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Authority on Mood-Altering Drugs : Memorial Service to Be Held for Dr. Sidney Cohen

May 16, 1987|ERIC MALNIC | Times Staff Writer

Memorial services for Dr. Sidney Cohen, a UCLA psychiatry professor known for his pioneering research on the effects of marijuana, cocaine, LSD and other mood-altering drugs, will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute auditorium.

Cohen, whose work in the 1950s and '60s led to clinical studies on a wide variety of barbiturates, tranquilizers, amphetamines and hallucinogens, died May 8 of heart failure at Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center. He was 76.

At various times during his lengthy career he served as chief of psychosomatic medicine service at the Wadsworth Veterans Administration Hospital, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, director of the National Mental Health Institute's division of narcotic addiction and drug abuse and consultant to the White House Special Action Office for drug abuse education.

Author of more than 300 articles and books, his works include "The Beyond Within," an influential 1964 book on the use and dangers of hallucinogens, and his authoritative "Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse," published in 1985.

Robert Kirsch, the late book editor of The Times, praised "The Beyond Within" as "a model of that kind of writing so necessary in the marriage of science and the humanities. . . ."

In the book, Cohen stressed that LSD and other hallucinogens are instrumentalities, neither bad or good in themselves. Those who use them, he suggested, will experience a temporary and selective quashing of the brain's inhibitory activity.

"We get, not what we deserve, but what we are," he wrote. "A pill does not construct character, educate the emotions or improve intelligence. It is not a spiritual labor-saving device, salvation, instant wisdom or a shortcut to maturity."

Warns of Reactions

Cohen was among the first to warn that some users may also get unanticipated, "catastrophic reactions" in the form of harrowing, seemingly schizophrenic flashbacks and nightmares that in some cases are prolonged.

While suggesting in 1968 that the government subsidize clinics where LSD could be studied as a psychotherapy tool under close medical supervision, Cohen warned that those given the drugs should be carefully screened to avoid serious side effects.

Born June 7, 1910, in New York City, Cohen attended the City College of New York before receiving his medical degree from Bonn University in Germany in 1938. Cohen served his medical internship at Jamaica Hospital in New York and his residency at Wadsworth. He joined the UCLA School of Medicine faculty in 1954 and was promoted to clinical professor in 1970.

Since 1972, he had served as executive director of the Chancellor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse at UCLA.

He leaves his wife, Ilse, a daughter and a son.

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