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"As there are several detailed reports on the discovery of the psychotic and hallucinatory properties of Delysid (LSD 25), we shall confine ourselves to the salient features. During his investigations on the structure of the ergot alkaloids, Dr. A. Hofmann synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide. While working with the substance he experienced a strange, transient state of intoxication associated with changes in perception and personality. In order to ascertain the cause of this disorder he made a personal trial and ingested 250 millionths of a gram of Delysid. Even this small amount exerted dramatic effects: disturbances in the perception of space and time, depersonalisation and colored hallucinations. Subsequent systematic investigations showed that one-fifth of this amount i.e. 30 to 80 millionths of a gram, elicited mental changes reminiscent of symptoms of schizophrenia. An extraordinarily potent substance exerting specific effects on mental functions was thus discovered. It was destined to play a great role in experimental psychiatry.
Delysid has also enabled the doctor to gain an insight into the world of ideas of the mentally ill by experiencing schizophrenia-like symptoms himself. Such "model psychoses" can be studied in volunteers to evaluate therapeutic measures.
The release of inhibitions produced by Delysid has a therapeutic effect; it brings about the re-living of repressed emotional experiences and, by abreaction, facilitates psychotherapy.
The effect of Delysid on artistic production has also been studied under medical supervision. Delysid elicits a release of inhibitions and activates the subconscious without rendering the subject unconscious. Under the influence of Delysid a realistic mode of portrayal may undergo progressive distortion and result in a production reminiscent of abstract art.
It would be wrong to conclude from this that certain modern trends in art are manifestations of mental disorders. If they were, then so would be the artistic productions of primitive people and children. The important feature is the release of inhibitions consequent on the removal of control by reason which normally thrusts emotional experiences out of the consciousness into the subconscious, preventing them becoming active. Logical, rational thought is not alien to primitive peoples and to children even though these concentrate on intuition, pictorial thought and symbolism; their subconscious is not so repressed, can be more readily thrust into consciousness and can also be more easily traumatized, as is evidenced by running amok and falling into trances, reactions in which consciousness is temporarily absent and of which modern, rationally thinking man is not capable. This does not imply that Delysid can make an artist of each of us. The most that can be expected of the drug is activation of latent artistic tendencies. The creative faculties of the gifted artist are usually developed in a more natural way less frequently by the influence of alcohol (for instance E.T.A. Hoffman) or hashish ("paradis artificiel" of Baudelaire). "
- pp. 40- 42, from Drugs Eliciting Changes in Mental Behaviour in Sandoz 1886- 1961: Jubilee Volume
LSD is synthetic, but it is derived from the natural substances known as ergot alkaloids, which are produced by ergot (Claviceps purpurea), a fungus that grows on rye, and also by certain members of the Convolvulaceae or morning -glory family, notably Rivea corymbosa, Ipomoea violacea or Ipomoea tricolor, Ipomoea carnea, Argyreia nervosa (Hawaiian baby woodrose) and Merremia tuberosa (Hawaiian woodrose)
- pp. 10 - 12, Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered by Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar (1997)
In April 1943 a research chemist at the Swiss Headquarters of the Sandoz drug company had made an extraordinary discovery. Dr. Albert Hoffman was attempting to synthesize a drug from ergot, a fungus which attacks cereals. He began to feel dizzy, tipsy and restless. Hoffman lay down in the hope that the effects would soon pass off. But they did not. As a succession of colours and patterns drifted across his consciousness, he took the first LSD 'trip'.
Hoffman's discovery of LSD soon began to interest psychiatrists who wondered whether a drug which appeared to open the doors of perception might be valuable in treating mental illness. The results of their experiments were soon known to the chemical warfare scientists in all three members of the Tripartite Agreement, who began to evaluate the drug as a potential weapon.
The early results seemed encouraging.
"The British had found that LSD had great value in dealing with psychopaths. The Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal reported good results with LSD in reversing frigidity and sexual aberrations. American mental hospitals reported that treatment of schizophrenic children which LSD met with some success when all other known methods had failed," reported an American assessment.
-p. 187, A Higher Form of Killing: The Secret Story of Gas and Germ Warfare by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman (1983)