Operation White Rabbit: LSD, the DEA, and the Fate of the Acid King (Simon and Schuster, 2020) traces the rise and fall—and rise and fall again—of the psychedelic community through the life of the man known as the “Acid King”: William Leonard Pickard. Pickard was a scientific prodigy, a follower of Timothy Leary, a con artist, a womanizer, a man who believed LSD would save lives, and one of the first voices warning about the dangers of fentanyl. He was also a foreign diplomat, a Harvard fellow, and the biggest producer of LSD on the planet—if you believe the DEA. His biography Dennis McDougal, who grew close to Pickard while he was in prison and remains his friend now that Pickard is free, shows how the story of the Acid King is the story of psychedelics in America, as the drugs have transformed from psychedelic enhancements to personal introspection, to dangerous threats to the safety of the American public, to now, when they’re once again being used as tools for personal recovery and healing.
Emily Dufton is the author of Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America (Basic Books, 2017). A drug historian and writer, her second book, on the development of the opioid addiction medication industry, is under contract with the University of Chicago Press.