Hofmann A, Goodwin DW.
“LSD: My Problem Child-- Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism, and Science”.
JAMA. 1983 Dec 9;250(22):3107.
Along with watches and cuckoo clocks, the Swiss produce drugs. They have been doing it for a long time-- since Paracelsus of Basel, a contemporary of Columbus. On April 16, 1943, another Basel chemist, Albert Hofmann, was working in his laboratory at Sandoz. His speciality was ergot, a fungus that grows on grains. Starting with lysergic acid, the ergot nucleus, Hofmann had synthesized several medically useful drugs that made Sandoz a great deal of money. On this fateful day, while working with the 25th substance in his series of lysergic acid derivatives (LSD-25), Hofmann began to feel odd.
"I sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition," he writes, and perceived an "uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaledioscopic play of colors."
Unwittingly, not knowing how he had absorbed the stuff, Hofmann had just tken the first LSD trip. Sandoz, alas, would not make a franc. Later Hofmann went back to the lab and deliberately ingested a tiny amount of LSD-25. Starting to hallucinate, he got on his bicycle to ride the four miles home, not a recommended pursuit. The next day he had a feeling of extraordinary serenity:
"Breakfast tasted delicious. everything glistened and sparkled in a fresh light. The world was as if newly created."
Now, 40 years later, Hofmann peers out from the cover of his book looking as he might have looked that morning: serene, radiant, as if he had just returned from a hair-raising journey and was glad to be home. The 40-year journey had indeed been hair-raising: for Hofmann, Sandoz, and the several million LSD-users whose voyages into "inner space" ranged from ecstatic to fatal. The LSD story is well known. Sandoz made LSD-25 available for research to "release repressed emotions" and suggested that psychiatrists take LSD to "gain insight."
Through the 1950s, psychiatrists did just this, trying LSD on themselves, giving it to patients, and writing up the results. The results, often as not, were published in the lay press under headlines like "My Twelve Hours as a Madman" and "The Curious Story Behind the New Cary Grant." (Grant's psychiatrist had given him LSD). Then came flower children, long hair, laws, judges, busts, riots, Vietnam, and Woodstock. LSD was no longer respectable, a research tool of great promies, but part of the counter culuter, and that was the end of research. In 1965, Sandoz announced the drug would no longer be available. Hofmann later synthesized psilocyabin, the active principl of hallucinogenic mushrooms, and nwo this became part of the drug culture. He then made a truly remarkable discovery, namely, that morning glory seeds contained lysergic acid amide, a compound he had synthesized in his Basel laboratory 25 years before! Hofmann's synthesis of psilocybin was perhaps his proudest achievement:
"The compounds whose wondrous effect led the Indians to believe for millennia that a god was residing in the mushrooms... could be produced synthetically in a flask!"
He believes Mexican art was influenced by hallucinogens, because people who are unfamiliar with Mexican art have visions astonishingly similar to Mexcian art when eating the mushrooms. A particularly poignant story concerns Hofmann's friend Aldous Huxley. On the day Huxley died of cancer of the throat, he was so weak he could no longer speak but had written on a sheet of paper: "LSD-- try it-- intramuscular-- 100 mmg." Mrs. Huxley ignored the misgivings of the attending physician and gave the injection. He died serenely and peacefully. Sandoz discarded LSD because it was too controversial and the medicinal effects had been disappointing; as an adjunct to psychotherapy it had certainly been a disappointment. But LSD may be a blessing for some dying patients-- there is evidence for this. Perhaps Sandoz should reopen the case.
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