Hollywood icon Cary Grant is known for his powerhouse acting skills, rugged jawline, and more recently, his great passion for LSD. The latter is the focus of a new documentary on his life, Becoming Cary Grant, which premieres this week at Cannes. The movie reveals that Grant reportedly dropped acid 100 times as a part of his psychedelic therapy at the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills. During his life, Grant spoke glowingly of the therapeutic benefits of acid for psychiatric conditions — a claim that recent scientific research on the “time travel” capabilities of LSD corroborates.
“The action of the chemical releases the subconscious, so that you can see what transpires in the depth of your mind,” a narrator, quoting Grant, says in the trailer for the film. “LSD made me realize that I was killing my mother through my relationships with other women. I was punishing them for what she had done to me.”
Some background: When he was 13, Grant came home to find his mother missing. Not knowing that his father secretly committed her to a mental asylum, he was left with some serious abandonment issues. His experiences with LSD, Grant reported, gave him special insight into these issues, enabling a personal “rebirth” that allowed him to mentally go “where I wanted to go.”
Recent research has shown that Grant came to these conclusions because LSD induced changes in his brain activity. In 2016, researchers from the University of Dundee and Imperial College scanned the brains of study participants on LSD and found that the drug caused changes in blood flow in the brain’s default mode network — the part linked to “autobiographical memory recollection” and “ruminative thought” — that decreased activity in this region. In interviews, the researchers found that study participants given a saline placebo spoke significantly more about the past, while those who dropped acid focused on the present and the future.
This makes sense: Because the part of the brain associated with dwelling on the past was quieted by LSD, the people on acid were enabled to concentrate on what they wanted for themselves going forward. This physiological effect of LSD, researchers believe, could have positive implications for the use of LSD in psychotherapy.
Grant took LSD five years before the substance became illegal, so it was less taboo for him use LSD during his own psychotherapy sessions with Dr. Mortimer Hartman. Since then, it’s been an uphill battle for scientists trying to brand LSD as a therapeutic drug, but advances in research over the past five years supports testimonies from people, like Grant, who find it beneficial.
A series of studies carried out by the Beckley Foundation with Imperial College showed that LSD causes increased functional connectivity between regions that are not structurally linked, which is linked to the feeling of “oneness with the world” that people feel while on acid. In turn, this fluid state of consciousness is thought to inspire people to be more open to new concepts and ideas.
LSD advocates argue that these effects are, crucially, why the drug is poised to be a helpful tool in psychotherapy. They also appear to underlie Grant’s own positive experiences with it.
“I learned to accept the responsibility for my own actions, and to blame myself and no one else for circumstances for my own creating,” Grant wrote in a series of magazine articles about his life. “I learned that my dear parents, products of their parents, could know no better than they knew, and began to remember them only of the most useful, the best, the wisest of their teachings.”