A new and definitive translation of Albert Hofmann’s autobiography ‘LSD: My Problem Child’ and collection of essays Insights/Outlooks’ has today been released by Beckley Foundation Press and Oxford Uiversity Press.
In it, Albert Hofmann discusses his earlier life and the path that led him to discovering LSD – first the molecule, and then several years later, the discovery of its effects. This date marks the 70th anniversary of the second discovery, forever linked to Hofmann’ infamous bike ride home from the lab while under the influence of what he thought would be a small dose of the LSD. This was just the start of the drugs controversial and unpredictable history.
Following the discovery of its psychotropic effects, Hofmann and other researchers at his lab began developing the drug for psychiatric use. Between 1943 and 1970, it generated almost 10,000 scientific publications, leading to its description as ‘the most intensively researched pharmacological substance ever’. The results of this research – although it varied greatly in quality – were fairly positive with Time magazine of the time calling LSD “an invaluable weapon to psychiatrists”.
LSD also had a broader and more profound effect on how science viewed the mind, changing the dominant view of mental illness from the psychoanalytical model to one understood by brain-chemistry and the role of neurotransmitters. The LSD-experience resembled looking through a microscope and becoming aware of a different reality — a manifest, mystical totality, normally filtered out and hidden from view.
Hofmann realised the potential for abuse in such a drug, but never believed it would gain worldwide popularity as a recreational drug. When Timothy Leary and other figures of the counterculture movement embraced the drug, it was clear the genie could not be put back into the bottle. The mass consumption of psychedelics led to LSD’s prohibition in 1967, to the War on Drugs, and to the complete shutdown of all therapeutic use and scientific research involving the substance.
The legacy of the LSD counterculture remains with us today, present right across art, science, and politics. However while scientific research into other psychedelics has experienced a resurgence in recent years, modern research into LSD is very rare due to its continuing taboo status.
Nevertheless, in March this year, the Beckley Foundation received ethical approval to carry out the first ever brain imaging study with LSD, as part of our ongoing research collaboration with Imperial College London.