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Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  777 ratings  ·  92 reviews
It’s no secret that psychedelic drugs have the ability to cast light on the miraculous reality hidden within our psyche. Almost immediately after the discovery of LSD less than a hundred years ago, psychedelics began to play a crucial role in the quest to understand the link between mind and matter. With an uncanny ability to reveal the mind’s remote frontiers and the ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Blue Rider Press
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Joseph Spuckler
Apr 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal by Tom Shroder is a book that examines the history, government restrictions, and clinical uses of hallucinogens. Shroder is an award winning journalist with many years as a writer and editor for the Washington Post. He is the author and co-author of several books many covering current events.

I picked this book up looking for a traditional nonfiction. Instead, it written as narrative nonfiction. This is an apparently popular way of telling factual
Sep 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put it down. Tom Shroder gives the topic due respect without playing into a stereotypical pro-psychedelic bias. Shroder wasn't preaching to the choir, but letting the research and the chemicals speak for themselves.
How much did I appreciate that there was no re-hashing of Tim Leary's escapades and dragging descriptions of 60's counter-culture? Very much.
Nick Blackston's unsettling experiences in Iraq made for sad, but intriguing reading. I normally don't do war books and avoid war
Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal contains some fascinating history on psychedelic drugs, previous research pertaining to them, and accounts from those with first-hand experience. It's important to share stories like these because they help paint a complete portrait of illicit drugs instead of relying solely on the nonchalant attitudes or horror stories about them (both of which do the discussion a disservice). That being said, while the narratives were interesting, ultimately the ...more
Mar 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
can't be bothered to finish reading this. I hate the chapters' organization moving back and forth between different "protagonists," and the emphasis on an all-male recounting of the story of LSD is tedious. There is a brief mention of Stanislav Grov's work with his wife at the time, the wife gets no mention of her name even though apparently she was a co-author on the work. Something about that specific description really highlighted this male hero framing of the story of a chemical compound ...more
Viv JM
1.5 stars

My overall impression of this was that it could have made an interesting magazine article, but there was really not enough for a 400+ page book, hence there being a lot of irrelevant journalist-y filler, with sentences like this one:

Michael sat to his right on a blue-leather office swivel chair, in his jeans, this-is-who-I-am ponytail, and gray Mister Rogers sweater; Annie to his left on a wide, neutral-coloured armchair, her thick, curly brown hair held off her broad, strong face by a
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Acid is like a meme. It seems to make itself viral not through addiction like other narcotics but by proselytizing of its adherents. It will induce a peak experience and people will go forth on a mission to spread the word. I would not be surprised if the drug hit some of the same religious circuits that affects Jehova's witness door to door activity. This seems to be the case of the author. Like others he includes testimonials and fishy claims to the paranormal to spread the word. It is a pity ...more
Mar 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Quite an eye opening book on how getting in touch with inner feelings can be life altering.
Maybe in a few years the taboo that’s behind the psychedelics would be lifted and we can explore our subconscious further.
I guess one could see how that could be problematic for society as a whole, but then again the problem could be dealt with by implementing various regulations.

Although the book is really interesting and I couldn’t put it down after the first 100 pages, the only downside (which might
Jason Schofield
Acid Test is a very fun look at the historical fight for the medical legalization of psychedelic therapies. Shroder manages to tell a story that is both balanced and terrifically entertaining as he follows the experiences of some very remarkable people. This is not only one of the best nonfiction books you will read this year, but one that has a real chance to provoke positive change. I've long been convinced by the science that supports the therapeutic use of certain psychedelic compounds. ...more
Henrik Akselsen
A page-turner about the story of psychedelic research and its therapeutic promise, brilliantly told through the stories of three people: a researcher/psychotherapist, a US marine and the person who dedicated his life to revitalize the research that was abandoned in the 70's.

A frustrating to read, to be sure, but also with enormous promise for war veterans and others who suffer PTSD, this book should be read by doctors, politicians, and all soldiers and their families.

Highly recommended.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-books
If I could give this book six stars, I would. It's easily one of the best things that I've read in a very long time. Incredible from beginning to end. The book covers everything from not only LSD and MDMA, but also Ayahuasca, Psilocybin, Mescaline, even breathwork (Michael & Stan), and all of the studies, research, and tests done on each. Personally, I find it a shame that each have found their way into the list of Schedule 1 drugs (except breath work, or course), while possibly holding the ...more
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
tom wove a real n engaging narrative connecting the goings-on of a few people in different life situations and their journeys. it's beautiful to read about all sorts of people stumbling into psychedelics for different reasons, then discovering new dimension in their own psyches, taking their lives to new places with what they learned, then linking together to share what they discovered with more people n continuing to pass on the learning. i'm very excited for what the future holds for ...more
Camille McCarthy
Oct 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
An incredibly interesting book about the use of LSD, ecstasy and other psychedelics for therapy. This book shows how these drugs, which have the ability to prompt otherworldly experiences in the user, can be used, with the help of a therapist, to solve internal problems such as PTSD. I had never heard of such uses for these drugs and I had no idea that they had actually been administered in controlled settings for therapeutic use with few negative effects. It seems that the CIA experiments ...more
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I originally discovered this (then-unpublished) book in an email from MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) that was requesting support for the Legalizing Psychedelic Therapy campaign on Indiegogo. Being a supporter of MAPS' efforts and intrigued by the book's premise, I jumped on the opportunity to donate right away.

The book came in the mail just before I had the opportunity to see author Tom Shroder and one of the main characters in the book, Nicholas Blackston,
Bryan Winchell
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting look at the use and research history of psychedelic drugs in treating PTSD. Once legal, LSD and Ecstasy are now both Schedule I drugs, meaning they are deemed to have no currently accepted medical use and are considered to have a high potential for abuse. But they have also shown promise in treating patients with PTSD in a controlled therapy setting.

This book is told in alternating chapters between Rick, who has been pro-psychedelics since 18 and has devoted his adult life fighting
Teo 2050
~7h @ 2x. Contents:
(view spoiler)
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gloriously intriguing. Enjoyable to read if only for the stories it follows, but also inspiring and comforting learning that there are people fighting the good fight - refusing to stand down from getting a treatment that could save lives legalised. Ends discussing what is happening currently. Makes me wants to embark on my own MDMA fueled self-exploration.
Mar 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, psychedelics
The story of my favorite nonprofit organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. More or less, the story and travails of its founder Rick Doblin, as he progressed from stoner-head and counter-culturalist to stone-sober researcher and advocate for a return to more reasoned approaches to psychedelic therapy. Just the two simple words "psychedelic therapy" are enough to put the fear into many of the psychoanalysts I've been personally acquainted with, whose political ...more
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I started this book in September, but had to put it down for a bit - not from disinterest but because the hardcover version is a rock to bring on your commute. When I purchase the Kindle version, I dove back into this and LOVED IT. Tom Shroder did his due research here and takes us on a journey from the discovery of acid more than a century ago, to its accepted use in clinical sets for treating illnesses such as alcoholism, its boom as a recreational drug and this its consequential Schedule I ...more
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
I won this book through first reads, and I am glad that I did.

As other reviewers have posted, Shroder, a journalist, has done an in depth study of psychedelic drugs. He delves into their introduction into society, society's use of the drug - both recreationally and medically (whether that was self medicated or otherwise). Rather than present the information that he found like a clinical text book, he presents it in a narrative form by following several people who had very different goals when
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal by Tom Shroder is a very odd book. Not only does Shroder tell a story of his experiences with psychedelic drugs, but also gives back up information on the history of the drug "acid" and other drugs. With stories of more individuals that use drugs like this for alcoholism, also give the aspect of how real this issue is. I am for using drugs like this to help with mental illness, and this book helped me make my opinion even more clear and solid.

Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book, but if it's approached through the lens of the typical attitudes/propaganda about drugs like LSD and MDMA - Drugs're bad, mmmkaaay - you probably won't enjoy it. The quoted 83% success rate in the MDMA therapy trials are nothing short of miraculous, and it's absolutely insane that a drug like this, with so much positive potential, stays Schedule I while something as destructive and worthless as alcohol is actively promoted and sugar-coated by our culture.

As a fan of Iraq War
Rafal Szymanski
Apr 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I didn't know much what to expect from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised as it wasn't just a rehash of a lot of the populist psychoactive drug literature. We learn a lot about the history of MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and its founder Rick Doblin and his quest for trying to get both MDMA and LSD moved down from Schedule I and approved for medical uses.

There is an interesting substory of Nick, a Marine that fought in Iraq, and is suffering from PTSD after
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I have read on psychedelics and also how it has helped those that use it to raise awareness to the benefits of psychedelics in healing the mind, especially those that have served in the Military. It gives real, impacting stories and factual information on how and why the government keeps these amazing substances away from the public ... not to keep them safe ... but to keep them under control ... controls that are not necessary and actually keep our population addicted to ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Acid Test is an enthralling story of the people behind the renaissance in psychedelic drug research. We follow their beginnings, alternating between the researchers and a Marine they will treat, until their paths meet at the advent of formal trials of MDMA therapy.

The Marine left himself an open book for Shroder's documentation. His personal account of his childhood, combat in Iraq, and life after allow us to fully appreciate how a few hours under the influence of MDMA can reveal a path out of
Dave Thompson
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Acid test is the story of three people who suffer from PTSD or other similar anxiety disorders. The book first recounts a fairly thorough history of psychedelic drugs in the United States. I learned a lot from these chapters, including the story of the discoverer of LAD (Albert Hoffman) through the protracted regulatory battle to keep MDMA legal for medial use.

The book then goes on to track the stories of three sufferers of PTSD, and how MDMA proved to be an extremely successful treatment. The
Steven Ewing
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, as a sufferer of PTSD myself, this book gives me hope. I could really relate and identify with many of the stories it was uncanny. I have benefited vicariously from reading this one as I almost feel like I was present during the therapy sessions. so many similarities, I feel less alone, less crazy, this book was spot on for me. I would love to participate in MDMA assisted psychotherapy, though the likely hood of that happening here in Australia any time soon is unlikely. it is very ...more
Natalie Nash
Mar 18, 2015 rated it liked it
If you are looking for a science, its not in this book. This is a far more cerebral approach to the idea of whether or not these types of drugs offer real clinical results.

The composition of this book should have been better reviewed by the editor, as the way the story is told can often become distracting and annoying to a reader who would have been otherwise totally drawn in by the books characters. I'm certain it was my own personal interest in the subject matter that allowed me to look past
Gail M
Jun 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Some of this book is a little too "dates and numbers," however, overall the subject matter is really interesting. 3.5 stars is for the subject material, not the writing. Very anecdotal, however, the apparent potential of psychedelics to unlock parts of the brain uncharted is fascinating and the resistance of government agencies to allow research disturbing.

Might make you want to go to Peru and ingest substances for a week on end, or maybe just volunteer for an ecstasy study (hard to find these
Kent Winward
Aug 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shroder's framing of the non-fiction history of psychedelics use for medical purposes in essentially three biographical narrative stories converging on one PTSD therapy session does more than any medical study to raise questions about why as a society we've let fear and ignorance dictate over science and compassion. We take medicine to feel better and if medicines are abused, then maybe we should look at why people feel so damned bad, rather than take away medicines that might actually provide ...more
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“It is helpful to refer back to it, to reconnect, have a daily practice of some kind, whether it’s getting out in nature or doing artwork or any other way, but at the same time it can turn over into grasping and worrying about losing it. It’s about letting things happen, not grasping. You can trust that the same inner healing intelligence that gave you that experience, if you create space for it, it will keep working for you.” 1 likes
“The $10 million or so needed for phase III could probably be found lost in the cushions of Pentagon sofas, given that the military’s annual budget approaches $700 billion. The VA has an additional budget of $140 billion. And although the number of veterans receiving treatment for PTSD and other mental disorders reached 1.3 million in 2012, with an average of twenty-two veterans a day committing suicide, the VA has yet to contribute a dime to researching MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. For some years now, even though there has been some enthusiasm for the promise of MDMA therapy among middle-ranking psychiatrists in the VA or DOD, any proposal to contribute to research got kicked upstairs to die. But that may be changing. Rick’s networking recently connected him with another major donor: Richard Rockefeller, the great-grandson of the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller and cousin of West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller. Richard, a physician and philanthropist, was introduced to Rick by a mutual friend and soon became a major supporter of MDMA-PTSD research. As the former chair of the U.S. advisory board of Doctors Without Borders, an international association of medical providers who minister to people caught in armed conflicts and other disasters, Rockefeller, who died when his small plane went down on Friday the thirteenth of June 2014, had seen more than his share of suffering resulting from war. As a result, he said, the development of MDMA therapy had become the centerpiece of his extensive philanthropic efforts. “We need to know how to treat the trauma that afflicts most of the world or we’re screwed,” he said.” 0 likes
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