1.10.2006

Happy Birthday, Acid Man

"I sat down at home on the divan and started to dream," Hofmann told Swiss television network SF DRS about his first experience with LSD. "I had wonderful visions. What I was thinking appeared in colors and in pictures. It lasted for a couple of hours and then it disappeared."
Thus spake Al Hofman, creator of lysergic acid diethylamide. He's going to be 100 years old tomorrow.
The Swiss chemist - who still takes nearly daily walks in the small picturesque village where he lives in the Swiss Jura mountains with his wife of 70 years, Anita - discovered lysergic acid diethylamide-25 in 1938 while studying the medicinal uses of a fungus found on wheat and other grains at the Sandoz pharmaceuticals firm, which is now part of Novartis. The company declined to comment for this story.

Hofmann was the first person to test the drug when a tiny amount of the substance seeped onto his finger during a repeat of the laboratory experiment in April 1943.

"Everything I saw was distorted as in a warped mirror," he subsequently wrote, noting his surprise that LSD was able to produce "such a far-reaching, powerful, inebriated condition without leaving a hangover."

The chemist experimented with a larger dose three days later, but the result this time was a "horror" trip. His surroundings turned into threatening images. A neighbor who passed by his home to bring him the milk he craved was transformed into a wicked witch.

"I was filled with an overwhelming fear that I would go crazy. I was transported to a different world, a different time," he wrote . . .

But away from the psychedelic trips and flower children, stories emerged of people going on murder sprees or jumping out of windows while hallucinating. Heavy users suffered permanent psychological damage. The U.S. government banned LSD in 1966, and other countries followed suit.

Hofmann maintained this was unfair, arguing that the drug was not addictive. He repeatedly said the ban should be lifted to allow LSD to be used in medical research, and he took the drug himself - purportedly on an occasional basis and out of scientific interest - for several decades.

But he added a note of caution: "The history of LSD to date amply demonstrates the catastrophic consequences that can ensue when its profound effect is misjudged and the substance is mistaken for a pleasure drug," Hofmann wrote.
Well, shit, Al! NOW you tell me!! Glurg.