When the pillars of society try to kick open the doors of perception

Jon Snow once ate LSD-spiked flan, but he isn't the only establishment acid casualty. By Tim Walker

Among the subjects invited to sample ecstasy for Channel 4's Drugs Live programme this week were an acclaimed novelist and a priest.

The experiment recalled the early days of LSD, when respectable members of the establishment took the psychedelic drug for the purposes of public research.

And it gave one of its presenters, Jon Snow, a vivid flashback.

Snow claimed, in a blog written before the programme was broadcast, that he once ingested the hallucinogenic inadvertently, aged 22 or thereabouts, by eating two slices of an LSD-laced strawberry flan at a party in Oxford.

He then attempted to drive home to London, but was forced to yield the wheel to a non-tripping passenger, after he became convinced that the Mini they were in was too large to fit beneath a motorway bridge.

And James Bond actor Sir Sean Connery warned an author not to take LSD because he had experienced a bad trip when he tried the drug himself, it has been claimed.

Irish writer Edna O'Brien revealed in her new memoir that the star advised her against trying the drug. She claimed that Connery told her how his trip with the Scottish psychiatrist R D Laing in 1970 had a "freight of terrors". Connery's experience, O'Brien claims, had brought back unwelcome memories from his rough childhood.

Disgraced former Tory MP Jonathan Aitken was similarly critical of the drug when he "reviewed" it for London's Evening Standard in 1965.

"This drug needs police, the Home Office and a dictator to stamp it out," Aitken opined.

Yet the art critic, Brian Sewell, recalling the period more recently in the same paper, wrote that his LSD visions had "made the paintings of Salvador Dali in his prime seem the poor, pale, pedestrian inventions of a plodding mind".

Other high-profile individuals – besides The Beatles – have been similarly effusive in their recollections. Cary Grant took acid regularly during the 1950s, as part of his psychotherapy.

The DNA pioneer Francis Crick was reportedly a fan of its mind-altering properties and even allegedly "perceived" the double-helix structure of his discovery while tripping.

Crick was a devotee of novelist Aldous Huxley, who wrote of his own experimentation with hallucinogens in his stories The Doors Of Perception and Heaven and Hell.

The Apple founder Steve Jobs described his LSD use – he took the drug up to 15 times during the early 1970s – as "a positive life-changing experience".

Roger Sterling, the fictional scion of the Sterling advertising dynasty in Mad Men, was also converted to the pleasures of LSD in the most recent series of the 1960s-set drama.

But newsreader Snow might be more reassured by the news that Dan Rather, the esteemed former US news anchor, has also confessed obliquely to drug use – almost all in the name of journalism, naturally.

In a 1980 interview with Ladies' Home Journal, he said that "as a reporter – and I don't want to say that's the only context – I've tried everything.

"I can say to you with confidence, I know a fair amount about LSD… my curiosity has carried me into a lot of interesting areas."