What Makes LSD Use So Addictive?

What Makes LSD Use So Addictive?

Overdoses do happen. They can occur because a person takes LSD laced with another substance

LSD is a drug with few immediate physical effects. Users may experience short-term changes in body temperature or dilated pupils. They may have trouble sleeping or have changes in appetite. Individuals may find these costs mild or of little concern. They may believe LSD use is relatively harmless. However LSD is not a safe drug. Accidents, injury and death still result from use. LSD can complicate preexisting mental health issues. Impaired judgment and perception lead to accidents and harm to self and others. Overdoses do happen. They can occur because a person knowingly or unknowingly takes LSD laced with another substance. They can occur because a person is using LSD at the same time as another recreational or pharmaceutical drug. The longer and more often the drug is used, the more likely accident or overdose become. Long-term use can result in malnutrition and other physical health problems, as individuals spend more time trying to escape reality than caring for the body. All of these possible complications of LSD use are serious and make this drug anything but “safe.” All of these complications are related to and tied into a developing LSD addiction. Addiction is one of the most concerning, and most likely, results of regular LSD use. So if LSD has so few physical effects and the consequences of use are so serious, why is this drug so addictive?

LSD Creates Tolerance and Dependence

LSD tolerance develops quickly. The National Institute on Drug Abuse[1] describes tolerance: “Tolerance occurs when the person no longer responds to the drug in the way that person initially responded. Stated another way, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.” Tolerance is not addiction. This does not mean it can be ignored. As the dose of the drug increases, all associated risks including addiction increase as well. Dependence follows tolerance, and addiction comes shortly after. Dependence is often defined by the presence of painful or unpleasant physical withdrawal symptoms. Because LSD does not produce physical dependence, individuals often ignore its addiction potential. They ignore its addiction potential at the same time they come to rely on the drug to feel good, function effectively or communicate and bond socially.

Addiction Is Psychological

Addiction is more than a physical disease. It is deeply rooted in how the brain communicates and functions. The American Society of Addiction Medicine[2] (ASAM) defines addiction as, “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.” LSD may not produce extreme physical effects. It certainly contributes to changes in brain circuitry and resulting social, psychological and spiritual changes.

LSD Changes Thought and Behavior

Addiction is rooted in changes in brain function. LSD changes how the brain functions. This contributes to addiction development and other physical, psychological and social problems. The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology[3] explains how LSD functions in the brain: “LSD reduces connectivity within brain networks, or the extent to which nerve cells or neurons within a network fire in synchrony. LSD also seems to reduce the extent to which separate brain networks remain distinct in their patterns or synchronization of firing. Overall, LSD interferes with the patterns of activation in the different brain networks that underlie human thought and behavior.” LSD changes how the brain communicates with itself. It changes how individuals perceive themselves and the world around them. While these effects can seem desirable at first, they soon come to interrupt how a person thinks and acts on a regular basis. Even after unwanted consequences begin to occur, individuals will continue to take LSD. This is because addiction is about more than immediate pleasure or reward. It is about long-term, complex changes. ASAM explains, “The neurobiology of addiction encompasses more than the neurochemistry of reward. The frontal cortex of the brain and underlying white matter connections between the frontal cortex and circuits of reward, motivation and memory are fundamental in the manifestations of altered impulse control, altered judgment, and the dysfunctional pursuit of rewards (which is often experienced by the affected person as a desire to ‘be normal’) seen in addiction–despite cumulative adverse consequences experienced from engagement in substance use and other addictive behaviors.” Put simply, addiction affects areas of the brain responsible for memory, judgment and impulse control. As LSD changes brain connectivity patterns, it also changes a person’s ability to rationally weigh pros and cons of continued use and to see the negative results of continued use. This is why addiction treatment is vital to recovery. A person does not decide to become addicted; he or she cannot simply decide to stop using and then do so. A person can decide to get help and make a real, lasting change in life. Addiction is a chronic disease, but it is also a treatable and manageable disease. Professional support leads to a rewarding, balanced, drug-free life.

Ending LSD Addiction

Make the decision to end addiction. Call our toll-free helpline and learn more about LSD and comprehensive, effective treatment options. We are here 24 hours a day, so there is no wrong time to call and get the information and support you need. Begin your journey to wellness today.


[1]    https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/6-definition-tolerance. “Definition of Tolerance.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan 2007. Web. 23 Sep 2016.

[2]    http://www.asam.org/quality-practice/definition-of-addiction. “Definition of Addiction.” American Society of Addiction Medicine. 19 Apr 2011. Web. 23 Sep 2016.

[3]    https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-12/acon-lc121015.php. “LSD Changes Consciousness by Reorganizing Human Brain Networks.” American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 10 Dec 2015. Web. 21 Sep 2016.