January 11, 2006

Swiss chemist Hofmann, father of LSD, turns 100

By Tom Armitage

ZURICH (Reuters) - Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who
discovered the mind-bending drug LSD, celebrated his 100th
birthday on Wednesday, still sprightly some 60 years after
taking his first trip.

"This is a wonderful birthday party that I am having," he
told guests at a celebration on Wednesday. "One could say it
has been a mind-expanding experience, without the LSD."

Working in a laboratory in Basel in the late 1930s, he
stumbled upon the substance lysergic acid diethylamine or LSD,
the drug which later fueled a generation of musicians, poets,
painters and party-goers.

Cycling along the Rhine close to the offices of his
employer Sandoz, now a part of Novartis, Hofmann embarked on
his first trip, discovering the hallucinogenic properties of
the drug which reminded him of childhood visions.

"At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant
intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely
stimulated imagination," he wrote of one of his trips.

"In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed -- I found the
daylight to be unpleasantly glaring --, I perceived an
uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary
shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.

"After some two hours this condition faded away."

However, the chemist also realized it could unleash
frightening and disturbing visions and warned against its use
as a "pleasure drug."

"Wrong and inappropriate use has caused LSD to become my
problem child," he wrote in the foreword to his book, by the
same name, which aimed to restore LSD's tarnished reputation.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency thought LSD, having
been used in psychotherapy as a way to unlock the mind, could
be the ultimate truth serum.

It soon became the favored drug of the 1960s
counter-culture, prompting psychologist Timothy Leary to coin
the phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

After continuing to study the hallucinogenic effects of
other natural products, such as mushrooms, at Sandoz, Hofmann
wrote his book LSD, "My Problem Child."

He lives with his wife in Burg, Switzerland.

Hofmann believes LSD could still serve a valid purpose in
medicine, as it did for Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian
novel "Brave New World" who used the drug to ease his final

"LSD was used decades ago for this purpose, in dying cancer
patients, for whom morphine no longer gave any relief from
pain," Hofmann told a Swiss newspaper recently.

"I am convinced that that will be a subject in the future