Psychedelic Medicine


LSD History and Legality with Dr. Erika Dyck


On today’s history and legality of LSD episode, we’re joined by Dr. Erika Dyck. As a professor in the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Dyck focuses her research on 20th Century medical history with a particular interest in psychedelics, psychiatry, eugenics, and population control. Her books include Psychedelic Psychiatry: LSD from Clinic to Campus. She is also editor of A Culture’s Catalyst and Psychadelic Prophets.

Dr. Dyck begins by explaining how LSD was first synthesized in 1938. By the end of the 1950s, LSD had been widely studied by numerous researchers who were interested in what this new compound might offer as a model psychosis or for treatment of alcohol addiction. During the mid-20th Century, it was used in multiple settings to help treat numerous conditions. It was even studied by the US military in a failed attempt to create a truth serum.

During the 1960s, LSD found its way out of the labs and into the counter-culture of the era. Dr. Dyck tells the story of how this was largely due to the efforts of Timothy Leary who advocated for its widespread use. At this point, LSD had irreversibly left the clinical medical setting and became firmly entrenched in the world of illicit drug use.

With a look to the future, Dr. Dyck examines recent changes in attitudes and laws surrounding LSD and other psychedelics. For the first time in over a generation, extensive research is being conducted into the potential therapeutic uses of these drugs. This is a significant shift that leaves open new possibilities for their future legal status.

In This Episode

• What led to the original creation of LSD
• The early uses of LSD to treat and understand certain psychoses
• The origin of the term “psychedelic”
• How LSD became part of the counter-culture movement in the 1960s
• The use of LSD in secret military experiments
• What led to the criminalization of LSD in the United States and Canada
• What has changed in recent years surrounding attitudes towards the use of psychedelics


“One of these experiences of LSD was later described as worth ten years of psychotherapy.” [11:43]

“Historians have tried to understand the relationship between the rising tide of social unease and frustration and civil rights protests that start to challenge the government and how the government responded by criminalizing these drugs.” [22:10]

“Things have really changed in the last decade. There’s a return to questions around whether Schedule 1 is, in fact, the appropriate place for these.” [27:23]

“This is a moment where there is a desire to think about those colonial tensions that have shaped our history. That might be another feature that will help us to reconcile, or at least appreciate, a different kind of relationship going forward.” [35:16]


* The Psychedelic Medicine Podcast has allowed the Psychedelic Medicine Association to post episodes as an educational resource, and in return the PMA is hosting the podcast show notes.