A Swiss chemist named Dr. Albert Hoffman first produced lysergic acid Diethylmide -or best known as LSD in 1938 (Dye, 1992, p. 2). Hoffman discovered the drug while trying to synthesize a new drug for the treatment of headaches. He obtained the lysergic acid from the parasitic fungus that grows on rye plants known as ergot. From the lysergic acid, he synthesized the compound LSD. He used the compound to test for its pain killing properties on laboratory animals. Being that appeared totally ineffective, the bottle of LSD was placed on a shelf and remained untouched for five years.
On April 16, 1943, Dr. Hoffman decided to do further research with the LSD compound (Dye, 1992 p. 5). While handling the drug, he accidentally ingested an unknown amount. Then he experienced the world’s first LSD trip. About eight hours later Hoffman drifted back into normal reality and the Psychedelic Revolution was born. (Encarta 98) Three days later, in an attempt to prove that the previous episode was indeed caused by the ingestion of LSD, Dr. Hoffman ingested what he thought would be a small quantity of LSD, 250 micrograms.
In actuality, this is approximately five times the dosage necessary to produce heavy hallucinations in the average adult male (Solomon, 1964, p. 34). The drug produced effects that were much more intense than the first time Hoffman took the LSD. He noted that he felt unrest, dizziness, visual disturbances, a tendency to laugh at inappropriate times, and a difficulty in concentration (Dye, 1992, p. 7). Dr. Hoffman’s condition improved six hours after taking the drug, although visual disturbances and distortion continued. LSD was first shipped to the United States in 1949 (Solomon, 1964 , p. ).
American scientists tested LSD on animals to learn of its effects. It produced dramatic behavior changes in all animals investigated. During the 1950’s, experimentation of LSD on humans began (Solomon, 1964, p. 56). Since there were few restrictions on using humans for experimentation at the time, scientists were free to administer the drug widely, hoping to find some useful therapeutic value for the drug. Because of Hoffman’s LSD account of depersonalization produced by the drug. Early studies were done using the drug to treat various psychiatric disorders.
It was felt that if a person could “step outside” themselves and view situations as others saw them, they could come to grips with their problems and be able to solve them. One of the first areas of LSD experimentation was in treating alcoholism (Dye, 1992, p. 36). After extensive research, it was concluded that LSD was not effective on treating alcoholism and the research was discontinued. LSD was also tested on schizophrenics, drug addicts and criminals (Dye, 1992 p. 38). Research determined that LSD was ineffective in treating any behavioral problems.
It was also concluded that LSD might transform a normal individual into a person with a very calm to severe personality problem. The Central Intelligence Agency and various military agencies also became interested in LSD research in the late 1950’s (Dye, 1992, p. 410. ) Their interest in the drug was in the area of mind control. They saw the possibility of manipulating of manipulating the beliefs of strong willed people. They gave the drug to a group of army scientists and then attempted to change some of their basic beliefs while under the influence of the drug.
However, one of the scientists became psychotic and committed suicide by jumping from a hotel window. These agencies continued their research by using drug addicts and prostitutes to test their mind control theories. After extensive experimentation, it became apparent that LSD could alter LSD the mind but not control it. The United States government discontinued this sort of research. Up until today, the Food and Drug Administration have never approved LSD. This strong hallucinageous drug remains only as research and medical treatment.
LSD belongs to a class of psychotropic drugs called hallucinogens (Gorodetzky, 1992). Other drugs in this category are mescaline (derived from peyote cactus) and psilocybin (commonly known as “hallucinogenic mushrooms”). LSD is most commonly taken orally but may also be taken by injection, inhalation, or by absorption through the skin. When it is taken orally, the individual usually notices the effect of the drug within thirty minutes. It may take one hour before the user experiences the drug’s maximum effects. This state usually lasts two to four hours.
The usual dose taken is fifty to one hundred micrograms, although much higher and lower doses have been ingested. The intensity of the hallucinatory experience depends on the dose taken. The psychological, perpetual, and behavioral effects of LSD persists for eight to twelve hours and gradually wears off after reaching their maximum effects (Gorodetzky, 1992). The effect of the drug is determined by a person’s mental state, the structure of their personality, and the physical setting. The role of culture and belief systems is primary in the effects of hallucinogenic states.
The experience following the ingestion of LSD is called a “trip” and can be good or bad depending on its effect on the user. The physiological effects may vary. Depersonalization is a frequent psychological effect of LSD (Solomon, 1964, p. 157). A person’s self seems to be divided into two parts: an uninvolved observer and a participating involved self. The uninvolved self is sometimes seen as an unidentified person that the user later recognizes as his or her self. The user is frequently unable to distinguish where their body ends and the environment begins. Another effect of LSD is derealization.
Derealization is a dreamlike state in which the individual cannot tell if they are experiencing reality or dreaming (Solomon, 1964, p. 159). A person under the influence of LSD may misjudge the size and distance of objects. The shapes of objects are also distorted and constantly changing. Objects that do not exist may also change in form and color. These objects can often be seen when the user s eyes are closed because the image is produced within the mind. Colors also appear to be brighter and more intense than normal. Synesthesia, which refers to the mixing of the senses, is another effect of LSD (Solomon, 1964, p. 4).
During synthesia, experiences normally associated with one sense are translated to another. For example, sounds may be seen and colors may be smelled. LSD also often distorts time. The user may be unable to separate events from the past, present, and future. A lack of concentration and impairment in judgment are also common. An individual on LSD may remain completely motionless for long periods of time or hyperactive. LSD can also produce rapid mood changes. Another group of LSD induced effects are referred to as somatic symptoms (Solomon, 1964, p. 171).
These symptoms include dizziness, weakness, tremors, blurred vision, and tingling sensation of the skin. It is still not fully known how LSD works on the brain. In addition to the psychological effects of LSD, the drug produces many physiological effects as well. LSD dilates the pupils of the eyes. It can also cause blurred vision, and increases blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. The drug also increases blood sugar, can produce sweating and chills headaches, nausea, and vomiting. There are also changes in the muscles, resulting in weakness, tremors, numbness, and twitching.
Abnormal, rapid breathing may occur. ( Dye, 1992, p. 122) LSD users experience some kind of flashbacks after taking the drug. A flashback is a spontaneous recurrence of certain aspects of an LSD related hallucinatory experience (Gorodetzky, 1992). If a flashback occurs after only one exposure to LSD, the initial trip was most likely a bad one. Flashbacks can occur at any time, but are more likely to occur while sleeping, while under the influence of other intoxicants, or while a person is in the presence of someone under the influence of LSD.
Flashbacks have been known to cause psychotic and suicide reactions have been recorded as insanity. LSD was not only restricted to big cities such as the streets of Haight and Ashbury of San Francisco. From Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to the Beatles’ song Lucy In The Shy With Diamonds’, LSD was gaining national recognition and had reached suburbia by the mid 1960’s. LSD inspires art, music, fashion, and culture for a generation.
“Psychedelic”, a word invented by scientist Dr. Humphrey Osmond to indicate the mind altering or mind expanding properties of hallucinogenic drugs, became a household term in the 1960’s. Aldous Huxley (b. 1894-1963), writer of the critically acclaimed books Brave New World (1932) and The Doors of Perception (1954), was an advocate of the usage of hallucinogens. Huxley researched and experimented with mescaline and later related his studies on mescaline to LSD. In his usage of mescaline, Huxley experienced a change in every day reality. Unlike mescaline users before him, Huxley had no fantastic visions, saw no landscapes or geometrical figures.