Better Living Through Chemistry: The Sixties And Its Drugs

July 7, 2013



Better Living Through Chemistry:

The Sixties And Its Drugs


R.E. Prindle

If the Sixties had had a motto it would have been the variant of the Dupont slogan:  Better Living Through Chemistry.  It was sincerely believed that a pill could make your life shine.  Amphetamines, LSD, barbiturates, just about anything that could be swallowed, sniffed, or popped.  The Sixties mind was blown and never fully recovered.  If as Fugs’ percussionist Tuli Kupferberg observed: America is insane, it was drugs that pushed it over the edge.

When drugs hit in the Sixties they were relatively new, no immunity to their use had been built up.  Drugs were to American youth what alcohol had been to the American Indian in the nineteenth century and American youth dressed as funny as the Indians had; Youth adopted all sorts of bizarre behavior and clothing.  It seemed funny at the time but I’m not laughing anymore.  By the end of the Sixties from a sort of contact high the older generations tried to look and act just like the youth who by the end of the Sixties were no longer so young.  Both age groups were laughable.  It was something to see.

Of course chemistry had been discovering all kinds of new things from the nineteenth century on; people just couldn’t find an immediate use for the sort of drugs discovered.  Barbiturates were first synthesized in 1864 by the German chemist Adolf von Baeyer.  The formula sat around on the shelf till 1903 when some bored soul found that you could use the formula to put dogs to sleep.  I suppose it wasn’t a great stretch to apply what was learned of dogs to humans.

At any rate new formulations began to appear through the thirties and in 1946 the tranquilizer Miltown was formulated.  By 1955 Miltown was a great hit to be followed by the blockbuster Valium in 1963.  You began to see a lot dopey people walking around, mostly over forty, who said they couldn’t live without the stuff.

Barbiturates were called downers.  At least on the West Coast they seemed to be the preferred chemical.

The East Coast, for reasons I will explain, was powered by amphetamines from the late fifties through the Sixties decade.  Out on the West Coast we thought the stuff was pernicious, Speed Kills was the slogan.  Probably didn’t stop too many people from using it.  I saw enough amphetamine casualties walking about.

Amphetamines were first synthesized by the German chemist Edeleano in 1887; methamphetamine by a Japanese chemist in 1919 and worked with by the Brit-American Gordon Alles who came up with Benzedrine in the thirties.  By the thirties, then, uses were found for the drug.  Refinements followed.

The chemists were also analyzing foodstuffs  so that the various vitamins were being discovered during the twenties and thirties.  So in addition to drugs the pharmacopeia included previously undiscovered nutrients.  The nutrients were more important than the drugs.  For all of previous history there may have been no human not suffering from some vitamin or mineral deficiency.  For the first time beginning in the thirties a human could be fully supplied with all the necessary vitamins, minerals and amino acids.  True health.

It only remained for someone to come up with the bright idea of combining amphetamines and vitamins to appear to create a wonder drug, a veritable fountain of youth, or so it would seem.

As Henry Kaiser proclaimed on his cement trucks:  Find a need and fill it.  He was talking concrete but a Jewish-German doctor by the name of Max Jacobson did the obvious and combined amphetamines and vitamins along with certain other unmentionables, oh well, monkey balls, into what he thought was a healthful rejuvenating cocktail.  As Max got his medical license in 1929 while the Nazis came to power in 1933 his medical career in Germany was short.  Max terminated his German residency in 1932 leaving first for Prague, then Paris and in 1936 for the new Promised Land of the USA.

Max’s chronology seems a little crowded and perhaps askew but between 1929 and 1932 he claims to have invented his cocktail going rapidly from obscurity to apparent fame. According to Max, Lertzman and Birne quoting from his diary, his concoction  was so well known that the Nazis demanded his formula before they would allow him to leave.  Apparently they were incapable of chemically analyzing it.

As Max left in ‘32 and the Nazi’s came to power in ‘33 his chronology is somewhat suspect.  However, if the Nazis had stolen his formula Max proved to be responsible for Hitler’s deteriorization if Hitler’s doctor Theodor Morrell had purloined the formula and injected Hitler, as he did.

Amphetamines gained such acceptance in the thirties that all the combatants of WWII were dispensing amphetamines to their troops to keep them cheerful as the bombs exploded around them rattling their nerves.  Interestingly the Germans realized the danger of the drug ceasing to dispense the pills, probably why they lost the war.

Smith Kline separated dextroamphetamine from Benzedrine in the forties so that the amphetamine pharmacopeia that Max Jacobson could use in his concoctions had grown by 1946 when Max’s post-war career in the US kicked into high gear.

During the fifties while Max was developing his formulas and expanding his clientele geometrically, the pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline, French, later Glaxo-Smith-Kline, was developing its own business of Benzedrine inhalers, Benzedrine (Bennies) and Dexedrine (Dexies) into a phenomenally successful enterprise.  Thus the licit and illicit markets were booming.

By 1960 Max Jacobson’s reputation as a miracle doctor had expanded wildly and his fame would soon reach the White House.  He naturally spawned imitators and by the early sixties Robert Freyman, Elois Peter Warren, Jack Cohen and John Bishop were injecting non-stop flooding NYC with speed and vitamins.

One should pay attention to the vitamins.  Beginning in the forties their importance was noted to the extent that Wonder Bread began enriching their product with vitamins.  Thus by the early fifties in my avid reading of cereal boxes I noted that they too were vitamin enriched.  The enrichment eliminated vitamin deficiency diseases like beri beri and pellagra so my generation was perhaps the healthiest the world had yet seen.

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that build and maintain bodily processes, most prominently in the brain, while drugs consume essential substances without replacing them.  Thus the amphetamine doctors in combining massive doses of vitamins and amphetamines provided some healthful chemicals along with the deleterious chemical drugs.  God only knows what the human placenta and monkey balls Max used did but Max thought they were beneficial.  As a doctor he never conducted any experiments so he was only guessing.

Still, his concoction was fairly dangerous stuff.  Like many experimenters Max tried out his formulas on himself.  As one formula he tried left him with a permanently crippled leg I think it safe to assume there was some permanent brain damage.  Edie Sedgwick of the Warhol gang certainly destroyed her brain from the massive injections she took from Max, Dr. Robert and Dr. Bishop, aka Dr. Roberts, all three.  She really liked the stuff. Max himself was a steady user of his stuff to the extent we are told that he didn’t even sleep for a month or more at a time.

As he had undoubtedly been using from 1932 on, by 1960 he must have been a living psychotic reaction.  While he had never been one for controls by ‘60 he had lost control, padding around his office in a blood stained smock, unwashed, with dirty, stained finger nails.

It was in this state in September of 1960 that he was enlisted to shoot up John F. Kennedy just before the first Nixon debate.  Kennedy soon became an amphetamine freak.

Before we go on with amphetamines let’s take a look at the second great drug development of the Sixties, LSD.


The active ingredient in LSD occurs naturally in a rye ergot from which it was isolated by Dr. Albert Hofmann in Switzerland in 1938.  Finding no use for it he shelved the substance until 1943 when he re-examined it.  He accidentally imbibed some thusly experiencing its disorganizing mental effect.  This was not necessarily a use for it but at the time the wartime predecessor of the CIA, the OSS, was searching for a reliable truth serum.  LSD wasn’t reliable or even a truth serum but the CIA decided to give it a few test trials anyway.  Thus research programs were begun at such universities as Harvard, UC-Berkeley and Stanford University.  At the same time psychologists thought that LSD might be a perfect drug for psycho-analytic uses.  They believed, at least, that with a great deal of experimentation they had achieved some success and could have achieved more if the substance hadn’t been outlawed in 1966.

So with both amphetamines and LSD we are talking about legal chemicals until 1966.

LSD received some notoriety in the fifties as I even wrote a high school essay concerning it in 1956.  Aldous Huxley and many of the Hollywood crowd were quite familiar with LSD in the late fifties.  Cary Grant was a proponent of the substance while samples began leaking from the labs at UC Berkeley and Stanford, or gushing might be a more appropriate word.

LSD along with mescaline, peyote buttons, mushrooms and whatever were revered as  mind or consciousness expanders.  People in the Sixties really believed that they had penetrated the secrets of the cosmos when all they were looking at was their own mind, in most cases fairly empty.  The early users, an interesting group, actually thought of themselves as supra-human.  They could barely deign to talk to the inexperienced while avoiding any physical contact.  They were fairly awesome in their belief that they were in contact with something out there.

So, while Dr. Timothy Leary of Harvard may have given LSD its first real national exposure with the substantial aid of the Luce’s and their Time and Life magazines, LSD was around the Bay Area long before Timmy brought it to the fore.  I first actually saw tabs in late 1963 when I took a job with a mortgage banking firm called Lowell, Smith and Evers.  My indoctrinator lived near campus of UC Berkeley.  The first time out I met him at his house where he had a bowl of what looked like aspirin on his living room table.  ‘Lotta headaches?’  I asked.  ‘Well, no,’ he said smiling mysteriously, ‘go ahead and have one.’  I declined but as it turned out he took a tab before work.  He enjoyed a most leisurely work pace as we got very little done on that first day.

So, by then the West Coast acid guru, Ken Kesey, who as it would turn out I would know slightly, was distributing sunshine down in La Honda preparing the way for the acid paradise of Haight-Ashbury.

Leary back at Harvard violated protocol and was expelled from his post.  He then ended up at Billy Hitchcock’s vast estate at Millbrook New York where Tim began his vastly misguided career.  Timmy was on a religious trip so he thought he was finding not only the secrets of the cosmos but shaking hands with God himself or, maybe, himself.

Thus Tim became a drug guru describing LSD as the Greater Sacrament and marijuana as the Lesser Sacrament.  Well, you know, why not?  Thus Tim legitimized their use for a whole generation turning the Sixties into a mess.  In his acid delusions Tim decided that the recently introduced Aramis aftershave was God’s own scent.  Rather extraordinary claim I thought but I bought a bottle.  Out of production for a few decades it has been recently reintroduced.  I bought another pint so as to maintain traditions.  It is a damn fine scent although whether God uses it or not I can’t say.

Tim was associated with some colorful characters in his attempt to turn on the world including the reprehensible Allen Ginsberg the so-called poet and the remarkable Michael Hollingshead who billed himself and titled his autobiography The Man Who Turned On The World.  The autobiography is free on the internet.

From about 1963 to 1965 then Kesey and his Merry Pranksters and Leary and his Millbrook crowd turned the country on its head.  If America was insane as Tuli Kupferberg said, it was the result of the LSD and amphetamine infestations.


To return to Max Jacobson, New York City and its amphetamine plague from 1960 to 1965.  As I say, by 1960 Max Jacobson, the original amphetamine pusher, was booming.  He naturally engendered imitators.  Thus a Dr. Robert Freyman, who after the busts wrote a book called What’s So Bad About Feeling Good,  established himself uptown near Max.  He was immortalized by the Beatles in their song Dr. Robert.  In midtown Dr. John Bishop aka Dr. Roberts with an s established himself.  He is well described by Cherry Vanilla in her memoir, Lick Me, and his association with Edie Sedgwick and the film Ciao, Manhattan.

In addition there were Dr. Jack Cohen and Dr. Alois Peter Warren.  Haven’t located much as these two yet although a record of Warren’s appeal to his 1970 conviction for trafficking in amphetamines is available on the internet.

Of some significance to the early sixties NY scene is a connection to Andy Warhol with Jacobson.  Warhol whose atelier The Factory of ‘64-’65 and ‘66 was fueled by amphetamines was at least a one time patron of Max.  This may have been sometime in ‘62 or ‘63.  If as Andy would have been deeply impressed by the celebrity clientele crowding the waiting room where they apparently waited for hours he may have transferred the idea of mind control through amphetamines to his own celebrity location at the Factory which he successfully had by 1965.  Andy yearned for celebrity status as much as Max did.  Max’s bizarre persona may also have made a significant impression on Andy who was no stranger to bizarre personas.

Andy, himself, during the First Factory years was said to have limited himself to a quarter tab of Obetrol, I believe a Dextroamphetamine formula.  He would also have understood the controlling power of the drug.  If you’ve got celebrities standing around for hours, believe me, you have control of them.

Now, in 1962 Anthony Burgess published his novel A Clockwork Orange.  The English fashion photographer David Bailey immediately seized on the book’s potential to further the Yobbo revolution.  Bailey became attracted to Mick Jagger of the emerging rock group The Rolling Stones so that gathering up Mick in 1963 they hopped a big 707 to cross over to NYC to visit Andy.  Bailey may have met Andy in 1961 in an earlier visit.  The idea was to star Jagger probably in a Warhol movie in a glorification of the novel’s Droog lifestyle.

Bailey, Warhol and Jagger bought the film rights to the novel from Burgess.  Andy actually made an adaptation of the novel in 1965 titled Vinyl, available on the internet, although not starring Jagger.  Jagger went on in his post 1967 stage persona to imitate the Droog style.  Thus one may believe that the culture of the First Factory was based on the Droog’s while the culture was fueled by speed.

But, back to Max.  As I said Max was approached to medicate JFK before the first Nixon debate.  Kennedy was a very sick man who was nearly exhausted by the demands of the 1960 campaign while he was fearful of losing his voice for the debate.  Max shot him directly into the larynx.  A spry speed rapping Kennedy shot down Nixon to essentially win the election that night.

Kennedy who was always in a lot of pain found significant relief from Max’s shots.  Max immediately became a regular visitor to the White House after Kennedy’s inauguration.   Thus by April and the Bay of Pigs Jack was dependent on Max Jacobson and his amphetamine shots.  Jacks dependence on amphetamines probably affected his judgment during that fiasco.

In June of 1961, a couple months later,  Max accompanied JFK to the Vienna Summit with Nikita Khruschev.  Kennedy’s behavior around the Bay Of Pigs fiasco was erratic while at the Summit where he received at least three shot before the interview Khrushchev walked all over him.

It is known that Max gave Kennedy at least three shots before the Khruschev meeting.  Kennedy was clearly out of it.  It seems possible then, if not probable, that Max was able to exercise considerable control over Kennedy.  Max knew a little something about hypnotic suggestion while the rush or flash of the amphetamine coming on would leave the patient open to a well placed suggestion.

Thus as Kennedy was undoubtedly shot up once or twice before or during the Bay of Pigs Max might easily have planted a suggestion in Kennedy’s mind to botch the operation while in shooting up JFK at least three times before the Khruschev meeting it seems certain that he at least rendered Kennedy ineffective.

There is no reason to not believe that Max was following his own agenda or that of some organization.  He was Jewish.

Max continued to minister to Jack.  Brother Bobby Kennedy, Jack’s Attorney General, looked askance at Max.  He had a number of vials analyzed and at least realized that his brother the President was being drugged with amphetamines.

Jack didn’t care but Bobby did.  Max had an entrée to the White House.  As he was entering Bobby intercepted him and told him to get the hell out, not to bother his brother again.  Jack was totally dependent if not addicted so that he dropped affairs of State to fly to New York to beg Max to forgive the situation and give him another shot.  Imagine that!  The President of the United States flying to a quack doctor to beg him for treatment.  There is a real transfer of power there.  Was it Mind Control the CIA was looking for?

Max had been deeply offended by Bobby.  Remember that Max himself had been self medicating for maybe twenty years.  He must have had but a tenuous grip on whatever passed for reality in his own mind.  In other words his subconscious ruled his conscious mind; subjectivity overruled objectivity.  Max was not the forgiving kind.  Jack had to pay.  As Max was experimenting continually he is sure to have had different formulations that produced different effects.  He is described by one client as taking a little from one vial, a little more from another and so on and then shooting it in.  One client described himself as going blind for three days after a shot.

In this case Max gave Jack a formulation of such potency that Jack ripped off his clothes and began streaking naked through the corridors of the Carlton Hotel where he was staying.  Fortunately he was restrained before he could make the lobby and possibly go streaking down the street.  Another doctor had a heck of a time bringing Jack under control with yet other drugs.

Yes, indeed!  Now, Jack was President of the United States and he had freaked out.  He was in control of the nuclear armament of the United States.  As Commander in Chief he was entrusted with the little red button.  What would happen if he had a psychotic reaction to one of Max’s shots and freaked out with all those nuclear weapons at his command; Dr. Strangelove for real.

He was dependent.  He was addicted.  He was out of control.  The only possible solution was evident.  On 11/22/63 they pulled the trigger.

I don’t know how Max survived when Kennedy didn’t but he did.

As the fact of Kennedy’s addiction has been only slowly surfacing in the last few years one can only assume that Max’s boasting of being Kennedy’s doctor at the time brought society patients to him even after 11/22/63.  Indeed he was affectionately known as Dr. Jake and apparently, as document maker Martin Kasindorf titled his film, Everyone Went To Max is close to the truth.

Yet, even as ‘Doctor Jake’s’ reputation spread the casualties of his practice surfaced.  While it would seem that Max should have taken notice he seems to have been in denial.  He did believe that some chemical reaction took place between the vitamins, speed and monkey balls that converted the speed more or less into an actual nutrient that negated its deleterious effects.

Still, as in the case of Bob Cummings the beloved 50s movie and TV star when his reaction began to show and develop Max just laid on more drugs until Cummings was a wreck.  One would think that at that point Max would have sent his concoction to a chemical lab to determine whether the baleful effects of the amphetamines were moderated or not.  But, then, Max himself was zonked and making a lot of money.

At any rate, by 1966 and ‘67 the casualties were piling up.  One of the most tragic was Edie Sedgwick who was associated with Andy Warhol.  She was frequenting not only Max but John Bishop aka Dr. Roberts and Robert Freymann aka Dr. Robert.  The greatest crime committed against her was when Bishop dosed her continuously during the filming of Ciao! Manhattan.

Other members of Andy’s group began having negative reactions also, as the amphetamine craze in NYC was coming apart.

As the 70s began a crackdown on the doctors began.  As noted Warren was set up, busted and sent away for five years.  Dr. Jake, Max Jacobson, began to be investigated by the medical board in ‘72 and his license was taken away in ‘75.  I have found nothing on the fate of Jack Cohen while Kasindorf notes that Bishop quietly slithered off to nether Long Island.

The medical use of amphetamines was also reviewed and prescriptions fell off notably after 1970.  However there was Ritalin….

Also it should be noted that the use of amphetamines in Viet Nam was endemic and huge.  If the Nazis gave up dosing their troops because of negative reactions US troops in Viet Nam were not responsible for their actions.

It should be noted also that US Air Force regulations today require pilots to be dosed so that they stay alert during missions.  If they refuse they can be grounded.


The important thing to remember is that behind amphetamine and LSD pot and barbiturates were constants as well as alcohol although for a while alcohol was disparaged and some totally rejected it.  Many people were running on as many stimulants as they could cram in.  Some people had an astonishing capacity while still being able to function, after a fashion of course.

The generation from 1938 to 1943 went buggy for some reason.  I still haven’t been able to put my finger on it.  Probably a combination of absurd indoctrination in school and bizarre television programming.  Some stuff people consciously remember some they don’t.  Dave Garroway’s ridiculous TV show for instance had a profound effect on my class although the guy always repelled me.  A lot of inane nonsense entered our minds through those sources.  It’s all suggestion.

As important as anything was the emergence of rock and roll.  This was combined with the Negro influence entering the main stream.  Fats Domino and Little Richard, Eartha Kitt, Harry Belafonte.  Everybody loved records and wanted to record.  During the fifties as today the emphasis was on single songs or 45s not LPs.  The change to LPs probably came about through Folk Music.  It was easier to put together thematic LPs around what were considered folk songs.  Harry Belafonte did well and, of course, the greatest of the Folk groups, The Kingston Trio, outshone and outsold everyone.

Thus when Folk and Rock merged and groups developed ‘sounds’ LPs of all ‘original’  material became de riguer and expressed the psyche of the generation much as novels had in earlier generations.  Instead of one hit song and ten standards comprising ten or twelve minutes a side an LP had to be twenty minutes a side or forty minutes a disc.  That was a very significant difference.

As the LP and group concept developed they did so within a context of social unrest, the civil rights movement and Viet Nam war.  To this was added drugs.  Sound quality improved while bands recorded their music under the influence of speed, acid or whatever so that while the music might sound a little discordant  or strange to a straight listener, the music might take on a much better quality if you, like the musician, were also on speed or acid.  So this furthered the appeal of drugs.

Thus when LSD exploded after 1966- ‘67 so-called acid rock was all the rage.  Perhaps the most total acid record was Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced.  People who had taken LSD were experienced, as the term went, and people who hadn’t weren’t.  The songs on Hendrix’s record directly referred to the LSD experience.  Thus the younger generation’s minds were conditioned to look on drug use as a positive good thing.

The real problem with drugs was that they were inward looking.  They tended to solidify one’s opinions into concrete unshakable truths.  As drugs were believed to be the opposite, that is, mind or consciousness expanding, people actually believed their meager thoughts were cosmic.  As you can see, divorced from reality.

Listening to song lyrics in this hypnoid state the lyrics entered their minds as suggestion which then became programs of action.  As Jimi Hendrix, who had been psychedelicized noted, the band could lay down a hypnotic rhythm and when the desired stage had been achieved zing in the suggestion with a very good chance of it sticking.  Once accepted  it couldn’t be removed.  There was some pretty effective mind control going on.

All the arguments of the Left had little effect compared to the hypnotic suggestions.  The anti-war and anti-racist efforts were effected from the grooves of records and not from inane and insane political activists.  If the Days of Rage at the 1968 Democratic convention failed  it was probably because the command to violence was defeated by the cry for peace and non-violence implanted by musical propagandists.

As the demand for psychedelic drugs grew an amazing ability to supply the demand ran apace or ahead.


By the end of ‘66 then both LSD and amphetamines were declared illegal.  Speed could still be prescribed by doctors for medical use but their success brought them under closer scrutiny that would put them out of business in the seventies.  LSD was supported by fanatical mind expansionists who were convinced that the Greater Sacrament was wiping clean their doors of perception.  The notion was supported by the heroes and demi-gods of the generation, the rock stars.

These rather ordinary boys and girls who really had little going for them but a modicum of musical talent were hailed as infallible gurus.  Their lyrics most of which were inscrutable and/or laughable were ingested as sacred texts.  The musicians were able to keep up the charade during the Sixties but as the seventies got underway they all copped the plea: Hey, I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band.  The Great Droog Jagger came up with: It’s only rock and roll, but I like it.

Until Altamont at the end of ‘69 the fans expected miracles and if they didn’t get them from the music they thought they were from LSD.

Where there’s a huge demand you can bet there will be a huge supply.  Whereas speed had been predominantly an NYC phenomenon Acid found its spiritual home on the West Coast.  The Hippie explosion occurred after the ban of LSD in the West Coast city of San Francisco.  Sixty-seven, eight and nine were the big years of that phenomenon until it imploded possibly helped along by the Altamont fiasco which was a big deflator.

The most representational band of the Hippies was The Grateful Dead.  The Dead had been the house band for the Kesey affair.  Kesey had been on the lam  on drug charges but actually for being totally offensive to the more sedate fathers of society.  Besides he had or would graduate from acid as he said.  Connected to both Kesey and the Dead was the fantastic acid head Owsley Stanley, often referred to as Stanley Owsley or most frequently just Owsley.  Owsley was the Hippie chemist par excellence.  If living could be made better through chemistry Owsley was your man.

Strange one too.  In 1969 when I was just getting my record store off the ground The Grateful Dead came to play at Mac Court UofO.  By 1969 communes were big and many, many people had ‘returned to the land’, that is they were living in hovels out on the mountain slopes, perhaps growing some weed instead of vegetables and while professing a peaceable disposition ready to shoot dead anyone who came near their patch.  If you were totally insane or close to it your time had arrived.  If you were merely insane all it required was an aptitude for navigation.  You will note those are the only three available options.  Everyone was flying high with a defective auto-pilot.

So there I am standing in my little tiny 400 sq. ft. record store dreaming big dreams, some might have said impossible dreams, when in walks this guy clutching a gallon jar of what looks like blue and white aspirin although more crumbly, not so firm.  This apparition announces himself as Owsley.  Well, alright.  What’s that you’ve got in the jar?

He had, god only knows, perhaps ten thousand tabs of LSD.  Well, OK, but don’t you think you should have them wrapped in a brown paper bag, a pillow case or something?  I mean, my store is under surveillance.  And what do you want to do with your, uh, stash?

It wasn’t his stash, it was his merchandise and he wanted to me to buy the jar.  To say that my mind was boggled would be to miss the point.  Of course my mind was boggled but as my record store was considered a head shop by everyone Right and Left, while depending on the heads for my clientele I didn’t want to jeopardize my position by an outright no.  Every objection I made was countered until I came up with what I considered the clincher:  I didn’t have the money to buy a jar of 10K tabs.  Owsley stunned me by saying That’s alright, just take it, you can pay me when you sell them.

Well, this was a problem.  Assuming 10K tabs at a dollar each that would be 10K in 1968 dollars,  probably 100K-200K in today’s inflated currency.  Knowing my employees and clientele I could just imagine at least half disappearing, probably the whole jar overnight, while I’d probably be busted before sundown next day if the jar hadn‘t disappeared.  I really, really didn’t want to get involved.  As politely and forcefully as possible I told Owsley I just couldn’t do it.  He looked hurt, disappointed at best, but clutching his jar of LSD to his breast he turned and walked out.  That’s how the LSD business was conducted back in the old Hippie days with Haight-Ashbury still in full flood and the communes filling up.

It couldn’t last.  It was a high markup quick turnover business.  All you needed was a good chemist such as Owsley, the right ingredients, a lab and you could turn out enough LSD to literally turn on the world.

At Leary’s Millbrook compound he had been the guest of a Mellon heir by the name of Billy Hitchcock.  Billy now came West and either set up or organized one of the more spectacular criminal enterprises in the world.

Leary himself was entering the maddest phase of his career.  Because of his immense LSD intake he was probable operating in two different parallel universes at the same time.  Unfortunately the prisons where he was headed were in this universe which actually controlled his body.  He could go anywhere in his mind but, you know, his body stayed in prison.  Only God and Leary knew what was going on in the other universe but Tim seemed to be able to combine the two in one persona.

Sprung from one prison by the infamous Weathermen Tim found himself in Algeria along with Eldridge Cleaver then by a circuitous route leading through Switzerland and Afghanistan to Folsom Prison outside Sacramento, California, USA.  Tim tells it all in his many books if you want to know the full story.  He’s a good writer too.  As experienced as he was he remained incredibly naïve.

After his eviction from Millbrook at the end of 1967 Tim wended West where he fell in with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.  This was a dope smuggling unit that discovered LSD and through a member named Nick Sand manufactured an enormous amount of the gold standard of the late sixties, Orange Sunshine.  Sand came on the scene as a result of meeting an LSD chemist named Tim Scully.  (Not to be confused with the Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully.)  Tim Scully himself had met Owsley Stanley from whom he learned the process.  After Owsley was arrested at the end of ‘67 Scully joined forces with Sand to manufacture LSD.

The authorities were hot on the tail of the chemists by 1967, only a year after LSD was made illegal, so that the chemists’ activities were disrupted and brought to an end by 1970-71.  Owsley had been out on bail through ‘68 and ‘69 but now went to McNeil penitentiary in Washington State at this time.  I knew several alumni who did time about these years.  Must have been an interesting crowd at McNeil.

By 1970 then the big drug rush of the 60s was brought to if not an end a hiatus.  Amphetamines had been discountenanced officially so prescriptions were way off while its baleful effect led to at least a temporary lack of interest.  With the departure of Owsley, Sand, Scully and the BEL the supply of LSD withered.

Leary served some time at Folsom, was released and spent the rest of his life in one nutty experiment or another.

Thus the great experiment in better living through chemistry and its so-called consciousness expansion concomitant came to an end.  Cocaine, of course, replaced the psychedelics and its baleful influence felt from 1970 to the present.

Hybridization of pot led to ever stronger varieties so you can really knock yourself out if you want.

Regrettably drugs seem to be a permanent part of our culture but one is wise to live the straight life.

4 Responses to “Better Living Through Chemistry: The Sixties And Its Drugs”

  1. Timmy Welch Says:

    The only thing he had to put him there was his concoction which in his more sober moments, if he had any, must have seemed of dubious value even to himself. Max was nothing but a snake oil salesman, for that reason he had to stay high on his own nostrum lest reality should intrude. To maintain the mirage he concocted an incredible persona to match his dubious nostrum. Yes, Max was hooked on amphetamines. Obviously the vitamin doses as huge as the amphetamine masked the effect while moderating the damage of the amphetamines. Max was an improbable youthful appearing ‘72 after forty years or so of amphetamines, vitamins, monkey gonads, and lack of sleep. God bless America, hey? The first one is free and after that….

  2. jamie Says:

    this can be something i have never ever read.very detailed analysis.

  3. ep freda Says:

    Superb peice of reading i was greatly edified thank u for 15 minutes of enjoyment

  4. reprindle Says:

    Thanks for your appreciation ep freda.

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