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Hippies & Drugs: How 60s Drugs Use Shaped Modern Trends

During the 1960s era of the free-spirited hippies, young adults protested much of what stood for the establishment.

While these sixties revolutionaries are associated with sit-ins, long hair, organic food, music festivals, flowers, and good old rock-and-roll like Jefferson Airplane and the Rolling Stones, the stereotype of hippies and drugs also exists for a reason. Substances like marijuana and LSD were a rite of passage.


While people had already been using cannabis for generations by the time the sixties rolled around, the hippie movement brought pot out of the closet once and for all. Although the drug was illegal, it was also used regularly by many of the era’s adolescents and young adults as they began to reject the morals and norms of their parents. In fact, many of these youths avoided drinking in favour of marijuana because drinking was something uncool that their parents did.


In addition to cannabis, the free love era popularized LSD and other mind-altering drugs that could take the user to a different level of consciousness. Many hippies tried psychedelics to understand themselves better and heal old psychological wounds under the guidance of “The Psychedelic Experience,” a 1964 book written by psychologists Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert. After the publication of their book, which discussed the therapeutic benefits of using LSD, the use of psychedelics skyrocketed.


Also called uppers, stimulants were another popular choice as the summer of love approached. Speed, cocaine, and other stimulants make the user stay awake for hours on end, leaving many users feeling more focused. Though these drugs were not as popular as marijuana and LSD, they still were often used to extend parties to the wee hours of the morning. In the hippie culture of the 1960s, people were encouraged to “live free,” and part of this meant the ability to be open and willing to try pretty much anything.

This attitude toward life was touted by celebrity superstars such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan, who reportedly used uppers to stay awake for multi-night benders. Drug use has always been popular among entertainers, but the immense stardom of The Beatles and other bands of the era made using drugs more appealing to people from all walks of life.

Looking Ahead

hippies vehicles

Image via Flickr by gbaku

When looking at the popular drugs of the 1960s hippie era, you can see how they influenced future drug fads. For example, LSD remained a drug of choice through the end of the 1970s. Cocaine unseated psychedelics through the early 1990s when heroin became a nationwide problem.

When it comes to hippies and drugs, marijuana has had the most lasting impact with tremendous popularity that persists today. In fact, cannabis is legal for medical use in 42 U.S. states and legal for recreational use in 12 states and throughout Canada as of September 2020, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Though other drugs still have prohibitive laws aimed to inhibit their use, there has been much debate about decriminalizing all drugs to combat illegal sales. We are far from making any decisions about this issue, but there has been a great shift in how we perceive drug use in our society.