What is LSD?
What are its short-term effects?
What are its long-term effects?
Extent of use
Is LSD addictive?
The path to healing
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the major drugs making
up the hallucinogen class. LSD was discovered in 1938 and is one
of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It is manufactured from
lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye
and other grains. LSD, commonly referred to as "acid,"
is sold on the street in tablets, capsules, and, occasionally, liquid
form. It is odorless, colorless, has a slightly bitter taste, and
is usually taken by mouth. Often LSD is added to absorbent paper,
such as blotter paper, and divided into small decorated squares,
with each square representing one dose. LSD is taken orally and
licked off the blotter paper. Gelatin and liquid can be put in the
Until the late 1980's and early 1990's, LSD and other hallucinogens
appeared to be out of vogue as the generation of original users
aged. By 1982, 6 percent of adults over 26 years old reported that
they had used hallucinogens at least once, but fewer than 1 percent
reported they used in the prior year. In 1992, however, drug ethnographers
began noticing increased availability of hallucinogens in many areas
of the country. LSD has typically been the most commonly used hallucinogen,
although a similar but smaller rise in the use of other hallucinogens
is also apparent.
The effects of LSD are unpredictable. Usually, the user feels the
first effects of the drug 30 to 90 minutes after taking it. The
hallucinatory effects depend on the amount taken, the user's personality,
mood, expectations, and the surroundings in which the drug is used.
The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature,
increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite,
sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors.
Some LSD users experience flashbacks, a recurrence of certain aspects
of a person's LSD experience without the user having taken the drug
again. A flashback occurs suddenly, often without warning, and may
occur within a few days or more than a year after LSD use. Most
users of LSD voluntarily decrease or stop its use over time. While
some researchers do not consider LSD to be an addicting drug because
it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior like cocaine,
amphetamines, heroin, alcohol, or nicotine, it does produce an increasing
level of psychological dependence.
Users refer to their hallucinatory experience with LSD as a "trip"
and to acute adverse reactions as a "bad trip." These
experiences are long, and typically they begin to clear after about
12 hours. Some LSD users experience severe, terrifying thoughts
and feelings, such as fear of losing control, fear of insanity and
death, and despair while using LSD. Some fatal accidents have occurred
during states of LSD intoxication.
Flashbacks usually occur in people who use hallucinogens chronically
or who have an underlying personality problem; however, otherwise
healthy people who use LSD occasionally may also have flashbacks.
Bad trips and flashbacks are only part of the risks of LSD use.
LSD users may manifest relatively long-lasting psychoses, such as
schizophrenia or severe depression. It is difficult to determine
the extent and mechanism of the LSD involvement in these illnesses.
Also, there are great differences among individuals in how they
react to these substances -- no one can predict how he or she will
react. Some people have been known to have extreme, even fatal,
reactions the first time they use LSD. Studies also suggest that
LSD found in party settings are often adulterated or impure, thus
making them even more dangerous.
LSD produces tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly
must take progressively higher doses to achieve the state of intoxication
that they had previously achieved. This is an extremely dangerous
practice, given the unpredictability of the drug. The National Institute
on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is funding studies that focus on the neurochemical
and behavioral properties of LSD. This research will provide a greaterunderstanding
of the mechanisms of the drug.
Since 1975, NIDA researchers have annually surveyed almost 17,000
high school seniors nationwide to determine trends in drug use and
to measure attitudes and beliefs about drug abuse. Over the past
2 years, the percentage of seniors who have used LSD has remained
relatively stable. Between 1975 and 1997, the lowest lifetime use
of LSD was reported by the class of 1986, when 7.2 percent of seniors
reported using LSD at least once in their lives.
In 1997, 13.6 percent of seniors had experimented with LSD at least
once in their lifetimes. The percentage of seniors reporting use
of LSD in the past year nearly doubled from a low of 4.4 percent
in 1985 to 8.4 percent in 1997. In 1997, 34.7 percent of seniors
perceived great risk in using LSD once or twice, and 76.6 percent
said they saw great risk in using LSD regularly. More than 80 percent
of seniors disapproved of people trying LSD once or twice, and almost
93 percent disapproved of people taking LSD regularly. Almost 51
percent of seniors said it would have been fairly easy or very easy
for them to get LSD if they had wanted it.
In the 1996 NIDA estimates, the percentage of the population aged
12 and older who had ever used LSD (the lifetime prevalence rate)
had increased to 7.7 percent from 6.0 percent in 1988. Among youths
12 to 17 years old, the 1996 LSD lifetime prevalence rate was 4.3
percent, and for those aged 18 to 25, the rate was 13.9 percent.
An undetermined percentage of LSD abusers become addicted, as evidenced
by their continuing to take LSD in spite of physical problems, negative
effects on social relations, or nervousness and irritability. Also,
they spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drugs and
experience withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness,
loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and the desire to
take more drugs. The most dangerous of the withdrawal symptoms is
depression, because it sometimes leads to suicide attempts.
LSD is clearly a dangerous drug, which poses a particular threat
to the health and well-being of children and adolescents at a critical
point in their lives - when they are growing, learning, maturing,
and laying the foundation for their adult years. Children look to
parents for help and guidance in working out problems and in making
decisions, including the decision not to use drugs. Parents' role
modeling by not using illegal drugs reinforces this message.
There is no magic bullet for preventing teenage drug use. But parents
can be influential by talking to their children about the dangers
of using LSD and other drugs and by remaining actively engaged in
their children's lives. Even after teenage children enter high school,
parents should stay involved in the schoolwork, recreation, and
social activities of their children. Studies show that appropriate
parental monitoring can reduce future drug use, even among those
adolescents who may be prone to drug use, such as those who are
rebellious, cannot control their emotions, and who experience internal
distress. While not everyone who uses LSD becomes addicted, when
a user begins to seek out and take the drug compulsively, that person
is said to be dependent on the drug or addicted to it.
Serenity Lane focuses education and therapy on the always-present
psychological core of the addiction experience: psychological dependency,
mental obsession, emotional compulsion, and the complex pattern
of safeguarding behaviors that hide the reality of the illness from
both patient and family.
We directly address the physical and psychological elements of
dependency disorders, as well as the defeating beliefs that accompany
addiction. We give our patients and family members an unparalleled
understanding about themselves, their disease, their thinking patterns,
and alternative behaviors necessary for abstinence from mood-altering
chemicals or experiences.
For further information on treatment of LSD addiction, call
Serenity Lane Treatment Center for Alcohol & Other Drug Dependencies
616 East 16th Avenue Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 687-1110 or Toll-Free 1-800-543-9905