LSD an accidental discovery which upset the world from the 1960’s to the 1990’s. - Lycée Blaise Pascal Rouen

LSD an accidental discovery which upset the world from the 1960’s to the 1990’s.

, by baudoinf, C. Reymond

I don’t want here to sing the praises of the drug but rather show that the common opinion that says that science is always a good thing for Man is false even if we don’t need to go as far as the invention of the nuclear bomb in order for science to become a harmful thing for Man. And also those experimentations are not all beneficial for people because it can be done on them without their consent.

LSD-25 is an accidental discovery made by Albert Hofmann a chemist from Sandoz laboratories. It was the 25th molecule he had synthesized from ergot (claviceps purpurea), a fungus that grows on rye and also on others plants. The name of this fungus, ergot, comes from the fact that its looks like the ergot of a rooster. It the only known molecule he had synthesized which have hallucinogenic properties but he didn’t discover its properties before the second time he synthesized LSD-25 in 1943 when a small amount of LSD came into his mouth accidentally. The first time, in 1938, when he found it he was searching for a molecule or a drug which could improve breathing and the blood circulation, a drug which lowers blood pressure and improves brain function. But he didn’t find any when he made experiments on mice, he just has noticed that they were restless.

LSD-25 is a “psychedelic” molecule (the first which coined this term was Humphry Osmond a British psychologist, this term means “that comes to light the spirit”). It was better known, from the 1960’s to the 1970’s, under the name of Acid. It’s odorless, colorless and also undetectable in liquid or impregnated on sweet…

The effects differ from one person to another because the real effects of LSD on people are rather unpredictable, it begins 30 to 90 minutes after the taking and the effects can last about 12 hours. It differs also with the dose you take, a normal dose today is about 0.25 micrograms of LSD per 2.2 pounds (about 1 kg) of body weight, the typical dose in the 1960’s was up to 4 times as much. People who take it frequently can build up a tolerance that induces the fact that they take a larger dose each time but they can develop a state of manque if they don’t take drug for a month or more. So it is not an addictive drug as Cannabis and it is non toxic and doesn’t produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

It can be taken in different way, you can take it in the form of a liquid which is totally transparent or a tablet, or also -and it’s the most common way to take it- in the form of a blotter paper soaked with LSD.
Its physical effects are: dilated pupils (which the doctor who examined Hofmann when he experienced the trip the 16 April of 1943 called “bicycle day”, later he explained in his book My problem child what his discovery change in his life and the problems he have had to facing after his discovery), higher body temperature, increasing the heart rate and the blood pressure, the person sweats, has a loss of appetite, dry mouth, is sleeplessness, has some tremors, it also produces insomnia…

LSD produces also some chemical and psychological effects on people
who take or have taken it: it produces delusion and strong visual hallucinations, the senses of time and self changes, they can feel several different emotions at the same time and often swing rapidly from one to another. But the biggest and most common effect produced by LSD on users is the feeling of synesthesia (hearing colors, seeing sounds) blending sensory perceptions. It’s produced by a sense “cross over”. (I will explain this phenomenon a bit later in this article).

But the effects felt by these people also depend from the fact that they experiment a “trip” or a “bad trip”. The bad trip differs from the normal trip in the fact that in a normal trip people experiment a sweet communion and see the world around them differently, whereas in a bad trip a panic envelops them, assaulted by terrifying thoughts and feelings, they are afraid of loosing control and of insanity, death and despair. They experiment an attitude similar to paranoia (scientists think that a bad trip occurs in special conditions: if there is any bad noise or if they experiment this in a bad place or alone…). It can in the worst cases because of the madness it create in people, drive them to commit murder or committed suicide.

Moreover in some case there are problems afterwards like flashbacks which are some HPPD (Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptive Disorder). Those flashbacks consist in many reliving of moments which occurred during an old trip (bad or not). But there are some HPPD which are more problematic like schizophrenia, severe depression, mental illness or other psychosis that can be induced by the absorption of LSD. They can appear some days, months or even some years after this or these absorption(s) (during a trip people experiment a situation where they can’t tell what is real from what is an illusion and sometimes they never get out of this state).

Precisely how works LSD in the brain is not well-known, it just mimics Serotonin: a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger which the brain uses to communicate with the whole body) which is naturally produced in the brain-. Scientists think that because of its very similar shape to Serotonin’s, LSD can replace Serotonin and simulate the brain and the nerve cells (receptors) in the synaptic area (synapse is the way that electric information -creates by the brain- can travel to on neuron from another to go to the different parts of the body which finally permit to us to control our movements, speech, senses an so on… so to live. In other words it’s the way our brain can interact with our body and the environment.) and thanks to that action change the way you feel the world around you. Because Serotonin is responsible for regulating moods, appetite, muscle control, sexuality, sleep and sensory perception; so we can say that LSD interferes with how the brain’s serotonin receptors work (it may inhibit neurotransmission, stimulate it or both).

However LSD is quickly metabolized in the liver by the body and it is eventually excreted in the urine, but it remains nevertheless complicated to make a test to detect if a person has been taking it because if he has taken a small amount it more often gone a few weeks afterwards.

About the history of ergot and LSD in the Ages, the use and the aim that a person absorbs these differ strongly.

The ergot was used as a mystical way to meet gods in some tribes like the mushrooms that are taken by the Indian’s tribes in North America.
But it was also used during the 19 century by midwives on pregnant women as an ecbolic (a drug or agent that hastens labor or abortion) and stops the bleeding after childbirth but it can create some dysfunctions in the baby’s or mother’s body and even birth defects, it’s due to the dosage. Later, M Hofmann thanks to his discovery made also with ergot, the Ergobasine which became the preeminent uterotonic (is an agent used to induce contraction or greater tonicity of the uterus. Uterotonics are used both to induce labor , and to reduce postpartum hemorrhage).

There were also some accidentally absorptions that occured in the Middle Ages and once in the 1950’s in a French village. In the Middle Ages a thousand people became mad and died because of the rye bread they had eaten which was infected by ergot, there is also the affair of hysteria and supernatural claims made during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, which may have been caused by members of the town unknowingly consuming bread tainted with ergot. The symptoms include tingling and burning of the limbs, muscle pain, diarrhea, "impaired mental function" and gangrene, and also vein and artery getting clogged up and even spasms or convulsions.

So as I said before he was searching for an analeptic, a circulatory and a respiratory stimulant. But some characteristic people used his discovery to do something completely different. Sandoz laboratories commercialized LSD-25 under the name of Delysid in 1947, it has been used by some psychologists to better understand some illness like schizophrenia and provided a mental relaxant (particularly in anxiety states and obsessional neurosis). It was “an insight into the world of ideas and sensations of mental patients” and it was seen as a “teaching tool” by some psychologists.

It was introduced in 1948 as a “psychiatric cure-all” and hailed it as a remedy for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, sexual perversions and also alcoholism. Dr. Osmond was one of the first who gave LSD to alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous, about 50 % of the study group had not had a drink (this success rate had never been duplicated by any other means). It was also used with psychotherapy in an effort to overcome “homosexual tendencies” WHICH IS NEITHER A MENTAL ILLNESS NOR AN ILNESS!!

The USA were very interested by this discovery, they try to use LSD as a truth drug and a chemical weapon. It was the CIA which did these experimentations under the MK-ULTRA project, it was undertaken from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, the CIA explored the possibilities of pharmaceutical mind control. It did these experimentations on hundreds of participants many without their knowledge or consent, the participants included CIA agents, government employees, military personnel, prostitutes, members of general public and even mental patients. But these researches have been only created severe psychological torture, and lead people to commit suicide and psychiatric wards. The CIA decreed that LSD-25 was too uncontrollable to make it of any practical use as a truth drug or chemical weapon.

So it brings the last use of LSD-25, from the 1960’s to the 1990’s with the hippie community and the recreational use.

The most prominent pro-LSD was a psychology professor at Harvard University named Timothy Leary. He was conducting experiments on state prisoners; the result of his experimentations had a success rate of 90 % for preventing repeat offenses, it produced no murders, no suicides, or psychotic breaks or bad trips. Almost all Leary’s participants felt a profound mystical experience which has had a positive effect on their lives. Timothy Leary was also the “inventor” of the motto that synthesizes all the meaning of the Hippie movement: “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.”

During the 1960’s, it expanded into a subculture that extolled mystical and religious symbolism, it was a method for the hippies to raise their consciousness. It also impregnated the rock musicians of that time and made rock become a psychedelic rock or “acid rock”. This influence reveals itself clearly in some titles of song like “Purple Haze”, a song by Jimi Hendrix a famous guitarist from the 1960’s (purple haze is a slang term for LSD).

A famous writer, Aldous Huxley (26 July 1854 – 22 November 1963) wrote a book on his own experience of psychedelic drug which is named The doors of perceptions (1954) -this title takes a leaf out of The marriage of heaven and hell wrote by a poet, William BLAKE. The name of the rock group The doors is also takes a leaf out of it- he explained his feelings during his recreational use. He also wrote Heaven and Hell (1956) another book on this subject and a very famous “anticipation novel”, Brave a new world (1931, the title takes a leaf out of a citation from Shakespeare).

LSD is today used to treat some strong headache like the cluster headache because it relaxes the people and the nervous system.
To conclued my article I would tell you that LSD was so famous in the 1960’s because f its price, 5 dollar to a single dose but the fact is that like all other drugs it’s bad for the health on the long run and I think (but it’s only my opinion) that taking drug can’t change anything in our lives or just bring something for a little moment and then lots of problems. So I don’t see any benefits to taking drugs.

Further readings : If you want to know more about LDS :

And if you want to discover other accidental discovery you can go on :