What Is LSD?
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as ‘acid’, is the most potent man-made hallucinogenic drug. Just 1/250 millionth of a gram can cause altered perceptions of reality.
How LSD Is Used
Users generally take LSD orally, but they also can smoke, inject or inhale it through the nose. The normal dose is about one millionth of a gram. Because the dose size is so tiny, it is measured into or onto other substances (such as sugar cubes or pieces of paper) so that the user can find and ingest it.
When the drug is taken orally, the initial effects begin within 30 minutes. The user experiences the maximum effects in about an hour. The psychological, perceptual and behavioural effects of LSD last eight to 12 hours, then slowly wear off. The body rids itself of LSD within 24 hours.
It is not physically addictive. However, this powerful drug can be habit forming and may create psychological dependence when taken frequently or in large doses.
Does LSD Occur Naturally?
LSD does not actually occur naturally, and there appears to be quite a lot of confusion on this point. Lysergic acid is different from Lysergic acid amides, which occur naturally. To get technical, an amide is a compound that is usually formed from a carboxylic acid (which LSD is) and an amine (in this case diethylamine).
Naturally occurring forms of Lysergic acid amide include the following:
- Ergot fungus growing on rye grass (from which LSD is usually made)
- Sleepy grass (Stipa Robusta)
- Rivea (Turbina) Corimbosa – which is used by the Mexican Indians to produce ololiqui
- Hawaiian Woodrose seeds (less potent)
- Morning glory seeds (less potent).
For the record magic mushrooms do not contain lysergic acid at all, but rather contain the psychedelic substance psilocybin.
What Are Hallucinations?
Hallucinations are altered perceptions of reality. Some of the hallucinations reported by LSD users include the following:
- a dream-like state in which it is difficult to know whether an experience is real or imagined
- inability to distinguish where the body ends and the rest of the world begins
- altered perceptions of shape, size, colour and distance
- being unable to separate past and present events
- sensory mixing (sounds may be seen, objects heard and colours smelt)
- gross impairment of judgment
LSD Hallucinations Can Have Dangerous Consequences
Because LSD grossly impairs judgment, on occasion users have injured or killed themselves by jumping out of windows, throwing themselves in front of moving cars, swimming out to sea, trying to run through walls and other dangerous acts.
The following physiological and psychological damages can result from long-term LSD use:
- rapid and dramatic mood changes
- deep depression and suicidal thoughts
- persistent anxiety
- disturbing flashbacks
- psychotic episodes (temporary mental illness)
- bad trips
- impaired fertility
- changes in brain-wave patterns
- catatonia (muscle rigidity which impairs mobility)
Bad trips are experiences during which users feel they have lost control of their thoughts, perceptions and behaviours. This frightening mental state may cause panic reactions, confusion and mental depression. Bad trips can happen to anyone but occur most often in first-time LSD users and individuals with psychiatric problems.
What Determines A User’s Reaction To LSD?
There is no sure way to know who will experience a bad trip. LSD tends to intensify the user’s natural personality traits.
Important factors in determining a user’s reaction to LSD include the following:
- Dose size
- Previous use
- Expectations of the drug’s effects
- Motivation for taking the drug
- Mood and attitude at the time of taking the drug
- social setting during which the drug is consumed
Flashbacks are spontaneous recurrences of an LSD experience that tend to have all the qualities of the original trip. They may happen after a single dose but are more common among frequent abusers.
Flashbacks can occur days or even weeks after using LSD. I have had clients who had radically ‘bad trips’ and then experienced flashbacks, nightmares and re-experiencing of the trip up to a month later. Flashbacks may last a few minutes or several hours, and can happen several times a day, once a week, once a month or only once. Certain experiences also can trigger flashbacks, including stress, bright flashing lights and use of other drugs.
Types Of LSD Flashbacks
LSD flashbacks can fit into 3 categories:
- Perceptual flashbacks: The user experiences the perceptual distortions of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch that occurred in the original LSD trip.
- Emotional flashbacks: The user relives strong feelings of panic, fear and loneliness similar to those experienced during a bad LSD trip.
- Somatic flashbacks: The user feels altered body sensations similar to those experienced during a bad LSD trip.