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 is LSD taken?

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, LSD 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. This state may last two to four hours. The psychological, perceptual and behavioural effects of LSD last eight to 12 hours, then slowly wear off. The body rids itself of LSD with 24 hours.

Is LSD addictive?

LSD is not physically addictive. However, this powerful drug can be habit-forming and may create psychological dependence when taken frequently or in large doses.

What are hallucinations?

Hallucinations are altered perceptions of reality. Some of the hallucinations reported by LSD users include:

  • inability to distinguish where the body ends and the rest of the world begins
  • a dream-like state in which it is difficult to know whether an experience is real or imagined
  • altered perceptions of shape, size, colour and distance
  • sensory mixing (sounds may be seen, objects heard and colours smelt)
  • being unable to separate past and present events
  • gross impairment of judgment

Why are LSD hallucinations risky?

Because LSD grossly impairs judgment, some 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. However, the following more common risks are associated with using LSD.

Physiological risks

  • impaired fertility
  • changes in brain-wave patterns
  • catatonia (muscle rigidity which impairs mobility)

Psychological risks

  • persistent anxiety
  • rapid and dramatic mood changes
  • deep depression and suicidal thoughts
  • psychotic episodes (temporary mental illness)
  • disturbing flashbacks
  • bad trips

What are ‘bad trips?’

Bad trips are LSD 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 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 LSD trip. Generally, LSD tends to intensify the user’s natural personality traits. Other important factors in determining a user’s reaction include the following:

  • size of the dose
  • previous experience with the drug
  • expectations of the drug’s effects
  • motivation for taking the drug
  • attitude at the time of taking the drug
  • social setting while under the influence of the drug

What are flashbacks?

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. They 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.

LSD flashbacks generally fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Emotional flashbacks: The user relives strong feelings of panic, fear and loneliness similar to those experienced during a bad trip.
  • Somatic flashbacks: The user feels altered body sensations similar to those experienced during a bad trip.
  • Perceptual flashbacks: The user experiences the perceptual distortions of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch that occurred in the original trip.

How do I get help for myself or my loved one?

The first step in getting help is finding out whether you have a problem. A trained clinical psychologist can effectively perform a professional assessment, which will identify whether you have any problem areas, and will recommend the treatment most appropriate for you if necessary.

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