Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, better known as LSD, is the most powerful psychotropic substance known. It is purely synthetic in nature.
It can take several different forms. Initially, it is a clear or white, odorless, water-soluble material synthesized from lysergic acid. It is most commonly derived from ergot, a type of fungus found mainly on rye grain. It is considered an ergoline derivative. Ergoline is a chemical compound found in the alkaloid family. The structure of it is similar to several other hallucinogenic drugs including mescaline and psilocybin.
LSD is considered to be a “classic” hallucinogen, as opposed to the “dissociative” type. It can be made into tabs, dots, tiny capsules and a liquid. The term “dropping acid” comes from using it in liquid form. It is generally ingested orally. It is most often added to absorbent paper and then divided into pieces, each equivalent to one dose. The most common form of the drug are small squares, known as “blotters”. It can also be produced in tablets, known as “microdots”, or tiny squares known as “window panes”.
It is produced in clandestine laboratories in the United States and in other parts of the world.
The mechanism by which it causes such profound affects on the human perception still remains unknown. It does have a serotonin blocking effect and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. It somehow affects the functions of the nervous system, which is directly connected with the brian’s dopamine mechanism.
The experience of using it is often referred to as “trips”. The duration of a typical “trip” or episode can last up to 12 hours. Although it can be smoked or drank as a liquid, the most common way of taking the drug is by placing it on the tongue and letting it slowly dissolve.
Here are some recent numbers of people in the U.S. who use or have used it. These numbers are the results from the 2013 study by the government’s department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s NSDUH (see How Widespread Is the Abuse of Hallucinogens?).
Nearly 25 million
Americans have used LSD at least once
Americans used LSD in the past month
The drug became a pop “counter-culture” phenomenon during the 1960’s. Such legendary figures as Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, and Al Hubbard, began to experiment with it and advocated its value and therapeutic use. Timothy Leary fled to Switzerland to avoid being prosecuted by the United States’ government for his experimentation and associations with the drug.
It has always been theorized that the Beatles hit song “Lucy in the Skies with Diamonds” was about their experiences with the drug. Since the initials of the song spelled it, people naturally assumed the song was about their direct knowledge and experience with the drug. This assumption has always been denied by all of the members of the band.
In the late 60’s Nick Sand became obsessed with the drug and began manufacturing it in massive quantities in California. There he and his partner, Tim Scully, produced over 3.6 million tablets of LSD that was distributed under the name of “orange sunshine”.
Here is a list of some of the possible physical effects:
- Dilated Pupils
- Raised Body Temperature
- Increase Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
- Profuse Sweating
- Loss of Appetite
- Dry Mouth
Feelings and sensations often change more dramatically than any actual physical signs in people who are currently under the influence of it. A person using it might feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. Taken in larger doses, the drug will produce delusions and visual hallucinations. The user’s sense of time and self are altered. Experiencers may “cross over” different senses, so they would “hearing colors” and “seeing sounds”. These changes can be frightening and cause serious panic attacks. Some users have experienced terrifying thoughts and feelings of deep despair. Others have felt fear of losing control, or fear of insanity and death while using it.
Some have allegedly even committed suicide due to confusing reality with fantasy.
The Experience – “Trips”
Here is a list of some of the psychological effects of the drug’s experiences.
Seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling things in a distorted way or perceiving things that do not exist
Intensified feelings and sensory experiences such as brighter colors, sharper sounds
Mixing up senses such as “seeing” sounds or “hearing” colors
Changes in the perception of time, such as faster or slower
The expression “dropping acid”, “acid trip” or “tripping” are often associated with using it.
An acid trip refers to psychedelic experiences brought on by the use of this drug. The term “psychedelic” is derived from the Greek meaning “mind revealing”.
Users can also experience flashbacks, or recurrences of certain aspects of the drug experience. Flashbacks can occur without any warning, and may do so within a few days or more than a year after use. Over some period of time, most users of this drug voluntarily decrease or stop using it.
A “bad trip” can be defined as a “drug-induced temporary psychosis or psychedelic crisis”. It is when the psychological effects of the drug experience turns into a profoundly disturbing state of unease.
In some individuals, the flashbacks can persist and cause significant distress or impairment in social or occupational functioning, a condition known as Hallucinogen Induced Persisting Perceptual Disorder – HPPD.
The psychological effects can vary greatly. Much of it depends on the amount taken. In general, the effects can include altered thinking, visual hallucinations, altered sense of time, stimulation, spiritual shifts, colors and much more.
How It Was Discovered
Like so many great inventions, it was discovered by “accident”. The Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann, first discovered it in 1938. Hoffman was studying certain derivatives of “lysergic acid”. One such derivative was Diethylamide. Originally the compound was named “LSD-25” because it was first created by adding an additional chemical compound group creating C20H25N3O. Hofmann did not actually uncover its psycho-pharmacological effects until five years later, when he ingested the substance accidentally.
It does produce 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’s effects.
- Sugar Cubes
- Window Pane
On October 24, 1968, possession was made illegal in the United States. It is now classified as a Schedule I, Controlled Substance.
Although it is uncommon and expensive to run, a drug lab test, can determine if someone has used this drug previously.
It is considered to be “non-addictive”, since it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior.
Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause hallucinations. A hallucination is a profound distortion of a person’s perceptions of reality. Hallucinogens can be found in plants and mushrooms and can also be manufactured synthetically. There are 3 drugs considered a “classic” hallucinogens including LSD, along with Peyote and Psilocybin mushrooms.
Historically, hallucinogenic plants were used for religious rituals. They were meant to generate mystical insight and enable visual and sensory contact with their spirit world.
Today most people use these types of drugs for recreational purposes or to enhance their own spiritual interests.
Possible Therapeutic Applications
Hallucinogens have a long history of investigation as possible therapeutic agents to treat diseases associated with perceptual distortions, such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and dementia. New studies have suggested ayahuasca may be a potential treatment for substance use disorders and other mental health issues.