A number of urban myths still persist about LSD, ranging from people thinking they have turned into pieces of fruit and trying to peel themselves, to the drug itself being contaminated with strychnine.

According to Neal M Goldsmith’s Psychedelic Healing – The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development

Nobody has ever found any strychnine in any LSD that’s been analysed’. ‘How much adulterant can you fit on a little blotter square, physically?’ he asks rhetorically. ‘The answer, in general, is “not enough”.’

Goldsmith also debunks the 1960s myth that LSD causes chromosome damage:

‘Other substances – milk, for example – do cause chromosome damage, but not LSD.’

As Peter Stafford states,

‘It has now been well established that the pure LSD molecule doesn’t affect chromosomes at all. This is evident from repeated tests made before and after administration of up to 2,000 mcg quantities. A summary of the first sixty-eight studies and case reports – the bulk conducted by NIMH – can be found in Science magazine (April 30, 1971). The article concludes that “pure LSD ingested in moderate doses does not damage chromosomes in vivo, does not cause detectable genetic damage, and it is not a teratogen or carcinogen in man.”’ Purported chromosome damage was later attributed to subjects either being users of amphetamines, or having been treated with Librium and Thorazine, known chromosome-breakers.

This proved to be a rather vexing revelation for Dr Herman Lisco MD, after conducting tests on Timothy Leary:

‘Timothy Leary, much to our surprise, showed, in 200 cells, only two with chromosome aberrations, one in each cell. This finding is about as spectacular as must be the amount of LSD that he has probably taken in the past 8 years. I am at a loss to understand or explain this negative finding.’

Numerous other urban myths surrounding LSD have similarly been debunked over the years – that people stare into the sun until they go blind; that a babysitter placed a baby in the oven and a turkey in a cot while high on LSD; that anyone who has dropped acid more than seven times is deemed ‘legally insane’, and so on. Even the notion that people jump from windows thinking they can fly has been largely discredited, ultimately attributed to suicide attempts or general discombobulation of motor skills while under the influence of the world’s most powerful substance.

And, although there was considerable hysteria in the 1960’s about terrorists lacing the water supply of major cities with LSD, triggered by the ‘Yippie’ counter-culture activist Abbie Hoffman’s threatening to do so in Chicago as a protest against the Vietnam War, this urban myth has long since been exposed. In reality, it has been calculated that it would take industrial-scale LSD laboratories years to manufacture even a fraction of the amount required to intoxicate even a small town’s water supply. Even then, a combination of exposure to sunlight, heat and chlorine in the system would most likely render the chemical impotent.


To find out more about the therapeutic properties of LSD check out Neurons to Nirvanathe definite documentary on Psychedelic Medicines.


Rory Spowers (12 Posts)

Rory Spowers is a writer, researcher, campaigner and filmmaker, based in Ibiza, Spain. His books include the critically acclaimed Rising Tides which has been compared to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Naomi Klein's No Logo, as a 'wake-up call to action'.