LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a powerful drug that can have positive or negative effects. I personally took it twice a while back, a microdose and a larger dose. I wasn’t in a good setting for it, but it was quite interesting. Some people say it was life-changing for them, while others don’t notice any long-term impact (I didn’t notice anything long term). There are many people who aren’t happy with their experience and each person must decide if it’s suited for them.
What is Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)?
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) belongs to a class of drugs known as hallucinogens. It is a clear white odorless material and has many other names including Acid, Blotter, Dots, and Yellow Sunshine .
LSD was first made by Albert Hofman in Switzerland in 1938 from ergotamine, a chemical from the fungus ergot that grows on rye and other grains. The psychoactive effects of LSD were discovered in 1943, and it was introduced as a commercial medication under the trade name “Delysid” in 1947 [2, 3].
More than 22 million (9.1% of the population) have used LSD at least once in their lives .
LSD is mainly used as a recreational drug and for spiritual reasons.
It is typically either swallowed or held under the tongue. While this drug is widely abused it does not appear to be addictive .
Tolerance to LSD develops rapidly in humans but is easily lost. Withdrawal symptoms, including slight restlessness and irritability, are absent or mild .
LSD in oral doses of more than 100 μg produces increased sensory perception, illusionary changes of perceived objects, synesthesia (to taste sounds, smell colors or see scents), and enhanced mental imagery.
Positive emotion is intensified. Thoughts are accelerated, with their scope usually broadened including new associations and modified interpretation and meanings of relationships and objects. Memory processes are typically enhanced.
Ego identification is usually weakened. The general state of consciousness can be compared to a daydream, but with pronounced positive emotion.
Recently, researchers have been investigating the therapeutic use of LSD and other psychedelics for end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cancer, and addiction treatment .
The History of LSD
Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938. The main intention of the synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant. It was set aside for five years, until 1943, when Hofmann decided to reexamine it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small quantity through his fingertips and fortuitously discovered its powerful effects.
He described what he felt as being:
“… affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home, I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with an intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours, this condition faded away.”
Three days later, Hofmann performed a self-experiment to determine the true effects of LSD, intentionally ingesting 250 micrograms of the substance, an amount he predicted to be a threshold dose (an actual threshold dose is 20 micrograms).
Less than an hour later, Hofmann experienced sudden and intense changes in perception. He asked his laboratory assistant to escort him home and, as the use of motor vehicles was prohibited because of wartime restrictions, they had to make the journey on a bicycle. On the way, Hofmann’s condition rapidly deteriorated as he struggled with feelings of anxiety, alternating in his beliefs that the next-door neighbor was a malevolent witch, that he was going insane, and that the LSD had poisoned him. When the house doctor arrived, however, he could detect no physical abnormalities, save for a pair of incredibly dilated pupils. Hofmann was reassured, and soon his terror began to give way to a sense of good fortune and enjoyment, as he later wrote…
“… little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux …”
This LSD trip proved to Hofmann that he had indeed made a significant discovery: a psychoactive substance with extraordinary potency, capable of causing significant shifts of consciousness in incredibly low doses.
Hofmann foresaw the drug as a powerful psychiatric tool; because of its intense and introspective nature, he couldn’t imagine anyone using it recreationally .
How LSD Works
LSD is an activator of serotonin receptors in the locus coeruleus (LC), the raphe nuclei (RN), and the cortex. It inhibits firing and serotonin release of these cells. The hallucinogenic effect of LSD has been linked to its affinity for the serotonin receptor .
LSD at high doses decreases the dopaminergic neural activity in the ventral tegmental area, the main source of dopaminergic neurons in the brain implicated in the pathogenesis of psychosis .
Benefits of LSD
1) Relieves Anxiety and Pain in Terminally Ill Patients
LSD studies with advanced-stage cancer patients show significantly reduced anxiety. No adverse effects were reported .
In one clinical study, 100 µg of LSD remarkably reduced the intensity and duration of the pain in patients having severe physical pain including cancer patients.
It is postulated that LSD could reduce pain in the terminally ill for days or even weeks, by breaking the cycle of anticipating pain and dramatically reducing the fear of death .
A double-blind, randomized, active placebo-controlled pilot study was conducted in 12 patients with anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. Treatment included drug-free psychotherapy sessions supplemented by two LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions 2 to 3 weeks apart .
At the 2-month follow-up, anxiety was significantly reduced, with no acute or chronic adverse effects persisting beyond 1 day after treatment or treatment-related serious adverse events. Anxiety reductions were sustained for 12 months .
These results indicate that when administered safely in a methodologically rigorous medically supervised psychotherapeutic setting, LSD can reduce anxiety .
2) Enhances Emotional Empathy, Sociality, and Suggestibility
In a within-subject, placebo-controlled design healthy volunteers who were administered intravenous LSD (40 – 80 µg) gave a significantly higher rating for CIS (Creative Imagination Scale). These results showed that the improved suggestibility may have implications for the use of LSD as an adjunct to psychotherapy .
In another study involving 24 healthy participants, suggestibility was significantly enhanced by LSD and mescaline .
LSD has also been shown to improve suggestibility most in patients with neurosis and schizophrenia, but least in patients with depression .
Suggestions must be of sufficient duration and level of detail to be enhanced by the drug. Individuals with high trait conscientiousness are especially sensitive to the suggestibility-enhancing effects of LSD (implied) .
In a placebo-controlled, double-blind, random-order crossover study conducted using 100 µg LSD in 24 subjects and 200 µg LSD in 16 subjects (25 – 65-year-old volunteers) showed that it produced feelings of happiness, trust, closeness to others, enhanced explicit and implicit emotional empathy.
Hence LSD acutely impairs fear recognition and enhances emotional empathy and sociality .
3) May Improve Alcohol and Drug Addiction
A quantitative meta-analysis of LSD on alcoholism showed that of 536 participants in six trials 59% of subjects receiving LSD (210 – 800 µg) reported lower levels of alcohol misuse compared with 38% of subjects receiving placebo .
A meta-analysis of controlled trials has also demonstrated a consistent and clinically significant beneficial effect of high-dose LSD in the treatment of addictions .
4) May Alleviate Cluster Headaches
Hallucinogens have been increasingly used by cluster headache patients outside of physician recommendation mainly to abort a cluster period .
Although controversial, LSD is said to be used for headache treatment and also to prevent headache disorders .
In a study with 53 cluster headache patients, 7 of 8 LSD users reported cluster period termination and 4 of 5 users reported an extension of no symptoms .
5) May Improve Mood Disorders and Depression
According to one study, the recent behavioral and neuroimaging data show that psychedelics like LSD modulate neural circuits that have been implicated in mood disorders and can reduce the clinical symptoms of these disorders .
In animal models, LSD was found to have an effect similar to antidepressants, as it rebalances serotonin in the brain (“re-balance of hippocampal 5-HT2/5-HT1A signaling”) .
6) Helps Boost Human Creativity
In one study, LSD was given to a mixed group of 60 visual artists over a 7-year period. The artists produced over 250 drawings that were demonstrated to be improved by LSD. Some aspects of the artists’ work were improved like more expressionism, sharpening color, greater freedom from prescribed mental sets, increased syntactical organization, deeper accessibility of past impressions, and a heightened sense of emotional excitement .
In another study, graphic arts were demonstrated to be enhanced by LSD .
In an experiment conducted on 19 graduate students, creativity test data was improved by LSD .
A pilot study in one group of individuals engaged in various industries like engineers, theoretical mathematicians, physicists, architects, and designers showed that LSD significantly improved creativity .
7) May Improve Autism
Several groups of researchers issued reports on the use of LSD in the treatment of children with autism mostly between 1959 and 1974. Several positive outcomes were reported with its use but most of the studies lacked proper experimental controls and presented largely experimental/narrative data .
8) Has Potent Anti-inflammatory Effects
LSD, as an activator of serotonin receptors, blocks inflammatory effects of Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF–α) induced expression of pro-inflammatory cell adhesion molecules (Icam-1, Vcam-1), cytokines (IL-6, IL-1β), and chemokines (Mcp-1, Cx3cl1) genes, and expression of the VCAM-1 protein .
In addition, it also inhibits the production of interleukin-6. Its anti-inflammatory effects work by being an activator of 5-HT2A receptor .
9) Reduces Crime In Criminals
A study by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine collected data on 25,622 individuals under community corrections supervision in Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities and found that hallucinogen use predicted a reduced likelihood to fail the TASC program. Results suggest that hallucinogens may promote alcohol and other drug abstinence and prosocial behavior in a population with high rates of recidivism .
Compared to the average recidivism rate of 60 percent for American prisoners in general, the recidivism rate for those involved in Leary’s project dropped to 20 percent. The experimenters concluded that long-term reduction in overall criminal recidivism rates could be effected with a combination of psilocybin-assisted group psychotherapy (inside the prison).
10) Improves Brainwaves
Just like Psilocybin and Peyote, LSD increases beta brain waves, associated with alertness and awareness, and LSD increases the variability of brain waves . Also, chronic LSD users (15 – 300 total doses) have a significant increase in energy for all brain waves accompanied by a faster reaction time .
22 Mental health professionals who self-experimented with LSD were interviewed. None of the respondents reported any long-term negative effect and all of them except two recorded enrichment in the sphere of self-awareness and/or understanding to those with a mental disorder(s) .
1) May Cause Psychosis
Do not take if you have schizophrenia, as a precaution.
Case reports of long-term psychiatric problems attributed to LSD include psychosis, panic attacks, other anxiety disorders and depression .
Animal studies that have taken LSD daily for 90 days (anyone doing that would go insane), developed symptoms of schizophrenia .
2) May Cause Flashbacks
A side effect associated with the use of LSD is the partial or total recurrence of perceptual disturbances which previously appeared during intoxication, despite the absence of recent use. These are commonly referred to as “flashbacks” or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).
Two case reports of patients with a prior history of LSD turned to psychiatric consultation following brief episodes of HPPD . These were the first reported cases of LSD-related benign flashbacks in which new imaginary is experienced.
LSD may cause loss of appetite, sleeplessness, pupil dilation, dry mouth, salivation, flushing of the face, excessive sweating, nausea, and inner trembling. LSD also causes increased body temperature, heartbeat, blood pressure, and blood sugar [8, 44].
LSD produces intense effects in extremely small quantities. The minimally recognizable dose of LSD in humans is about 25 μg. The “optimum” dosage for a typical LSD reaction is estimated to be in the range of 100 – 200 μg .
LSD is generally taken orally. After ingestion, LSD is completely absorbed in the gut. After 100 – 250 μg LSD, psychological and physical effects peak after 1.5 – 2.5 h (although effects are felt for hours after) .
How Long Does LSD Stay in the Body?
A 2017 review of two clinical studies found the following :
100 μg Dose (all values are averages):
- Maximum blood concentration: 1.3 (1.2 – 1.9) ng/mL
- Time to reach max blood concentration: 1.4 hours
- Half-life: 2.6 (2.2 – 3.4) hours
- Subjective effect duration: 8.2 ± 2.1 hours
- Subjective peak effects: 2.8 hours
200 μg Dose (all values are averages):
- Average maximum blood concentration: 3.1 (2.6 – 4.0) ng/mL
- Time to reach max blood concentration: 1.5 hours
- Half-life: 2.6 (2.2 – 3.4) hours
- Subjective effect duration: 11.6 ± 1.7 hours
- Subjective peak effects: 2.5 hours
In summary, after oral administration of LSD, it takes about 1.5 hours to reach the maximum concentration in the body, 2.5 hours to “kick-in”, and the effects can last anywhere from 8.2 to 11.6 hours depending on the dose.