Treating the madness of the hippies

In 1972, Colombian psychiatrist Miguel Echeverry published a book arguing that hippies were not a youth subculture but the expression of a distinct mental illness that should be treated aggressively lest it spread through the population like a contagion.

I found the book, called Psicopatologia y Existencia del Hippie (Psychopathology and Existence of the Hippy), in my local library and it turns out to be one of the most surprising psychiatry books I have ever read.

At some point, I suspect the good Dr Echeverry must have been driven to breaking point by a bunch of long-haired youths strumming poorly tuned guitars outside his window, because he is clearly furious.

This is his definition of a hippy, translated from p83, where he is so angry he forgets to use a full stop.

The true hippy is an individual with a frank disposition to hereditary psychopathology, who has abandoned himself, has totally neglected his hygiene and self-presentation, has let his hair and beard grow, is dressed bizarrely, eccentrically and ridiculously, wears a multitude of rings, necklaces, beads and other extravagances, is opposed to all defined and purposeful social and family structures now and in the future, rejects productive and redeeming work, irresponsibly and cynically promotes the cult of free love, aggressively promotes contempt for moral, social and religious conventions, preaches paradoxically about the abolition of private property, harmfully drugs them self with marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, hypnotics, mescaline, psylocybin, sedatives and heroin etc to rebelliously and insanely avoid the sad realities of life.

The author notes with disdain that the ‘hippy threat’ seems to be a particular problem in Bogotá, probably reflecting more than a little regional distrust of the free-wheeling capital.

The book contains not a single reference to any scientific or clinical study, although is happy to wax lyrical about the subgroups of the hippy mental illness. Apparently, there are five: hippies with defective personal relationships and autistic-like problems, aggressive hippies, hippies with defective behaviour and poor family adjustment, emotionally impaired hippies, and those with abnormal, perverted or inverted instincts.

For those worried that he may be getting a little too psychoanalytic, Dr Echeverry makes it clear that there is both a strong environmental and genetic component to hippy psychopathology. Yes, apparently, you can inherit hippidom.

The image on the right is from one of the adverts in the book, all of which advertise the drug Lucidril as a ‘treatment’ for hippies, and it’s no surprise that the book was sponsored by the makers of the medication.

Considering the tone of the book, and the fact that the author concludes that being a hippy as akin to having schizophrenia, it’s interesting that Lucidril is not an antipsychotic, but the trade name for a little known compound called meclofenoxate.

There is weak evidence that the drug boosts memory and is notable largely for its enthusiastic uptake by some sections of the ‘nootropics’ brain hacking crowd.

I suspect the enthusiastic adverts for this oddball drug are largely because the book happened to be sponsored by pharmaceutical company Instituto Bio-Quimico Ltd who were clearly trying to sell the drug as a ‘mental detoxification’ compound for the great unwashed.

But not every bearded girl or guy is a real hippy, says Dr Echeverry, who notes that there are also cases of pseudo-hippies, who are really just weak-minded youths who get swept along with the genuine ‘clinical cases’.

How can you tell the difference you ask? Well, pseudo-hippies are the ones who revert to normality once a psychiatrist pumps them full of approved medication. Simple.

23 thoughts on “Treating the madness of the hippies”

  1. This just made me laugh- I am more and more amazed what passed for actual social science in that era.

    And when I’m done laughing, I just cringe and feel very bad for anyone who fell victim to people like that.

  2. The Western sciences of mind are replete with this kind of “MKULTRA” thinking, and it is still with us, just in a more sophisticated form. Medication remains the go-to method for maintaining social order in the obviously insane form of civilization in which we all live. Terence McKenna called the Western mind a “house of cards”, and it sounds like this fellow Echeverry’s house collapsed a long time ago. Psychiatry is fighting a losing battle though, because it is attempting to maintain a house of cards that we African plains apes adapted for life in small tribes will always rebel against if we are not heavily sedated.

    The amazing thing is how successful the pharmaceutical controllers have been at putting the genie back in the bottle in the wake of the 1960’s. I suspect another explosion is imminent though, because our industrial way of life is clearly on its last legs and its myths are failing badly. I would therefore like to offer a slightly different version of Shakespeare’s prescription for the next revolution: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the psychiatrists.”

  3. That was a first-class christmas present: what a wonderful article!
    All the very best for Xmas and a great 2011. Thanks for a consistently fantastic blog.

  4. Thank god that era of ideals about peace and love is over. We are so much better off now that the culture-of-greed has taken root. At least all those corporate executives who are busy fleecing the middle class and destroying the environment are properly coiffed and dressed. No pathology here!

  5. Exhange the name Miguel Echeverry with Richard Dawkins and Hippies with Christians, and you’ve got “The God Delusion”.

  6. Recently here in Bogota I stumbled into a book entitled “EL HIPPIE” written by Dr Miguel Echeverry, a doctor that is still alive and kicking here, especially as a guest speaker at a program of the Universidad Nacional ( Well, I cannot find words to express my surprise and amazement after reading the 120 page booklet.
    Every word he uses is to pour hatred on all hippies, and every now and them he calls them mentally ill together with other scum of his Colombian society, such as prostitutes, homosexuals and all kinds of denegerates. He never includes medical evidence for his hatred claims, not a single medical cress-reference, nor medical studies, nothing of the sort, he just calls hippies mentally ill, using the word with utter contempt, I guess the same he uses for people with cancer or schizophrenia…since when a doctor treats supposedly ill humans as the scum of the earth? Well, this doctor does it, with gusto.

    I wonder what this supposed MD thinks nowadays. The only thing he did not say in his book is that hippies and prostitutes and homosexuals should all be executed summarily by members of a new Inquisition which has him as CEO.

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