Published on http://www.popsci.com
“When David Nichols earned a Ph.D in medicinal chemistry from the University of Iowa in 1973 by studying psychedelics, he thought he would continue studying hallucinogens indefinitely. “I thought I would work on it for the rest of my life,” he says.
His timing was less than fortuitous. In 1970, the year after Nichols started grad school, Richard Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act, designed to clamp down on the manufacture and distribution of drugs in the U.S. The act classified hallucinogenic substances like LSD, DMT, psilocybin (the psychedelic alkaloid in mushrooms) and mescaline as Schedule I substances–the most restrictive use category, reserved for drugs with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Marijuana was also placed in this category, and 15 years later when ecstasy came onto the scene, MDMA was emergency-classified as a Schedule I substance as well. By contrast, cocaine, opium and morphine are Schedule II substances, meaning they can be prescribed by a doctor.
Despite some promising results from trials of psychedelics in treating alcoholism, psychiatric conditions and modeling mental illness, by the early ’70s, the government had tightened control of Schedule I substances, even for research. It’s only now that we’re starting to return to the notion that these drugs could be medicine.
If you wanted to kill your career, you did research on psychedelics.
Starting in the early ’90s, and as more scientists prove it’s feasible, increasingly in the last decade, researchers have been approved to conduct clinical trials with human subjects, and there are promising results showing that substances like MDMA could be useful in treating depression and curing PTSD, and that classical psychedelics like psilocybin and LSD could be a way to soothe anxiety in the terminally ill, treat alcoholism and more. But it’s still far from an easy field to break into.
In 1938, a Swiss chemist named Albert Hofmann synthesized LSD for the first time while studying ergots, a type of fungus. Though the pharmaceutical company that he worked for, Sandoz, didn’t have any interest in the compound, Hofmann found himself inexplicably drawn to it. Five years later, in the spring of 1943, he synthesized it again, noticing that it seemed to have unusual properties: After accidentally absorbing small amounts through his fingertips one day in the lab, Hofmann had to leave work early, under the effects of what he called “a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition.” A few days later, he experimented with taking what he thought was a small dose of LSD, about 250 micrograms (a common dose now is more on the order of 100 micrograms), and proceeded to trip out of his mind, an experience he describes in his book LSD: My Problem Child.” CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE>>>>