What Is LSD?

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a psychedelic hallucinogen that produces changes in perception, senses, and mood. These often present as intense emotions, changes to thought processes, and visual and other sensory distortions.

LSD is a Schedule I controlled substance, the category of drugs characterized by their high potential for abuse and lack of confirmed medical purpose.

Some argue that LSD does have medical use in psychiatric therapy in the treatment of depression and anxiety. However, the drug affects everyone differently, and in some cases, severe physical and psychological effects may occur.

Side Effects

Aside from the changes it causes in consciousness and perception, LSD can cause other side effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Delusions
  • Dry mouth
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety

  • Synesthesia (e.g., “hearing” colors)
  • Dissociation
  • Impaired depth perception
  • Panic attacks
  • Flashbacks
  • Depression
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder

Is LSD Dangerous?

The danger of most psychedelic drugs, including LSD, is the mental impairment that it causes. Under the influence of LSD, people may have strong reactions to the drug’s hallucinatory effects, leading them to experience panic attacks, uncharacteristic outbursts, and suicidal thoughts that can result in harm to themselves and others. It may also lead to social, legal, and professional consequences.

Another danger of LSD is the common alteration of the drug during manufacturing by mixing it with opioids (like fentanyl), stimulants, or other harmful chemicals. Someone taking LSD with other drugs or alcohol (known as polysubstance use) may experience harmful consequences from the heightened effects of both substances.

Common substances simultaneously used with LSD are alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and tobacco.

Polysubstance use is a particular danger for those who use LSD, as they do not always consider it a dangerous practice. Reasons why polydrug users mix LSD with other substances include the following:

  • To balance the effects of the high
  • To enhance sensory or sexual experiences
  • To zone out and be more introspective
  • To strengthen or prolong a high

Most polydrug users are trying to achieve a positive outcome. However, acute toxicity is the outcome, leading to emergency room visits, hospital admissions, overdose, or death.

Signs Of Addiction

LSD is not physically addictive, but the body can quickly develop a tolerance, as users who abuse the drug regularly must take progressively higher doses to achieve the same state of intoxication. As the dose amount increases, so do the chances of the user experiencing a “bad trip” and adverse psychological side effects.

A person who meets the following criteria likely has a hallucinogen use disorder:

  • Taking more LSD than they intend or for more extended periods
  • Wanting to reduce or stop using LSD but not being able to
  • Spending much time seeking, using, or recovering from LSD use
  • Craving LSD and having intense urges
  • Being unable to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school due to LSD use
  • Continuing to use it even though it causes relationship problems
  • Avoiding activities with family, friends, and colleagues who misuse LSD
  • Continuing to use LSD even in risky situations
  • Continuing to use even though doing so worsens physical or psychological health
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when going without LSD

Having two or three symptoms represents a mild hallucinogen use disorder. Four or five symptoms indicate a moderate disorder and six or more indicate a severe disorder.

What Does LSD Look Like?

LSD comes in tablet, capsule, or liquid forms. Tablets containing LSD look like ordinary over-the-counter small pills that are intended to be swallowed.

Liquid forms of LSD are more versatile, with manufacturers often adding liquid LSD to uniquely decorated, absorbent paper squares. Often called a “blotter”, these sheets contain perforations that divide the doses, and when someone wants to take a dose, they tear a square along the perforated lines and stick it on their tongue, where it will dissolve.

Some liquid forms of LSD are in clear capsules that dissolve when ingested. Again, these types resemble over-the-counter liquid gel medications. Lastly, some people use an eye dropper to dispense liquid LSD under their tongue for absorption.

Dosage

Bioavailability is the term used to describe the amount of a substance that enters the body’s circulatory system and causes effects to occur. The threshold is the minimum dose that produces an effect.

For example, if a dose of LSD has a threshold of 15 micrograms, the bioavailability of that dose is around 70%. Reports claim at this amount, effects can last between seven and eight hours. However, less intense effects can continue for up to 48 hours or longer, depending on the person’s metabolism and other biological aspects.

A study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information examined the dosages and length of effects of participants in two groups taking different amounts of LSD. Researchers found the following:

  • Participants taking the 100-microgram dose felt effects for 5 to 14 hours
  • Participants taking the 200-microgram dose felt effects from 6.4 to 19 hours

What Are Treatments for LSD Misuse?

Although LSD is not physically addictive, users can become psychologically addicted to the drug’s effects and suffer numerous consequences as a result.

While there are currently no medications for treating LSD abuse, there are multiple behavioral therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), that have been shown to help a person identify the root cause of their LSD misuse and teach them new coping skills to help change negative thinking patterns and avoid the drug in the future.

Contact a treatment provider today if you would like to learn more about available treatment options and get started on the journey to a healthier, substance-free future.

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