LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide belongs to the hallucinogen class of drugs, which covers a wide variety of drugs. Hallucinogens are typically divided into two categories: classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. LSD is considered a classic hallucinogen, while PCP is an example of a dissociative drug.
Hallucinogens can be derived from natural materials such as plants or mushrooms, while others are manufactured or synthetic. Both types of hallucinogens cause hallucinations in users. Dissociative drugs can also make the person feel disconnected from their body.
LSD is considered the most powerful of the classic hallucinogens. It comes from lysergic acid, a material found in a fungus that grows on grains, particularly rye. It is clear or white and odorless.
Because of how potent LSD is, an effective dose of the drug in its pure form is almost invisible because it is so minuscule. For this reason, LSD is often diluted with other materials. It can be sold as a liquid or in tablet or capsule form. However, the most common form of LSD distribution is in a solution dried into gelatin sheets or added to blotting paper or sugar cubes. Other names for LSD include acid, trips, tabs, microdots, dots, or Lucy.
Effects of LSD
As with many drugs, how LSD affects an individual will depend on that person’s size, weight, and health. It can take about half an hour for LSD to take effect, with the effects lasting as long as eight to 12 hours. Other factors that play a role in how LSD affects someone include:
- whether the person is used to taking LSD
- whether other drugs have been taken around the same time
- the amount of LSD taken
- the strength of the drug (LSD’s potency can vary from batch to batch)
The experience someone has under the influence of LSD is often referred to as a trip. Someone who has taken a dose of LSD may experience any of the following:
- euphoria and wellbeing
- dilation of pupils
- perceptual changes, such as visual and auditory hallucinations
- intensified feelings
- stronger sensory experiences (i.e., seeing brighter colors)
- feeling time is passing at a different rate, often more slowly
- loss of appetite
- dry mouth
- sleep problems
- confusion and trouble concentrating
- fast or irregular heartbeat
- increased body temperature
- spiritual experiences
- feelings of relaxation
- uncoordinated movements
- excessive sweating
- breathing quickly
- facial flushes, sweating, and chills
As a person comes down from their LSD high, they can experience various symptoms. These include insomnia, fatigue, body and muscle aches, and depression. However, there are no withdrawal symptoms associated with LSD, since it does not cause physical dependence.
Problems with LSD
Although not addictive or likely to cause overdose, taking LSD can result in negative reactions and adverse side effects. LSD doesn’t lead to addiction because the hallucinogen doesn’t cause uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior. But that doesn’t mean that LSD isn’t problematic because a person can develop a tolerance to the drug. Tolerance results in the individual needing higher doses of LSD to get the same effect. Increasing the dosage is dangerous because of the extreme unpredictability of LSD.
While overdosing on a classic hallucinogen like LSD is unlikely, overdose is more possible with dissociative drugs. LSD can cause what is known as a bad trip. This happens when the person experiences a disturbing hallucination while under the influence of LSD. A bad trip can lead the person to panic or engage in risky behavior or even self-harm in reaction to the hallucination.
Another negative side effect of LSD is the potential for flashbacks. Regular users may experience flashbacks even when LSD has not been taken recently. A flashback can happen days, weeks, or even years after the person’s last dose of LSD. During a flashback, the person may experience a visual distortion, altering their perception or emotions. Flashbacks are typically brief, lasting only a minute or two. They may be triggered by stress, tiredness, exercise, or other drugs.
Finally, anyone with a pre-existing mental health disorder such as anxiety, schizophrenia, or psychosis should avoid taking LSD, as the drug can make those conditions worse.
There are two rare, but serious, long-term effects associated with LSD: Persistent Psychosis and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).
A series of continuing mental problems, Persistent Psychosis can include symptoms like visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia, and mood changes. HPPD is when someone regularly experiences flashbacks or other LSD recurrences, such as hallucinations or other visual disturbances. These symptoms can happen without warning and may be mistaken for other disorders, such as stroke or a brain tumor.
Both Persistent Psychosis and HPPD appear to occur most often in people with a history of mental illness, but they can happen to anyone.
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