Here’s What You Need to Know About LSD Abuse
Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as “LSD,” “acid,” or “blotter,” is a classical hallucinogen drug. It was accidentally discovered in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, a chemist working for Sandoz Pharmaceutical. It’s made from lysergic acid, which occurs naturally in a specific fungus that grows on grains like rye. In 1943, Hoffman consumed some LSD by accident and discovered its hallucinogenic effects. Throughout the ’40s, ’50s and 60s, psychiatrists experimented with acid in an attempt to find a medical use for the drug.
In the 1960s, LSD became a popular recreational drug, thanks to psychologist Timothy Leary, who encouraged college students to take it to “turn on, tune in and drop out.” In 1967, the United States banned acid. In 1970, despite some evidence for therapeutic value, it was listed under Schedule I of that year’s Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that have a high potential for abuse but which have no accepted medical value. Consuming or being in possession of Schedule I drugs is a serious crime. Abuse of LSD may require inpatient addiction treatment and therapy at a rehab facility.
The Prevalence of LSD Abuse in the U.S.
In 2019, according to the ongoing Monitoring the Future Study, 1.6 percent of 8th graders, 3.6 percent of 10th graders and 5.6 percent of 12th graders reported using LSD in their lifetime.1 Nearly one percent of 8th graders, 2.3 percent of 10th graders, and 3.6 percent of 12th graders reported past-year use of acid.
Abuse is more common among young adults. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 10 percent of people aged 18 to 25 reported using acid in their lifetime, and 3.5 percent used it in the past year. While 11 percent of adults aged 26 and older have a lifetime history of using LSD, only 0.4 percent of people in this age group used it in the past year.
People who use LSD do so for a variety of reasons, including to:
Achieve enlightened thinking
Experience a spiritual awakening
How is it Used?
The hallucinogenic effects of LSD occur by interrupting the normal interaction between brain cells and the neurotransmitter, serotonin. A dose of acid is administered as a drop of liquid in the mouth or as a small, acid-infused square of paper, known as a blotter, which is placed in the mouth. According to the National Institutes of Health, a moderate dose of acid is one to three micrograms per kilogram of body weight.2
The Effects of LSD
The psychoactive effects of LSD typically set in within 30 to 60 minutes after taking it, and the effects can last up to 12 hours. The effects of acid are unpredictable and can vary based on several factors, including the mood, personality and environment of the person taking it. Effects may include:
Distorted sense of time
Impaired depth perception
Keen sense of euphoria
Mystical or spiritual experiences
Distortions of the size, shape, and color of objects
Distortions of sound, movements, and colors
Distortions perceptions of body image and spatial awareness
Any dose, but particularly high doses, of LSD, can cause a “bad trip,” characterized by severe anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks. A bad trip typically involves terrifying thoughts and sensations, including an intense fear of losing control and an extreme fear of death.
Short-term physical effects of LSD include dilated pupils, changes in body temperature, chills or sweating, sleeplessness, dry mouth and tremors. Acid is associated with an extremely low mortality rate. There is no evidence of organ damage or cognitive problems resulting from its use, even at high doses. The most important safety consideration regarding abuse is the possibility of acting dangerously as a result of the intense, hallucinatory experiences it causes.
Long-term acid abuse isn’t associated with physiological or cognitive problems. However, in rare cases, two serious side effects may occur, even after using acid just once, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.3
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, or HPPD, which involves flashbacks that occur spontaneously and repeatedly. Flashbacks cause hallucinations and other visual disturbances, such as trails, stars, or halos. These symptoms may be mistaken for a brain tumor or stroke.
Persistent psychosis, which is characterized by visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, mood disturbances, and paranoia. Some antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs can help treat persistent psychosis.
Is LSD Addictive?
Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use despite negative consequences. According to an article published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, while acid can be used in dangerous ways and cause prolonged psychiatric reactions including psychosis, it doesn’t typically cause addiction.4
Tolerance and Dependence
Likewise, while acid accumulates in the body and causes tolerance, meaning larger doses are needed to get the desired effects, it doesn’t cause dependence, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that occur when substance use stops. Tolerance disappears after a few days of abstinence without producing cravings or other withdrawal symptoms. Another reason why LSD isn’t considered addictive is that heavy abuse is rather difficult since the high is so intense and lasts for such a long time.
Frequent Use Still Has Consequences
However, frequent acid abuse can cause serious problems within life, including problems with relationships, finances, legal status, and physical and mental wellbeing. If you want to stop using LSD but have reservations about doing so or struggle to commit to quitting, a high-quality treatment program or individual therapist can help you find the supports and motivation needed to quit.