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LSD

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

What is LSD?

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 eyes.

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.

What are its short-term effects?

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.

What are its long-term effects?

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.

Extent of use

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.

Is LSD addictive?

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.

The path to healing

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

 

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