Bid to al­ter LSD’s im­age

The Citizen (KZN) - - NEWS - Bern–

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

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