The new science of psychedelics

Writing in The New Statesman, Tim Martin says:

“Once dismissed as a hippie indulgence, drugs such as LSD are now at the front line of research into depression and anxiety. Could psychedelics actually make us better people?”

“Seventy-five years ago, in April 1943, the research chemist Albert Hofmann did something distinctly out of scientific character. Impelled by what he later called a “peculiar presentiment”, he resolved to take a second look at the 25th in a series of molecules derived from the ergot fungus, a drug he had discovered some years earlier and dismissed as of no scientific interest. As he synthesised it for the second time, it made contact with his skin, giving rise to an unprecedented experience: a “stream of fantastic pictures [and] extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours”. Five days later, on 19 April, he decided to test the chemical on himself under controlled conditions, thus becoming the first person in history knowingly to embark on an acid trip.

Intermittently ever since, psychonauts and countercultural enthusiasts have celebrated 19 April as “Bicycle Day”, in recognition of this Ground Zero of Western psychedelia. After cautiously ingesting a dose of LSD-25, Hofmann enlisted the help of a lab assistant and wobbled home on his bicycle, while his vision “wavered and distorted as though in a curved mirror”. Sprawled on the sofa, he underwent a ‘severe crisis’ that, viewed through the telescope of 75 years of psychedelic experience, looks endearingly familiar: one in which demonic terrors, mystical encounters and loss of ego alternated with fantastic imagery, synaesthetic perception and a desire to drink ‘more than two litres’ of the milk provided by a neighbour …”

Read more here.

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