The psychedelic drug/entheogen LSD was first synthesized by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz (now Novartis) laboratories in Basel, Switzerland November 16, 1938. It was not until five years later on April 16, 1943, that the psychedelic properties were discovered.

Discovery of LSD

Hofmann joined the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories (now Novartis), located in Basel as a co-worker with professor Arthur Stoll, founder and director of the pharmaceutical department. He began studying the medicinal plant squill and the fungus ergot as part of a program to purify and synthesize active constituents for use aspharmaceuticals. His main contribution was to elucidate the chemical structure of the common nucleus of Scilla glycosides (an active principal of Mediterranean Squill). While researching lysergic acid derivatives, Hofmann first synthesized LSD on November 16, 1938. The main intention of the synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an analeptic). It was set aside for five years, until April 16, 1943, when Hofmann decided to take another look at it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small quantity through his fingertips and serendipitously discovered its powerful effects. He described what he felt as being:

… affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. 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.

Bicycle Day

Bicycle Day Celebration Blotter

Three days later, April 19, 1943, Hofmann performed a self-experiment to determine the true effects of LSD, intentionally ingesting 250 micrograms of the substance, an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms). Less than an hour later, Hofmann experienced sudden and intense changes in perception. He asked his laboratory assistant to escort him home and, as use of motor vehicles was prohibited because of wartime restrictions, they had to make the journey on a bicycle. On the way, Hofmann’s condition rapidly deteriorated as he struggled with feelings of anxiety, alternatingly believing the next-door neighbor was a malevolent witch, that he was going insane, and the LSD had poisoned him. When the house doctor arrived, however, he could detect no physical abnormalities, save for a pair of incredibly dilated pupils. Hofmann was reassured, and soon his terror began to give way to a sense of good fortune and enjoyment, as he later wrote …

… little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux …

The events of the first LSD trip, now known as “Bicycle Day”, after the bicycle ride home, proved to Hofmann that he had indeed made a significant discovery. A psychoactive substance with extraordinary potency, capable of causing paradigm shifts of consciousness in incredibly low doses, Hofmann foresaw the drug as a powerful psychiatric tool; because of its intense and introspective nature, he couldn’t imagine anyone using it recreationally.

Psychiatric Use

LSD was brought to the attention of the United States in 1949 by Sandoz Laboratories because they believed LSD might have clinical applications.

Throughout the 1950s, mainstream media reported on research into LSD, undergraduate psychology students taking LSD as part of their education, described the effects of the drug, and its growing use in psychiatry. Time Magazine published 6 positive reports on LSD between 1954 and 1959.

LSD was originally perceived as a psychotomimetic capable of producing model psychosis. By the mid 1950s, LSD research was being conducted in major American medical centers, where researchers used LSD as a means of temporarily replicating the effects of mental illness. One of the leading authorities on LSD during the 1950s in the United States was the psychoanalyst Sidney Cohen. Cohen first took the drug on October 12, 1955 and expected to have an unpleasant trip, but was surprised when he experienced “no confused, disoriented delirium.”  He reported that the “problems and strivings, the worries and frustrations of everyday life vanished; in their place was a majestic, sunlit, heavenly inner quietude.” Cohen immediately began his own experiments with LSD with the help of Aldous Huxley who he had met in 1955. In 1957, with the help of Betty Eisner, Cohen began experimenting whether or not LSD might have a helpful effect in facilitating psychotherapy, curing alcoholism, and enhancing creativity. Between 1957 and 1958, they treated twenty-two patients who suffered from minor personality disorders. LSD was also given to artists in order to track their mental deterioration, but Huxley believed LSD might enhance their creativity. Between 1958 and 1962, Oscar Janiger tested LSD on more than a hundred painters, writers, and composers. By the late 1950s, LSD was being used by unlicensed therapists who were drawn to it as a lucrative means to break down patients’ psychological barriers; it was not uncommon for them to charge $500 a session.

In one study in the late 1950s, Dr Humphry Osmond gave LSD to alcoholics in Alcoholics Anonymous who had failed to quit drinking. After one year, around 50% of the study group had not had a drink — a success rate that has never been duplicated by any other means.

In the United Kingdom the use of LSD was pioneered by Dr Ronald Sandison in 1952, at Powick Hospital, Worcestershire. A special LSD unit was set up in 1958. After Dr Sandison left the hospital in 1964, medical superintendent Dr Justin Johanson took over and used the drug until he retired in 1972. In all, 683 patients were treated with LSD in 13,785 separate sessions at Powick, but Dr Spencer was the last member of the medical staff to use it.

From the late 1940s through the mid-1970s, extensive research and testing was conducted on LSD. During a 15-year period beginning in 1950, research on LSD and other hallucinogens generated over 1000 scientific papers, several dozen books, and 6 international conferences, and LSD was prescribed as treatment to over 40,000 patients. Film star Cary Grant was one of many men during the ’50s and ’60s who were given LSD in concert with psychotherapy. Many psychiatrists began taking the drug recreationally and sharing it with friends. Dr. Leary’s experiments (see Timothy Leary below) spread LSD usage to a much wider segment of the general populace.

Sandoz halted LSD production in August 1965 after growing governmental protests at its proliferation among the general populace. The National Institute of Mental Health in the United States distributed LSD on a limited basis for scientific research. Scientific study of LSD largely ceased circa 1980 as research funding declined, and governments became wary of permitting such research, fearing that the results of the research might encourage illicit LSD use. By the end of the century there were few authorized researchers left, and their efforts were mostly directed towards establishing approved protocols for further work with LSD in easing the suffering of the dying (See thanatotherapy) and with drug addicts and alcoholics.

He began to hypothesize he could use LSD as a way to treat optic nerve hypoplasia, a congenital medical condition where the optic disc appears abnormally small. To test this new hypothesis, Sutcliffe began his testing on lab mice by making them ingest controlled amounts of LSD then dissecting them after to observe the results. He found an inconsistency in his results in which only 70% of the mice had blood engorged frontal lobes, which he narrowed down to previous history of high blood pressure and stress related problems. No other physical uses have been proposed or tested.

Resistance And Prohibition

By the mid-sixties the backlash against the use of LSD and its perceived corrosive effects on the values of the Western middle class resulted in governmental action to restrict the availability of the drug by making any use of it illegal. Despite a history of positive results of judicious use under controlled circumstances, LSD was declared a “Schedule 1“, even though this entails that the drug has a “high potential for abuse” and is without any “currently accepted medical use in treatment”. LSD was removed from legal circulation. To support this action, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration claimed:

Although initial observations on the benefits of LSD were highly optimistic, empirical data developed subsequently proved less promising … Its use in scientific research has been extensive and its use has been widespread. Although the study of LSD and other hallucinogens increased the awareness of how chemicals could affect the mind, its use in psychotherapy largely has been debunked. It produces aphrodisiac effects, does not increase creativity, has no lasting positive effect in treating alcoholics or criminals, does not produce a ‘model psychosis’, and does not generate immediate personality change. However, drug studies have confirmed that the powerful hallucinogenic effects of this drug can produce profound adverse reactions, such as acute panic reactions, psychotic crises, and “flashbacks“, especially in users ill-equipped to deal with such trauma.

LSD became illegal in California on October 6, 1966. Other U.S. states and the rest of the world followed with the ban.

Influential Individuals

Aldous Huxley

Renowned British intellectual Aldous Huxley was one of the most important figures in the early history of LSD. He was a figure of high repute in the world of letters and had become internationally famous through his novels Crome Yellow, Antic Hay and his dystopian novel Brave New World. His experiments with psychedelic drugs (initially mescaline) and his descriptions of them in his writings did much to spread awareness of psychedelic drugs to the general public and arguably helped to glamorize their recreational use, although Huxley himself treated them very seriously.

Huxley was introduced to psychedelic drugs in 1953 by a friend, psychiatrist Dr. Humphry Osmond. Osmond had become interested in hallucinogens and their relationship to mental illness in the 1940s and during the 1950s he made extensive studies of a number of drugs including mescaline and LSD. As noted above, Osmond had some remarkable success in treating alcoholics with LSD.

In May 1953 Osmond gave Huxley his first dose of mescaline, at the Huxley home. In 1954 Huxley recorded his experiences in the landmark book The Doors of Perception; the title was drawn from a quotation by British artist and poet William Blake, and Huxley’s book in turn was the source of the name of American rock band The Doors. Huxley tried LSD for the first time in 1955, obtained from “Captain” Al Hubbard.

Alfred Hubbard

Alfred Matthew Hubbard is reputed to have introduced more than 6,000 people to LSD, including scientists, politicians, intelligence officials, diplomats, and church figures. He became known as the original “Captain Trips”, travelling about with a leather case containing pharmaceutically pure LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. He become a ‘freelance’ apostle for LSD in the early 1950s after supposedly receiving an angelic vision telling him that something important to the future of mankind would soon be coming. When he read about LSD the next year, he immediately sought and acquired LSD, which he tried for himself in 1951.

Although he had no medical training, Hubbard collaborated on running psychedelic sessions with LSD with Ross McLean at Vancouver’s Hollywood Hospital, with psychiatrists Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond, with Myron Stolaroff at the International Federation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park, and with Willis Harman at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). At various times over the next twenty years, Hubbard also reportedly worked for the Canadian Special Services, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. It is also rumoured that he was involved with the CIA‘s MK-ULTRA project. How his government positions interacted with his work with LSD is unknown.

Harold A. Abramson

In 1955, Time Magazine reported:

“In Manhattan, Psychiatrist Harold A. Abramson of the Cold Spring Harbor Biological Laboratory has developed a technique of serving dinner to a group of subjects, topping off the meal with a liqueur glass containing 40 micrograms of LSD.”

Cary Grant

In 1962, Cary Grant told Time Magazine that he had been taking LSD with his psychiatrist since 1958. Grant was so pleased with the results that he endorsed psychedelic therapy in a lecture to “fascinated students” at UCLA.

R. Gordon Wasson

In 1957, R. Gordon Wasson, the vice president of J.P.Morgan, published an article in Life Magazine extolling the virtues of magic mushrooms. This prompted Albert Hoffman to isolatepsilocybin in 1958 for distribution by Sandoz with its product LSD in the U.S., further raising interest in LSD in the mass media. Following Wasson’s report, Timothy Leary visited Mexico to experience the mushrooms.

Dr. Timothy Leary

DEA agents Howard Safir (left) and Don Strange (right) with Leary in custody (1972).

Dr. Timothy Leary, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University, was the most prominent pro-LSD researcher. Leary claimed that using LSD with the right dosage, set (what one brings to the experience), and setting, preferably with the guidance of professionals, could alter behavior in dramatic and beneficial ways.

Dr. Leary began conducting experiments with psilocybin in 1960 on himself and a number of Harvard graduate students after trying hallucinogenicmushrooms used in Native American religious rituals while visiting Mexico. His group began conducting experiments on state prisoners, where they claimed a 90% success rate preventing repeat offenses. Later reexamination of Leary’s data reveals his results to be skewed, whether intentionally or not; the percent of men in the study who ended up back in prison later in life was approximately 2% lower than the usual rate. Leary was later introduced to LSD, and he then incorporated that drug into his research as his mental catalyst of choice. Leary claimed that his experiments produced no murders, suicides, psychotic breaks, or bad trips. On the contrary, almost all of Leary’s participants reported profound mystical experiences which they felt had a tremendous positive effect on their lives. While it is true that Leary’s experiments did not lead to any murders, he willfully chose to ignore the bad trips which occurred, as well as the attempted suicide of a woman the day after she was given mescaline by Leary.

By 1962, faculty discontent with Leary’s experiments reached critical mass. Leary was informed that the CIA was monitoring his research (see Government experiments below). Many of the other faculty members had harboured reservations about Leary’s research, and powerful parents began complaining to the university about Leary’s distribution of hallucinogenic drugs to their children. Further, many undergraduate students who were not part of Leary’s research program heard of the profound experiences other students had undergone, and began taking LSD (which was not illegal at the time) recreationally. Leary described LSD as a potent aphrodisiac in an interview with Playboy magazine. When Leary left the University for an extended amount of time during the spring semester, thus failing to fulfill his duties as professor, it was the last straw. Leary and another Harvard psychologist, Richard Alpert, were dismissed from the university in 1963.

In 1964, they published The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Leary and Alpert, unfazed by their dismissals, relocated first to Mexico, but were expelled from the country by the Mexican government. They then set up at a large private mansion owned by William Hitchcock in New York, known as Millbrook, where they continued their experiments. Their research lost its controlled scientific character as the experiments transformed into LSD parties. Leary later wrote, “We saw ourselves as anthropologists from the twenty-first century inhabiting a time module set somewhere in the Dark Ages of the 1960s. On this space colony we were attempting to create a new paganism and a new dedication to life as art.”

A judge who expressed dislike for Dr. Leary’s books sentenced him to 30 years in prison for possession of half a marijuana cigarette (which was later reversed by the Supreme Court inLeary v. United States). Publicity surrounding the case further cemented Leary’s growing reputation as a counter cultural guru. Around this time, President Richard Nixon described Leary as “the most dangerous man in America.” Repeated FBI raids instigated the end of the Millbrook experiment. Leary refocused his efforts towards countering the tremendous amount of anti-LSD propaganda then being issued by the United States government, coining the slogan, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Many experts blame Leary and his antics for the near-total suppression of psychedelic research over the next thirty five years.

Owsley Stanley

Historically, LSD was distributed not for profit, but because those who made and distributed it truly believed that the psychedelic experience could do good for humanity, that it expanded the mind and could bring understanding and love. A limited number of chemists, probably fewer than a dozen, are believed to have manufactured nearly all of the illicit LSD available in the United States. The best known of these is undoubtedly Augustus Owsley Stanley III, usually known simply as Owsley. The former chemistry student set up a private LSD lab in the mid-Sixties in San Francisco and supplied the LSD consumed at the famous Merry Pranksters parties held by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, and other major events such as theGathering of the tribes in San Francisco in January 1967. He also had close social connections to leading San Francisco bands the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and The Holding Company, regularly supplied them with his LSD and also worked as their live sound engineer and made many tapes of these groups in concert. Owsley’s LSD activities — immortalized by Steely Dan in their song “Kid Charlemagne” — ended with his arrest at the end of 1967, but some other manufacturers probably operated continuously for 30 years or more. Announcing Owsley’s first bust in 1966, The San Francisco Chronicles headline “LSD Millionaire Arrested” inspired the rare Grateful Dead song “Alice D. Millionaire.”

Owsley associated with other early LSD producers, Tim Scully and Nicholas Sand.

Ken Kesey

Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado to dairy farmers Frederick A. Kesey and Ginevra Smith. In 1946, the family moved to Springfield, Oregon. A champion wrestler in both high school and college, he graduated from Springfield High School in 1953.

Kesey attended the University of Oregon‘s School of Journalism, where he received a degree in speech and communication in 1957, where he was also a brother of Beta Theta Pi. He was awarded a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship in 1958 to enroll in the creative writing program at Stanford University, which he did the following year. While at Stanford, he studied under Wallace Stegner and began the manuscript that would become One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

At Stanford in 1959, Kesey volunteered to take part in a CIA-financed study named Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. The project studied the effects ofpsychoactive drugs, particularly LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, cocaine, AMT, and DMT on people. Kesey wrote many detailed accounts of his experiences with these drugs, both during the Project MKULTRA study and in the years of private experimentation that followed. Kesey’s role as a medical guinea pig inspired him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestin 1962. The success of this book, as well as the sale of his residence at Stanford, allowed him to move to La Honda, California, in the mountains south of San Francisco. He frequently entertained friends and many others with parties he called “Acid Tests” involving music (such as Kesey’s favorite band, The Warlocks, later known as the Grateful Dead), black lights, fluorescent paint, strobes and other “psychedelic” effects, and, of course, LSD. These parties were noted in some of Allen Ginsberg‘s poems and are also described in Tom Wolfe‘s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, as well as Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson and Freewheelin Frank, Secretary of the Hell’s Angels by Frank Reynolds. Ken Kesey was also said to have experimented with LSD with Ringo Starr in 1965 and in fact influenced the set up for his future performances with The Beatles in the UK.

In the summer of 1964, Kesey’s Merry Pranksters customised a bus and set out on a tour to propagate LSD use.

Sidney Cohen

In 1964, Los Angeles Psychiatrist Sidney Cohen published ‘The Beyond Within: the LSD Story’.

In an interview with Cohen for the publication, Time Magazine reported:

[LSD’s] effects on the mind… are so fantastic that most experimenters insist words are not the right medium for describing them.


Dr. Cohen and other reputable researchers have been disturbed by what he calls the “beatnik microculture” and its abuses of LSD and other hallucinogens. The danger, he says, is that public reaction against oddball antics may set back serious research for many years.[25]

Secret Government Experiments

See also: MKULTRA

The CIA became interested in LSD when they read reports alleging that American prisoners during the Korean War were being brainwashed with the use of some sort of drug or “lie serum.” LSD was the original centerpiece of the United States Central Intelligence Agency‘s top secret MK-ULTRA project, an ambitious undertaking conducted from the 1950s through the 1970s designed to explore the possibilities of pharmaceutical mind control. Hundreds of participants, including CIA agents, government employees, military personnel, prostitutes, members of the general public, and mental patients were given LSD, many without their knowledge or consent. The experiments often involved severe psychological torture, and many victims committed suicide or wound up in psychiatric wards.[citation needed]To guard against outward reactions, doctors conducted experiments in clinics and laboratories where subjects were monitored by EEG machines and had their words recorded. Some studies investigated whether drugs, stress or specific environmental conditions could be used to break prisoners or to induce confessions. The CIA also created The Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology which was a CIA funding front which provided grants to social scientists and medical researchers investigating questions of interest related to the MK-ULTRA program. Between 1960 and 1963, the CIA gave $856 782 worth of grants to different organizations.The researchers eventually concluded that LSD’s effects were too varied and uncontrollable to make it of any practical use as a truth drug, and the project moved on to other substances. It would be decades before the US government admitted the existence of the project and offered apologies to the families of those who had died during the experiments.

CIA operations Bluebird and Artichoke also studied the usefulness of psychotropic drugs in interrogation. Both of these operations regularly used unethical and illegal research methods such as, dosing unsuspecting government employees or members of the public with LSD and DMT.

The role of ‘middle-men’ like Al Hubbard (see above) is still little understood and it is likely to be many decades (if ever) before information about their activities is declassified. The precise relationships between government projects like MK-ULTRA and academic research is not yet known, but it is highly probable that agencies such as the American CIA were closely monitoring non-government research in this area. Hubbard is known to have had direct connections to several medical programs during the 1950s, gave LSD to thousands of people, and is known to have worked (possibly simultaneously) for a number of Canadian and American government agencies.

Although the subject is highly contentious, there are those who argue that, whilst LSD eventually proved too unpredictable to be useful as a chemical weapon, it may have found another intelligence use. It is claimed that government agencies such as the CIA may have covertly promoted LSD among American youth, seeing it as a means of undermining and destabilising the emerging alternative / underground culture and the growing anti-war movement. Or alternatively, that some within the CIA came to appreciate psychedelics and so worked to promote LSD throughout the world.

It is also interesting to compare the fates of high-profile LSD advocate Timothy Leary and that of the notorious but elusive LSD chemist Augustus Owsley Stanley III. Leary was hounded by the police, the FBI and possibly also the CIA and was given a draconian prison sentence for possession of a minuscule amount of marijuana. It is generally accepted that much of the best ‘street’ LSD that circulated in the western United States and beyond in the late 1960s was manufactured by Owsley. Owsley was arrested with at least 350,000 doses of LSD; notwithstanding his reputation as the world’s top illicit LSD chemist, he attempted to argue that this huge quantity was for personal use. After being found guilty, Owsley was given a relatively light sentence of three years, and despite his international reputation and his criminal record, he was subsequently allowed to emigrate to Australia.

There have also been persistent claims of connections between the CIA and members of the so-called “Brotherhood of Eternal Love“, most focusing on the mysterious figure of Ronald Stark, a reputed criminal who was alleged to have links to both the CIA and to paramilitary organizations including the PLO, as well as allegedly overseeing one of the world’s largest LSD manufacturing and distribution rings, which operated in Italy, France and Belgium.

Though no evidence has yet come to light in the West, the US government feared that the Soviet government was conducting its own experiments on the properties of LSD during theCold War.[citation needed]

Recreational Use

From 1960 to 1980

Estimated number of first-time LSD users has fluctuated between 200,000 and 1,000,000.

Estimated annual numbers of first-time LSD use in the United States among persons aged 12 or older: 1967-2008.

LSD began to be used recreationally in certain (primarily medical) circles. Some psychiatric and medical professionals, acquainted with LSD in their work, began using it themselves and sharing it with friends and associates. Among the first to do so was British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, who first gave the drug to authorAldous Huxley and who coined the term “psychedelic” to describe its effects.

Psychedelic Subculture Goes Mainstream

LSD historian Jay Stevens, author of the book Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, has said that, in the early days of its recreational use, LSD users (who were at that time mostly academics and medical professional people) fell into two broadly delineated groups. The first group, which was essentially conservative and was exemplified by Huxley, felt that LSD was too powerful and too dangerous to allow its immediate and widespread introduction, and that its use ought to be restricted to the ‘elite’ members of society — artists, writers, scientists — who could mediate its gradual distribution throughout society. The second and more radical group, typified by Alpert and Leary, felt that LSD had the power to revolutionize society and that it should be spread as widely as possible and be available to all.

During the 1960s, this second ‘group’ of casual LSD users evolved and expanded into a subculture that extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often engendered by the drug’s powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raisingconsciousness. The personalities associated with the subculture, gurus such as Dr. Timothy Leary and psychedelic rock musicians such as the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and The Beatles soon attracted a great deal of publicity, generating further interest in LSD.

The popularization of LSD outside of the medical world was hastened when individuals such as Ken Kesey participated in drug trials and liked what they saw. Tom Wolfe wrote a widely read account of these early days of LSD’s entrance into the non-academic world in his book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, which documented the cross-country, acid-fueled voyage of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on the psychedelic bus “Furthur” and the Pranksters’ later ‘Acid Test’ LSD parties.

In 1965, Sandoz laboratories stopped its still legal shipments of LSD to the United States for research and psychiatric use, after a request from the U.S. government concerned about its use.

By April 1966, LSD use had become so widespread that Time Magazine warned about its dangers.

In December 1966, the exploitation film Hallucination Generation was released. This was followed by The Trip (film) in 1967 and Psych-Out in 1968.

Musicians and LSD

From August 1965, when Sandoz stopped shipping LSD, there was an explosion of interest.

On August 24, 1965 The Beatles except Paul McCartney, took their second trip of LSD.

In December 1965, The Beatles released Day Tripper, a reference to LSD.

The same month, The Pretty Things released an album Get the Picture? which included a track entitled ‘L.S.D.’

LSD became a headline item in early 1967. The Beatles, an incredibly popular group during the ’60s, admitted to having been under the influence of LSD. Earlier in the year, British tabloidNews of the World ran a sensational three-week series on ‘drug parties’ hosted by rock group The Moody Blues and attended by leading stars including Donovan, The Who’s Pete Townshend and Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Largely as a result of collusion between News of the World journalists and the London Drug Squad, many pop stars including Donovan, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones were arrested for drug possession, although none of the arrests involved LSD.

The music of groups including The Beatles had also begun to show the obvious influence of their experiences with LSD. John Lennon wrote a song which many assumed referred to LSD, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds“, although John Lennon always dismissed the connection as coincidence. Lennon and Harrison, however, had been experimenting with the drug since 1965. The songs “She Said She Said” (the line,’I know what it’s like to be dead’ is from an LSD trip the Beatles took with actor Peter Fonda. Fonda said those words repeatedly to John Lennon during the acid trip) and “Tomorrow Never Knows” (many lines of which Lennon borrowed from Leary’s “The Psychedelic Experience”) from the album Revolver were clearly about LSD trips. During that same time, bands such as Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead helped give birth to a genre known as “psychedelic rock” or acid rock.

LSD in Australia

LSD was evidently in limited recreational use in Australia in the early 1960s, but is believed to have been initially restricted to those with connections to the scientific and the medical communities. LSD overdose was suggested as a possible cause of the January 1, 1963 deaths of CSIRO scientists Dr Gilbert Bogle and his lover Dr Margaret Chandler, but this is very unlikely as there are no known cases of LSD fatal overdose and other more likely causes of death have been suggested. Large quantities of LSD began to appear in Australia around 1967, and soon permeated the music scene and youth culture in general, especially in the capital cities. The major source of supply during this period is believed to have been American servicemen visiting Australia (mainly Sydney) from Vietnam on ‘rest and recreation’ (R&R) leave, although the growing connections between American and Australian organized crime in the late 1960s may also have facilitated its importation. Recreational LSD use among young people was on a par with that in other countries in Australia by the early 1970s and continued until late in the decade. LSD is not believed to have been manufactured locally in a significant quantity (if at all) and most if not all supplies were sourced from overseas.

Production of LSD

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the drug culture adopted LSD as the psychedelic drug of choice, particularly amongst the hippie community. However, LSD dramatically decreased in popularity in the mid-1970s. This decline was due to negative publicity centred on side-effects of LSD use (most misleading or patently false), its criminalization, and the increasing effectiveness of drug law enforcement efforts, rather than new medical information. The last country to produce LSD legally (until 1975) was Czechoslovakia; during the 1960s, high-quality LSD was imported from the communist country to California, a fact appreciated by Leary in The Politics of Ecstasy.

The first ever home grown UK ‘acid lab’ that got busted was in 1969 — up to then all LSD had been imported from the U.S., or was remnant produce of Sandoz before it stopped producing LSD. The lab, in Kent, and a flat in London were raided simultaneously and quantities of equipment and LSD seized along with the two men who had been making the LSD;Quentin Theobald and Peter Simmons.

The availability of LSD had been drastically reduced by the late 1970s due to a combination of governmental controls and law enforcement. The supply of constituent chemicals (notablyergotamine tartrate) were placed under tight surveillance and government funding for LSD research was almost totally eliminated. These efforts were augmented by a series of major busts in England and Europe. One of the most famous was “Operation Julie” in Britain in 1978; it broke up one of the largest LSD manufacturing and distribution operations in the world at that time, headed by chemist Richard Kemp. The group targeted by the Julie task force were reputed to have had links to the mysterious Brotherhood of Eternal Love and to Ronald Stark.

Modern times

LSD made a comeback in the 1990s, especially through the acid house scene and raver subculture. LSD use and availability declined sharply following a raid of a large scale LSD lab in 2000 (see LSD in the United States).

  1. Further reading… Lee, Martin A. and Bruce Shlain. Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (1992)
    ISBN 9780802130624^ Dr. Albert Hofmann; 0-07-029325-2.
  2. ^ a b “Freedom of speech – use it or lose it”. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  3. ^ Dr. Albert Hofmann; translated from the original German (LSD Ganz Persönlich) by J. Ott. MAPS-Volume 6 Number 69 Summer 1969
  4. ^ “Europe | LSD inventor Albert Hofmann dies”. BBC News. 2008-04-30. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  5. ^ Hofmann 1980, p. 15
  6. ^ by Erowid (2009-03-18). “Erowid LSD Vault : Dosage”. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  7. ^ “LSD Discovery-Albert Hofmann + Hofmann at 99 years”. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
  8. ^ a b c d Novak J.,Steven:”LSD before Leary:Sidney Cohen’s Critique of 1950s Psychedelic Drug Research”, Isis, Vol. 88, No.1 pp. 87-110
  9. ^ Time. 1944-04-03. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  10. ^ a b Novak J.,Steven:”LSD before Leary:Sidney Cohen’s Critique of 1950s Psychedelic Drug Research”, Isis, Vol. 88, No.1 pp. 87-110
  11. ^ Novak J.,Steven:”LSD before Leary:Sidney Cohen’s Critique of 1950s Psychedelic Drug Research”, Isis,Vol. 88, No.1 pp. 87-110
  12. ^ Maclean, J.R.; Macdonald, D.C.; Ogden, F.; Wilby, E., “LSD-25 and mescaline as therapeutic adjuvants.” In: Abramson, H., Ed., The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy and Alcoholism, Bobbs-Merrill: New York, 1967, pp. 407–426; Ditman, K.S.; Bailey, J.J., “Evaluating LSD as a psychotherapeutic agent,” pp.74–80; Hoffer, A., “A program for the treatment of alcoholism: LSD, malvaria, and nicotinic acid,” pp. 353–402.
  13. ^ “Patients urged to tell of LSD therapy”. Newsquest Media Group. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  14. ^ DEA Public Affairs (2001-11-16). “DEA – Publications – LSD in the US – The Drug”. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
  15. ^ Monday, Dec. 19, 1955 (1955-12-19). “Medicine: Artificial Psychoses”. TIME. Retrieved 2010-04-20.
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