By Ben Hirschler of Reuters (eds: note date in copy)

    LONDON, Reuter - Fifty years after Dr Albert Hofmann, a research 
 chemist at Swiss drugs firm Sandoz, stumbled across the 
 mind-bending substance LSD on April 16, 1943, "acid" is once again 
 riding high.
    Police and drug experts say both supply and demand have 
 increased sharply worldwide as a new generation rediscovers the 
 drug which launched a million trips in the psychedelic 1960s.
    British seizures of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamine) leapt to 
 152,000 doses last year from 88,000 in 1991, after rising steadily 
 from 40,000 in 1988, customs data shows.
    In the United States, LSD is now second only to marijuana as the 
 recreational drug of choice among 12- to 17-year-olds, according to 
 recent federal studies.
    The Vienna-based United Nations' International Narcotics Control 
 Board reported earlier this year that "the abuse of LSD seems to be 
 re-emerging" across Europe.
    The upsurge in LSD use coincides with a global hippy revival 
 sweeping from provincial dance clubs to the fashion catwalks of 
    "We're seeing something of an acid revival. There's no question 
 about that," said Mike Goodman, director of the British drug 
 counselling agency Release.
    "There's a hippy, trippy scene out there again."
    Central London is peppered with dance clubs harking back 
 nostalgically to the original acid era with names like "Freak Out," 
 "The Mile High Club" and "Alice in Wonderland."
    Many dancers use hallucinogenic drugs routinely.
    "In some clubs drugs are seen as a prerequisite of a good time," 
 said Dave Swindells, clubs editor of London's Time Out listings 
    Ecstasy, with a street price of Stg15 to Stg25 ($A32.80 to 
 $A54.65 per tablet, is often the first choice. But LSD, at just 
 Stg3 to Stg5 ($A6.55 to $A10.93) a dose, is increasingly seen as a 
 cheap and powerful alternative.
    Though not addictive, the effects of LSD, which heightens and 
 distorts reality, are extremely unpredictable.
    For some the experience is a revelation. Others find it leads to 
 paranoia, long-term mental disturbance or even suicide with some 
 users killing themselves after suffering the delusion that they can 
    But Fraser Clarke, editor of underground magazine Evolution and 
 a long-standing LSD enthusiast, believes the drug has had a bad 
 press for too long.
    He is organising a big party in London's Hyde Park on April 18 
 to celebrate LSD's 50th anniversary and to emphasise what he says 
 are its positive, mind-expanding effects.
    It is one of a number of similar events planned worldwide.
    Hyde Park's famous Speakers Corner is to be renamed Trippers 
 Corner for the day. The highlight will be a bicycle race to mark a 
 7km ride taken by Hofmann 50 years ago after swallowing 250 
 micrograms (millionths of a gram) of LSD.
    Hofmann later recalled that first two-wheeled acid trip.
    "I had the greatest difficulty speaking conherently and my field 
 of vision fluctuated and was distorted like the reflections in an 
 amusement park mirror."
    In the years that followed, his new drug -- a derivative of 
 ergot, a mould which attacks rye -- fuelled growing controversy.
    Some psychotherapists and intellectuals believed it was a key to 
 unlock the workings of the human mind. The writer Aldous Huxley, 
 who asked for and received LSD on his deathbed, felt it opened the 
 door to true cosmic awareness.
    The late actor Cary Grant, one of 40,000 patients given LSD 
 therapeutically in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, also 
 praised its effects.
    Governments, too, were quick to realise its potential.
    The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) thought LSD could be 
 the ultimate truth drug: and a potentially awesome battlefield 
 weapon with which to debilitate soldiers.
    It embarked on a huge programme of LSD experiments, giving the 
 drug to CIA workers, soldiers, prisoners and mental patients. 
 Ironically, the main effect was to alert students and others to 
 LSD's potential, speeding its release on to the streets.
    On university campuses Dr Timothy Leary, the psychologist  
 turned high priest of acid culture, championed its cause with the 
 phrase "Tune in, turn on, drop out".
    Once out of CIA control, LSD use exploded in the United States 
 and abroad in 1960s as a handful of streetwise scientists 
 synthesised the drug, impregnating "tabs" of blotting paper or 
 sugar lumps with a soluble version.
    But by the mid-1960s the LSD backlash had begun and the drug was 
 finally banned on both sides of the Atlantic in 1967.
    Hofmann is saddened by the history of the drug he once described 
 as "my problem child".
    Now in his late 80s, he maintains LSD could have a therapeutic 
 benefit for some patients if used in small quantities under 
 controlled conditions.
    "Then in the future this problem child could become a wonder 
 child," he wrote.  
    REUTER js
  15-04-93 1102