LSD & Bicycle Day Have Something In Common

Albert Hofman goes tripping!

Self-experimentation need not always been painful or gross as we have seen in the previous posts of this month under the title DOCTORS & SCIENTISTS WHO SELF- EXPERIMENTED. Sometimes these experiments have actually given their subjects a high. This is one such experiment.

Albert Hofman was a Swiss scientist born in Baden, Switzerland on 11thJanuary 1906. He is most famous for being the first man to ever get high on LSD, since he was the first person to synthesize it. Not only did he extract it, he used it on himself and described the after effects.

After his education Hofman was employed by Sandoz, the pharmaceutical company. It was here that he began his studies about various medicinal plants. He learnt about the therapeutic effects of the plant squill and fungus ergot.

He had also been examining the derivatives of lysergic acid and their properties. He had first synthesized LSD on 16thNovember 1938. The main intention behind producing LSD was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant with no effects on the uterus. Somehow this study was put on the backburner for a period of 5 years where he got involved with other things.

On 16thApril 1943, Hofman suddenly thought of re-examining this study. While working on LSD, he accidentally touched his hand to his mouth and nose ingesting a small amount and discovered the powerful effects of the magic potion. He writes in his book LSD: MY PROBLEM CHILD –

… 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 found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours. After some two hours this condition faded away

Three days later he decided to ingest a tiny bit intentionally and see what would happen. So, he took 0.25mg of the substance that he called lyserg-saure-diathyamid(LSD). It was known as lysergic acid in English.

After consuming the substance, Hofman had to travel back home but as there was no car available because it was wartime, he decided to cycle home. It was a two-and-a-half-mile ride. He didn’t know it yet, but he was actually tripping on LSD all the way back to his house. This day is now known as Bicycle Day. Hofman describes this cycle ride in his 1980 autobiography-


I had to struggle to speak intelligibly. I asked my laboratory assistant to escort me home. On the way, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had travelled very rapidly

His wife and children weren’t at home and so Hofman lay on the couch all by himself where his condition became scarier. He describes what he was experiencing –

My surroundings had now transformed themselves in more terrifying ways. Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms. They were in continuous motion, animated, as if driven by an inner restlessness.

He asked his assistant to call a doctor and also his neighbour to get him some milk. When his neighbour brought him the milk, he says that he drank more than 2 litres. But he was so high that she had transformed from “Mrs R” to a “malevolent, insidious witch with a coloured mask”. He says-

Even worse than these demonic transformations of the outer world, were the alterations I perceived in myself, in my inner being. Every exertion of my will, every attempt to put an end to the disintegration of the outer world and the dissolution of my ego, seemed to be wasted effort.

A demon had invaded me, had taken possession of my body, mind, and soul. I jumped up and screamed, trying to free myself from him, but then sank down again and lay helpless on the sofa. The substance, with which I had wanted to experiment, had vanquished me. It was the demon that scornfully triumphed over my will. Was I dying? My body seemed without sensation., lifeless and strange.

This effect lasted for a few hours and then slowly the hallucinations began to disappear. He went to bed waking up the next morning, completely alert and according to him “breakfast never tasted better”

This self-experiment showed Hofman that LSD behaved as a psychoactive substance and was very potent. What was even more strange to him was that he could remember the experience of LSD in minute detail which meant that his conscious mind hadn’t been interrupted. And yes the other surprising effect of LSD was that it produced a far reaching, powerful state of inebriation without any hangover.

Hofman’s interest in this led him in the late 1950’s and 60’s to isolate and synthesize the hallucinogen “magic mushrooms”, psilocybin.

He made a scientific investigation into the ancient Greek cult of Eleusis in which participants took a secret mind-altering plant ingredient. He and two fellow researchers concluded that the mystery elixir came from a substance similar to LSD. He co-wrote a 1978 book on it, Road to Eleusis.

Hoffman died of heart attack on 29thApril 2008 at the age of 102



  • LSD is known by various street names like acid, trips, tabs, blotters, microdots, stars, white lightning, purple mike, blue mike, windows, Superman, strawberries, etc.
  • LSD simulates serotonin and endorphins among other chemicals in the brain, which make you elated and pleasured.
  • Once a group of scientists, funded by NASA, gave dolphins LSD in an attempt to communicate with them. They found that more than 70% dolphins were more vocal after they were administered with LSD.
  • It takes about 20-60 minutes to kick the LSD. The total trip on LSD lasts between 6.5 and 13 hours.
  • Known as the “Acid King,” William Leonard Pickard is considered the largest manufacturer of LSD in the American history.
  • Paul McCartney of the Beatles once said that LSD “opened his eyes” . There were a number of other members of pop and heavy metal bands who advocated the effects of LSD
  • The British army tested LSD on its Marines in 1964… and filmed it.
  • LSD is not addictive.

This post is a part of the #AToZChallenge-2018

My theme for this month is DOCTORS & SCIENTISTS WHO SELF EXPERIMENTED. You can read all other posts here









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