Drug and Alcohol

LSD: The Effects and Dangers of Using LSD

LSD: The Effects and Dangers of Using LSD

LSD is a powerful psychedelic drug which can be both dangerous and compulsive. Learn more about the risks of LSD abuse in our blog.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is among the stronger, mind-altering drugs that have become synonymous with substance abuse and addiction. LSD is often called acid, and it is made from a fungus that grows on rye and other types of grains, but it is a manufactured drug and not a naturally occurring substance.

LSD was first made in 1938. During the 1960s, LSD became more popular as a recreational drug because it could create intense hallucinations and other mental alterations, quickly developing a reputation for helping people feel and think beyond the normal boundaries of the human mind. Read ahead to understand more about LSD addiction and treatment.

By the Numbers:

The use of LSD between 2002 and 2019 increased largely in all age groups. From 0.9 percent in 2002, it increased to 4 percent in 2019. 

What Is LSD?

Known as lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that distorts the senses. It's also long-lasting; an LSD "trip" can last for up to 12 hours. LSD was synthesized from the fungus ergot in the 1930s. Ergot grows on grains, and Swiss chemists were looking for ways ergot could be potentially useful in medicine.

In the late 1940s, LSD was marketed as a psychiatric drug. On a creepy historical note, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted clandestine experiments with LSD starting in the 1950s. Called the MKUltra Program, this project took place in prisons, hospitals, and other facilities, often without the full consent of participants.

In the 1960s, counterculture figures including Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary adopted LSD. The drug was made illegal in 1968.

LSD is believed to work by affecting areas in our brains that control serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls the way we behave, our perception, our moods, and more. LSD alters the way we experience the world, often causing vivid hallucinations.

LSD: Is LSD Addictive?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls mood, perception, and other functions of the human brain. It is thought that LSD's pronounced effects come from how it interacts with serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is associated with the feeling of being happy, euphoric, or elated. This makes LSD rather potent as compared to other hallucinogens.

But still, many people believe that developing an LSD addiction takes a bit longer as compared to other, commonly abused substances like benzos. LSD is illegal in many countries, and the United States considers it to be a Schedule I controlled substance, which means it has a high chance of being abused and no known or established medical application.

Though LSD is not considered to be physically addictive, it can create serious dependence. This means that it does not cause withdrawal symptoms like alcohol or opioids that can lead to severe physical dependency, but LSD can still make a person feel like they need it to feel normal or deal with the stresses of everyday life. This is called psychological dependence, and it can be stronger than physical withdrawal symptoms like feeling chills or shivering.

It is important to know that addiction to LSD might not be commonly understood. Many people who use the drug do not become addicted right away. It is also considered a relatively safer option for people who are trying recreational drugs for the first time. But for those who do become dependent, getting help from a professional is the only choice because LSD addiction symptoms and side effects can be very strong, often debilitating the person if LSD has been abused over an extended period. 

Some other aspects of LSD abuse that you should know about:

  • LSD Tolerance: Unlike many other drugs, tolerance to LSD does not happen quickly, so even after a lot of use, the effects of LSD can still be very strong. This is not common to other popular party or club drugs.

  • LSD Flashbacks: People who use LSD may also talk about suffering from strange flashbacks, which are times when they have hallucination-type visions or similar effects from the drug even when they are not taking it. This LSD effect makes it different from some other commonly abused substances.

  • LSD Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder: In some cases, long-term LSD use can lead to HPPD. In this condition, hallucinations and visual distortions last for a long time, even after discontinuing the drug.

  • LSD Emotional Effects: LSD can have very strong emotional and mental effects that can last for a long time even after the drug wears off or a large part of it has exited the body. Some people may continue to feel anxious, sad, or have other mental symptoms for weeks or months after they stop using LSD.

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What Are Some Names for LSD?

The names of street drugs and party drugs often come from the different ways in which the drug is sold and used, such as blotter paper, sugar cubes, or microdots that are often used for LSD. Using street names for drugs helps hide what they really are, making it easier for people to get and use them without drawing attention.

LSD is a strong and potentially dangerous drug that can have damaging effects even when used occasionally but in a strong dosage. Some common street names for LSD include:

  • Acid

  • Blotter

  • Doses

  • Sunshine in yellow

  • Lucy

  • Zen

  • Sugar cubes

  • Windowpane

  • Microdots

What Does LSD Look Like?

LSD typically appears as small squares of paper with images or designs on them. The paper is cut into various sizes depending on the concentration of LSD and can range from a quarter inch to an inch square.

These squares are usually called “tabs” or “blotters” and will have either perforations in them that allow it to be broken up into smaller doses or have the LSD printed on them. LSD also comes in other forms including gelatin, sugar cubes, liquid, and pill form.

Finally, in its pure form, LSD looks like a white, crystalline powder. However, it is important to note that although these other forms exist, they are much less common than paper blotters.

When purchasing LSD it is important to note that it may not always look like what you are expecting. The drug is often diluted or “cut” with other substances, so it may appear different from what is typically described as LSD.

Additionally, it is important to be aware that there can always be an impurity in the drug or the batch may have been tampered with which could lead to unpredictable and dangerous effects. Therefore, it is best to acquire LSD from a reputable source.

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What Does LSD Smell Like?

No matter what form it takes, all LSD will have a potent and distinct odor. This odor is often described as “chemical” or “solvent-like” and can be stronger depending on the concentration of the drug. The taste also varies between different batches and forms, but typically has an acidic or bitter flavor.

It is important to remember that LSD can be dangerous and should only be consumed by those who are aware of the potential risks. The effects of the drug can range from uplifting and pleasant to potentially harmful or even deadly, so it is best to proceed with caution when handling the drug.

How Do People Take LSD?

Most people swallow LSD or dissolve it in paper form under their tongues. It's also possible to snort, inject, or smoke LSD.

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What Are the Effects of LSD?

The effects of LSD can range from person to person, depending on the individual's physiology, psychology, and environment. Generally, the effects of LSD are felt within half an hour to two hours after use and usually last between six to twelve hours. The most common effects include visual distortions, perception changes, feelings of euphoria or anxiety, and increased awareness of the senses.

Other effects may include altered perception of time and space, increased energy, and heightened creativity. In rare cases, individuals may experience intense fear or paranoia, which is why it is important to understand the potential risks associated with consuming LSD.

Other than these physical and psychological effects, long-term use of LSD can also lead to various mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Additionally, LSD use has been linked to flashbacks or "hallucinogen persisting perception disorder" (HPPD) which can lead to an inability to focus and disturbances in visual perception. Therefore, it is important to proceed with caution when using this drug and be aware of the potential risks associated with it.

What Are the Risks of LSD Use?

The most common risk associated with LSD use is an unpredictable reaction. This can mean that the effects of a single dose may vary drastically from one individual to another or even from one experience to the next. Therefore, it is important to proceed with caution and be aware of the potential risks before consuming this drug.

In addition, long-term use of LSD has been linked to serious mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and paranoia. Additionally, accidental overdoses can occur if too much of the drug is taken in a short period of time which can lead to dangerous effects on the body and mind.

Finally, it is important to note that LSD is illegal in many countries and states across the world so it is best to check local laws before attempting to purchase or consume this drug.

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LSD: Is LSD Addiction Possible?

It is hard to say who is more likely to become addicted to LSD because the chances of becoming addicted vary a lot across different people. But there are a few things that may make it more than likely for someone to become more psychologically dependent on LSD. This is why the following parameters are associated with increased chances of developing an LSD addiction:

  • History of drug use: People who have abused or become addicted to other types of drugs in the past are more likely to become addicted to LSD.

  • Frequency of use: People who use LSD more often or for longer periods of time are more likely to become dependent on it as compared to people who reserve it for occasional partying.

  • Genetics: Some research suggests that a person's genes may play a role in whether they can get addicted to LSD though there isn’t a standard test to determine this beyond doubt.

  • Mental health status: People who have been diagnosed with mental health problems in the past may be more likely to become addicted to LSD. This includes people with anxiety, depression, or bipolar symptoms or those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

It is important to know that LSD addiction is not as understood as addiction to cocaine or alcohol. There can be many more reasons that make someone more susceptible to LSD addiction but invariably, it takes some time for this addiction to emerge as a serious threat that needs specialist care found in a rehab center.

LSD Abuse Signs: How Do You Know if Someone Is Abusing LSD?

There are many different signs of LSD abuse, such as:

  • Hallucinations: LSD can cause strong hallucinations of sight and sound that can last for several hours or even for days, even after abstaining from using it again.

  • Delusions: The person may have false beliefs or ideas that are not based on reality.

  • Mood swings: The person may have sudden changes in mood, such as feeling very happy or very scared within a short period without a clear reason for either type of emotion.

  • Disorientation: The person may feel like they do not know where they are or how to tell the difference between reality and their own thoughts.

  • Paranoia: LSD can make the person feel paranoid or extremely anxious, rendering a person unable to be productive at the workplace or school.

  • Unusual behavior: The person may act erratically or in a strange manner, like getting angry or even violent, apart from acting on impulse.

Some of the physical symptoms are a faster heartbeat and bigger pupils along with higher body temperature and intense sweating. It is important to remember that everyone's experience with LSD is more likely to be different, and some people may have different or stronger symptoms.

Also, signs of LSD abuse can be similar to those of other psychiatric conditions and other substance abuse disorders, and this is why a professional evaluation is needed to make an accurate diagnosis, the type only available at an accredited drug detox or rehab facility that caters to cases of LSD addiction.

Changes in thought patterns are also associated with LSD use. The person might develop opinions that are contradictory to what friends and family have seen before—this is why an LSD addiction is more likely to be spotted early if the loved ones pay attention to such changes in a person’s behavior.

How Does LSD Addiction Affect the Body?

LSD can also have long-term physical effects. Some people who use the drug repeatedly over a long period might develop long-term changes in their vision or hearing. Also, because LSD is often mixed with other drugs, there is a risk of overdosing or the person becoming a threat to his own safety and that of others around him. LSD abuse can have a number of physical effects on the body, including:

  • Dry mouth: The person may feel a persistent state of dryness in the mouth that does not go away even after consuming lots of fluids.

  • Numbness: The person may feel a certain type of numbness along with some tingling in the fingers or toes.

  • Dilated pupils: The pupils can get bigger, which makes it hard to focus on things and makes the eyes sensitive to light. This is a classical symptom in forms of drug addiction too.

  • Body temperature: LSD can make the body's temperature go up, which can cause sweating, chills, and goosebumps. The person might sweat even during the winter season and complain about sweaty hands.

  • Muscle weakness: LSD can make the muscles weak, which makes it hard to coordinate your movements and makes you feel like you are not on solid ground. Some people might struggle to carry out basic tasks like taking out the trash.

  • Increased heart rate: LSD can make the heartbeat faster, which can cause palpitations and a feeling that the heart is beating quickly or racing. Some people might talk about feeling as if the heart is thumping against the chest.

Side Effects of LSD

LSD doesn’t really get people “high” in the traditional sense of the word. Instead, LSD changes how people perceive everything around them: sight, hearing, touch, and mood are all things LSD affects. This is because of how LSD works.

When a person takes LSD, the drug activates serotonin receptors in the brain. This causes the brain to release more serotonin, which allows a person to take in more outside stimuli. Increased levels of serotonin, in turn, change the way a person thinks, perceives the world, and the way they express emotion. Also, LSD lowers activity in other areas of the brain.

Combined, a person on LSD experiences the world radically differently. It’s similar to a brain condition called synesthesia. Someone experiencing an LSD ‘trip” may think they can smell colors, or taste certain sounds. Others experience vivid hallucinations.

Finally, some LSD users experience a “bad trip” where they feel and see disturbing hallucinations.

LSD: Effects on Perception

Here is a short list of the ways LSD changes the way we interpret the world:

  • Visual Hallucinations: Unusually vivid colors, visual trails and other distortions

  • Effects on Thinking: LSD affects the way we perceive time, can create a sense of well-being or even omniscience, and in some cases can create intensely frightening thoughts

  • Changes in Senses: People on LSD can hear, smell, and even taste things that aren’t real

  • Changes in Mood: LSD can create extreme changes in mood, from euphoria to intense anxiety. Confusion is a common LSD side effect.

Other LSD Side Effects

Other common side effects LSD users experience can include:

  • Dry mouth

  • Sweating

  • Shaking and tremors

  • Reduced appetite

  • Sleep problems

  • Dizziness

What Are the Challenges of Treating an LSD Addiction?

LSD addiction can be hard to treat for a number of reasons, such as:

Spotting the addiction: LSD addiction might be harder to decode even if you are close to someone as the symptoms can be less severe as compared to someone suffering from alcoholism.

Lesser withdrawal challenges: Unlike many other addictive drugs, LSD does not adversely affect people right away when they stop taking it. This can make it hard to get the person to seek professional treatment or rehab and by the time the person realizes that the withdrawal symptoms are setting in, the motivation to maintain abstinence might take a beating.

The stigma of treatment: Like many other drug addictions, LSD addiction comes with a certain degree of fear in the minds of the family members who fear social isolation if their loved one is admitted to a treatment setting for LSD rehab. 

Standard treatment insufficiency: LSD addiction can be treated, but it may take a multifaceted approach. Treating LSD addiction is not just about detox or managing the withdrawal as the person needs to be monitored, supported, and motivated to stop using LSD again even when the long-term mental effects surface.

Lack of evidence-backed treatment: Even though LSD use is common, the best medicines and ways to treat LSD addiction are still being documented and many rehab facilities might not have experience in helping people with an LSD addiction. This can make it hard for treatment providers to provide guidance and for families to feel confident in the help available.

What Are the Signs of LSD Withdrawal?

LSD withdrawal symptoms might surface when the person stops using the drug as a part of home-based drug detox or when undergoing detox at a certified rehab center. The typical LSD withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety – the person can be unduly worried, tense, or angry

  • Depression – the person might feel sad without a reason, and often, hopeless

  • Insomnia – trouble falling asleep and no defined sleeping pattern

  • Hallucinations – unable to identify the make-believe world and the reality

However, many of these symptoms can also be a sign of conditions like generalized anxiety disorder or when trying to quit other, co-occurring addictions like alcohol addiction. Only a certified mental health professional can help to provide clarity and help the person understand the healing process.

Role of Medicines in LSD Withdrawal Management

During detox and withdrawal from LSD, a person can be given medicines to help them feel better as every day seems like a battle to stay strong against the cravings. The medicine helps temporarily relieve symptoms. They are not meant to make the symptoms of LSD withdrawal disappear.

If there is medical supervision during withdrawal, physicians can contemplate using antidepressants or other medicines to help the person stay mentally stronger through the withdrawal. Medication for LSD withdrawal can be very challenging if the person already has a history of psychosis or tends to have recurring suicidal thoughts. 

Tired of LSD Use? Talk to The Edge Treatment Center

LSD addiction often needs a lot more than detox, supervision, and medically assisted withdrawal management. The person needs constant support that can be found in group therapies, individual counseling, and behavior therapies.

This is why The Edge Treatment Center has been able to help many people with many different types of substance use disorders. We use a blend of different evidence-based treatments to help people stop using LSD for good. Don't try to quit LSD and other psychedelic drugs on your own. Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today, and truly free yourself.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

March 1, 2023