Friday, December 23, 2016

Treating Depression with LSD: Cure or Hallucination (2/2)

In our research we had much more evidence of how the liberated pain militated towards the last cerebral defense; the neocortex to concoct all sorts of nonsense to explain the inexplicable…..deep imprinted pain that is preverbal and therefore has no name. There exists no words in that repertoire to explain what is happening. A true mystery which Is now whispered in beneficent tones as the ethereal mystical experience, acclaimed as an exalted experience. It seems ethereal because it borders on the religious, unknown, unexplained, out of reach of ordinary intellect. It sounds so sweet….. mystical.

Of the 20 subjects we studied, all took at least ten LSD trips and almost every one had trouble sleeping for months and months. Even tranquilizers could not lower the activation levels to allow a calm system. Is that helpful for depression? Yes of course, if we open up the gating system and release the heavy mound of suppression weighing down the system. Yes, it is a momentary release, but what happens afterward? Is it biologic? As deep depressive patients travel down into the nervous system there is an accompanying lowering of blood pressure. The whole system is approaching fail. Their feelings of impending death is not mysterious; it is truly a state of impending death and the body accommodates. And of course as blood pressure dips into deep lower levels, to accompany a system drenched by hallucinogens, there are feelings of approaching death and thoughts of suicide.

The massive upheaval of pain from the lower depths floods the neo-cortex, infiltrating it with such input that concentration is impossible. It happens to our patients without drugs when they have undergone an infancy, and earlier, of constant and chronic neglect and abuse. The mounting layers of pain soon become laminated agony that no longer can be integrated.

As patients relive these pains in methodical order they begin to eliminate their anxiety and ADD. The thinking inventing neocortex is the last developed part of the brain and called into service when all else has failed. In our therapy patients soon learn what it is and what needs to be done; not to call on Allah or mysterious forces but on their history. To follow messages from the underground that point to stored pain.

Why do I think these power drugs are dangerous? Because it has a lasting effect and upsets the equilibrium of the brain which is now structured to include what the brain already underwent in its ontogeny. Traumatizing that precious brain can never be considered therapeutic. Except by those ethereal souls who tend to believe in the booga booga. I know, I worked with them, including associates of Tim Leary, the guru of drugs. Too often their research falls on prepared minds who can accept the mystical and received wisdom with alacrity. The wife of the director of research took me for a walk while high on LSD. We started to cross the street when I panicked. I looked down at the curb which seemed to me to be a mile down and a dangerous fall. I backed up. I had no aftereffects from it but knew to use caution. For those who are fragile it can cripple the neocortex by opening the lower level gating system and allowing the in-rush of immense, unintegrated, very early pain, which can lead to serious mental problems.

The job of the drug is to open the gates. But out comes voodoo land; latent imprints from the deep interior that scramble any coherence and replace perception with all kinds of irrationality. Irrational thinking is an attempt to maintain sanity, to make life experience make sense even in a twisted way. We not only see crazy; we think crazy. We think in the same way that some think when life has piled on trauma after trauma from very early on. Scrambling is a defense operation that prevents us from facing reality; the early reality of beatings and neglect, of no love, of being sent away alone at an early age….in brief, my life.

Here is an example from a patient describing the result of a psilocybin trip before entering therapy: “On the trip sitting in a car looking out the window at the sidewalk which became a bubbling liquid mass. It looked like bubbling cement. Later on when I judged it safe to exit the car in a residential neighborhood, I saw an alligator in the middle of the street; these were hallucinations that contained the feelings of my youth: fear and terror. Here was a safe place so the unsafe place was bubbling inside of me. The alligator nipping at my heels was only the fear and terror coming at me in symbolic form.”

In my case, further use of hallucinogens would have caused serious damage. If I had continued taking drugs, I believe the symbolism would have overwhelmed me because the gating system would not have been able to recover enough to withstand more pressure. When preverbal (first line) imprints of pain are thrown up indiscriminately they first attack the highest levels of consciousness. But because the nonverbal content cannot be assimilated and integrated on that level there is an overload of unconnected Primal information. If pains come up in a cohesive manner one would then be in the midst of Primal feelings. The problem is that with the drug it rises in undelineated form, vague, putting pressure on the gating system. It is coming up out of sequence and cannot be anchored in reality. Therefore, it takes on a mystical air. The hallucinogen does not allow an ordered sequence to develop. It prevents a slow unfolding of Primal Pain to achieve proper connection and instead it opens gates widely allowing pains from several levels at the same time that have no chance of integration. Those preverbal pains thrown up by the drug, thrust pre-birth traumas into the fray long before the person has relived much less forceful hurts and has prepared the way to live deeper pains. That is why it takes month to prepare the piste toward the inner depths.

This is the origin of abreaction, which I have written about extensively. Those patients who come in and begin to undergo birth Primals are often pre psychotic and need tranquilizers, never hallucinogens. The level of pain must be heavily controlled lest the patient slips into a beginning mental affliction. It is very difficult from that break in defenses to find normalcy again. This is also true of those chronic users of marijuana. The defense system is called in to help out but it loses its impact after a while and there can then be a break in defenses with strange ideation and hallucinations. Defenses are weakened so much that often there is no recovery or only partial recovery. If they go on with seemingly benign drugs such as hash they may lose their sanity and fall into periodic delusions and paranoia. I am against legalizing these seemingly innocuous drugs because they can cause psychosis in fragile souls. And they do not liberate anyone or anything.

In some literature these drugs are classified as hallucinogens. A person first taking cannabis may laugh or cry more easily and seems more relaxed and less depressed. But over time he will pay a heavier price as mental symptoms appear, not always obvious to him. These are also openers of the gates of repression, but more slowly done over great amounts of time. Their memory system will slowly suffer as will their cognitive abilities. We want a free lunch but it is wrapped in a nightmare. Unwrap the fragile covering and we get open mental illness.

One serious trauma can produce it at once. Incest by a parent can produce it as the person who is supposed to protect you becomes the danger. I have treated several of these cases; the earlier it occurs the more likely the psychosis. In Europe I once treated the daughters of a Nazi officer. They both kind of made it until the older daughter found out he was also sleeping with her sister. She fell into psychosis. It happened more than we imagine among the Nazis. The trauma was “I am no longer loved.”
There may be many roads to Nirvana, but all are posted with same sign: Danger Ahead. You will lose your mind if you stay on this road. Only feeling is healing.


  1. Hi Art
    Very interesting. Thank you.

  2. Drugs....they certainly are out there. Cary Grant took LSD ( I don't think any less of him at all; he was a legend). And I also saw a film in school, about a girl who took LSD, and on the test about the film, the teacher asked what was the girl's "downfall", most of the students replied that it was "LSD", but it was alcohol. She was really messed up. I juust thank god for anyone (especially family and "friends") who get away from drugs and alcohol if they are "really into it". Sure I used to do cannabis, but my emotions (many times) weren't good when I did, and to be honest,...I only did it because it was the thing to do; everyone was doing weed, and they still are only more so (and what's in the weed now, I wouldn't touch it ever again). Sure when I was in my 20's, I thought weed was the best, made me laugh, but many times, made me feel just plain uncomfortable, and really I know now I shouldn't have even done it. Really actually just made me totally mentally weak; at the time, I didn't realize it and just went along with the crowd. Just like me entering into a romantic relationship; did it really because everyone had a boyfriend. Sure I loved, but just one or two, the other guys who I went out with (not a lot at all), there just was absolutely nothing there; just on rebound from the first 2; figures. But just glad that is all done. Reach a certain point in life, one can only fit so much into it. I would go back to the first 2 loves if I could, but now I definitely cannot (like I could anyway? they are probably happily married now, and I'm sure wouldn't even be interested; maybe I wouldn't even be interested. Life is hard, hard enough. And taking the drugs and alcohol is just too much. Sure I have an occasional glass of wine, but just can't really even partake in alcohol anymore. I know this now. To me, let the guys go on, let them "party" I just feel that they can absolutely "take it" and it is normal for them (of course in moderation). It was all so temporary when I took cannabis (the feeling and I don't think really I was having that much "fun" at all). I would look at my other friends who were doing the same cannabis at the time, and it seemed to go "easy" for them. Fortunately, though, really, I was never "hooked" on smoking pot. The boyfriend, who I got together on a rebound , kind of knew I wasn't really interested and he would even take note, and criticize always "my passivity" (couldn't even be myself around him); totally glad that "phase" is over and away from him.(This was years ago). The things we do when we are younger. I'm not a "stuffy" uninterested person (nor am I really curious or really nosy about others), but just know I cannot partake in drugs and alcohol (can be "harsh" (the cannabis). (Life, in general, to me, can be harsh.) I ask myself about the drugs and alcohol, "Is it going to last (the good feeling I may have from these?," "Is it going to make me better?" "No". Good temporary feelings from drugs and alcohol, definitely have their drawbacks. An occasional glass of wine is good enough for me. Love and feelings are needed,and wanted; so many could be helped if they realized this and seeked it out by being nice (pleasant). Thanks Art for writing this!

  3. Love... love... love!

    One of the most time consuming process for primal therapy is that the body as a whole must be "updated" ... for what every cell must function after what the changes bring with them... that every part shall be integrated for what physiological changes bring with them... with them for possible changes. Not least the seriousness of perceiving what life is all about.. or maybe I should say reality as life otherwise been unreal... an escape for survival and life became unreal.

    It is a crucial process without its equal as everything in the body has to begin "talking to each other"... a process to come to grips with life... it for what a "system" the brain is a complex part of us and many... many... many "pieces" must fall into place. Love is the answer ... but certainly not an given answer as escape from love is so fundamental in the process of survival.


  4. Primal therapy also has its own fundamental problem of interpreting it in a intellectual process there intellectuals sentences is our defense against love as need of love was so painful as we were forced to deny it. And now the great fundamental problem primal therapy has! God has become the cognitive illusion as strong as the escape from life-threatening pain... as to be punished in the need of love and anything else will be a relief..

    Art... you have a plethora of people as undergone primal therapy that unites god with what primal therapy in its process is meant... and now prevents its revolution. They spread god in the sense of context to be a part of primal therapy. They talk about eternal life... and what could be a greater obstacle than illusions already is the human phenomenon of denial. Maybe god can be a relief in time of suffering... but certainly not in the sense of seeing himself capable of ruling on what primal therapy contains.


  5. During this "christmas time" I had some terrible flashback. I've just got terrible feeling of death aproaching and I felt that I am going to die.
    Later I've heard that I am an idiot who need treatment in mental hospital.

    Some will say that George Michael just died because of heart problems, but we can assume that it was something different.
    Some day I will just die because of this shit and my family will tell that I had heart disease. Take care primal readers.

    1. Piotr, That flashback is exactly right. It is an archaic memory that burst through. You need to relive it and that takes months of our therapy. You will not die now. art

  6. To feel or not to feel that is the question!

    To be part of what you think is more true than you know it's true... it also has the "devil" within reach. And how do you know that? You do not know... why the hell prevails in many places where people belief!

    How can we imagine to be someone else in the role we already are someone else if it was not to relieve suffering? Well... we imagine all the time to be someone who is more worthy than we ourselves why all is going wrong. Can it be wrong when we experience ourselves successful and are successful by all it means for what award brings with it? Yes... that's why it's gone disastrously wrong and all is forced in to it.

    To love or not to love that is the question!


  7. Dear Dr.Janov,

    Sorry to read about your bad acid trips.

    I think people take cannabis and hallucinogens because they need a valve to feel good which, because of pain, is not easy, so yes, people get high. The negative long term side effects are not going to deter anybody!
    Everyday reality for us unhappy or partially satisfied mortals is stressful, frustrating and filled with endless obligations.

    You seem to be very critical of the naivity of the 60s and 70s, but did not your therapy evolve out of that atmosphere, that bubble? Did that time not open up the vision of endless potential?

    If that was the wrong direction what do we have now?
    On the eve of 2017 we have winner takes all - everybody else fuck off,
    mass displacement, endless bombing , repressive right-wing takeover.

    In your posts you are convincing people with scientific evidence that your therapy can be the answer to their personal misery.
    That Feeling is the solution! Good. Great!
    My New Years wish: please free up your Primal Therapy and make
    it available to the world instead of the few people that can make the pilgrimage to L.A.


  8. Hi Art,

    This LSD development annoys me. I thought Grof and LSD were discarded already in the '70s. Currently CBT is widely used to alter our minds, thoughts and feelings. So is ECT. I feel sorry for professionals and patients who are seeking so desperately for anything that could alleviate suffering.

    So. What will the next steps in psychiatric treatment, research and 'developement' be? Re-introduce lobotomy? Or engage experts from Haiti State University, with a PhD in Woo-Doo Science? What a sad situation.


  9. Feeling should not be just a force. Methylation is not just a subcellular behavior? Is time expressed in seconds? While watching he countdowns around the world with those watches high above do we celebrate the objectivity of it? The seconds that run predictably, precisely... How boring and insignificant. In this ritual it seems like a deity to pray for. Sacrifice the old so the new and happy can come. On and on and on...

    And btw, we might sign a peace resolution soon. Yeah, decide it might be enough. Declare it on TV. Reach the objective.

    Excuse me the expression but it all looks a bit... detached to me. Am i any different? Maybe we should learn how to pray for time. Just like we never knew how to do it.

    Regarding the experiments> Art, maybe it is about dosage too. Just like you at the Center figured how to use painkillers, maybe, just maybe these gate blowing drugs can be figured out how to be used. In my case you would most probably conclude not to. )) Of course, the goal and the perspective in the Center I assume is quite different than in those depression clinics.

  10. In a sense we have a situation where disconnected and objective atracts more of the same. These scientists see the force, use force and get force. They play with numbers... But it is a gamble. I can confirm that it is dangerous. It attracts danger out of sequence. Out of meaning if i may add. A lot of energy of danger. There is more about that in earlier posts...
    These first line articles i can relate. Thanks for writing... It sounds like understanding.

  11. An email comment:
    "Art: Another great blog article. If I may be allowed to put my 'two cents in' here:-

    I too did four or five acid trips LSD and smoked a great deal of cannabis. I only on one occasion, which I mentioned in both my books you read, had anything nearing what is deemed a "bad trip" In fact it was a re-living of very early childhood ... and I knew it was such at the time, but was nevertheless disturbed by the incident, since I was re-living my early childhood and terrified that I was dying. Which is what I was doing in early childhood .... but in re-living if felt like I was dying NOW and I screamed that out at the top of my lungs.
    All this occurred way before I read the Primal Scream. Then on reading the book (lent to me by John Harrison of 'John and Ula' that worked with you in France). Such that when I read the introduction to THE book, I threw it in the air ... now knowing that I had got it. It now all made total sense and I was an instant convert.

    What all this means to me is that I also see and feel that these drugs break through the normal natural defense system. If ones womb-life, birth and/or early childhood was very traumatic. I see that all that is left for the brain to do in order to survive, is go into the weirdest of ideations. AS I FEEL HAS HAPPENED THROUGHOUT OUR KNOWN HUMAN HISTORY with people like; Saul of Taurus on the road to Damascus et al .... BUT and this is the huge 'but' as I see it. They interpreted in into a religious/spiritual experience and thence preached their experience in terms of their interpretation.

    I am convinced that this explains a great deal of ALL the mystical rendering that have been made by many all 'down time'.

    Meantime, I sit for a current patient at the Institute who is currently undergoing a desperate and near death situation of his birth. He ran off to the emergency room some time ago with heart palpitations and inability to breath, where he got NOTHING from the MD's there. I suggested to him that it was "OLD FEELINGS" ... nothing more, and sat with him for over an hour; now on several occasions. He does get relief, but is soon back into the unutterable devastation about the utter neglect from 'mommy' and then circumcision moments later and more neglect as his child-hood progressed.

    How he survived it all BEATS ME. All I am able to do is just LISTEN to him as he progressively goes through all this. Gretchen proclaims he's the "poster boy" for Primal Therapy and I completely concur. It sure keeps me in the feeling zone. Hence I have no problem sitting for him for as long as it takes ... for him to feel less devastated and overwhelmed by his birth.

    Will the value of your discovery and work eventually penetrate to where it might make a difference. I hope so; otherwise we are doomed ... to extinction IMO.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.