LSD’s creator celebrates 100th birthday
Researchers say drug still has more potential as Albert Hofmann reaches milestone
By KENNETH AARON
Times Union Staff writer
First published: Thursday, January 12, 2006
Albert Hofmann turned 100 Wednesday. His most famous creation, LSD, turns 63 in April.
Widespread clinical acceptance for acid: Still waiting.
And that’s too bad, said Roger Walsh, who co-edited a State University of New York Press book that compiled interviews with some of the field’s leading researchers.
The book, “Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics,” was released in August.
“I think the research is just overwhelming,” said Walsh on Wednesday of LSD’s purported benefits. “It’s a pity that we seem to have lost what looked for a while like a very potentially therapeutic tool.”
The drug is more than tainted stamps and hippie pastime, said Walsh, a professor at the University of California-Irvine. It is a legitimate psychologic tool that can help people unlock other states of consciousness — states that, the book holds, are largely ignored in Western cultures despite thousands of years of acceptance by other societies.
To celebrate Hofmann’s 100th birthday, an LSD conference was held in Switzerland. Walsh’s co-editor on the book, Charles S. Grob, was attending, and couldn’t be reached for comment.
The book interviewed people such as spiritual leader Ram Dass, Laura Archera Huxley, the wife of writer Aldous Huxley, and Hofmann.
Walsh won’t say whether he’s used LSD himself; when researchers are asked that at conferences, he said, the ones who say “yes” lose half the audience, and the ones who say “no” lose the other half.
But, he offered, this is what a trip is like:
It starts with the senses. Lights are brighter, sounds are louder, colors are more vibrant. Tunes are heard. Images appear. Those images get more vivid and vibrant and alive, and ultimately are charged with the person’s own psychological dynamics and issues, Walsh said.
On one of Hofmann’s first experiences with his new drug, he reported being in Morocco. “I had not been there before, but I had the feeling that it was Morocco,” he said. “I saw the camels and all the Bedouins and a really fantastic landscape. It was like a fairy tale that I lived.”
The experience may be uplifting, a portal to a new spiritual dimension.
Or it may be terrifying, a gateway to confronting one’s deepest fears.
Either way, experiencing these emotions can help patients tap even deeper things within themselves.
“At the deepest, people open up into some very profound religious experiences,” Walsh said.
It’s important, he said, that psychedelics be administered in controlled ways. “In all these cultures where psychedelics are widely used, it’s certainly a majority of the world’s cultures, they are used in carefully regulated sacred and therapeutic settings,” he said.
In other words, not in the parking lot of a rock concert.
Some of the unlikeliest subjects to embrace spirituality find themselves forever moved by what they experience, researchers have said. “The deeper one goes into oneself, the more one finds one’s nature is sacred or spiritual,” Walsh said.
Hofmann discovered LSD while at a Swiss pharmaceutical company. The drug may be his best-known find, but he was a talented pharmacologist who would have been remembered in his field even without it, Walsh said.
In editing the book, Walsh said he was “blown away” to learn what wide-reaching impact psychedelic drugs have had across cultural boundaries.
As far as Hofmann’s legacy goes, Walsh said, “I think we’re still trying to figure that out. I think that it’s an ongoing one.”
The Times Union in Albany, New York published an article anounncing Albert Hofmann’s 100th birthday and includes an interview with Roger Walsh, providing his description of what a LSD trip might be like and its potentital to benefit the user.