Editor: Alex Beam (''Time to Get Real About Drugs in America,'' Opinion * Commentary, Dec. 4) described a long-term follow-up of an experiment with the hallucinogen psilocybin.
Of 20 presumably normal seminarians participating in the experiment, 10 took a single dose of the drug and 10 ingested the vitamin niacin. Of the first 10, two found the experience ''overwhelming'' and one of them ''rushed onto Commonwealth Avenue and had to be restrained.'' A third one ''experienced a psychotic episode and was given an injection of the powerful tranquilizer Thorazine'' -- a 30 percent incidence of psychotic or near-psychotic complications.
Some of the other recipients look back on the experience very favorably, with ''elements of a genuinely mystical nature.'' The most seriously affected victim had ''slightly harmful, negative persisting effects for six months'' and refused to talk about it 30 years later. The organizer of the experiment, described as a ''graduate student in religion and society,'' died less than 10 years later, but the cause is not given. One might hazard a guess that his early death may have had something to do with drugs and another mystical experience.
Beam quotes a Dr. Doblin, president of the multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (a very august body it must be) as believing this follow-up study of his ''argues for the legalization of drugs.'' Fortunately, Beam himself does not ''support the full legalization of drugs.'' It is not clear whether he believes that psilocybin is safe enough to legalize, at least for seminarians.
The British government has just banned Halcion, a drug that has helped millions of patients, because it is believed to have produced psychotic side-effects in probably less than 0.001 percent of users. Prozac, a drug that has proven a blessing to millions of victims of severe depression, is under suspicion for even less than that. Dr. Doblin wants us to approve a hallucinogen with 30 percent psychotic side-effects because possibly 7 of 10 seminarians were ''uplifted'' by it. I for one want nothing to do with men of the cloth who get their inspiration from drugs; I thought the practice had gone out of style with the demise of the Aztec civilization and its human sacrifices.
George G. Graham, M.D.
Editor: In Baltimore City, most curbside recycled paper goes to Chesapeake Paperboard, a local company that turns our pulp into cardboard.
''If you can tear it, we can take it,'' according to owner-operator Murrell Smith, whose family has run the business for generations.
Whatever Mid-Atlantic Recycling's dilemma, our city paper is still making cardboard for boxes at Chesapeake, and we will continue to work with our vendors to turn recyclables into products for resale, not incineration or landfill.
Mary Pat Clarke.
The writer is president of the Baltimore City Council.
Gays and Texas
Editor: Having been raised in Texas, I read with interest William Beauchamp's Jan. 4 piece, ''The Absurdist Drama of Being Gay in Texas.''
While I may take no great pride in being a Texan, I am inclined to doubt that the attitude toward homosexuality (whether good or bad), which Mr. Beauchamp finds in the Lone Star State is not also readily available in many parts of this country.
What troubles me, however, is that Mr. Beauchamp seems to think that every ''right-thinking'' person can be expected to embrace homosexuality as normal, while its very abnormality is often what has prevented its acceptance.
Mr. Beauchamp portrays Texans as backward, prejudiced people because they will not tolerate what they perceive as an unnatural activity. As ''country folk,'' I suspect they are easy targets.
That homosexuality has gone against the grain of the oldest and most popular moral code known to man seems to escape Mr. Beauchamp's notice. In any case, Texans in general are the last people he should expect to abandon traditional values in order to embrace what to them is a strange -- and proportionately minuscule -- anomaly in the realm of human behavior.
The concept that homosexuality should be tolerated by all is very new and -- contrary to the tone of essays such as Mr. Beauchamp's -- it is by no means a universally supported idea.
Rising Sun Over Maryland
Editor: The Japanese national flag has never been other than an unadorned red orb on a field of white.
The spoke-like rays on the Route 50 billboard emblem, (The Sun, Jan. 2), are not the symbol used on the Japanese national flag up to the end of World War II, as reporter Liz Bowie would have us believe in her article.
Rather, the flag with the rays was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy, and continues to be used by naval elements of the Self Defense Forces.
If the appearance of this billboard serves to help promote freer exchanges of ideas, technologies and products in trans-Pacific trade and marketing, it will have served its purpose.
Robert A. Gourlay.
Editor: For those who are steamed by the "Americhuko" sign on Route 50, it's time to stop Japan-bashing and think about ways to strengthen America.
After all, we're not being forced to sell property to international interests such as France, Britain or Holland or to buy products that are not U.S.-made.
RF Let's learn instead of burn, as they learned from us 45 years ago.
Christine Brown Armor.
Editor: The ''Americhuko'' billboard on the Eastern Shore is designed to wake up America. I hope it gives the right message.
We have to get our act together, and that does not include hate or bashing anybody. We should use our energy to act, not react.
Our country put Japan on the road to recovery after the war.
They learned their lessons well and they have been beating us at our own game ever since.
They have built up their institutions while we self-destruct. Wake up, America, you are doing it to yourself.