NOW SERVING Psychedelic Culture

Why Americans Drop Acid: Social Revolution + Psychedelic Use

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LSD—or acid—had its heyday in America in the 1960s. Some people used it at casual social gatherings. These included open-air music festivals and political rallies that largely defined the tone of the decade. The mind-opening effects of psychedelics had a heavy influence the youth of the ’60s. Images and concepts of psychedelics users of this generation often portray them as peace-loving, tree-hugging, tie-dye-wearing hippies. But perhaps the assumptions that psychedelics were used for recreational purposes don’t tell the whole story. 

By the 1990s, LSD use had decreased, and its loudest advocates along with it. For over a decade, consumer focus seemed to move away from LSD and psychedelics altogether. But in 2015, there was a sudden uptick in their use. According to information published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence reports, LSD use increased by 56% between 2015 and 2018. It has remained high since. 

Choosing a Better Reality

Many have commented on the psychedelic renaissance now occurring in the U.S. and other countries. The renewed popularity has sparked new theories regarding how and why Americans drop acid. Now, as in the 1960s, this country is undergoing tremendous upheaval and revolution. This can produce positive changes. However, these phenomena also produce significant stress. 

Researcher Andrew Yockey of the University of Cincinnati believes that “LSD is used primarily to escape.” This would explain its popular use by young revolutionaries during periods of unrest. 

In the ’60s, Americans were living in a kind of post-war haze, highlighted by firm male leadership and a projected image of confidence. Within the U.S., however, things were far from calm. Social unrest surrounding the civil rights movement was in full swing. And the U.S. continued to use its military force abroad, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Today, this country is experiencing similar struggles. Structural and systemic racism, police brutality, the Drug War, and white supremacy still affect millions of individuals everyday. On top of the ongoing political and social struggles occurring in the U.S., COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. Millions of Americans are out of work and lack sufficient healthcare coverage. 

Now, as in the 60s, people are looking for a way to escape without actually going anywhere. And/or they are looking for a way to reconnect to themselves and nature. For many Americans, this is what LSD can provide. If this theory holds true, it could offer anecdotal evidence relating to the connection between social revolution and psychedelic use. 

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