Bid to alter LSD’s image
Lysergic acid diethylamide was labelled a “problem child” by the man who discovered its hallucinogenic properties in 1943: as it turns 75, the drug known as LSD may now be changing its image.
The late Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann famously learned of LSD’s psychedelic effects when he inadvertently took a small dose while doing lab work for pharmaceutical company Sandoz.
He wanted the drug to be medically researched, convinced it could be a valuable psychiatric tool.
But through the ’60s, LSD became synonymous with counterculture and anti-authority protests.
By the early 1970s, it had been widely criminalised in the West, prompting Hofmann to publish his 1979 memoir, LSD: My Problem Child.
The book, in which Hofmann sought to reassert LSD’s potential medical benefits, is featured in an exhibition at the Swiss National Library in the capital, Bern.
Hofmann died in 2008 at the age of 102 but he likely would have been pleased by a series of recent developments.
After decades as a medical outcast, LSD has attracted renewed clinical interest and there has been evidence that it can help treat anxiety and depression.
Such developments were what Hofmann was hoping for at the time of writing his book.
“If we can better understand how to use it, in medical practice related to meditation and LSD’s ability to promote visionary experiences under certain circumstances, then I think that this ‘problem child’ could become a prodigy,” he wrote.
He had discovered LSD while working with a fungus called ergot, which attacks cereal grains and had previously been used for a variety of medical purposes. At the time, Sandoz was using it to make migraine medication.
Hofmann unknowingly created LSD when he combined the main active agent in ergot – lysergic acid – with diethylamide. After accidentally ingesting a trace of LSD, he began to feel strange and later on deliberately took larger amounts to better understand the drug’s effects.
“When Hofmann published his book in 1979, LSD was completely prohibited. There was no research,” said Hannes Mangold, curator of the National Library exhibit called “Problem Child LSD turns 75.”
“What’s interesting is that for the last 10-15 years, research has once again been authorised and LSD as medicine has re-emerged.” – AFP