Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is one of the most effective alcoholic recovery programs ever conceived — an infamous initiative for helping problematic drinkers fight their addiction. It acts as a support system, a network of drunks all spiritually supporting one another in their struggle to break out of the bottle. A goal that, sadly, not all achieve.

That fact frustrated AA’s co-founder, Bill Wilson, who believed that sobriety was within easy reach for everyone.

It was only a balls-deep acid trip away, he thought.

When first approached with the idea, Wilson was of course skeptical. Using one drug to treat an addiction to another seemed, to him, like a slippery slope. But after a little bit of personal experimentation, Wilson was blown away by the mystical effects of the drug. He became convinced LSD could potentially help alcoholics achieve a spiritual awakening.

The anonymous author of Wilson’s biography said acid “helped (Wilson) eliminate many barriers erected by the self, or ego, that stand in the way of one's direct experiences of the cosmos and of god."

In the same book, Wilson is quoted as saying: "It is a generally acknowledged fact in spiritual development that ego reduction makes the influx of God's grace possible. If, therefore, under LSD we can have a temporary reduction, so that we can better see what we are and where we are going — well, that might be of some help. The goal might become clearer. So I consider LSD to be of some value to some people, and practically no damage to anyone."

And in a candid letter from the 1950’s, he wrote to a Catholic Priest named Ed Dowling about how vast of a success the drug could truly be. 

“The vision and insights given by LSD could create a large incentive," he said. "At least in a considerable number of people.”

This should come as no surprise. Psychedelics are a known treatment for different forms of addiction. Ibogaine in particular has become popular as a therapy drug, and there have been numerous studies indicating magic mushrooms and LSD have similar qualities. The exact science of how these substances break up addiction patterns is still mysterious, but many who have undergone the procedure describe their psychedelic experience as compressing years-worth of therapy into just several hours of tripping balls.

Wilson quickly recognized the potential applications for LSD in his AA program. He took the drug multiple times in supervised psychological experiments in the '50s; and many think that he even tripped with the famous psychedelic fiction novelist Aldous Huxley.

“I am certain that the LSD experiment has helped me very much,” Wilson wrote in another letter to a scientific colleague in the '50s. “I find myself with a heightened colour perception and an appreciation of beauty almost destroyed by my years of depressions.”

Unfortunately, Wilson’s theories never made it past the drawing board. As soon as the public found out about his LSD experimentation, people began to lose confidence in him and began to question his methods. He became a source of controversy, and realized that his involvement with LSD was not only hurting his image, but the potential for AA as well.  

So, he abandoned his psychedelic treatment theory entirely.

Many years later, LSD was made illegal. When that happened in 1967, scientific experimentation and studies on the substance came to a jarring halt and have not regained the same kind of momentum since.

It may be a long time before popular therapy groups like AA start using LSD to treat addiction … but the notion Wilson recognized its potential to do exactly that, over 60 years ago, speaks volumes to the drug’s potential.