This blog post was originally published two years ago. It is being re-published in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Bicycle Day.
Happy Bicycle Day everyone! For those of you that are unaware, April 19th is a day of celebration in the psychedelic community because it signifies the day that Albert Hofmann, the creator of LSD, took his first intentional LSD trip back in 1943.
You see, Hofmann first synthesized LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) on November 16, 1938 in the Sandoz laboratories in Basel, Switzerland. He was researching lysergic acid derivatives to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an analeptic). The chemical was set aside for nearly five years until April 16, 1943, when Hofmann decided to revisit it. While re-synthesizing a new batch of LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small amount through his fingertips and found that it had powerful effects, which he described as 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 found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away."
Three days later, on April 19, he decided to intentionally increase the dose for a self-experiment, at a level that he thought would be a minuscule dose—250 micrograms (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms). This is a fairly large dose in actuality, and it hit him like a ton of bricks. Less than an hour later, he began experiencing abrupt and intense changes in perception, and asked his laboratory assistant to accompany him home. The personal use of motor vehicles was restricted because this was during World War II, and the pair had to make the journey by bicycle.
During the bicycle ride, Hofmann struggled with difficult emotions and thoughts, believing that his next-door neighbor was a malevolent witch, that he was going insane, that LSD had poisoned him, among other anxious thoughts. A house doctor was called for, who could find no physical abnormalities aside from Hofmann's extremely dilated pupils. This reassured Hofmann, who later wrote:
"... Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux..."
So how does one celebrate Bicycle Day? Well, there isn't really a defined method of celebration, but one could take LSD, ride a bicycle, check out Hofmann's book My Problem Child, donate to MAPS to support psychedelic research or to Erowid to support harm reduction and drug education, attend a local psychedelic dinner, or spread the word about any of these things. At any rate, be safe in whatever you do, and Happy Bicycle Day!