LSD & The Bicycle Journey That Birthed The Beautiful Drug

by Krishnendu K
LSD & The Bicycle Journey That Birthed The Beautiful Drug

October 3, 2020

The word LSD (and maybe the recently legalized cannabis in Pakistan) arises vivid images of trippy patterns, neon colors, and an out-of-earth feeling in our minds, painted mostly by Hollywood.

But what if we tell you that LSD had a humble beginning in the laboratory of an ancient Swiss city?

Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.

- Steve Jobs

Story of LSD

LSD was born in Basel, a city known for bordering French and Germany. It became home to silk dyers during the Reformation, making it a curious place of different chemicals. When Albert Hoffman, a chemist at the Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, experimented with a rye fungus called ergot to find plant-derived stimulants, a compound that involved lysergic acid was filed away as Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25 or LSD-25.

According to a BBC report, the animal tests conducted did not reflect any impressive results, and thus the project was shelved. But that just fuelled Hoffman’s curiosity.  On 16 April 1943, Hoffman saw a play of colors and shapes when he was re-synthesizing LSD-25. Three days later, he ingested it. That evening as Hoffman pedaled back home, the world around him opened into a kaleidoscopic dream.  

He had experienced the first acid trip! 

His ventures deep into nature as a child had given him similar euphoric moments that filled him with “an indescribable sensation of joy, oneness, and blissful security,” as he wrote in his book LSD – My Problem Child.

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Hofmann was also the first person to isolate, synthesize, and name the principal psychedelic mushroom compounds psilocybin and psilocin.

LSD in World War II and Post-War Era

Cut to the end of World War-II, LSD was marketed as Delysid – a golden drug to cure anxiety, trauma, and depression (do not try this at home). From authors to musicians and movie stars, LSD swept everyone off their feet, sometimes literally too! Till the late 1960s, the world was a psychedelic dream, as laws like the US Controlled Substances Act and Britain’s Misuse of Drugs Act came into effect only in 1970 and 1973, respectively.

Every year on 19 April, Basel transforms into a trippy scene with art events and science conferences as many celebrate ‘Bicycle Day’ commemorating Hoffman’s acid trip. Even if you consider adding this celebration to the after-corona bucket list, just don’t do drugs.

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Vaue of Psychedelic Drugs Market by 2027

How Does LSD Affect You?

Psychedelic substances like LSD show us new realms that otherwise stay hidden from our perceptions. This statement is true as LSD influences the brain by affecting dopamine, adrenergic, glutamate receptors, and serotonin receptor 5H2TA. 

“Every acoustic happening, such as the sound of a door handle or a passing automobile, transformed into optical illusions. Every sound generated a keenly changing image, with its own consistent form and color,” Hoffman had mentioned in his book LSD – My Problem Child.

Yes, it can cause hallucinations and intensify emotions. While many people associate drugs like LSD with a sense of euphoria and happiness, that’s not true in all cases. Most drug users call it a ‘good trip’ or a ‘bad trip’ depending on how they feel after ingesting acid (or any other substance). A bad trip can be dangerous, especially if one is suffering from existing psychological conditions.

The unpredictability of the drug is exactly what pushed the authorities to ban its use. However, new researches are taking place to find out how LSD can be used for medical purposes.

LSD was an incredible experience. Not that I’m recommending it for anybody else; but for me it kind of – it hammered home to me that reality was not a fixed thing. That the reality that we saw about us every day was one reality, and a valid one – but that there were others, different perspectives where different things have meaning that were just as valid. That had a profound effect on me.

- Alan Moore

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