Lysergicacid Diethylamide, Hoffmann’s problem child
It was during the afternoon of 16 April 1943 when the young chemist better known as Albert Hofmann, who was working in the pharmaceutical-department of Sandoz, discovered by accident the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid derivatives synthesized a couple years before for research purposes. That day, the Swiss scientist who later became the godfather of LSD experienced all the physical and mental effects which are typical of the lysergic trip. After that incredible experience Hofmann decided to take deliberately another small dose of LSD, this time he decided to cycle back home and such experience became an emblematic milestone for every person interested in psychedelic experiences by means of LSD.
A complete overview, including detailed information regarding several aspects about LSD ranging from the chemical properties to the level of toxicity till pharmacological properties, is included in his famous book titled LSD, my problem child published in 1979.
LSD became quickly one of the most popular recreational drugs in the 60s and 70s, often associated with hippy culture nevertheless appreciated by famous musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Jim Morrison. Despite the fact that Mr. Hofmann used extensively LSD for the rest of his life and passed away at the age of 102, the effects of LSD on health have always been pointed out as dangerous and highly risky for the cognitive faculties. Seminal studies carried at the beginning of the 70s on the positive effects on anxiety and depression treatments were quickly wiped out by studies which supported the idea that LSD consumption was directly connected on detrimental effects on human brain including persistent psychosis, anxiety, tendency to suicide, and recurrent hallucinations.
On the other hand, recent studies and research pointed out that the strict discrimination against LSD due to illegal drug policy might prevent from possible benefits for patients affected by depression, alcoholism, and anxiety. No demonstrated and peer reviewed studies have proved such speculations and for this reason future investigations are needed to shed light on this chemical substance which has fascinated human being curiosity for almost one century.
The crucial point at this stage is not to mix up recreational use and medical treatments, meaning that if positive effects are found and validated by a scientific committee also the medical procedure must follow a specific protocol which guarantees to minimize side effects. Possible promising results in future research will not mean that the recreational use is free of any type of risks with respect to eventual brain damages or behavioural disorders, a clear example might be the approved medical use of Marijuana which is indeed beneficial for patients who need such treatment.
Cover photo: “Further” (also known as “Furthur”), Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ famous bus, Bumbershoot festival, Seattle, Washington, 1994. This is the second of the two buses by this name. (Joe Mabel CCA-SA 3.0 Jmabel by Wikimedia Commons)