Psychedelic Psychiatry

LSD on the Canadian Prairies

Erika Dyck (Author)


In the early 1950s, the leading centre of the world for LSD research was Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where two psychiatrists sought to revolutionize the treatment of mental illness and, in the process, gave rise to a new form of therapy: psychedelic psychiatry.

Psychedelic Psychiatry is the tale of medical researchers working to understand LSD’s therapeutic properties just as escalating anxieties about drug abuse in modern society laid the groundwork for the end of experimentation at the edge of psychopharmacology. Historian Erika Dyck deftly recasts our understanding of LSD to show it as an experimental substance, a medical treatment, and a tool for exploring psychotic perspectives. She recounts the inside story of the early days of LSD research in small-town, prairie Canada, when Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer claimed incredible advances in treating alcoholism, understanding schizophrenia and other psychoses, and achieving empathy with their patients.

In relating the drug’s short, strange trip, Dyck explains how societal concerns about countercultural trends led to the criminalization of LSD and other so-called psychedelic drugs. In this well-written and fascinating book, she confronts the ethical dilemmas of the time and challenges the prevailing wisdom behind drug regulation and addiction therapy.


"Psychedelic Psychiatry is a focused account of both the history of LSD on the Prairies and its role in the creation of a new kind of medical practice. The book offers an intriguing amalgam of the cultural, political, juridical, and medical impact of the early days of the drug's research and use."

Mariianne Mays Wiebe, Canada's History

“Digs deeply into an area of drug history that has for the most part been ignored.”

Literary Review of Canada

Psychedelic Psychiatry is intensely interesting; an important and influential period of transition in psychiatry that has direct and important implications for current psychiatry ... I highly recommend it to others.”

Matthew Martin-Iverson, Health and History

About the Author

Erika Dyck is a historian of health, medicine, and Canadian society at the University of Saskatchewan. Her research has concentrated on the history of mental health, institutionalization, and experimentation.

Table of Contents

Ch 1: Psychedelic Pioneers
Ch 2: Simulating Psychoses
Ch 3:Highs and Lows
Ch 4: Keeping Tabs on Science and Spirituality
Ch 5: Acid Panic
Ch 6: “The Perfect Contraband”

University of Manitoba Press is grateful for the support it receives for its publishing program from the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund; the Canada Council for the Arts; the Manitoba Department of Culture, Heritage, and Tourism; the Manitoba Arts Council; and the Aid to Scholarly Publishing Programme.