Psychochemistry – Personality By Prescription
By Ernest Havemann
Playboy Vol.15, No. 11-November 1968
Today’s drugs can turn you on or off, bend your mind and alter your perception, but tomorrow’s will do everything from curtailing your need for sleep to boosting your intellect and even reshaping your psyche
As anyone can plainly see, this is one of mankind’s strangest eras. On the one hand, all is pessimism: The world is plagued by violence, starvation, overpopulation and alienation. Yet never have so many well-informed men been so rosily optimistic. There is a strong school of thought holding that all our problems are basically chemical and will soon yield to solution as readily as the question of what happens when two atoms of hydrogen join with an atom of oxygen, (In case you have forgotten, H2-fO=H20; namely, water. As simple as all that.)
It is typical of our era that Dr. Glenn Seaborg, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, should have taken time out from worrying about the atom to tell an audience of women, not entirely in jest, that they will soon have a marvelous “antigrouch pill” to sweeten the dispositions of their menfolk. (Presumably, it could be slipped into the unsuspecting male’s morning coffee, like a lump ol sugar, to turn him from terrible tiger to purring kitten.) It is also typical that two other respected thinkers, one a scientist and one an author, should have placed the rather humorous-sounding antigrouch pill on a serious global basis.
The scientist, Dr. Heinz Lehmann of Canada’s McGill University, has predicted an “anti-aggression drug” that will overcome what seem up to now to be the natural human tendencies to pick quarrels and to make war. The author, Arthur Koestler, claims in his The Ghost in the Machine that most of man’s troubles are caused by a conflict between his “old brain,” which controls his emotions, and his “new brain,” which determines his thoughts; this gap will eventually be bridged by a drug that will give us all a “coordinated, harmonious state of mind,” making us far too contented to fret or to fight.
There are also respected researchers on record as believing that man will soon have drugs that will cure his major mental disturbances, eliminate his fears and anxieties, keep him fat or lean at will, let him decide for himself how long, if at all, he cares to sleep, make him much smarter than ever before and even permit him to live longer. You name it and there is somebody—not a wild-eyed visionary but a sane and skeptical scientist—who believes it is just around the corner.
Are we really on the verge of a chemical breakthrough in the control of human personality? If you were a psychiatrist at a mental hospital, you would have to think so- You might be inclined to say, indeed, that the breakthrough has already been made. What has happened in the mental hospitals has taken place so rapidly and spectacularly that the events have outsped communications; they constitute one of the great untold and unappreciated stories of our time. Few people know about it except the veteran staff members who worked in the hospitals is the old days—meaning before about 1955—and who work there yet.
Related – Aldous Huxley – The Ultimate Revolution [download mp3]