LSD: History notes
Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 4:58 pm
LSD was first developed in Switzerland by chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938. He was working on chemicals derived from lysergic acid for Sandoz Laboratories because similar agents had known Therapeutic uses, including the treatment of migraine headaches and gynecological problems. Hofmann did not learn about LSD’s hallucinogenic properties until he accidentally ingested some in 1943. Here is an excerpt from Hofmann’s report to the head of the laboratory’s pharmaceutical department describing his first, accidental LSD experience:
“… I was seized by a peculiar restlessness associated with the sensation of mild dizziness. On arriving home, I lay down and sank into a kind of drunkenness, which was not unpleasant and which was characterized by extreme activity of the imagination. As I lay in a dazed condition with my eyes closed, (I experienced daylight as disagreeably bright) there surged upon me an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity and vividness and accompanied by an intense, kaleidoscopic-like play of colors.”
After Hofmann’s discovery, the psychiatric profession took great interest in LSD as a possible therapeutic drug because it was believed that an LSD high closely mimicked psychosis. Mental health experts who were treating psychotic patients took the drug to help them understand what their patients were experiencing. It turned out that an LSD high was, in fact, quite different from a psychotic experience, so the professionals treating patients switched to using the drug with less severely ill patients.
LSD can dramatically reduce people’s inhibitions, making it easier for them to talk about their problems and remember past traumatic events. The drug was therefore tested as a possible way of enhancing psychotherapy in people with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and alcohol dependence. It was also used to help alleviate the fear of death in people dying of cancer and other incurable diseases. By 1965, more than 40,000 patients had been treated with LSD as part of psychiatric therapy.
Use of LSD for therapy fell out of favor for several reasons, but the primary one was that it developed a bad reputation as a recreational drug of abuse in the 1960s. Wild stories about people injuring themselves or others while on LSD began to circulate. Research into LSD as a therapeutic drug dropped off in the 1970s.