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Why the effect of LSD is so long

The crystal structure of the hallucinogen and its receptor has been clarified and explains why trips do not end: when the drug binds to the receptor, it does not let go of it.

If the keyword “bicycle day” falls and is therefore the 19th of April, then some are quite transfigured, others would rather not be reminded: On April 19, 1943, pharmacist Albert Hofman tested something that he synthesized in 1938, a derivative of the Lysergic acid. He hoped for a circulatory medication, but his test mice were only restless, the active substance came into the fundus. On 19 April 1943, Hofman took him out and tasted it, then sat down on his bike and drove home.

“5 pm. Beginning dizziness, anxiety, paralysis, “he later recorded:” The most severe crisis. My environment had changed in a frightening way. “A” demon “only put him in fear and fright, then made him happy with an” unprecedented color play “. Thus LSD was in the world, one of the hardest hallucinogens. Not only drug friends experimented with this, but also the US military and the CIA did, there were dead. It was also in the 1960s, when Timothy Leary staged a cult around the consciousness-expanding effect.

Then this drug came out of fashion, with the 1990s she returned. Some psychologists are experimenting with this, hoping for drugs for depression and drug addiction. Among them is Franz Vollenweider ; he has just come to the not too surprising conclusion that some music is perceived quite differently if one has LSD in the brain (Current Biology 26. 1.).

Others are experimenting with this, in Silicon Valley, for example, LSD is used in amounts that have no hallucinogenic effect: this “microdosing” is designed to lift creativity. Whether it is, it is unknown, it is certain that one of the miracles of LSD is that the effect is extremely long, a trip can take place over a day. Bryan Roth (University of North Carolina) has shown how this works: After two dozen years of hard work, he and his team have succeeded in clarifying the crystal structure of LSD. And not only it, but also that of the receptor in the brain, binds to the LSD. It is the one for the neurotransmitter serotonin. If it binds to it, it does not happen much, the neurotransmitter is quickly removed.


Possible medical benefits

If it is LSD, however, the receptor folds in the binding so that it attaches a molecular bracket over the drug, it only slowly and rarely releases itself, the brain helps itself by the whole receptor with the drug in it disposed (Cell, 26. 1.). “We do not recommend LSD, it is very dangerous,” Roth concludes: “But it could have medical benefits. And after we’ve solved the structure, we’ll learn what makes LSD so potent. “

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