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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Health and Fitness  |  House: Booksie Classic
An alcoholic tries unconventional treatment.

Submitted: September 14, 2016

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Submitted: September 14, 2016



Jonathan Berk


An unfortunate end to her routine begins: she lies there with her head in the toilet, throwing up the booze drank earlier in the night. Within the intervals of rest, she glances at a half empty bottle of red wine that she’ll later see as half full. When she finishes vomiting, she wipes her mouth with toilet paper, flushes, and heads to her bed to watch reruns of television shows.


When I ask her why she drinks, she tells me that it temporarily allows her to cope with her depression and anxiety; it makes her feel normal and happy—sort of impervious to sadness. I’m forced to assume that she doesn’t have a specific, concrete reason, since I know she’s suffered with chronic mental illnesses, and since alcohol can be physiologically addictive.


She had considered the conventional methods: counseling; specific drugs designed to treat alcoholism; AA—but had no luck. She continued to abuse alcohol to tackle the demons of her head. She was an impatient pessimist, which is probably a trait that contributed to her addiction in the first place; though even when she gave certain methods thorough attempts, she would either fail or relapse shortly after. Since those methods didn’t work for her, and since at this point after failing so many times her motivation to help herself was low, I decided to research alternative treatments for her.

I stumbled upon ads for educational retreats and different recovery programs. These options, however, implemented the same conventional strategies to treat addiction: helping addicts recover through support networks, moderation tactics, spirituality, and counseling.


I looked in the volunteer section on craigslist to see if there were any clinics testing out alternative treatments for addiction research. After a few pages of scrolling, I found a posting titled “psychedelic treatment for addiction, and mental illnesses.” In the posting, researchers at a local university’s psychology clinic were asking for 1200 volunteers—and the drug that they were administering was LSD.

Since the whole idea sounded a bit farfetched, I needed to do a little research of my own on LSD. I landed on a forum that seemed to be about all things drugs. I found several online users talking about the success of what they referred to as “psychedelic therapy” as a treatment for alcoholism; this form of therapy usually combines psychotherapy with psychedelics that affect serotonin. One user talked about his father, an alcoholic of twenty years, and his experience with psilocybin (another serotonergic psychedelic) ceremonies conducted by a shamanistic healer. After six sessions, he no longer craved alcohol—because drinking to cope no longer made sense to him. I was also referred to several press releases about sanctioned studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s that involved the administration of LSD to treat alcoholism. However the war on drugs delayed this kind of experimentation. Few studies were conducted after the 70s; not until recently were they commonly sanctioned.


With her face directly in a pillow, she groans at the rising sun.

I burst into her room, “Get up!” She grumbles. “I... have to go to the store—come with me?”


“We have to take Delilah to the vet.”

“Take her yourself.”

“Mom and dad want us to clean the garage.”

“Can't that wait?” she asks, temporarily lifting her head from her pillow. “It's 9 in the morning on a Saturday...” she dropped her head back down.

I paused to think. “Let's go drink?”

“You know...” she said, rubbing her eyes. “that would be perfect for my hangover.”


“Where are you going? The bar was back there.”

“We're going to a different bar today.”


After driving for twenty minutes, we enter one of the campus’s parking lots.

“Can you tell me what this is about?” she asked.

“Look,” I said, looking around in the packed parking lot. “You—” she hit me with a burst of slaps, suggesting that she had already found me out. “You drink a lot and I think it’s affecting your quality of life.” I said, quickly finishing my sentence.

“I can go without drinking for however long I want, whenever I want.”

“You drink at least five glasses of wine—five times a week.” I found a parking spot, and shifted the car into park. “Are you sure about that?”

“I don’t think drinking often is a problem,” she crossed her arms. “It makes life less shitty.”

“That’s exactly the problem…” I half mumbled, half whispered to myself. “Come on, let’s go!”

“No. You’re a douche.”

“What if I told you that LSD was involved?”


“Acid.” I nodded “psychologists want to experiment with it to see if it’s a viable treatment for alcoholism, and mental illnesses.”

“So… you’re saying I’m an alcoholic.”

“If this doesn't work, I promise you I will never bug you about drinking again—and I’ll actually take you to a bar.” I got out of my seat, shut my door, and opened hers. We walked in the direction of where the experimentation was said to take place: the Cobalt Auditorium.


We entered the rather large auditorium; seats were filled, and thus some of the volunteers were leaning against walls, or sitting on stairs within the aisles. We sat near a wall in the back of the auditorium. A man in a plaid shirt and thin-rimmed circular glasses walked in with a slight smile. He approached a microphone-stand in the center of the auditorium’s stage.

“Hello, everyone.” he said into the microphone, clasping his hands, “thank you all for coming today.” He took in a deep breath—as if he were preparing to filibuster.  “LSD, or other psychedelic forms of medicine that you may experiment with in the future, will not be a cure-all for your addiction; it will not extinguish your cravings. However, it will help you see the roots of your addiction for what they really are. We have administered this treatment several times to several patients, and we have discovered a range of amounts that most people can take; we make sure that you’re in a calm state of mind, as the substance can enhance whatever mood you may be in. You are in a controlled therapeutic environment.” He paused, “Every individual reacts differently, and although we try to mitigate the possibility of bad experiences, some may still react... negatively. We are not only here to help you, but we're also to prove, with empirical data, that there are medicinal benefits of certain psychoactive drugs.” He walked off the stage, and a woman walked on.

“There are 1200 of you here; there are also 1200 clinical researchers here—waiting in either assigned rooms, or assigned areas of rooms. You can pick up, and fill out the necessary paperwork outside at the desks that have the first letter of your last name.”

All the participants got up nearly at once. We picked up the paperwork that had information on the experiment and on the drug itself, and we paid a small fee. There were quotes on the bottom of one of the informative pages that seemed to be there to motivate participants who were on the fence about the whole procedure.

We also picked up a release, which in short, made her promise that she wouldn't sue if she had a bad experience.


We entered a large room (that must have been somewhere near 3000 square feet) referred to as the Sequoia conference room. There were several patients in hospital-esque beds, or in the process of getting in them. The beds were lined up in a precise manner—in rows wherein they were adjacent and parallel to one another—not too close, to assure patients' privacy. There were computers next to the beds that seemed to all be connected to some central underground electrical source. The beds were numbered; on one of the papers she received, it stated that she was assigned to bed #73.

A woman who was sitting in a chair prior to our discovery of the bed next to it, got up and greeted us with a smile. “You must be Megan,” she said to my sister. Megan nodded. “My name is Laura, and I’ll be guiding you through this experience today,” she said, reaching her hand out. I'll need to ask you a few questions before we can begin.

“Okay,” Megan replied.

“Take a seat if you'd like.” Megan lay down in the bed.

“Do you take any anti-depressants?”

“Yes, Prozac.”

“Okay,” the she said, marking his sheet. “It's fine this time, but next time you take this treatment, stop taking anti-depressant medication a few days prior…” she looked down to read the next question. “Have you experimented with LSD before, either medically or recreationally?”

“Only once, and it was half good, half bad. I think that’s because I wasn’t in the best company.”

“Well we’re going to try to make this experience all good,” she smiled, looking down at her checklist, making notes.

After a few minutes of questioning, she handed Megan a clipboard with two pieces of paper within it. “Please take these two short tests, so we can measure your depression and anxiety individually before and after.” After a few minutes, and a few superficial words exchanged between me and Laura, Megan finished taking the evaluations. Laura took them from her and examined them for a few minutes. “So your anxiety and depression seem to score on the high end—which is perfect,” she stopped for a moment and made movements with hands, “well not perfect, but you know what I mean. It’s why you’re here.” She laughed, then continued. “To begin this process, I need to find out a little more about you—why don’t you tell me when you remember last being happy?”

Megan stared at the ceiling. “Well…” she paused. “ I was four years old, and I was in pre-school; it was December—and the school had planned a sort of snow-day, which was a day when they would place artificial snow—or ice, on the playgrounds. They did that since it didn’t, and still doesn’t really snow around there. We usually weren’t allowed to have our parents on school grounds during the hours when it was in session, but they were allowed on that day. I remember grabbing ice and throwing a ball of it at my mom.” She looked at Laura, “And I guess that’s about it.”

“You haven’t been happy since then?”

“I mean I’m sure I’ve had some happy memories, and sure I can think of a few, but they don’t really stick with me the way that day does. Maybe that’s because it was one of my first memories, and I guess when I think about my whole life, those early years seem, I don’t know… untainted to me.”

Laura nodded, taking notes. She asked Megan several similar questions, pertaining to her life and her mood—our family’s mental history, and her aspirations. After these questions, to my surprise, she asked Megan about the music that she likes, and about certain images that she thought would relax her during the process.

“I want to you think of music—music that appeals to you, or music that is emotionally memorable. Because combined with certain images, and combined with LSD, music will make your brain hyper-connected, and through those awakened pathways, you will see certain things that you may have repressed. You will have access to a deeper area of your mind.” She pulled up a music streaming website.

“Well, it's been a long time since I've listened to music that I'd say would make me emotional”

“It doesn’t have to be directly… emotional; can you think of anything that is at least memorable? Reminiscent of a time?”

“When I was around 12 years old, my dad showed me a band called the Flaming Lips, and we would listen to an album called Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots on most days when he picked me up from school.”

“Okay,” she typed the band and album into the website. “What about images—symbols you can think of, because I’m going to put goggles on your eyes and project them, alongside one of our default backgrounds that you’ll choose.”

“I guess I like the idea of snow, since you got me thinki—

“Perfect, we’ll make the background a snowy landscape then; is that okay?”

Megan nodded. “I like dogs, and I guess…animals of all sorts. I’m not really sure what else. Leaves?”

When Megan has thought of a handful, Laura stops her.

“We’re ready to begin,” Laura smiles, getting up, and taking a bottle of the liquid form of the substance. “I’m going to give you 200 micrograms, which is a substantial amount—but not too much, so don’t worry.” She drips the drug on Megan’s tongue a few times, and gives puts on the goggles and headphones for her. “Relax.”

© Copyright 2018 Jonathan Berk. All rights reserved.

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