Club Drugs: LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)
What Is LSD?
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a very powerful hallucinogen. 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, or liquid. It is odorless, colorless, and has a slightly bitter taste. It is usually taken by mouth. Often, LSD is added to absorbent paper, such as blotter paper. It is then divided into small decorated squares, with each square representing one dose.
What Are the Effects of LSD?
The effects of LSD are unpredictable. They depend on:
- The amount taken
- The user's personality, mood, and expectations
- The surroundings in which the drug is used
LSD begins to cause effects within 30 to 90 minutes of taking it. These physical effects include:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Trembling or shaking
LSD causes a variety of sensations and feelings, which can change dramatically during a "trip" (an experience with LSD). The user may feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. With a large enough dose of LSD, the user will have delusions (false beliefs about self and others), hallucinations, and distorted sensory experiences, such as hearing colors and seeing sounds. At lower dosage levels, color or flashes of light are seen. The visual images progress to brightly colored geometric designs and become distorted. At higher dosages, images appear as distortions of reality or as completely new visual images and can be seen with the eyes open or closed. Hallucinations also take other forms: thoughts become dreamlike or free-flowing, perception of time can become slowed or distorted, and out-of-body experiences or the perception that one's body has merged with another person or object may occur. An LSD trip lasts a long time—up to 12 hours.
During a "bad trip," users may experience paranoia; panic attacks; despair; and severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings, such as fear of losing control, going insane, or dying. The intensity of the hallucinations can become overpowering, prompting the user to want to withdraw from the trip immediately. These adverse feelings can be severe enough to lead to death.
A flashback is a mental recurrence of an experience, without the experience actually recurring. LSD causes flashbacks. A flashback occurs suddenly, often without warning, and may occur within a few days or more than a year after LSD use. Flashbacks can occur in anyone who uses LSD, but they are more common among people who use LSD regularly or have an underlying psychologic problem.
In addition to the risk of bad trips and flashbacks, LSD users may be at greater risk of
long-lasting psychoses, such as
Like many other drugs, LSD produces tolerance. This means that the more often a person uses LSD, the greater amount of the drug he or she will need to take in order to get the same effect. This is an extremely dangerous practice, since the drug is so unpredictable.
LSD is not an addictive drug. Use of LSD does not produce the compulsive drug-seeking behavior seen with addictive drugs, such as
Partnership for a Drug-Free America
The Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration
National Institute on Drug Abuse
LSD. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Available at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/Infofax/lsd.html
Accessed September 19, 2003.
LSD. Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Available at: http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/drugfact/lsd/index.html
Accessed September 19, 2003.
Last reviewed September 2003 by
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