Friday, December 4, 2009

An inquisitive Swiss chemist sent himself on the first acid trip

The medical sciences can invoke a long and storied tradition of self-experimentation. Typhoid vaccine, cardiac catheterization, even electrodes implanted in the nervous system came about because scientists recruited themselves as their own guinea pigs. One of the most memorable instances happened on April 16, 1943, when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann inadvertently inhaled or ingested a compound derived from a crop fungus that went by the chemical name of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD-25. He subsequently entered into “a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination,” he recalled in his 1979 autobiography, LSD, My Problem Child. “In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed ...” he continued, “I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” Ever the intrepid researcher, Hofmann decided to probe further the psychotropic properties of the substance, which Sandoz Laboratories had previously developed and then abandoned as a possible stimulant for breathing and circulation. A few days after his first trip, he carefully apportioned a 0.25-milligram dose; within a short time the Sandoz laboratory where he worked again became distorted and strange. The words “desire to laugh” were the last ones scrawled in his research journal that day. His inebriated state prompted him to leave work early.

The bicycle ride home—in which he could not tell that he was moving— has given April 19 the designation of “bicycle day” among LSD aficionados everywhere. Hofmann went on to use LSD hundreds of times more—and his creation became a ticket into the altered mental states embraced by the counterculture. Though subsequently banned, the drug continues to attract intense interest by investigators who are examining therapeutic uses, including the possibility that it may help the terminally ill reconcile themselves to their mortality.

Source of Information : Scientific American September 2009

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