While reporting on my C&EN cover story this week about “Psychedelic medicines” being studied to treat intractable mental health conditions, I learned about Albert Hofmann’s lab exposure incident when he was purifying and crystallizing the tartrate salt of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD):
I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, 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 perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.
Hofmann made a few hundred milligrams of the compound that day, Hofmann wrote in his memoir. How much Hofmann ingested and how a mystery. When he started dosing himself intentionally, he began at 250 µg, which produced a much more intense experience than he had with the lab exposure. In any case, the anecdote shows the value of being cautious about any new compound made for research when you don’t know its health effects and potency.
(Yes, this is being posted on April 1. No, it is not an April fool’s joke.)