Is it safe for me to breed?
April 30, 2008 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Genetic damage caused by hallucinogens?

This question has two parts of necessary prologue. Background relevant to this query spans roughly thirty years, and there are three periods of distinct interest.

During my undergraduate days in the late 70's I attended a university where soft drugs were a large part of our hippy influenced lifestyle. Some of us got into acid which we really enjoyed.

I had some solid connections at the time, capable of delivering volume and wishing to expand their business. So one June, just as exams ended and summer began, I got my hands on 250 hits of this wonderful blue micro dot (100 mikes, and very standardised product).

My intention was to sell 200 hits and finance 50 free trips for myself. But, of course, before I could move a dose I had to test the product. I ended up selling perhaps thirty of the hits, taking the great bulk of the remaining acid myself. Needless to say, I now recall that summer as a blur of images and starting classes the following autumn I was more than a little fuzzy.

Roughly ten years later, I moved to New York. Had a "normal" career, but in my free time I owned two art galleries and published a series of underground magazines. I rode motorcycles, ran with a gang and we'd go on these bacchanalian binges, which sometimes stretched into days. One of our crowd was into acid and 'shrooms and my interest in tripping was rekindled. I did mostly 'shrooms but perhaps a dozen hits of acid as well over a six month period before the the combination of tripping and biker lifestyle started interfering with my day job.

As I love to ride motorcycles I quit all drugs, pot, acid, anything else, cold turkey in 1990.

Even though I can't ride motorcycles any longer (dumped on a 'S' curve, twisted my arm so bad I needed extensive reconstructive surgery but on the bright side I was left with these awesome scars), I still enjoy wine and champagne but nothing more.

I moved to Europe a little over a decade ago. Got married about seven months ago and now we're talking family. I'm in excellent health, very fit and energetic for my age with a youthful and highly optimistic outlook. I've spent a lot of time on the ground in Africa and The Middle East, have had almost every jab necessary for working remotely for long periods of time solo in those areas and, unlike some, Ive never had a problem at all with the inoculations. Used Malarone as a malarial prophylaxis, but was never in infectious zones for longer than two months.

Clearly I can't change the past, but I'd hate to bring an unhealthy baby into this world. Discussing options in the broadest possible terms, the wife is open to adoption.

I haven't been too revealing with her about my past as while she's great, the best thing that ever happened to me, she's sorta straight. She does, however, know some aspects of my background - she met several friends from the biker days in New York recently, clearly knows about my tattoos, lives in our flat that's heavily decorated with art from the old days, has seen lots of scars from fights, motorcycle accidents and nasty problems in Africa - but I haven't volunteered too much information nor details; what she knows, she's largely learned on her own.

So, this former wild child, ex New York biker now turned London banker, married and just starting out on the happily ever after part in Europe, has a very specific question that I'd like to extend a little later - is there any truth to genetic damage on males from drugs, specifically acid?

Or is this just propaganda? I don't have any of the other attributes of those stories - no flashbacks, no desire to kill kill kill and I certainly don't hallucinate (although during boring business meetings I will SERIOUSLY daydream).

Has anyone had any direct and personal experience with breeding after LSD? Specifically after a relatively large number of trips? And to extend, does the Malarone or any of the other innoculations necessary to spend large amounts of time working in African border regions increase risk of a problem?

Many thanks for your help!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm afraid I have only 2nd hand experience in the subject, but I've known many former LSD users that have had beautiful and intelligent children. I even knew someone who was conceived while his mom was ON acid and again, he was highly intelligent and good looking. I would be more concerned about the innoculations, personally, but you should be able to speak to a physician about those concerns.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:39 AM on April 30, 2008

As far as I know this was a myth perpetrated in the late 60s to scare people off the use of acid. As I recall, as early as the early 70s people generally acknowledged that there was as much or greater risk from drinking coffee. In any case, I haven't heard anyone even suggest this in nearly 40 years, and it's not something I ever worried about. Like many other parents I did acid in my youth and my now 20-year-old son has no apparent genetic defects.
posted by thomas144 at 7:41 AM on April 30, 2008

Well the mushrooms, and the anti-malarial drugs don't stay in your system so they are not really a concern. LSD however does remain in trace amounts in your spinal column, but I do not know if there have been any studies regarding its potential affects on your hypothetical progeny. Another thing you have not considered is that men who father children after the age of 35 are at a significantly larger risk of having autistic children. That, coupled with what is obviously an unknown regarding your past heavy drug use would have me thinking of finding a wonderful child or two or three and adopting it to be safe.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:44 AM on April 30, 2008

My parents did their fair share of acid in the 70s.

Both my brother (1979) and I (1985) were born healthy, and grew up to be classified as "gifted" by the local school board. We're both artistic, musical and mathematically inclined. We didn't even come out ugly-sticked.

So, if it had any effect on my parents' genes, it did nothing but good!
posted by sunshinesky at 7:53 AM on April 30, 2008

LSD however does remain in trace amounts in your spinal column. Urban myth. Plus, even if true, the doses at which LSD acts are so low as to be considered "trace" in the first place.

Secondly, try speaking with a Genetic Counselor to help allay your fears. I imagine you have little to worry about.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:56 AM on April 30, 2008

The internet says you'll be fine.
posted by Drexen at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2008

Breed away, hippie!

But I'd consider adoption anyway - there are already too many people in this world.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

I would second visiting a genetic counselor to put discuss this and put your mind at ease. You don't necessarily need to bring your wife along.

Via pubmed, I found this
/A study/ carried out ... of 121 pregnancies ... found no increase in defects but a possible incr in spontaneous abortions in the mothers who took LSD as compared to pregnancies where only the father took it.
[Shepard, T.H. Catalog of Teratogenic Agents. 5th ed. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986., p. 348]**PEER REVIEWED**

Happy procreation.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 8:20 AM on April 30, 2008

A search in PubMed for LSD and mutation gives 121 publications, including 10 reviews, which might be worth perusing. (Sorry, I can't seem to find a way to link directly to the search results.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:25 AM on April 30, 2008

IIRC, LSD-25 was part of a spectrum of drugs being tested on pregnant... mice? Something to do with labor. I'm not surprised that it could affect pregnant women in an adverse way.

Other than that you're just fine. Good luck with your children.
posted by unixrat at 8:29 AM on April 30, 2008

If it caused genetic damage, it would cause cancer.
posted by delmoi at 8:41 AM on April 30, 2008

Having spent many years hanging around with the first generations of children born to members of the Farm and found them to be just as warm, intellectually enguaged, physically healthy and attractive as the general population (if not more so in general) I can say that, at least in this case study, drugs did not damage the genetics of these people.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:42 AM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's a pretty comprehensive review from back in '71 that basically rules out any concerns about genetic damage:

From our own work and from a review of the literature, we believe that pure LSD ingested in moderate doses does not damage chromosomes in vivo, does not cause detectable genetic damage, and is not a teratogen or a carcinogen in man. Within these bounds, therefore, we suggest that, other than during pregnancy, there is no present contraindication to the continued controlled experimental use of pure LSD.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:00 AM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ask your doctor. Ask to be referred to a specialist too. Maybe a fertility specialist, a urologist, or, I dunno. Your doctor will. Ask them. Once you get to someone who knows what they're talking about, it should be fairly straightforward. "Yes, I've reviewed the lit, and there is a solid connection", or "no, at this time, there isn't enough evidence for that". In either case though, YMMV. They won't be able to say, "yes, you will definitely have a child with developmental problems, or "no, you definitely will not have problems".
posted by gauchodaspampas at 9:50 AM on April 30, 2008

LSD does not cause genetic mutations. Nor does it stay in your spine forever or make your brain bleed. These myths are all the result of old government initiatives to scare kids off the dope.

That being said, my Dad did more than his share of acid, and I have a slight cosmetic oddity in my left ear. My Mom always says that it was God's way of telling her that my father's LSD use could have seriously messed me up, but that he [God] chose not to let it.

My mom is definitely not a scientist. I take her word for it on matters concerning appropriate social behavior and personal hygiene, but her knowledge of pharmacology and genetics is insufficient enough to make her a prime target for anti-drug propaganda.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 10:40 AM on April 30, 2008

My parents did their fair share of acid in the 70s.
...pure LSD ingested in moderate doses..

I think the question is probably if there are concerns when the doses are more than moderate, though. 200 trips in 3 months is insane. I'm impressed that you feel so together after all that. I know people who have done a lot less tripping who still kinda feel like maybe they got slightly unhinged by a little too much of a good thing.

So in a way I would almost think of it as a vote for the stability of your genetic material! You are pretty far down on one end of the spectrum in terms of how much mind altering substance you've ingested, and it sounds like it really hasn't knocked you around much at all. Pass that sturdy DNA on :) (if you want to - I just mean, docs can't even agree about whether alcohol affects babies, even when mom drinks while pregnant - I doubt the sperm of the dad is fucked up by acid from 10 years ago)
posted by mdn at 10:57 AM on April 30, 2008

Unlike your partner, you are continuously producing new gametes. Most teratogenic drugs cause problems when you are taking them, not years later.
posted by owhydididoit at 11:47 AM on April 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Unless you were a child prodigy or your wife is quite a bit younger than you, her age will have a much bigger effect on your ability to have genetically normal children than drugs you took decades ago.
posted by missmagenta at 2:58 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had sex with a guy like you. Two guys. Same age, maybe a bit older than you. I also did acid and partied when I was younger.

We had kids.

#1 from the first man is a girl who is an earth mother breastfeeding La Leche League member with her own child who is a little angel, if a bit feisty at 2 (aren't they all?)

#2 is a boy child sensitive guitar playing iPod Touch wielding making me breakfast when he visits chats with me loves me and his dad and highly opinionated person who gets straight A's in school

Both fathers were heavily into drugs, coke, qualudes (sp?), LSD for one and god knows what else, I was a kid when they were doing that stuff, for chrissakes. I was only into pot and booze when I was younger. Not when I was pregnant and raising them tho'. Just during conception, mind you. And they had given the stuff up shortly or longly before they met me, depending on what you want to believe.

Breed, away, man, just raise them right and be a good dad and be there for them. If you ever split up, dinna talk down about their mother or I will hunt you down with my LSD flashback psychic ability and make you impotent.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:31 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

LSD however does remain in trace amounts in your spinal column

Cite, please?

AskMe isn't the place for passing along Stuff You've Heard Somewhere as a serious response to a medical question.
posted by mediareport at 5:25 AM on May 1, 2008

My parents did similar amounts of acid in their late teens/early 20s, went all clean, had 3 honor roll students go on to be 2 computer programmers. I am amazed this question is for real.
posted by herbaliser at 1:24 PM on May 1, 2008

I'm surprised no one mentioned Albert Hoffman (RIP). I read that he took over 100 trips and he just died @ 102. Didn't seem to have any negative long-term effects for him and he also had children.

Since there hasn't been a lot of research on psychedelics, especially their long-term effects, it's hard to say what will happen. But you can assume that if a sizeable percentage of everyone who dropped acid regularly in their youth ended up breeding mutants or diseased children, the government would be reporting on that ASAP to add to the War on Drugs Talking Points.

I did find this interesting (and really long) article on both sides of the issue if you're up for a read.
posted by hulahulagirl at 4:37 PM on May 1, 2008

If you were an undergraduate in the late 1970s, that would make you about 50 now. I would be less worried about the drugs you did 30 years ago than about the risks of having children late in life. Advanced paternal age (defined as fathers over 40) has been linked to a nearly double risk of Down's Syndrome, as well as increased risk of other birth defects and schizophrenia, dwarfism, and other genetically linked disorders. Granted, your risk of all of these things is still small, and it's still very likely that if you are able to conceive (advanced paternal age also lowers sperm motility, which increases the risk of infertility), your child will be healthy.

If I were you, I would tell your wife that because of your advanced age, you'd like to seek genetic counseling before you try to conceive. You can then talk with the counselor about all of your concerns, including those about your family history, personal history of potentially risky behavior, and age-related risks. Then you'll know better where you stand.
posted by decathecting at 8:57 PM on May 4, 2008

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