July 27, 2009 — -- Nothing's happening, Udo Schulz thought to himself with quiet regret. I must have been given the placebo. He was lying on a mattress in a brightly lit room, waiting for the first real drug experience of his life.
Schulz, 44, is German and suffers from cancer. He is also the first person in more than three decades who has been allowed to consume LSD legally in the context of a scientific study. The goal of the study is to determine whether lysergic acid diethylamide, the notoriousdrug of the hippy era, could be useful in the treatment of certain emotional disorders.
It was May 13, 2008, and it was quiet, as it usually is, in Solothurn, a small, picturesque Baroque town at the foot of the Jura Mountains in Switzerland. The Aare River, a tributary of the Rhine, flows at a more leisurely pace here than it does in the Swiss capital Bern, past Roman walls, the Krummer Turm ("Crooked Tower") and the imposing Cathedral of St. Ursus. There could hardly be a better spot for a study with such a potentially explosive impact on society than this inconspicuous little Swiss town.
The wall of the treatment room was decorated with a red tapestry, a gong, a drum and a portrait of a smiling Buddha. Peter Gasser, a psychiatrist, and fellow therapist Barbara Speich crouched next to the patient on thin foam rubber mats.
They sat there for at least half an hour, waiting. "Then I finally sensed that something was changing in my psyche," recalls Schulz. "Wow, it was fantastic!"