Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  81 minutes
Date:  2012
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; German
Grade level: 8-12, COLLEGE, ADULT
Color/BW:  Color / Black and White
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
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The Substance

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Chock-full of rare footage and LSD-celebrity interviews, an informative and enteraining historical and scientific 'trip.'

The Substance

In 1943, at the Sandoz chemical-pharmaceutical laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, chemist Albert Hofmann, in search of a respiratory and circulatory stimulant, first synthesized LSD.

Martin Witz's THE SUBSTANCE: ALBERT HOFMANN'S LSD is an informative and entertaining investigation into the history of a drug so potent that mere fractions of a milligram can alter a subject's perception of reality.

Viewers learn how Hofmann's discovery became the subject of 1950's Cold War experiments by the American military and the CIA, who saw LSD as a potential weapon. Meanwhile, international psychiatrists and consciousness researchers tried to unlock the drug's medicinal possibilities, wondering whether it might be an effective tool for contemporary psychiatry or neuroscience.

In the early 1960s, Hofmann's 'miracle drug' escaped from the lab. The psychedelic substance appealed to the counterculture, whose members saw LSD as fuel for social and political revolution. Could spiritual peace be achieved at the flick of a chemical switch?

The notoriety and sense of possibility surrounding LSD persist to this day. Decades after it first began to appear on international anti-drug blacklists, doctors and researchers have resumed exploring potential medical and therapeutic applications for the drug.

Chock-full of rare archival footage of LSD-defining celebrities from Timothy Leary to Jimi Hendrix, as well as interviews with principal historical witnesses-including scientists, psychiatrists, and Hofmann himself, interviewed just before his death - THE SUBSTANCE: ALBERT HOFMANN'S LSD follows the story of LSD on a fascinating historical, scientific and cinematic trip.

'Martin Witz's fascinating film traces the history of the drug, from its early tests, possible military applications and to its eventual fame as drug-of-choice for the hippie generation, and it is a wonderfully mounted montage of archive footage and interviews that makes for compulsive viewing.' -Mark Adams, Screen Daily

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. 'THE SUBSTANCE is an excellent overview of the rise and fall of LSD' -Educational Media Reviews Online


** Locarno Film Festival
** Seattle International Film Festival
** BAFICI Buenos Aires
** One World Human Rights Film Festival, Prague
** Festival de Cine Europeo, Seville
** Festival dei Popoli, Florence
** IDFA International Documentary Film festival, Amsterdam
** DOK Leipzig
** Audience Award: Best Documentary, Berlin and Beyond Festival 2012


Main credits

Witz, Martin (screenwriter)
Witz, Martin (film director)
Guidinetti, Elda (film producer)
Pfäffli, Andres (film producer)
Roling, Trevor J. (narrator)

Other credits

Camera, Pio Corradi; music composer, Marcel Vaid; editing, Stefan Kälin.

Distributor credits

Martin Witz

Docuseek2 subjects

Alcohol, Drugs and Substance Abuse
20th Century
Vietnam Era
Science and Technology
History of Medicine
The 1960s and Vietnam Era

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Cultural Anthropology
Health Care Issues
History (U.S.)
History of Science
Neuroscience and Neurology
Science and Technology


trip; LSD; drug; drugs; Albert Hofmann; chemistry; science; trip; Timothy Leary; Jimi Hendrix; Martin Witz; "The Substance"; Icarus Films; American Studies,Biology,Cultural Anthropology, Health Care Issues,History (U.S.),History of Science.Medicine,Neuroscience & Neurology,Psychology,Science and Technology

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