LSD Overview

LSD OverviewLysergic acid diethylamide, best known as LSD or acid, entered the world in 1938. A Swiss chemist synthesized the drug from a certain type of fungus. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s scientists studied LSD and considered it as a potential tool for psychotherapy, a way to scare alcoholics into sobriety and a means of mind control for military purposes. Medical professionals and the government alike abandoned hopes for practical uses for this drug. When the Controlled Substances Act passed in 1970, LSD was labeled a Schedule I substance. Schedule I substances are the most tightly controlled drugs. They have the highest potential for abuse. They are considered medically useless, a label some of today’s scientists are trying to change. LSD may is reentering the public consciousness and the arena of scientific study. This does not make LSD any less dangerous. It does mean more information is becoming available about the drug, its effects, and how to overcome substance abuse and addiction.

How Does LSD Work?

LSD’s most common effects involve changes in perception and visual hallucination. Time[1] explains, “LSD changes visual information in the brain. While people are on acid, they start to see activity going on in the brain, which is normally suppressed from perception. The ability to see this internal activity is likely responsible for hallucinations and visual distortions on LSD.” Another common effect is ego dissolution. This is, “a loss of self-identity and sense of connection to the environment outside of oneself.” LSD increases and changes connections and communication within the brain. This adjusts how users see themselves and the world around them. It does not reflect reality, and this can cause both immediate and long-term problems.

Is LSD Dangerous?

LSD has few physical side effects. According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World[2], these can include the following:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Higher or lower body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeplessness
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors

Individuals quickly develop a tolerance to the psychedelic effects of LSD. This leads to the use of larger and larger doses, with greater physical side effects each time. Still the physical side effects of LSD are arguably mild. Many use this as an excuse for continued use or as a reason to label LSD “harmless.” Even mild side effects accumulate over time. Loss of appetite can lead to malnutrition over weeks, months or years of drug use. Sleeplessness affects mental health and judgment.

The effects of LSD are primarily psychological. While many report positive experiences, just as many report bad trips. Columbia University[3] explains that a bad trip involves, “feelings of confusion, terror, anxiety, depression, and/or paranoia lasting up to several hours. In some cases, this extreme agitation has led to accidental death or suicide as people panic and attempt to flee from their hallucinations.” LSD trips can last up to 12 hours. A bad trip can involve nearly a day of panic and paranoia. During this trip users are not in control of their thoughts and actions and may harm themselves or others. Users may also experience flashbacks to good or bad LSD experiences years after taking the drug. This can cause unexpected and unwanted moments of visual distortion, changes in perception or anxiety.

Even when LSD is not physically harmful, it can be dangerous. It changes overall mental health. In extreme cases individuals experience hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). The New Yorker[4] explains that “HPPD warps the perceptual faculties: the external senses are marred by a constellation of mostly visual distortions, while the internal ones are paralyzed by a concoction of dissociative symptoms, panic attacks, and depression.” HPPD is not an ongoing hallucination. Individuals are aware that their perception is distorted and inaccurate. This causes individuals with HPPD to, “disassociate—from the world, due to derealization, and from themselves, due to depersonalization” HPPD is “chronic and debilitating,” but changes to mental health do not have to be this dramatic to create long-term negative changes in thought and behavior. LSD can trigger preexisting mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. Symptoms of use mimic those of schizophrenia. Individuals with this disorder may find it becomes worse or unmanageable with LSD use. These mental health issues may not have been a problem before LSD use, or they may have been the reason a person first looked for escape.

How Do You Stop Using LSD?

Ending LSD use begins with asking questions. Ask yourself why you use this drug, how its use has impacted your life and what you’d like life to be like instead. Ask us about the effects of LSD, how you can end substance use and where you can find the best treatment for addiction and mental health recovery. Learn more about this drug and why recovery is important. Learn that a healthy, balanced and drug-free life is always within reach. All calls are free and confidential. We are here for you 24 hours a day. No concern is too big or too small. Reach out today.


[1]    http://time.com/4292298/lsd-acid-trip-drugs-brain/?iid=sr-link1. “Here’s What LSD Does to the Brain.” Time. 13 Apr 2016. Web. 23 Aug 2016.

[2]    http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/lsd/the-harmful-effects-of-lsd.html. “The Harmful Effects of LSD.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Web. 26 Aug 2016.

[3]    http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/considering-taking-lsd%E2%80%A6. “Considering Taking LSD…” Columbia University. Web. 23 Aug 2016.

[4]    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/a-trip-that-doesnt-end. “A Trip That Doesn’t End.” The New Yorker. 17 May 2013. Web. 26 Aug 2016.