Re: Re[2]: Tell me if you've heard this one.

Patrick Wilken (
Wed, 30 Apr 1997 01:04:39 +1000

>Proof of LSD causing chromozome damage has been both 'proved' and
>'disproved' by teams of researchers for and against the theraputic use of

I think the example of the charge of LSD causing choromosomal damage is
really much more an example that people will believe what they want no
matter what reason, logic or good scientific proceedures suggest - rather
than that truth is in some way relative. I hope people forgive the long
quote. I think its remarkable how long this meme - LSD causes chromosome
damage - has lasted given that it was basically caused by two bad papers
published in the late 60s and disproved comprehensively also in the late

>From the "Psychedelics Encyclopedia" by Peter Stafford (1983, pp 60-61):

"In 1967, Dr. Maimon Cohen, a geneticist from Buffalo, NY, made an
announcement that significantly prejudiced the public's view of LSD.
Returning from a visit to the Haight-Ashbury area, Cohen decided to examine
chromosomes from a 57 year old man who had been given LSD on four occasions
during a 15 year hospitalization. The patient was found to have more
chromosomal breaks than usual. Dr. Cohen also spilled LSD into a test tube
containging human cells and observed damage to the chromosomes. Later it
was pointed out that similar results cold be achived with the same amount
of milk and that Cohen's patient had recieved regular treatments of Librium
and Thorazine, now proven chromosome-breakers. Nonetheless, on the basis of
his examination of the single patient and his cell-spilling experiment,
Cohen published his conclusions in Science. By evening the charge that LSD
could break chromosomes was in all the nation's media.

Shortly thereafter, two doctors in Portland, Oregon reported that they had
found an excess of choromosomal breaks in users of street acid. The chart
they provided revealed that extra breakage occured only among users of acid
who were also users of amphetamine, which as since been established a
chromosome-breaker. Once again the papers had a field day. A full-page ad
for a McCall's article on LSD featured a baby broken into parts. Ironically
the article itself cast doubts on the charge of chromosomal damage.

Retractions on mistaken opinions and findings about the use and effects of
LSD are quiet and very rare, and so it was in regard to the chromosome
charge. Even though studies conducted by the National Institute of Mental
Health and others disproved the allegation, even though Timothy Leary's
chromosomes were examined and showed no abnormal breakage, even though
other drugs have now clearly been established to be choromosome-breakers
while LSD has not, the media took little if any notice of the new

best, patrick

Patrick Wilken
Editor: PSYCHE: An International Journal of Research on Consciousness
Secretary: The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness