The Empathy Gap

The empathy gap is a cognitive bias that makes it difficult for people to grasp a concept due to their current state. Also known as the ‘hot-cold empathy gap’, it causes people to underestimate the effect that certain influences have on them like hunger, sex, drugs, pain, and emotion. The reason why they use the term ‘hot-cold’ is that when a person is feeling one way, they have a hard time empathizing how it would feel to be the opposite or different way. When a person is angry, it is challenging to imagine being calm. When a person is feeling physically well, it is hard to imagine what it would be like to be in pain. When humans are hot, or under the influence of intense emotions or ‘visceral drives’, they tend to believe their behaviour or desires will help them positively in the long term, which is not always true. When humans are cold, or not feeling very intense emotions, they minimize the influence their future emotions may have on them, which leads to negative experiences in the long term because they do not prepare for reality. The reality is that since we are humans, we experience a variety of emotions and states in varying intensity throughout our lives, and these things can and do influence our decision making, behaviour, and beliefs in a negative way.

In 2011, a study was done on the empathy gap and its effects on students that were bullied. It found that people who did not experience being excluded during the study minimized the pain and overall experience of the participants who were excluded. The study also asked middle school teachers to examine their schools’ protocols on bullying, which found that teachers who were experiencing social pain at that time in their lives gave more suggestions for how to deal with bullies and would punish a bully more severely.

The empathy gap can be a good thing in some situations, like when you are in a dangerous, abusive relationship and it’s hard to leave due to feeling empathy for your partner’s struggles. An empathy gap in that situation is ideal because you don’t want to be interpersonal – trying to evaluate the behaviour of someone who is abusive to you is futile, you’re not a professional and you cannot fix the person. It is better long term to remove yourself from the situation. Although, it is extremely unlikely to have an empathy gap in this situation without a large effort because the hot state from the abuser can cause the victim to be in a hot state as well.

Aside from that, an empathy gap is mostly disadvantageous. It can cause doctors to overlook serious signs of illness in their patients, it causes some white people to minimize the experiences BIPOC have with racism, and it can cause some people who don’t use drugs to judge those with substance use disorders.

A way to avoid an empathy gap would be to practice empathy every day in situations you normally wouldn’t. Maybe your partner stubs their toe and yelps out a swear while you are laughing at a funny video, and in that situation, you would normally brush it off and move on. You don’t make a big deal out of it because at that moment you are happy. Instead, you become mindful of the situation. You pause the video and acknowledge that he is in excruciating pain that may force him to let out a loud noise, maybe even a tear. You bring back a memory of the last time you stubbed your toe and how much it hurt. Is it hard to remember? This is called intrapersonal prospective. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad and excruciating! But it could warrant a hug or, “Are you okay?”

Another example is that many people will minimize the effects alcohol has on them. Before you start drinking, you say you’re not going to send a text to your ex that night. Of course, alcohol affects our decision making and inhibitions, so you send a text to them on the ride home. A good way to combat this is to “play the tape to the end”. Remember the sequence of events from when you’ve drunk alcohol in the past in order and play the “tape” all the way to the final outcome of your actions. Maybe texting your ex wasn’t a very good idea and landed you into some trouble. This is called intrapersonal retrospective. It will influence your decision making so that maybe you won’t drink as much next time, or maybe you will take the proper steps to get over your ex.

We are all born capable of experiencing empathy, but it is actually a learned trait. This is a great example of practising critical thinking and using our emotions, or ‘states’, for long term positive results.

Drunk Nightmares

One thing I was never told about getting sober was that I would have frequent dreams about getting drunk. For the first year after my last drink I had nightmares all the time about getting drunk, feeling drunk, and getting into a vehicle to drive or fighting with my loved ones and ruining my relationships.

The other night when I was done my birthday celebrations, I crawled into bed and quickly fell asleep. I ended up having a drunk nightmare, my first one in a while. I tend to have these during important holidays like my birthday, New Years, or Halloween (close to my anniversary), so I wasn’t surprised when I woke up. The dream was extremely vivid, though, and pulled many emotional strings.

I drank a whole 26 to myself in this dream and went to the home I grew up in. I walked into the house and just started smashing and destroying everything in my path, many things I hold extreme sentimental value for, even today. I was upset about it in the dream but I had no control over my body. I left and ended up at some party in a very dark, musty, messy house. It wasn’t really a party or a celebration but people were getting drunk and doing drugs in this house. I sat alone on this tattered up recliner with booze and drugs in front of me on the coffee table. Patrick walked in and I thought he was there to come pick me up, but he was drunk too and could barely walk. We ended up getting into a very physical fight. The other people in the house came to watch and they were like zombies, each person a representation of the stages of how alcohol and drugs took a toll on my mental and physical health.

To a person who has never experienced alcoholism, this may seem like an average nightmare, kind of weird and maybe disturbing. But to me, these are dreams that stem from years and years of trauma. And most of the time I was not a victim to others. In my cycle of addiction, I was continuously retraumatizing myself. I became a victim to myself. Many people may think this makes no sense, but when you experience trauma at a young age it takes away any sense of security, stability, or control. Which are things you NEED as a child to develop independence.

When you experience insecurity, instability, and chaos, your mind does everything it can to naturally develop independence. And when the mind starts doing things out of desperation, it effects the whole body. Which is why people with trauma have higher rates of chronic illness. Everything that feels good, tastes good, smells good, sounds good, and looks good becomes a tool in recreating that sense of independence, security, and stability. That is why alcohol and drugs are a common tool for people with trauma.

It’s not that people are “addicted to chaos” or “thrive off drama”. It’s that the body and mind are doing everything it possibly can in desperation to provide things that were not provided to them at an early age. And unfortunately, sometimes retraumatizing ourselves becomes a way of being “in control”, because that was the “control” we were taught and are familiar with.

The “addicted to chaos/drama” theory always bugged me for that reason, because it’s not that I was addicted. I know what addiction feels like. You can be addicted to tangible things. But you cannot be addicted to a concept. Chaos and drama are just concepts, they aren’t something I sniff up my nose. I cannot ingest instability into my stomach to numb my anxiety. It is merely a side effect of everything else. It was familiar, so I was used to that side effect.

It was something I experienced without the addiction. And since it was familiar, whenever the chaos was not around, I felt uncomfortable. Not because I didn’t like the peace, but because I would anticipate the drama. I knew it would eventually come. This would create anxiety, which would lead me to drink. You can’t be addicted to pursuing something you need; attempting to provide stability to yourself isn’t a toxic trait, it’s a natural response to an abnormal situation.

When we are hungry, we find a way to eat food, even if it means we have to beg on the street. When we need love, we consume anything within arm’s reach, we become the world’s best hunter, we go into survival mode. Being starved of love is a form of poverty that society will never acknowledge until it’s seen as a necessity just as much as the amount of produce in grocery store dumpsters.

In summary, being an alcoholic or addicted to drugs is mostly caused by trauma. It is also very traumatic itself. You become a victim of your nervous system trying to regulate itself, you’re a parasite leeching onto yourself, and that’s why it’s a “cycle” of addiction. Getting sober was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been. Being sober is the most comfort I’ve ever felt.

Women in Psychology

Anna Freud – considered to be one of the founders of psychoanalytic child psychology.

Bluma Zeigarnik – most notable for her experiment called the Zeigarnik effect, a study in which she observed that forgotten, incomplete tasks are better remembered than complete ones.

Brenda Milner – referred to as “the founder of neuropsychology”.

Carolyn R. Payton – the first woman director, as well as the first African-American director, of the Peace Corps.

Christine Ladd-Franklin – noted for her work on theories of color vision.

Edna Foa – recognized as an expert in posttraumatic stress disorder. She developed prolonged exposure therapy.

Eleanor J Gibson – known for the study of perception in infants and toddlers and for the “visual cliff” experiment in which precocial animals, and crawling human infants, showed their ability to perceive depth by avoiding the deep side of a virtual cliff.

Eleanor Maccoby – noted for her contributions to the fields of developmental psychology and gender studies.

Elizabeth Loftus – known for her pioneering work on the malleability of memory, including misinformation effect and false memories.

Estefania Aldaba-Lim – first clinical psychologist in the Philippines. Established the Institute of Human Relations at Philippine Women’s University and later became the first woman cabinet member in the Philippines.

Ethel Dench Puffer Howes – noted for her work on aesthetics. She was one of the first women to receive a PhD from Harvard University.

Florence Denmark – researcher of gender and women’s roles.

Florence Goodenough – known for her development of novel measurement techniques, including event sampling and the Draw-A-Man test.

Helen Thompson Woolley – noted for her work in gender studies. She was the first to research gender differences in a truly scientific and experimental way.

Helene Deutsch – colleague of Sigmund Freud, recognized as the first woman analyst to be analyzed by Freud.

Inez Prosser – First African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in psychology; known for her studies involving the possible differences in the personality and self-esteem of African-American youth attending segregated versus integrated schools.

Janet Taylor Spence – spent most of her career researching and contributing towards gender-related issues, especially involving women.

Jaqueline Jesus – Brazilian psychologist and LGBT activist.

Karen Horney – Her theories of sexuality and of the instinct orientation of psychoanalysis questioned some traditional Freudian views. She is credited with founding feminist psychology in response to Freud’s theory of penis envy.

Leta Stetter Hollingworth – conducted pioneering work in the early 20th century, making significant contributions in three areas: psychology of women; clinical psychology; and educational psychology. She is best known for her work with exceptional children.

Lise Østergaard – Danish psychologist who became the country’s first professor of clinical psychology in 1963. She was later elected to the Danish parliament in 1979, before returning to her position at the University of Copenhagen in 1984.

Magda Arnold – the first contemporary theorist to develop appraisal theory of emotions, which moved the direction of emotion theory away from “feeling” theories (e.g. James-Lange theory) and “behaviorist” theories (e.g. Cannon-Bard theory) and toward the cognitive approach.

Mamie Phipps Clark – most famous for her work with the gendered doll study that exposed the latent racism in young children. She was also used as an expert witness in the Brown v. Board of Education court case.

Margaret Floy Washburn – studied sensation and perception and theorized that one’s consciousness was responsible for their own motor activities. She was the first American woman to receive a PhD in psychology.

Maria Montessori – best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name, and her writing on scientific pedagogy.

Mary Ainsworth – known for her work in early emotional attachment with the Strange Situation design, as well as her work in the development of attachment theory.

Mary Whiton Calkins – the first woman to become president of the American Psychological Association. Her career focused on self-psychology and the belief that the conscious self should be the foundation of psychological study.

Melanie Klein – developed the “play technique” in child psychoanalysis that is widely used in contemporary play therapy, and was instrumental in the science of child psychoanalysis.

Nancy Bayley – most notable for her contributions toward the Berkeley Growth Study.

Reiko True – recognized for her efforts to advance mental health services for Asian Americans and other minorities.

Ruth Winifred Howard – main research focused on the development of triplets. She was one of the first women to earn a PhD in the area of psychology. She also earned a PhD in child development.

Sandra Bem – known for her works in androgyny and gender studies.

Shelley E. Taylor – noted for her work in social neuroscience.

Tsuruko Haraguchi – recognized as the first Japanese woman to receive a doctorate in any field.

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga – Latvian-born psychologist who had a decades-long career at the University of Montreal in Canada, before being elected Latvia’s first woman president.

Long-term Effects of Being Bullied

A younger friend of mine made a post talking about bullying. It really hit some heart strings for me because I was also bullied as a kid. The post was essentially calling out a girl that bullied her in highschool and a lot of people that were friends with the girl started commenting on the post and private messaging my friend. They were defending the bully and saying that post was bullying.

Sure, maybe making that post wasn’t the most mature thing to do in the world. But it got a lot of people opening up, one person even admitting they were also bullied by this old classmate. It also got people talking about bullying in general.

Most of the people that were defensive about it were making a point that highschool is in the past and that the person in question has changed.

But does that really matter?

I have had people approach me from school and apologize for how awful they were to me. It felt good to get an apology and accept it. But many people have not apologized, in fact continued to bully me as an adult. I specifically remember one of my main bullies and his sister beating me up and kicking me into the ground in their back yard at a party when they were very drunk and I was sober driving for friends. They did it just because I was there. They asked me to leave so I said I had to go tell my friend I was driving for that I was leaving. They didn’t let me and immediately jumped me. People watched and didn’t help. Many people even laughed. I was 19 at the time.

“A 2014 study from researchers at King’s College London in the UK found that the negative social, physical and mental health effects of childhood bullying are still evident up to 40 years later.”

With immediate and proper mental health treatment and support systems in place, victims can stave off some of the potential long-term consequences of bullying. Without intervention, however, kids are at risk for the following:
• Chronic depression
• Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide plans, and suicide attempts
• Anxiety disorders
• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Poor general health
• Self-destructive behavior, including self-harm
• Substance abuse
• Difficulty establishing trusting, reciprocal friendships and relationships

Self isolating can bring up a lot of unresolved trauma. We are stuck at home, spend a lot of time on our phones and social media, and we are bound to come across something that might trigger us. The way some people present themselves on social media might come off as arrogant or “too good to be true”. This can bring about feelings of anger, resentment, and even jealousy. It can especially feel horrible for people who maybe don’t have a lot of friends, money, or a community to lean on. Certain posts I’m talking about can include photos of old classmates with a close group of friends, photos of a person traveling across the country or abroad, and other things that make a person’s life look more desirable than the person perceiving the post.

There’s nothing wrong with these feelings. There’s nothing wrong with having moments of weakness, acting out in anger, or being vulnerable.

There’s nothing wrong with posting happy moments on your social media, either.

There IS something wrong with not taking accountability for hurting people in the past, even if it was 40 years ago.

Revenge: Is It Healthy?

Ten years ago, my friends and I planned an elaborate prank. We baked and decorated cupcakes, with the intent in sending them to someone that was abusive towards me. That may seem nice, but there was a catch – we put Tabasco sauce in them.

At the time, this was hilarious to a 16 year old me. So hilarious that when I got a text describing the person’s reaction, I laughed so hard I got kicked out of band class. But when I think back on this, I realize it was immature and petty. At the same time, it was nowhere near as bad as the things I went through.

The scales of justice were incredibly unbalanced. It was a harmless prank compared to years of trauma I endured with this person. Revenge felt sweet, and I still chuckle when I think of that day.

Some would say this was mean. I see it as revenge – I was being spiteful. I wanted to get a message across that it wasn’t okay to treat me badly. I wanted to punish.

Punishment is sometimes necessary for two reasons:

  1. Preventing the behaviour from repeating (setting boundaries)
  2. Learning and practicing how to effectively say no and set boundaries

Punishment is not about common good, it’s about spite.

To the average person, spite is about wanting to hurt someone. That is not the case. Spite is a behavior “which is costly to both the actor and the recipient” and is one of four other “social behaviors”. The other three are altruism (a positive effect on the recipient but a negative effect on the actor), selfishness (a negative effect on the recipient but a positive effect on the actor), and mutual benefit (a positive effect on both the actor and the recipient).

Extreme spite could be a sign of narcissism or psychopathy, but moderate spite could be necessary for fairness.

In 2014, a pair of American scientists built a computer model of virtual players who were tasked with splitting a pot of money. The first player chose how the pot would be split, and the second player either had to accept or reject that offer. If the second player accepted the offer, the pot would be split as the first player decided; if the second player rejected the offer, neither got any money.

The researchers found that although extreme spite on either end irrevocably sunk any hopes of cooperative play, moderate levels of spite went far to modulate and encourage fair exchange more often between players. That reasoning makes sense—if some people act spitefully and deny anyone an award, others are motivated to behave more fairly to ensure that both sides get something.

I heard someone say somewhere, “Revenge is the cure for PTSD.” While I think revenge is extreme, it’s normal to feel and even fantasize about revenge if you have gone through trauma.

Revenge is very connected to rage. And, like spite, can be measured by a scale. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you act upon feelings of vengeance or spite:

  • What is the actual source of your rage?
  • What good will come of revenge?
  • Have you ever committed a comparable offense?
  • Could your version be wrong?
  • If you were wise instead of angry, what would you do?

The Psychology of Revenge: Why We Need to Punish

THC vs. Head Meds – Pt. 1

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This also may seem like a gigantic list of cons and may be discouraging. If you are interested in what certain chemicals do to the brain, please proceed. If you are stuck in a mindset of misconceptions, please proceed with caution.

In the middle of talk around the legalization of marijuana and the misconceptions around the way it affects psychiatric disorders, I was reminded of a very important lesson I was taught as a teen about what THC does to serotonin in the brain. I then sought out to research this some more and find out what THC and CBD really does to the brain in comparison to antidepressants and others, and if they interact with each other. A quick search of ‘weed and SSRIs’ made my browser flooded with results with titles such as, “Is it okay if I smoke weed while on Zoloft?”, “Does weed and lithium have any interactions?”, “Does weed work as an antidepressant?” The truth is, a lot of the answers left me with even more questions. Here’s what I learned after years of my own experience and hours of reading:


There are a lot of different types of antidepressants that do different things. The most common is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). A lot of types of antidepressants focus on other chemicals of the brain, but only one focuses on dopamine: Wellbutrin. Antidepressants also help with other things like anxiety disorders and even migraines. Antidepressants are used first in very extreme cases, and are supposed to be used second in less extreme cases after other solutions are used but are not successful, like cognitive therapy, diet and lifestyle changes.

Serotonin levels are very important as they affect a person’s mood, energy levels, appetite, sleeping habits, memory, libido, and the list goes on. Low serotonin is said to cause depressive moods, which is why Prozac was born! Prozac was the first SSRI that didn’t cause extreme side effects in patients, was extremely difficult to overdose on, and brought good feedback among patients. It was then FDA approved and marketed in 1987, causing a tidal wave of development in pharmaceutical drugs.

What these SSRIs do is create a kind of wall in the brain that makes chemicals bounce off of it. Imagine three people in a triangle playing a complicated game of catch. One person is producing baseballs and throwing them to the person at the bottom of the triangle. When some baseballs aren’t caught, they go back up, but to the third person. When the third person grabs these, they kinda just hoard the baseballs. The third person is where baseballs go to die. If there was a referee there, the third person would be stopped and the first person wouldn’t have to work so hard on producing so many freaking baseballs. Do you get it? SSRIs act as a referee in the brain when it isn’t playing fair.

The catcher at the bottom of the triangle needs to catch the serotonin and put it in a special place that makes the brain function better. The same place that needs certain amounts of other certain chemicals that executes fear response and all other emotions. Fear causes anxiety, and sometimes anxiety has a whole other category of medication on it’s own. Anxiolytics are usually addictive, sedating, and used in extreme cases. I won’t talk about them much but they are worth a mention here, for a minute. Anxiolytics are minor tranquilizers intended for short term, compared to antipsychotics that are major tranquilizers intended for long term. Ativan is one of the most common, and by making the brain release the natural amino acid, GABA, it creates a relaxing effect.

Of course, there are a lot of other factors that cause the brain to not function properly and for people to have depressive or anxious moods, but this is just the main theory and practice. How can you tell if you have unbalanced chemical levels, you say? You can’t, but your doctor can. You have to specifically go to your doctor to ask for blood tests or a brain scan, which can be costly in some places, and is rarely done before prescription. And even then, antidepressants are not a cure – they are just something that helps. If you find yourself asking as to why the medication you’re on isn’t working after 6 to 8 weeks, you should probably go back to your doctor to talk to them about it. Therapy is another option because sometimes it’s necessary alongside other treatment.

Antidepressants also have a long list of side effects that are not for the faint of heart. Some cause suicidal ideation, sexual dysfunction (decreased sex drive), serotonin syndrome, some cause problems in pregnancy, some shouldn’t be taken at all during pregnancy, and lesser problems like dizziness, drowsiness, weight gain, and so on. Antidepressants also interact with many other things like other types of antidepressants, some mood stabilizers, MDMA, Aspirin, ibuprofen, Aleve, St. John’s Wort, and even marijuana. Things like marijuana, alcohol, and small amounts of the other things that interact with antidepressants, can cause the lesser side effects to be more prominent. However, alcohol causes the most severe (and sometimes fatal) side effects and should be avoided unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you otherwise.


Mood Stabilizers and Antipsychotics

Mood stabilizers can be described simply. They bring highs down and lows up which stabilizes the mood in bipolar patients. Although, some treat epilepsy very effectively, which can tell anybody that they do complicated things neurologically. Antipsychotics are a bit more intricate, so I’ll talk about them first.

Antipsychotics treat disorders in the psychosis category, like schizophrenia, bipolar, dementia, and any other disorder where psychosis and delusion is involved. Antipsychotics also work as a sedative, are used in the treatment of other nonpsychotic disorders where other treatment didn’t work like depression or anxiety, and are used as the prevention of psychosis in patients where they may be at risk through substance abuse, genetics, or any other warning signs.

Psychosis happens because of excess dopamine, and antipsychotics block the receptors, making the dopamine that’s already in the brain have less of an effect. It’s essentially the same concept that SSRIs have on serotonin. Different mood stabilizers help prevent mania by doing different things to different chemicals in the brain. I really don’t feel like delving into this, especially because they still aren’t sure how lithium works, which makes me feel especially reassured since that is what I am on right now. The one thing I want to point out about them though is that they aren’t typically used to treat depression symptoms, lithium is said to maybe help serotonin levels, so in order to solve that problem doctors use antipsychotics and antidepressants in combination to achieve the same high-down/low-up effect. Fortunately, my lithium and folic acid combo works for me just fine, the way it’s supposed to, despite the fact I have no idea how. It just does.

Antipsychotics have an even bigger list of side effects than antidepressants do, including weight gain, dizziness, blurred vision, constipation, drowsiness, and in more severe cases diabetes, seizures, extreme withdrawal when taken off of the medication, and overdose when taking too much. Mood stabilizers also have their own special place in Hell for side effects that are similar to the other lists. While I’ve been on lithium I’ve experienced increased thirst, dry mouth, dehydration, weight gain, and other lesser side effects that haven’t bothered me much. I did have the flu in November, though, and I needed to go get fluids in the ER because I got too dehydrated. It was a pretty high stress situation.


To be continued…

How Saskatchewan might have led the way in one of the biggest operations of CIA experiments

There is a lot of notable history in the province of Saskatchewan, but did you know that it’s also a focal point of some of the largest conspiracy theories in the world? Today we are not going to make accusations or come up with theories, but simply point out some facts that some people might not think about when remembering the Weyburn Mental Hospital and it’s practices.

The Souris Valley Mental Health Hospital[1], originally called the Saskatchewan hospital when it opened in 1921, was considered to be one of the most prestigious hospitals in it’s time. Some of its recreational therapy was a lot more light hearted, but a condition of staying in the hospital was that you also had to hold a full time job at the hospital, as well as other strenuous activities that are proven to not help psychiatric patients.[2] It held over 2,500 patients and ran it’s own newspaper. The doctors and employees were forefront, and sometimes test subjects themselves[3], in the treatment of many mental disorders including schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism, and so on. The treatments would seem barbaric today, but the experimentation with LSD, mescaline, electro shock therapy, insulin overdose, hydrotherapy, and even lobotomies were making incredible breakthroughs in medicine that changed mental health as we know it. Professionals from across the world raved over the doctors’ research, and it even caught the CIA’s eye.

The team consisted of Dr. Humphry Osmond[4], Dr. Abram Hoffer[5], and several others. Osmond being from England, and Hoffer a Canadian. Hoffer obtained his first degree at the University of Saskatchewan, and then finished his venture in education at the University of Toronto with a doctorate of medicine. Osmond was a surgeon lieutenant in the Navy during WWII, and while doing so he trained to be a psychiatrist. He also coined the word ‘psychedelic’[6] and was a very big fan of the drugs that caused the effect. After the war, Osmond moved to Weyburn with his friend John Smythies, who was a neuroscientist that also helped contribute to the research done at the hospital. In the hospital, Osmond, Canadian Special Services agent and millionaire Al Hubbard[7], and his team of scientists conducted large amounts of research and experimentation on how LSD and other psychedelics affected the brain. All research was funded by the Canadian government and the Rockefeller foundation, the goal being a cure for schizophrenia.

Among the people Osmond supervised and experimented on was author Aldous Huxley[8]. Osmond was one of Aldous Huxley’s family doctors, and at the time there were a lot of conspiracies surrounding Huxley and his involvement with the government. Specifically with people like H.G. Wells and Allen Dulles, both names that any conspiracist would have a field day about. In 1953, Osmond gave Huxley mescaline. Throughout their friendship, they wrote letters to each other, where Osmond came up with the word ‘psychedelic’ while high, himself. Cute.

You might be thinking now where Osmond was getting such a large supply of psychedelics. A year prior to giving Huxley mescaline, the Montreal branch of Sandoz sent the Weyburn hospital a package of LSD and started supplying the doctors with these drugs[9]. Sandoz is a German-based pharmaceutical company that branches out all over the world. At the time of these experiments, a CIA project started in 1953 called MK Ultra, which continued well into the 70s. MK Ultra was research based; focusing on mind control, brainwashing techniques, and psychological torture, all with the use of LSD[10], it was no surprise that the hospital in Weyburn had access to such drugs with such close ties. A sister project of MK Ultra called MK Ultra subproject 68 was also being held at McGill University from 1957 to 1964, which victims have since been compensated for their trauma.[11] Dr. Cameron, who was leading the research in this sister project, had the same intentions as Dr. Osmond – curing schizophrenia. He claims he did not know the research was being funded by the CIA, even though he was paid $69,000 to carry out the project.[12] Another notable piece of history is that Tommy Douglas enacted his Medicare in Saskatchewan in 1962, and nationally in 1966. Deinstitutionalization was carried out forcefully in 1964, making the number of patients staying at the hospital in Weyburn drop at an alarming rate.[13]

These people were very passionate about their acid, a lot of them thinking it was the greatest discovery of mankind. It became an obsession. Osmond and Hoffer did a lot of work with Al Hubbard. Hubbard was an extremely interesting man, he was called the ‘Johnny Appleseed of LSD’. A legitimate criminal, his crimes and cleverness were noticed by the OSS and was then put to work for the government. As an investigation arose, he fled the situation and moved to Vancouver, becoming a Canadian citizen. He became a millionaire there, which prompted Harry Truman to provide him a presidential pardon. He was involved in work with the Canadian Special Services, the U.S. Justice Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and of course, was rumoured to be apart of the MK Ultra projects. Al was the one that introduced a lot of the scientists to LSD. I guess you could say his nickname rang true.[14]

There was a whole lot of them, and they all hung out and did LSD together, even years after the more intense research stopped.[15] The way Osmond talked about it, it seemed as though he was against the production of LSD for money. Any psychiatrist could probably figure out that the reason behind this was because of his usage of LSD and the way it changed his perception of the world. He was more interested in the cure for illness. Were his intentions true? Did he flip off the government and organize his own extensive research for the greater good? Or was the CIA using him for his information? Worst case scenario, the Weyburn Asylum was a gigantic, controlled environment for the biggest MK Ultra experiments ever, torturing up to 3,000 people at a time. Unfortunately, no one will ever know except the people who were there, because all of the associated records for MK Ultra were destroyed in 1973 by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb. The only way to know for sure is if Gottlieb was in contact with Hubbard or Osmond. Time will tell, or maybe it never will.


Chelsea Bleau 2017