1960s Ritalin ad

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This advertisement for Ritalin comes from a 1966 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Ritalin, or methylphenidate, is widely – and controversially – prescribed to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The drug is an amphetamine-like stimulant which blocks reuptake of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) in the prefrontal cortex. This seems paradoxical given that it improves concentration and reduces impulsivity in hyperactive children, and exactly why it is an effective treatment for ADHD is still unclear.

In the 1960s, ADHD had not yet been characterized, and Ritalin was prescribed instead for mild depression. The ad is of particular interest because it warns that Ritalin “should not be used to increase mental or physical capacities beyond physiological capacities”. So it seems that the non-medical use of Ritalin for cognitive enhancement has a long history.

(From a new medical anthropology blog called Somatosphere, where you can see a much larger version.)

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1960s documentary: Self-experimenting with magic mushrooms

In the January 4th, 1961 episode of One Step Beyond, director and presenter John Newland ingests psilocybin under laboratory conditions, to investigate whether or not the hallucinogenic mushroom can enhance his abilities of extra-sensory perception.

The programme was apparently inspired by a 1959 book called The Sacred Mushroom, by parapsychologist Andrija Puharich, who is known for taking the spoon-bending fraudster Uri Geller to the United States for investigation.

In the first part of the programme (embedded below), Newland, Puharich and others travel to Mexico to collect mushroom samples. They then return to Puharich’s lab in Palo Alto, where Newland’s ESP abilities are tested before and after ingestion of several mushroom stems.

The programme is of historical interest, as it was made some years before the widespread use of LSD led researchers to stop conducting psychedelic research. It therefore includes a brief mention of the potential therapeutic effects of psilocybin for psychiatric patients.

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