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The Points Interview: Tom Shroder

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

Editor’s Note: The latest installment of our interview series features Tom Shroder, author of Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal, published by Blue Rider Press in 2014.


1. Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

The hysteria surrounding recreational use of psychedelic drugs in the 1960s caused the government to overreact and criminalize a drug that had been used successfully for 15 years to treat some of the most difficult problems in psychiatry with astounding success. The new laws failed to stop recreational use, but they shut down legitimate research into medical use totally. Most doctors and researchers gave up due to the outsize stigma of even admitting an interest in psychedelic research, but a small group of believers refused to abandon such promising therapy. Acid Test is the story how this small group overcame almost impossible obstacles to finally bring psychedelic therapy to the brink of FDA approval.

2. What do you think a bunch of alcohol and drug historians might find particularly interesting about your book?

I think it is surprising just how advanced the research and therapeutic use of psychedelics had become before LSD was placed on Schedule I, the most restrictive category for drugs with no medical use. As one researcher told me, it was as if psychedelics had instantly become “undiscovered.”  I also think the new fMRI studies of brain activity under the influence of psychedelics is opening a fascinating window into how psychedelics create such phenomenal alterations in consciousness.

3. Now that the hard part is over, what is the thing YOU find most interesting about your book?

I have always been most attracted to the human stories told in Acid Test of the triumvirate of characters: the college dropout acidhead who taught himself science and social policy and ceaselessly tilted at the windmills of government overregulation to revive psychedelic research; the emergency room physician who became a psychiatrist to treat the root cause of all the dysfunction and violence he had to stitch up night after night, and ended up conducting pioneering research in the power of altered consciousness to heal; the young Marine whose life was nearly destroyed by the horrors he witnessed in Iraq, and restored to him because of the efforts of the two men mentioned above.

4. Every research project leaves some stones unturned. What stone are you most curious to see turned over soon?

Mainly I want to see just how effective psychedelic therapy will become once it is legally available to all who require it, and what range of conditions it will be useful for.

BONUS QUESTION: In an audio version of this book, who should provide the narration?


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