Father of LSD celebrates 100th birthday

The mind-altering drug LSD is an unlikely subject for a 100th birthday party. Yet Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, father of the "problem child" and first human guinea pig of LSD, is celebrating his centenary Wednesday in good health and planning to attend an international scientific meeting on the hallucinogenic, which inspired a generation of flower children as it worried their parents. "I sat down at home on the divan and started to dream," Hofmann told Swiss television network SF DRS about his first experience with LSD. "I had wonderful visions. What I was thinking appeared in colors and in pictures. It lasted for a couple of hours and then it disappeared." Hofmann, who also has had bad experiences with the drug, continues to insist that the controversial substance should be used as a medical treatment, particularly for psychiatric research.

But LSD's reputation has been as turbulent as some acid trips. "Wrong and inappropriate use has caused LSD to become my problem child," Hofmann wrote in the foreword to his 1979 book "LSD - My Problem Child." Although popular in the underground, the drug earned a bad reputation amid fatalities associated with hallucinations and reports of "flashbacks", a recurrence of hallucinations when no new dose of the drug had been taken.

Hofmann's hallucinogen inspired the 1960s hippy generation and was immortalized in the Beatles' hit Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, although the band denied any connection. It was also known as Like Swift Dead.

For decades after LSD was banned in the late 1960s, Hofmann defended his invention. "I produced the substance as a medicine," he said. "It's not my fault if people abused it." The Swiss chemist, who still takes nearly daily walks in the small picturesque village where he lives in the Swiss Jura mountains with his wife of 70 years, Anita, discovered lysergic acid diethylamide-25 in 1938 while studying the medicinal uses of a fungus found on wheat and other grains at the Sandoz pharmaceuticals firm, which is now part of Novartis. The company declined to comment for this story.

Hofmann was the first person to test the drug when a tiny amount of the substance seeped on to his finger during a repeat of the laboratory experiment in April 1943. "Everything I saw was distorted as in a warped mirror," he subsequently wrote, noting his surprise that LSD was able to produce "such a far-reaching, powerful, inebriated condition without leaving a hangover."

The chemist experimented with a larger dose three days later, but the result this time was a "horror" trip. His surroundings turned into threatening images. A neighbor who passed by his home to bring him the milk he craved was transformed into a wicked witch. "I was filled with an overwhelming fear that I would go crazy. I was transported to a different world, a different time," he wrote, reports the AP. N.U.

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