Monday, June 2, 2008
Origins of the wild ride
LSD was first synthesized on November 16, 1938 by a Swiss chemist named Dr. Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, as part of a large research program searching for medically useful ergot alkaloid derivatives. Ergot is a fungus that, by infecting cereal grains used for making rye breads, causes ergotism. After Dr. Hofmann succeeded in synthesizing ergobasine (which became the preeminent uterotonic), he began working on other amide derivatives of lysergic acid. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the major drugs making up the hallucinogen class of drugs. Lysergic acid diethylamide, the 25th lysergic acid derivative Hofmann synthesised (hence the name LSD-25) was developed initially as a probable analeptic, a circulatory and respiratory stimulant, based on its structural similarity to another known analeptic, nikethamide(nicotinic acid diethylamide). However, no extraordinary benefits of the compound were identified during animal tests (though laboratory notes briefly mention that the animals became "restless" under its effects), and its study was discontinued. Its psychedelic properties were unknown until 5 years later, when Hofmann, acting on what he has called a "peculiar presentiment," returned to work on the chemical. While re-synthesizing LSD-25 for further study on April 16, 1943, Hofmann became dizzy and was forced to stop work. In his journal, Hofmann wrote that after becoming dizzy he proceeded home and was affected by a "remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness". Hofmann stated that as he lay in his bed he sank into a not unpleasant "intoxicated like condition" which was characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. He stated that he was in a dreamlike state, and with his eyes closed he could see uninterrupted streams of "fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors." The condition lasted about two hours after which it faded away. Hofmann had attributed the psychoactive effects he experienced to accidentally absorbing a tiny amount of LSD-25 into his skin. Three days later he would take a much larger dose in order to test its effects further; this day would later be referred to as the "Bicycle Day".