Decision Regarding LSD 25 and Other Hallucinogenic Substances

More than twenty years have elapsed since the discovery by Albert Hofmann of LSD 25 in the SANdOz Laboratories. Whereas the . fundamental importance of this discovery may be assessed by its impact on the development of modern psychiatric research, it must be recognized that it placed a heavy burden of responsibility on SANDOZ, the owner of this product.

The finding of a new chemical with outstanding biological properties, apart from the scientific success implied by its synthesis, is usually the first decisive step toward profitable development of a new drug. In the case of LSD, however, it soon became clear that, despite the outstanding properties of this compound, or rather because of the very nature of these qualities, even though LSD was fully protected by SANDOZ-owned patents since the time of its first synthesis in 1938, the usual means of practical exploitation could not be envisaged.

On the other hand, all the evidence obtained following the initial studies in animals and humans carried out in the SANDOZ research laboratories pointed to the important role that this substance could play as an investigational tool in neurological research and in psychiatry.

It was therefore decided to make LSD available free of charge to qualified experimental and clinical investigators all over the world. This broad research approach was assisted by the provision of any necessary technical aid and in many instances also by financial support.

An enormous amount of scientific documents, published mainly in the international biochemical and medical literature and systematically listed in the "SANDOZ Bibliography on LSD" as well as in the "Catalogue of Literature on Delysid" periodically edited by SANDOZ, gives vivid proof of what has been achieved by following this line of policy over nearly two decades. By exercising this kind of "nobile officium" in accordance with the highest standards of medical ethics with all kinds of self-imposed precautions and restrictions, it was possible for many years to avoid the danger of abuse (i.e., use by people neither competent nor qualified), which is always inherent in a compound with exceptional CNS activity.

In spite of all our precautions, cases of LSD abuse have occurred from time to time in varying circumstances completely beyond the control of SANDOZ. Very recently this danger has increased considerably and in some parts of the world has reached the scale of a serious threat to public health. This state of affairs has now reached a critical point for the following reasons: (1) A worldwide spread of misconceptions of LSD has been caused by an increasing amount of publicity aimed at provoking an active interest in laypeople by means of sensational stories and statements; (2) In most countries no adequate legislation exists to control and regulate the production and distribution of substances like LSD; (3) The problem of availability of LSD, once limited on technical grounds, has fundamentally changed with the advent of mass production of lysergic acid by fermentation procedures. Since the last patent on LSD expired in 1963, it is not surprising to find that an increasing number of dealers in fine chemicals are offering LSD from unknown sources at the high price known to be paid by LSD fanatics.

Taking into consideration all the above-mentioned circumstances and the flood of requests for LSD which has now become uncontrollable, the pharmaceutical management of SANDOZ has decided to stop immediately all further production and distribution of LSD. The same policy will apply to all derivatives or analogues of LSD with hallucinogenic properties as well as to Psilocybin, Psilocin, and their hallucinogenic congeners.

For a while the distribution of LSD and psilocybin was stopped completely by Sandoz. Most countries had subsequently proclaimed strict regulations concerning possession, distribution, and use of hallucinogens, so that physicians, psychiatric clinics, and research institutes, if they could produce a special permit to work with these substances from the respective national health authorities, could again be supplied with LSD and psilocybin. In the United States the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) undertook the distribution of these agents to licensed research institutes.

All these legislative and official precautions, however, had little influence on LSD consumption in the drug scene, yet on the other hand hindered and continue to hinder medicinal-psychiatric use and LSD research in biology and neurology, because many researchers dread the red tape that is connected with the procurement of a license for the use of LSD. The bad reputation of LSD-its depiction as an "insanity drug" and a "satanic invention" - constitutes a further reason why many doctors shunned use of LSD in their psychiatric practice.

In the course of recent years the uproar of publicity about LSD has quieted, and the consumption of LSD as an inebriant has also diminished, as far as that can be concluded from the rare reports about accidents and other regrettable occurrences following LSD ingestion. It may be that the decrease of LSD accidents, however, is not simply due to a decline in LSD consumption. Possibly the recreational users, with time, have become more aware of the particular effects and dangers of LSD and more cautious in their use of this drug. Certainly LSD, which was for a time considered in the Western world, above all in the United States, to be the number-one inebriant, has relinquished this leading role to other inebriants such as hashish and the habituating, even physically destructive drugs like heroin and amphetamine. The last-mentioned drugs represent an alarming sociological and public health problem today.

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