Just over two weeks ago Albert Hofmann died at the age of 102. Many would wonder why his death would get a mention in this column, but those in the know would remember that his discovery was one of the most important in drug history. Hofmann was in fact the first person to have a bad trip on LSD -“ and not even know why.
His discovery of LSD occurred on 19 April 1943, when he deliberately ingested a tiny quantity, 0.25mg, of lysergic acid which he had derived from the fungus ergot. Just days earlier he had accidentally ingested the substance through his fingertips and the experience prompted him to try more. What happened next has since become drug culture legend. He was investigating the mild but curious sensations he had previously experienced when he had to leave his laboratory and go home on his bike. Pedalling home (a two and a half minute ride) he found himself transported into other worlds and so became the first person to go tripping.
In his autobiography, LSD, My Problem Child, published in 1980, he wrote: My surroundings had now transformed themselves in more terrifying ways. Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms. They were in continuous motion, animated, as if driven by an inner restlessness.
It later emerged that Hofmann’s bad trip was because his experimental dose was excessive. Once dosage issues were ironed out, LSD was produced commercially and became popular in the US in the wake of the creation of the National Institute of Mental Health in 1949 and the increasing interest in psychiatry, becoming particularly popular in psychoanalysis. A range of celebrities, including Cary Grant, spoke publicly about the benefits of using LSD for therapeutic reasons. But in the 1960s the drug began to get bad press due to its growing use by the youth movement and in 1970 it became a Schedule 1 drug in the US. Not surprisingly, other countries quickly followed.
LSD is nowhere near as popular as it once was, but it continues to be attractive for a certain group of drug users, most of whom would have no idea about the part that Albert Hofmann played in their experience.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>