The Substance: Albert Hofmann's LSD (2011) Script

I had this wondrous experience.

But I didn't know how it had happened.

All my thoughts turned into pictures.

Beautiful! I lay down at home in the afternoon.

And then it slowly faded away.

Watching these strange pictures and feeling exhilarated.


And it was... a terrible experience.

Terrible because it felt as if...

I was in another world, and I knew that I had a young family and now I had to go away, had to leave that beautiful world.

This was an awful, a tormenting experience.

Fear! It was the feeling... yes, of my being in another world, I'm not...

This has to be the end. I'm on the other side.

My wife came home at midnight.

And the positive phase returned.

I came back and... then, the next day, when I woke up, I had the feeling of entering into a new life.

Of being reborn.

I'd already been to the beyond, you might say.

In my consciousness, it was almost like I'd died.


Immediately, I realized, as others did, that this was a tremendously interesting substance for psychiatry.

Your psyche and your consciousness were altered.

This was a new tool for psychiatric research.


The substance gradually becomes effective.

Meanwhile we will record brain activity.

Ready. Ready to start.

Close your eyes.


For the first ten years, it certainly was a wonder drug.

It was a very important resource in psychiatry for patients.

And I was always convinced that the real use for LSD would still be found.

It couldn't just disappear, that was impossible.


How is our consciousness created?

It's created by what reaches us through our senses.

Every time we perceive something, it makes up our consciousness.

It works via our senses. And what LSD does, how the whole mechanism works, is that our senses are intensified, tremendously intensified.

Then we see the world in a different way.


Would you like to break off the experiment?


LSD and psilocybin are related in chemical structure to natural neurotransmitters in our brains.

They affect a part of the brain that monitors other brain areas by means of combination.

This is how LSD can be highly potent even in the smallest doses.

We can establish which brain regions these substances affect.

We can localize these psychological alterations and see which networks are active.

The emotional areas responsible for fear are, in part, muted.

Others, which are responsible for feelings of happiness, are heightened, the visual level is filled internally.

So internal life is greatly intensified.

A good trip dissolves your ego slowly and progressively.

You become one with your environment, you give up control but it can be enjoyable.

You feel integrated, as one.

And this gives you a feeling of happiness.

Time and space are abandoned, that's my personal view, and you flow into the experience.

You are the experience.

We call it oceanic boundlessness.


These mushrooms were analysed, first in America then in Europe, Paris to no avail: The active ingredients couldn't be isolated.

Then they thought, there's that substance in Basel, LSD, and it has the same effects.

So they asked us if we were interested in analysing the mushrooms.

That's how LSD brought this mushroom to my laboratory.

Natural science shows what exists, objectively speaking.

But you still have to see it, you have to reflect on it.

And a scientist sees secrets, objective secrets.

And I think that a chemist who's not a mystic is not a real chemist.

He doesn't comprehend it.


Mr Wasson was delighted.

He told us he'd love to take us with him to Mexico, and show us this world of wonders.

So we went on that expedition to Mazatec country in the south.


My friend Gordon explained to Maria Sabina that we'd isolated the spirit of the mushroom.

So she could carry out her ceremony with these pills.

She then organized a meeting.

And when the pills had been handed out, there was a wonderful ceremony that lasted until the next morning.


In these sacred drugs, I basically discovered LSD.

That's what makes LSD so significant.

Not only due to its effect but also because of its chemical structure, LSD belongs to these drugs that were discovered thousands of years ago.

From the infinite number of plants something had been selected and deemed sacred.

And then, and this is decisive, they were always used in a sacred context.

The Indians still use them, they prepare, fast and pray, then come into contact with the higher powers of another world.


And then he placed an order with the company.

I don't know, maybe 200 grams... of LSD and half a kilo of psilocybin!

And then he invited me to come and visit him.

He said he was doing big events, big congresses and so on.

So I wrote to him that this I would not do as everything was still being investigated.

Why all this propaganda when everything... is still developing!


And then I accused him of forcing LSD onto young people. Very young people.

LSD needs preparation, it needs a certain maturity.

And it's irresponsible to tinker with, or enter the psyches of, people who are still developing with such an instrument as this.

This I reproached him with.


After my personal experiences, I never thought a substance with such an effect would ever reach the streets.

Yes, drug abuse.

When a substance is out there and exists, you don't have control over it any more.


Essentially, the whole world is enchanted.

The deeper you look into living nature, the more wonderful you realize it is.

And I also believe you feel that you are in good keeping there.

You belong to it and you're blessed, you can see and experience it.

Yes, consciousness is the greatest gift to mankind in creation.

Having consciousness.

That man becomes aware of having been created.

That we're aware of creation.

That we're not just walking blindly through paradise.