached its pinnacle in 1964, when he led a group of friends in a cross-country bus trip from San Francisco to New York. Labeling themselves the “Merry Pranksters,” this group of cohorts consumed considerable amounts of LSD to experience roadway America while high. The exploits of the “Merry Prankers” have been documented in Tom Wolfe’s, “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.”Yes, the famous actor. Nicholson used LSD in the 1960s, and claimed to have life-changing experiences with it. In fact, while writing the screenplay for the movie “The Trip,” he regularly dropped LSD.
Nicholson told reporters:
“I don’t advocate anything for anybody. But I choose always to be candid because I don’t like the closet atmosphere of drugging… In other words, it ain’t no big thing. You can wreck yourself with it, but Christ, you can wreck yourself with anything.” (Goes back to one of James Fadiman’s points from the Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: If you take enough aspirin, it too can be harmful).
His autobiography explained battling his curiosity about hallucinations with his reluctance towards mind-alteration, but when Feynman eventually met influential neuroscientist John C. Lilly — an avid LSD user — he overcame his fears and had himself a great time (or several).
In a 2004 interview, the brainiac recounted plenty of Cambridge researchers taking LSD in small amounts to aid their thinking, and Crick’s frequent experimentation with it underlined most of his work determining the fundamental geometry of all life’s programming. And believe it or not, he wasn’t the only one…
Refined the polymerase chain reaction technique (PCR). His biochemical breakthroughs ultimately netted him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993. The baffling thing is, a year after winning, the scientist admitted his LSD binges in the 60s and 70s were far more important to his accomplishments than any courses he ever took in school. Not only that, BUT his entire legacy probably depended on them. He told the BBC:
“What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR? I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.”
Yes, the wealthiest man alive today has dropped LSD. Probably more correlation than causation, it speaks to the relative harmlessness of LSD. In a 1994 interview with Playboy, Bill Gates briefly touched on his use:
Playboy: Ever take LSD?
Gates: My errant youth ended a long time ago.
Playboy: What does that mean?
Gates: That means there were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently.
Playboy: One LSD story involved you staring at a table and thinking the corner was going to plunge into your eye.
Playboy: Ah, a glimmer of recognition.
Gates: That was on the other side of that boundary. The young mind can deal with certain kinds of goofing around that I don’t think at this age I could.
You’re a professional baseball pitcher. You have the day off. So, instead of living like Sober Sally and merely kicking it in the dugout, you decide to take some LSD. Five minutes after administering your own dose, you get a call. It’s from your manager. You’re pitching today. In front of 50,000 people.
Legendary. Absolutely legendary. Doc Ellis, a pitcher for the Pirates in the 1970s, allegedly threw a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. I’m going to repeat this for effect: Doc Ellis threw a no-hitter in front of 50,000 people while tripping face on LSD.
Stand up comedian and social critic. George Carlin was best known for his skit, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” Clever, cynical, and hilarious, Carlin had a gift for incisive commentary on topics like religion, materialism, and the mindlessness of mainstream society.
Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. He pioneered the use of modes in jazz, and later was at the forefront of free jazz. Basically, Coltrane was a boss of a musician, and used LSD in his late 30s to incorporate serious spiritual aspects into his music.
Considered the 15th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone, Santana is best known for his pioneering efforts in combining traditional Latin American music with rock ‘n’ roll.
He performed at Woodstock while under the influence of mescaline
Watts is best known for a short film that has made the interwebz rounds in recent years: “What if Money Was No Object?” He was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known for popularizing Eastern philosophies for a Western audience.
Watts wrote an essay entitled, “Psychedelics and Religious Experience,” in which he describes the state of oneness induced by LSD
Steve Jobs experimented with LSD in his late-teens. He called it one of the two or three most important things he ever did.
Jobs credits his outside-the-box perspective to LSD. It made him think of the world in a different way.
One of the ‘perks’ of LSD is its proclivity for making users break away from group-like thinking. When Jobs founded Apple, it was an enormous step away from the corporate-based model of computer use. One could argue that Jobs use of LSD gave him the confidence to break away from mainstream thought, and create a totally revolutionary product.
Aldous Huxley was a British-born author, best known for writing Brave New World. He was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. In addition to Brave New World, he also wrote “Doors of Perception” and “Heaven and Hell”, two short works detailing the effects of psychedelics on consciousness.
He first experimented with mescaline in 1953, later taking LSD in 1955. His experiments with psychedelics inspired him to write a novel entitled “Island,” in which a tribal population ingests moksha, a psychedelic medicine made from mushrooms, during critical periods of life. His creation of this ‘society’ expressed Huxley’s desires for a new culture in which rationalism and mysticism unite.
On his deathbed, Huxley asked his wife to inject him with 100 micrograms of LSD (equal to about 1 tab). Much like the characters in his final novel, Island, Huxley used psychedelic medicine to transition into death.