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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

From the archives: Acid: the thinking person’s drug?

Note from the Editors: This article was originally published on May 29, 1981. The Carletonian is 147 years old, with over 3,400 issues published since its inception. To reflect and learn from the newspaper’s substantial history, pieces from the archive that have particular relevance either to current events will be republished. 

He said, ‘it’s acid and it’s great stuff and you won’t freak out because you’re a stable person,’ and I took it and in about an hour things started to move—the walls didn’t seem solid anymore; you could walk through them if you had to. And the colors started coming; I was in this state of bliss; I thought, oh god, this is the greatest thing in the world…

Since then…I’ve done it about once a week, sometimes several times a week, especially spring term. 


Away from the din of the pitcher-happy Cave crowd, from the contented buzz that pervades Wednesday night Co-op Cafes, from that liquored aura that so delights Reub regulars, a small group of Carleton students eat LSD and psychedelic mushrooms more often than they down bottles of Hauenstein. And a much larger number participate regularly in the campus’s alcohol-laced festivities, but make their way into the weird, delightful, perilous and controversial world of hallucinogens now and again.

Why bother?

An abstainer

One hundred and two of 220 questionnaires stuffed randomly into student mailboxes were returned last week. The survey query was: Have you ever used any of the hallucinogens? (LSC/“acid,” DMT* STP, psilocibin/mushrooms, mescaline, peyote) Eighty-three people responded: “No.”

Of that number, 25 have friends who use psychedelics, 42 have had the opportunity to try one themselves, and 11 would consider taking advantage of such opportunities in the future. Seventy-two would not. And many of the written comments offered by these firm abstainers also indicated a decisive lack of interest in hallucinogenic drugs. Besides “Why bother?”, their remarks included: “It’s a stupid idea;” “I have better things to do;” and “I don’t see any benefits from doing it.”

With acid, your mind becomes a million times more powerful, because it’s opened up. Whatever you want, you can get, grab onto, think about for a while.


Bill dropped acid a couple of Saturdays ago, and granted an interview during the seventh hour of his trip. It was his second experience with LSD, and, like the first time, he had carefully anticipated the event and resolved to learn something from it. “I am in control,” he said. “It can be whatever I want it to be—If you have a goal in mind when you start out, something you want, you can go for it.”

Bill’s belief that psychedelic drugs expand consciousness identifies him with a centuries old tradition. The Huichol Indians in the West of Mexico ate peyotyl cactii to acquire what they considered to be religious knowledge. At least as early as the sixteenth century, psilocybe mushrooms were also ingested by Indians of the Southwest in search of visions and euphoria. Meanwhile, Western priests had discovered peyote and other psychedelic substances by the time of the Renaissance.

Then, in 1943, Albert Hofman discovered the psychedelic kick of the LSD-25 he had concocted five years earlier. Since that year, psychiatrists, priests, mystics, poets musicians and other adventurers have wondered if this most-powerful hallucinogen might lead inhabitants of the modern Western world to new perceptiveness and self-knowledge. During the sixties and early seventies, a number of these enthusiasts proclaimed publicly that acid could be the key to an era of radically elevated human consciousness. Timothy Leary, Alan Ginsberg, The Grateful Dead and Owsley, and Ken Kesey were among them. So were a sizeable number of college-age people.

Drug use is generally a part of a more general pattern of experimentation and search for relevance both within and without the college experience—it is one aspect of a more encompassing effort to find meaning in life. 

Kenneth Keniston, 1968

Around 1966, the mainstream media began to respond to and encourage international misgivings about the turn-on trend. In many eyes, “LSD” took on sinister proportions: people might kill under its influence; they might commit suicide; they might become permanently insane. It is not curious that Leary and his friends labeled such views distortions and exaggerations. But somewhat more unexpected was tolerance and even defense of the drug and of other hallucinogens by a few bona fide representatives of academia. In the winter, 1968 edition of the American Scholar, for example, Kenneth Keniston published an article entitled “Heads and Seekers” in which he argued that students who turned on tended to be more intellectual, humanistic and introspective than those who did not.

Keniston adhered to a definition of ‘user’ that included students who had only experimented with the drugs in question. His argument, moreover, was of necessity based on scattered and incomplete surveys. Yet his hypothesis is nevertheless suggestive. Particularly since it is one that some psychedelic-users voice at Carleton today. Said Sam: “The people you see around here with really long hair and looking really freaked are probably the people getting distinction on their comps and doing the most interesting things.”

I have chosen not to ‘trip’ because I’m basically satisfied with reality and I don’t feel much of a need to escape from it.

An abstainer

It’s not an escape. I don’t think they realize what it is when they say that.


Those who use them say that psychedelics do not estrange them from reality, but allow them to perceive it with greater sensitivity. Ginny, who has eaten mushrooms three times, explained, “You look at each single object like it’s totally there. It makes you want to explore…” And Joe, a friend of Sam’s who trips frequently, elaborated: “With acid, everything gets blasted apart, so you can see everything—and then in mushrooms, everything is exposed, but it’s still all connected. If you take mushrooms, you might feel like you’re being led everywhere, you’re being shown. If you’re taking acid, it’s like you’re continually searching.” 

After tripping, I really appreciated William Wordsworth. In a lot of ways, William Wordsworth is just a soppy, British poet…but after tripping I felt that way: you know, he was talking about childhood and being in touch with things and how adulthood closes in on you, and tripping was life that—it was like being a child again.


There are certain things that are usually related to each other in a very subtle way. Like the way a rock might be sitting on the ground, the way it’s posed in the first, or on some other rocks. It’s a relationship that’s usually very subtle, and you don’t usually understand, but you understand it on a completely different level when you’re tripping.


Bill tripped with Larry that Saturday, a friend who had never done acid before. Bill emphasized control. “You can do what you want to do,” he told Larry. And to the reporter: “Right now, if I want to be munched out, I could be munched out. I could walk over there and eat that cake and just enjoy the hell out of it. But I can also just sit here with the frisbee in one hand and the baseball in the other and just enjoy myself. I’m really enjoying myself. I’m comfortable. And I could just sit here for a while and enjoy the fuck out of myself.”

The two set a series of goals for themselves. They traversed campus to shoot pool; they walked downtown; “that’s nice,” Bill told a shopkeeper who was admiring a newly acquired awning; they played frisbee; heard and felt the whirrrring; the sensations of fingers curled around in the rim; the clicks of nails on plastic; their control; the wind. 

They walked back to the dorm where a falling laundry bag and the whoosh of air that accompanied it sent them scrambling to Bill’s room. They spoke with the reporter into a tape recorder that annoyed them to no end.

The Carletonian as it is now…I don’t know—that tape recorder is sitting there and I’m staring straight at it, but I’m going to this anyway—The Carletonian as it is now just will not portray things well. It will portray things accurately but not well. A lot of the time, The Carletonian might be effective in portraying the EPC—the EPC, Jesus Christ—but The Carletonian just can’t portray shit about frisbees in the wind…It can’t get in at the gut level, making things look good and feel good.


They spoke of concentration, of self-direction. Bill’s friend vomited. They discussed the chocolatey odor, how the act had cleansed his body, the violence of puking. Larry turned to his guitar. 

Many of the written comments of abstainers, as well as the remarks of some of the ore regular hallucinogen users, indicated that there is not an overwhelming amount of mutual respect flowing between those who partake of psychedelics and those who do not.

Whether there exists a social gulf between those who eat psychedelics and those who do not, users say there exists a gulf of experience. And it is one users say cannot be traversed without the ingestion of acid, psilocibin or one of the other consciousness expanding drugs. Certainly it is not one that The Carletonian, incapable of portraying the truth about frisbees in the wind, can do much to bridge. 


*—All students in this article are referred to by pseudonyms

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