Zurich, April 16 (Reuters): LSD, the hallucinogenic drug that launched a million trips for hippies, was discovered 60 years ago when a Swiss chemist accidentally inhaled a substance that made his bike ride home something special.
Albert Hofmann was actually trying to develop stimulants for the circulatory system in his Sandoz AG lab on April 16, 1943, when he mixed up a batch of LSD from ergot, a fungus that grows on rye.
Instead, he created one of the most powerful agents ever to change perceptions of reality, an icon of the 1960s Flower Power movement and the drug of choice for a generation of musicians and writers who rode the psychedelic wave.
Hofmann, now 97 and living near Basel, recalled in a newspaper interview 10 years ago that he had made LSD in his lab that fateful day after discovering it five years before.
“Afterwards, on the way home, I suddenly had hallucinations, a beautiful and pleasant trip. The only thing was, I could not at first explain what had made me so high,” he recalled.
Only three days later did he conduct a direct experiment on himself with lysergic acid diethylamide-25.
“I took what I then thought to be a very small amount, namely 25 mg. Then it all became clear,” he remembered.
Researchers seized on the drug as a tool to probe human consciousness and perhaps shed light on psychoses such as schizophrenia, but it also became an underground cult drug whose illicit use Hofmann came to decry.
Sandoz, which also isolated hallucinogen psilocybin from Mexican mushrooms in 1958, never marketed either drug but distributed them free to research labs and clinics until 1966, when it halted shipments.