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ALTERED STATES

Cary Grant Used to Drop Acid Once a Week

He did LSD 100 times under the supervision of his therapist.

Susan Rinkunas

Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images

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Chemist Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD in 1938 in a quest to prevent post-partum hemorrhaging but realized it had psychedelic properties after he accidentally absorbed the drug through his fingers. Hoffman thought LSD could be useful for psychiatry and, indeed, in the 1950s, acid was used alongside psychotherapy to help treat alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other conditions—at least until the drug was banned from research in 1966 and criminalized in 1968.

One such patient who got LSD from his therapist was legendary Hollywood actor Cary Grant. This enlightening nugget comes from a new Showtime documentary about the star called Becoming Cary Grant. In 1958, Grant went to the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills, co-founded by therapist Mortimer Hartman and psychiatrist Arthur Chandler, following his separation from his third wife, Betsy Drake. Drake herself credited LSD therapy with with Hartman for "giving me the courage to leave my husband."

Grant was 55 when he first took acid and viewed it as way to deal with the end of his marriages and resolve childhood trauma. His backstory is a sad one: Grant was born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England; a poor and emotionally abused boy who left home after his mother disappeared. He learned decades later that she'd been institutionalized, possibly by his alcoholic father, who had a second, secret family. Leach reinvented himself as the charming, sophisticated Cary Grant and became a huge star, but now felt a void. He told Look magazine in 1959, that, thanks to LSD therapy, "at last, I am close to happiness."

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Grant went on to take the drug 100 times over three years and left Hartman $10,000 in his will. As he wrote in a journal: "I wanted to work through the events of my childhood, my relationship with my parents and my former wives. I did not want to spend years in analysis. I found it extremely valuable. It did me a great deal of good. It brought up all those guilts, all the nightmares I'd been holding down. When you take it once a week, the way I did, it knocks you flat."

The actor contacted Good Housekeeping magazine to talk about his experience and in its September 1960 issue, it said that LSD was one of the secrets of Grant's "second youth" and even commended his courage for taking part in a psychiatric experiment. Other celebrities had tried LSD therapy, including author Aldous Huxley and director Sidney Lumet, but none spoke about it publicly like Grant did, according to Vanity Fair.

Fifty-some years later, researchers still think the drug could be useful for treating anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders and studies are ongoing.

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