The use of hallucinogens is highly prohibited, but somehow, this practice still finds a way to get past authorities. The declared motives for use circle around recreational or creative purposes, and also a better understanding of the human mind. In most cases, the substances that are used in this process are extracted from various sources, then derived and prepared in a laboratory.
For example, ergot, which is a parasitic fungus, has come a long way from being a terrifying contaminating agent of rye fields that produces convulsions, gangrene and a curious burning of the skin – known as St Anthony’s Fire. From this fungus, lysergic acid was extracted by the chemists at Sandoz Research Laboratories in Basle, Switzerland. In 1938, Dr Albert Hoffman, of the same institute, combined this acid with diethyl amide and obtained LSD (diethyl lysergic acid).
Hoffman considered to further study this substance in 1943 and experimented in the institute’s laboratory when he suddenly felt a series of strange symptoms that he could not explain. His state involved restlessness, mild dizziness, over-active imagination, intolerance to daylight, and strange colour perception. This sensation lasted for about two hours. The mystery was uncovered when a lab assistant pointed to the possibility that a glass rod the doctor used to stir his tea was contaminated by a drop of the LSD solution he was working with. Upon having this accidental experience, he decided to administer himself the smallest dose of LSD and observe the reactions. This is what the good doctor noted: “As far as I can remember, the following were the most outstanding symptoms: vertigo, visual disturbances; the faces of those around me appeared as grotesque colored masks; marked motorist (sic) unrest alternating with paralysis; an intermittent heavy feeling of the head, limbs and the entire body, as if it were filled with lead.”*
“There was a dry, constricted sensation in the throat; feeling of choking; but a clear recognition of my condition, in which state I sometimes observed in the manner of an independent, neutral observer, that I shouted half insanely, babbling incoherent words. Occasionally, I felt as if I were out of my body.”**
*,** Winters, Robert. Accidental Medical Discoveries: Tales of Tenacity, Sagacity, and Plain Dumb Luck, Denmark, 2013, pp. 147