For Doblin and MAPS’s mission, Halpern’s work is central to their hope that MDMA, LSD, and other hallucinogens will be legally administrable. He would also like to see the public’s fear of these drugs dissipate as we come to understand them as real medicines. And for Doblin, there is nothing better than having this happen at Harvard. “Harvard is where Timothy Leary blew it,” he says. “Bringing this research back to Harvard is a symbol of cultural healing.”

Halpern, meanwhile, wants to continue researching the legitimacy of these drugs, despite what people think about the company he might have to keep. “We’ll continue to have friends from all kinds of places,” he admits, “and sometimes people will even identify themselves as opponents.” It’s possible those opponents might even come from the underground. Making psychedelic drugs legitimate could put the regulation of them into the hands of people who don’t understand what many believe is the drugs’ spiritual value. Sometimes all you need is a trip to the woods and a handful of mushrooms, not a million-dollar research study. “Freedom of religion should include the right to explore one’s own consciousness,” says Fadiman, “and these drugs should be made available with full information and training.”

Hofmann’s famous book on the subject is LSD, My Problem Child, and he hoped it would be accepted as his wonder child. But there is a perception that anyone trying to work with these substances is, by default, in the radical — some would say irresponsible — tradition of Leary, not the sober, scientific one of Hofmann. “There are no hidden agendas,” says Halpern about his own work. “But medicine is about taking risks — and sometimes looking in unusual places.”

Peter Bebergal is a freelance writer based in Cambridge. He can be reached at

Correction: McLean Hospital points out that this story contained an error: former president Dr. Jack Gorman resigned from McLean when an inapproriate relationship with a patient at another hospital — not McLean, as we reported — came to light.

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