Ways that LSD Can Cause Impaired Judgment

A hallucinogenic drug like LSD takes away a person’s normal brain function, shutting down some areas of the brain while activating others. A person under LSD’s influence experiences a variety of unpredictable sensations, making it difficult to sense danger or make rational decisions.

LSD, Psychology and Perception

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was developed in 1938 and was first recognized for its potent psychedelic effects. It was used in psychiatric treatment settings and military experiments from the start. After widespread use began in the 1960s, the drug was associated with the anti-establishment counterculture as well as serious accidents and injuries. It was made illegal after 1967. Currently the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists LSD, along with other hallucinogenic drugs, as a Schedule I drug with no approved medical use.[1]

Since LSD is illegal in the United States and throughout much of the world, it is difficult for scientists to research the drug. Current experiments and studies explore LSD’s potential use for treating PTSD and other mental health concerns.[2] While LSD was once used as an experimental treatment for alcoholism and depression in the 1950s, the main reason it is no longer used in medical settings is because of its effect on judgment and perception. Not only does LSD distort perception of time, space and more, its effects last for 8 to 10 hours, and vary from use to use. In addition, LSD use may trigger serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, in people who are already predisposed to the condition.1

An average recreational dose ranges between 25 to 80 mcg, and is taken orally through sugar cubes, chewing gum, liquid drops transferred to paper or other methods. Since the drug is illegal, there is no way to monitor the purity of the drug or the actual amount, making it possible a person gets way more of the drug than intended.1

LSD’s Effect on Judgment

Author Andy Roberts, who wrote a history of LSD, writes about the extreme unpredictability of the drug. It “does not have a consistently predictable set of physiological or psychological reactions.” A user’s changes in perception last for long periods of time and may include bad trips or extended loss of judgment. LSD affects neurons that use serotonin, and these neurons interpret, filter and process sensory awareness. In other words, the drug increases the amount of sensory data processed by these neurons, which increases the amount of “reality” someone can experience.[3]

Ways that LSD Can Cause Impaired Judgment

LSD abuse can lead to accidents and injuries

The perceptions people take on after an LSD trip include alterations in ways of seeing and thinking. While people often romanticize these changes, the experiences nevertheless incapacitate users’ ability to perceive danger. This means that LSD abuse can lead to accidents and injuries, even when users are having what they perceive to be a positive experience. People on LSD also experience sudden emotional shifts that go from extreme euphoria to fear; sometimes emotions shift so suddenly people experience many emotions at once.[4]

Users on bad trips are even more likely to have dangerous lapses in judgment with serious psychological or physical consequences. The psychological effects of LSD abuse may last long after a trip ends; people who haven’t used the drug in months or years may experience sensory disturbances. Flashbacks may occur years after LSD use ends, which leaves users at risk for sudden, unexpected bouts of impaired judgment. Flashbacks can occur while driving, in professional settings or at other times that result in personal, social or professional consequences. The changes in perception associated with LSD use may cause users to misjudge the risks associated with regular drug use. Users may ignore serious health symptoms or take more of other dangerous drugs than intended.4

Need Help with LSD Abuse or Addiction?

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one’s LSD use, then get help. Call our toll-free helpline to learn how you can take action against addiction: our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to connect you with the best treatment resources for your unique needs.

[1] Davis, Kathleen. (2015). What is lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)? Effects and hazards of LSD. Medical News Today. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295966.php.

[2] Cormier, Zoe. (2016). Brain scans reveal how LSD affects consciousness. Nature. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from http://www.nature.com/news/brain-scans-reveal-how-lsd-affects-consciousness-1.19727.

[3] Roberts, Andy. (2008). Albion Dreaming: a popular history of LSD in Britain. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from https://www.amazon.com/Albion-Dreaming-popular-history-Britain/dp/1905736274.

[4] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs. Retrieved July 5, 2016 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/where-can-i-get-more-scientific-information-hallucinogens-diss.