Welcome to Afterglow, a newsletter that will change your mind. My name is Charles Bliss and I'm a psychedelic journalist from Norwich, UK.

This week, discover the surprising application of psychedelics in treating the symptoms of flu, cold and even COVID-19.

I woke up today feeling ropey. I went to the local pharmacy and bought some throat lozenges and sachets of cold and flu relief.

But as I was walking home I was reminded of a story published in Time magazine this week on how psychedelics may be able to positively treat Long COVID.

I wondered whether this line of research might have been attempted before, and came across a nightmarishly funny story of how psychedelic evangelists in the 1960s recklessly experimented with the same idea.

The self-pronounced "high priest" of the 1960s psychedelic counterculture, Timothy Leary. Credit: AP News / Wikimedia Commons

After being fired from Harvard University in May 1963 for giving psychedelic drugs to undergraduate students, psychology professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert established the International Federation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) to introduce as many people to psychedelics as possible.

A man called Billy Hitchcock rented his estate in Millbrook, New York to the IFIF (later re-named the Castalia Foundation). The late-Victorian mansion had 64 rooms across its four storeys, as well as turrets, polo fields, verandas, gardens, stables, pine forests, tennis courts, a gatehouse, a lake and a fountain.

Millbrook became ground zero for the emerging psychedelic scene as Leary and his entourage performed research into mind-expanding drugs there. The foundation also hosted weekend retreats where people paid for therapy sessions, meditation and yoga. Leary, Alpert and Ralph Metzner even wrote the The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1964) at Millbrook.

Artisti Nina Graboi says Millbrook was:

A cross between a country club, a madhouse, a research institute, a monastery, and a Fellini movie set. When you entered you were greeted by a sign that asked you to 'kindly check your esteemed ego at the door'.

Residents included Arthur Kleps and Maynard Ferguson, while guests included R. D. Laing, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Mingus and Michael Hollingshead, a British researcher and acid veteran who studied psychedelic drugs including psilocybin and LSD at Harvard University.

As Hollingshead describes it:

Millbrook was itself the work of art... Like Kafka's Castle, it gave out messages into the aether in the form of one high resonant sound which vibrated on the ears of the world, as if it were trying to penetrate beyond the barrier separating 'us' from 'them'.
Richard Alpert, later known as Ram Dass, was an American spiritual teacher. Credit: Joan Halifax / Wikimedia Commons

One night Richard Alpert retired to bed early with a bad cold. Hollingshead and a friend named Arnie Hendin decided to try to wake him.

After failing to rouse Alpert from his febrile sleep, Hollingshead and Hendin administered a shot of intramuscular DMT straight to his buttocks.

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine is one of the world's most powerful and fast-acting psychedelic drugs. Its serotonergic effects induce rapid and intense visual hallucinations, which frequently involve encountering alien entities or "machine elves".

Alpert was shot out of his stupor and into the stratosphere. Sat bolt upright in bed, he broke through into another dimension. A typical DMT trip lasts around 10 to 15 minutes, but even before the effects of the superpsychedelic had worn off, he was spoon-fed an additional 800 micrograms (about five tabs) of LSD.

Hollingshead had hooked up three stereo systems blaring the music of John Coltrane, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Ludwig van Beethoven simultaneously for Alpert to disappear into.

As told in Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD (2000) by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain:

A sea of rocky sounds enveloped Alpert as he swirled through a neurological flux. When he came down from his trip, he found that his cold symptoms had completely disappeared.

For today, I think I'm going to stick with the lemsip.

Not that the timing isn't right for it. Today is Bicycle Day β€” the anniversary of the inaugural acid trip. On 19 April 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 micrograms and embarked on the first ever LSD experience.

I launched this blog and newsletter on Bicycle Day 2022 β€” and I would like to thank every one of you who has joined the community and supported my writing in the past year.

Safe travels!

🀯 Mind at Large

A breakdown of mind-blowing ideas I encountered this week:

πŸŽ™ Podcast – Drug Science Podcast | Prof David Nutt interviews Dr Peter SjΓΆstedt-Hughes on the philosophy of psychedelics.

"Treat everyone you meet like God in drag."
Ram Dass

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