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Old 08-14-2019, 02:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Bill Wilson, AA Pioneer and controversy


At the risk of raising a controversial subject I just wanted to point to something that I find interesting. A very reputable organization called "The World Science Festival" has put out many videos featuring some of the most preeminent scientists of our time. I would highly recommend their videos on you tube.

Recently they put out a number of brief videos relating to psychedelic drugs. There will be a longer video coming out on Friday that looks quite interesting.

Some folks with an interest in AA history may be aware of Bill Wilson's collaboration with researchers trying to help alcoholics through their study of LSD in the late 1950,s and early 1960's. Bill took LSD himself as part of this research. He did this long before the drug became part of the counter culture of the 1960's. He subsequently suffered a great deal of criticism for this. My belief is that much of this criticism is the result of 2020 hindsight seen through the lens the cultural revolution of the 60's. I believe Bill was a genuine pioneer and was seeking to find anything that might help the suffering alcoholic, even those who could not, or would not benefit by use of the 12 steps.

Well, there is some recent research that shows he may have been partially correct. There will be a video coming out on Friday through "The World Science Festival" site on YouTube that will touch on some aspects of this recent research regarding addiction.
Those with an interest in the subject may find it quite interesting.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:22 PM   #2 (permalink)
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haven’t watched any videos but have heard a couple of hour-long podcasts on our public broadcaster on the renewed interest and research into use of psychedelic drugs for purpose of achieving sobriety.
interesting scientifically, but listening to it i did have this reaction of “yeah right, let’s use one drug to stop another and use “high”to fix “drunk”and.....”
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Old 08-15-2019, 02:29 AM   #3 (permalink)
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interesting scientifically, but listening to it i did have this reaction of “yeah right, let’s use one drug to stop another and use “high”to fix “drunk”and.....”
there were times before i got sober that i wasnt drinking. during those times i wasnt drinking i was smokin pot daily. i was still using a substance that masked the underlying issues.
ill check out these videos,though. they should be interesting.
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Old 08-15-2019, 03:50 AM   #4 (permalink)
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This article was published this year, following a survey:

Naturally occurring and psychedelic drug–occasioned experiences interpreted as personal encounters with God are well described but have not been systematically compared. In this study, five groups of individuals participated in an online survey with detailed questions characterizing the subjective phenomena, interpretation, and persisting changes attributed to their single most memorable God encounter experience.

I find the conclusion interesting. But the problem I see, is that people who suffered adverse side effects, would be unlikely to note and respond to the survey, given the places of recruitment. And there are many puplished reports of adverse side effects.

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/ar...1-27888b4f1734
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I agree that there are lots of problems with the idea that a "recreational" drug (a hallucinogen) can help alcoholism. On the other hand there is a renewed interest and research in this area so I'm withholding judgement until I see the results of the studies. My guess is that eventually only a very specific type of alcoholic and/or drug user will be found to be appropriate for this sort of intervention. But until I know more I'm going to try to keep an open mind.
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:23 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yes, Awuh, I’ll watch the World Science video, tomorrow, with an open mind, thank you for flagging it.

It’s not that long ago, that electricity, planes flying, FaceTiming, would’ve been considered utter, impossible, madness. So who knows what science can present us with next? An end to addiction, would be fabulous.
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Old 08-17-2019, 03:21 PM   #7 (permalink)
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The video was a reasonably good discussion of some of the recent research on hallucinogens. Interesting that the supervised use of LSD with people suffering from alcohol abuse was found to be "associated with a decrease in alcohol misuse" (to use the words of the 2012 meta analysis abstract). Exactly what that means is important. IMO it's highly doubtful it will work as well as the AA program but it seems to me that Bill was on the right track when he participated in these very early studies. There might be a small subgroup for whom this approach might be useful.

Perhaps one day Bills association with this research will not be viewed as a stain on AA's founder, but rather as the work of a pioneer willing to go to "any lengths for victory over alcohol".

AA as an organization might begin to acknowledge this by releasing the full copy of the second letter from Bill Wilson to Carl Jung (in which Bill mentions LSD). A full copy of this second letter has never been released to the public.

Bill was seeking the truth when he got involved in this early research. It's time for AA's central office to let us know Bills full thoughts on the subject, at least as far as he disclosed them to Carl Jung. It's time for AA itself to walk the talk. Please join me in asking the AA central office in New York to release a full copy of the second letter from Bill Wilson to Carl Jung. They have it in their archives.
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Old 08-18-2019, 05:22 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Hiding information about Bills activities seems inappropriate. Perhaps we should remind the AA leadership:

We are only as sick as our secrets.
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Old 08-18-2019, 11:18 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:19 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Interesting. There's a quote in an AA room which I used to attend from Bill W saying that AA should evolve and move with the times. Ironically, some that attend that meeting are very closed-minded and resistant to change and some are outright dry drunks. They have sobriety only in the sense that they have abstinence from alcohol. I want more than that. I want an enjoyable life, not one that replaces one form of bondage with another.
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Old 08-21-2019, 10:31 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I recall reading, perhaps in the articles found on this site, of the work of New Zealand professor of psychiatry Duog Selman and his team of researchers. They peer reviewed the LSD research involving Bill and concluded that there was evidence that a single dose may have been helpful after all, stating also that more research was required.
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Old 08-22-2019, 02:27 PM   #12 (permalink)
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From the Susan Cheever book, "My name is Bill"

LSD was new and legal at the time Bill took it..

Bill reason for dropping acid may have had more to do with finding a way to quit smoking then helping another alcoholic.

Initially Bill loved acid and recommended everyone take it.

There were grumblings from others within AA but Bills felt since he'd he'd stepped down from his leadership role he was entitled to live life the way a normal person wanted.

Timothy Leary initially approached Bill asking to be included in Bills acid experiments. Leary had already experimented with acid at Harvard University but with disastrous results.

By the end of 1959 Bill had stopped extorting friends to take acid and ended his own experiments.
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Old 08-22-2019, 05:34 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by sortofhomecomin View Post
Interesting. There's a quote in an AA room which I used to attend from Bill W saying that AA should evolve and move with the times. Ironically, some that attend that meeting are very closed-minded and resistant to change and some are outright dry drunks. They have sobriety only in the sense that they have abstinence from alcohol. I want more than that. I want an enjoyable life, not one that replaces one form of bondage with another.
Those close to Bill made a god of AA. After all, it had saved their lives and they sometimes made a god of Bill.

After a while because Bill was not a god, or even a saint, but a human being with his own struggles, these men became disappointed. Then they became furious. Beginning with Hank Parkhurst's defection and continuing with Clarence Snyder of the Cleveland Ohio group who had angrily asked for a financial accounting.

Bill Wilson's career is characterized by the fury and sense of betrayal of many of the men who worked with him.


Susan Cheever book My Name is Bill
pg. 244
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Old 08-23-2019, 12:49 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Early on I thought Bill was a saint in chapter 2 of his life. Later I came to understand he is just a man like the rest of us. Back in the day they experimented on everything. Can I judge yesterday from today?

That said, should we try those drugs just because he and others did back in the day? Isn't that a cop out of clean and sober living. It is to me. Maybe I'm just been sober awhile and worked for it. Why cheapen living life on life's terms.
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Old 08-23-2019, 03:13 PM   #15 (permalink)
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IMO putting Bill or Dr. Bob up as some sort of sacred saintly person is a mistake. I'm sure they both had plenty of flaws and they knew it. All one needs to do is read Bill's introduction to As Bill Sees It he notes that:

"Of course all this material reflects my personal viewpoint on AA's way of life. As such it is bound to have its limitations and imperfections"

The program is not the person. The program of AA stands on it's merits not on the personality of it's founders.
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Old 08-23-2019, 05:38 PM   #16 (permalink)
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The program of AA stands on it's merits not on the personality of it's founders.
Very well said AAPJ

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Originally Posted by Ken33xx View Post
Bill(s) reason for dropping acid may have had more to do with finding a way to quit smoking then helping another alcoholic.
My reading has never suggested that to be the case. Do you have a reference for this Ken?

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Timothy Leary initially approached Bill asking to be included in Bills acid experiments.
Yes, as I understand it, Bill did not respond to Leary at all.

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By the end of 1959 Bill had stopped extorting friends to take acid and ended his own experiments.
My impression is that he took it even in the very early 1960's but never after it had become illegal.

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should we try those drugs just because he and others did back in the day?
No, of course not. My reason for starting the discussion is only to put some events of AA's history into a context in the light the current research.

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I recall reading, perhaps in the articles found on this site, of the work of New Zealand professor of psychiatry Duog Selman and his team of researchers. They peer reviewed the LSD research involving Bill and concluded that there was evidence that a single dose may have been helpful after all, stating also that more research was required.
I would be quite interested in reading the original research of Abram Hoffer and Humphrey Osmond if anyone knows where to find it.
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Old 08-23-2019, 05:55 PM   #17 (permalink)
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My reading has never suggested that to be the case. Do you have a reference for this Ken?

Just because he had turned over AA to it's own membership didn't mean that he was any less concerned about helping alcoholics that he had ever been. He also wanted to help himself.
More specifically, he many have been looking for a way to stop smoking. Although is emphysema didn't slow him down until the 1960's he could already feel constrictions in his lungs. Most of all, Bill was a believer, a zealot, a man who thought there were answers to all problems. After all , hadn't he found one for the worst problem that medicine even knew? At heart what drew him to **Trabuco was the promise of a new cure.

pg. 240
S. Cheever - My Name is Bill

**Trabuco College - where LSD experiments were taking place


Yes, as I understand it, Bill did not respond to Leary at all.

Around the same time, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert experimented with LSD at Harvard with disastrous results, Initially, Leary had approached Bill, asking to be included in his experiments but by this time Wilson had withdrawn from experimenting with LSD. Soon after, LSD was outlawed.
pg. 241-242
S. Cheever - My Name is Bill
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Old 08-24-2019, 12:03 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Early on I thought Bill was a saint in chapter 2 of his life. Later I came to understand he is just a man like the rest of us. Back in the day they experimented on everything. Can I judge yesterday from today?

That said, should we try those drugs just because he and others did back in the day? Isn't that a cop out of clean and sober living. It is to me. Maybe I'm just been sober awhile and worked for it. Why cheapen living life on life's terms.
As others have mentioned the drug was fairly new at the time Bill started tripping and not illegal. Initially Bill may have been looking for a way to stop smoking but after he heard from Aldous Huxley about those who took the drug and who had an epiphany Bill got to thinking. Perhaps acid might help the alcoholic experience what he felt in Towns Hospital many years before.

Bill first took acid in 1956 and loved it. H e urged everyone he knew to try it.

Needless to say when word got back to the membership of AA there were grumblings. But Wilson had given thirty years of his life to service. He wasn't planning to stop doing service, but he didn't see why he should continue to be held responsible for the feelings and spirit of an organization for which he, specifically, had decide to lay aside responsibility.

Still by the ended of 1959 he had stopped extorting friends to take LSD and ended his own experiments.

Around this time Timothy Leary approached Bill asking to be included in his experiments but by then Bill had stopped experimenting with the drug.
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Old 08-24-2019, 12:13 AM   #19 (permalink)
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My impression is that he took it even in the very early 1960's but never after it had become illegal.
I wouldn't be surprised if Bill tripped from time to time throughout the sixties.
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Old 08-24-2019, 10:38 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Still by the ended of 1959 he had stopped extorting friends to take LSD and ended his own experiments.
Is the word here supposed to be exhorting?

Extorting is a whole other can of worms
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