In their riveting account of the so‐called hippie mafia, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Stewart Tendlar and David May observe how LSD experiments ‘carried out on spiders, cats, fish and rats showed the spiders built better webs, cats cowered before untreated mice, fish which usually stayed close to the bottom of streams stayed near the top, and rats lost their equilibrium’.
Swiss pharmacologist P. N. Witt started his renowned research on the effect of drugs on spiders in 1948, prompted by a request from his colleague, zoologist H. M. Peters, to shift the time when garden spiders inconveniently built their webs between 2am and 5am to earlier hours.
‘Witt tested spiders with a range of psychoactive drugs, including amphetamine, mescaline, strychnine, LSD and caffeine, and found that the drugs affect the size and shape of the web rather than the time when it is built. At small doses of caffeine (10 μg/spider), the webs were smaller; the radii were uneven, but the regularity of the circles was unaffected. At higher doses (100 μg/spider), the shape changed more, and the web design became irregular. All the drugs tested reduced web regularity except for small doses (0.1–0.3 μg) of LSD, which resulted in more ordered webs.’
In The Mystic Chemist, The Life of Albert Hoffmann and his Discovery of LSD, by Dieter Hagenbach and Lucius Werthmuller, a lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced book, published by Synergetic Press in 2011, the authors refer to Witt’s experiments with LSD in Bern in 1956:
‘The most chaotic web of all was woven under the effects of caffeine, the loveliest under marijuana, the most regular under a low dosage of LSD. Under high dosages of LSD, the spiders wove three-dimensional webs that no longer were effective in catching prey. Under even higher doses, the spiders did not bother any longer to weave webs.’
Check out Spiders on Drugs for an amusing parody of these experiments, which seem to imply that the effects of all intoxicants are synonymous throughout the evolutionary scale. The notion that fish swim backwards on LSD is clearly an urban myth, but check out my post Do Elephants Die on LSD? to see what happens in the case of psychedelic pachyderms.
To find out more about the therapeutic properties of LSD check out Neurons to Nirvana, the definite documentary on Psychedelic Medicines.