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LSD < Back

By Erika Arias


Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), is a hallucinogenic drug commonly recognized as being one of the one of the most dangerous perception-altering drugs available since the early 1940s. LSD is manufactured from lysergic acid, which can be isolated from the parasitic ergot fungus that grows on wet, rotting rye and wheat. LSD was first discovered by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, at Sandoz Pharmaceutical in 1938, but it was not until 1943 when Hofmann discovered the psychedelic effects of LSD after accidently consuming a dose of about 25 micrograms. Between the 1940s and the end of the 1960s, LSD was used recreationally and for spiritual purposes. LSD also gained popularity amongst experimental psychiatrists who were interested in using the drug to treat various psychological illnesses ranging from anxiety to severe trauma. The United States military and governmental agencies even began utilizing the drug as a chemical weapon until LSD was officially banned in 1967 and classified as a Schedule I drug.

How It's Used

LSD is odorless and colorless in nature, with what is commonly described as having a slight bitter taste. Since LSD is a Schedule I drug, it is primarily produced illegally in laboratories across the United States. Once LSD is crystallized, it is converted into liquid form, and then added onto absorbent sheets of paper that are cut into single squares for distribution. LSD is also sold in the form of small tablets, each ranging in dose.

How It Works

LSD use is accompanied by a series of effects that are often unpredictable. These effects are highly dependent upon the dose consumed, the environmental surroundings, and the user’s own body chemistry, personality and emotional state. Most users report experiencing effects between thirty to ninety minutes post administration. The neural basis of LSD can be best explained by its ability to increase communication between the visual cortex and all other areas of the brain. In addition, LSD leads to a reduction of blood flow in other areas of the brain where neurons normally fire in synchrony when at rest. Thus, users experience a combination of psychological effects that mainly involve complex visual hallucinations, sensation cross-over (seeing sounds and hearing colors), and ego dissolution. Users are also known to experience other perceptual oddities such as intense euphoria, time and identity distortion, and an impaired ability for detecting sizes and shapes of objects, movements, colors, sounds, touch and the user’s own body image. Of the more traumatic effects brought upon by LSD use, some can experience a ‘bad trip’ which fills the user with terrifying thoughts and feelings such as death or insanity. The severity and duration of these effects depends on the dose, and some effects can last for up to twelve hours. In fact, acid-induced psychosis can be a life-long consequence to using acid even a single time, where in which individuals may run the risk of experiencing panic attacks, flashbacks, severe depression, and or reliving a past LSD trip.

Of the physical effects occurring after LSD use, users have most commonly reported having dilated pupils, and changes in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate can thus either rapidly increase or decrease. Other common side effects include loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth and/or body tremors.


Although not typically addictive, a single dose of LSD can result in increased tolerance and desire to take more of the drug. Thus, when the positive effects are no longer experienced, users increase their dose, which increases their chances for experiencing long-term side effects, as well as increasing their chances of harming themselves or others due to altered sensory perception. Since the effects of LSD are generally unpredictable when compared to drugs like methamphetamine, nicotine, or cocaine, acid does not typically result in a repetitive use pattern characteristic of addiction. Treatment for LSD abuse mainly focuses on psychological counseling and behavior modification.


Carhart-Harris, R. L., Muthukumaraswamy, S., Roseman, L., Kaelen, M., Droog, W., Murphy, K., & Leech, R. (2016). Neural correlates of the LSD experience revealed by multimodal neuroimaging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(17), 4853-4858.

Gasser, Peter MD; Holstein, Dominique PhD; Michel, Yvonne PhD; Doblin, Rick PhD; Yazar-Klosinski, Berra PhD§; Passie, Torsten MD, MA; Brenneisen, Rudolf PhD Safety and Efficacy of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety Associated With Life-threatening Diseases

Passie, T., Halpern, J. H., Stichtenoth, D. O., Emrich, H. M. and Hintzen, A. (2008), The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 14: 295–314. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2008.00059.x

Shanna Freeman. "How LSD Works". (2008). HowStuffWorks.com. http://science.howstuffworks.com/lsd.htm 28 April 2017

What is LSD? LSDAddiction.US. (2009).http://www.lsdaddiction.us/content/treatment-for-lsd.html