LSD is the most common name for a semisynthetic drug, lysergic acid diethylamide. The compound was originally synthetized in 1938 by Swiss chemist, Albert Hoffman, as a potential therapy for respiratory depression and other physical ailments. The substance reached its height of popularity in the 1960s as a recreational and spirituality enhancing drug. While it is a powerful hallucinogen, LSD is not considered addictive for most people, although it can be very dangerous. LSD can trigger psychosis, depression, aggression, and schizophrenia in individuals who are prone to these mental health disorders.
In its current forms, LSD is typically steeped into blotter paper, which features colorful designs; available as a diluted liquid that can be dropped onto the tongue; or mixed with gelatin to create smaller cubes that can then be ingested. Rarely, LSD is injected intravenously. This substance is typically absorbed through the gastrointestinal system, and the effects begin within 30-90 minutes.
The exact mechanism in the chemical structure of LSD that causes hallucinations, perceptual changes, and other sensations, from wellbeing to paranoia, has not been firmly established. Scientists know that LSD affects the midbrain, where the sympathetic nervous system is found. The molecular structure of LSD is similar to psilocybin, or magic mushrooms, and mescaline. There is some cross-tolerance between these substances, meaning that if a person becomes tolerant to one, they will be more tolerant to the others.
The main ingredient in LSD is lysergic acid, which is most commonly synthetized from ergot, a fungus that grows on grains like rye. Ergot has historically been feared as a poison, with medieval accounts of the substance being associated with outbreaks affecting thousands of people at a time. However, in the early 20th century, ergot began to be investigated as a potential medicine, which led to the discovery and synthesis of lysergic acid, then LSD.
Lysergic acid amine can be found in substances in nature other than ergot, like morning glory seeds. Reportedly, this chemical by itself can produce a mild euphoric effect. Sometimes, LSA is referred to as ergine, because of its relation to ergot.
Iso-Lysergic Acid Hydrazide
During the production of LSD, lysergic acid amine (LSA) must be converted into a different chemical compound so it can attach to the other active ingredient, diethylamide. Some chemicals are added to lysergic acid, then heated, to create iso-lysergic acid hydrazide.
The other main chemical found in LSD is diethylamide, which is a synthetic chemical produced in a laboratory. Diethylamide forms after an acid and base are added to iso-lysergic acid hydrazide, which turns into iso-lysergic diethylamide. Through isomerization, the chemical formula is rearranged again and becomes LSD.
It is rare that LSD itself is diluted with other substances, but LSD has been found as a diluting or cutting agent in other drugs, including ecstasy and Molly. LSD can dilute the pupils, raise blood pressure, increase body temperature, reduce appetite, cause insomnia or sleeplessness, lead to dehydration, and change moods or feelings. Most notably, LSD causes perceptual changes in colors, sounds, tactile sensations, and the individual’s sense of time. This can lead to good or bad reactions, depending on the individual, their surroundings, the concentration of the substance, and preexisting mental or physical health conditions.
Even though LSD is not considered psychologically addictive, it can be dangerous and lead to physical and mental side effects.
LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide. This substance is a manufactured hallucinogen, although the chemicals that make up LSD can be found in the ergot fungus, which grows on rye or wheat. The drug is believed to have no medicinal use, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists it as a Schedule I controlled substance. LSD is famous for causing “acid trips,” in which a person’s sensory perceptions – most commonly, visual and auditory sensations – are changed. Mood can be altered as well.
Although LSD experienced a surge in popularity in the 1960s, and is touted by many users to be harmless, this substance has an intense effect on the brain. It can induce a negative experience for many people who take it.
Unlike many other potent drugs, LSD does not interact with many other intoxicating substances, either legal or illicit. This could occur because LSD does not interact with the same areas of the brain as other intoxicating substances, although no one is completely sure. For example, drinking alcohol while taking LSD does not induce negative effects from being drunk, although LSD may block some of the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
Still, LSD does interact with some substances. For example, developing a tolerance to LSD leads to a tolerance to psilocybin (mushrooms) and mescaline (peyote) even if the person has never ingested these substances before.
LSD could also interact negatively with lithium, which is used to treat bipolar disorder, and fluoxetine, an antidepressant. Using LSD while taking these prescription medications may induce seizures.
It is difficult to overdose on LSD. It is more likely that a person who takes too much LSD for their specific body composition will have a bad trip; they could potentially experience flashbacks for several years, which can negatively impact their life. Panic attacks, aggression, suicidal thoughts, and other emotional problems can be remnants of a bad trip on LSD, even when the person ingested a low dose of the drug.
However, it is possible to overdose on LSD in the sense that mental and physical side effects of even a normal dose can be dangerous. For example, people with pre-existing heart or lung problems could experience intense panic that leads to hospitalization. Rarer issues associated with overdose on LSD are rhabdomyolysis, when muscle tissue is destroyed; hyperthermia, or a dangerous increase in body temperature; stroke or blood clots; seizures; and coma.
For many people who take LSD once or rarely, there are few hangover or withdrawal symptoms and few to no cravings for more of the drug. However, LSD dramatically affects sensory perception, so it has an intense effect on brain chemistry. This can cause harm to the brain and body.
People who are predisposed to psychiatric conditions, especially psychosis, severe depression, and schizophrenia, are at risk of triggering these conditions by taking LSD or making symptoms worse if the conditions are already present.
The brain is so affected by LSD that even one use can lead to hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). This disorder involves flashbacks to experiences during the trip, such as sensory distortions. Flashbacks occur suddenly, and they can continue for years after one dose of LSD.
If a person takes LSD and has a bad trip, which involves paranoia, anxiety, and frightening hallucinations, they may accidentally harm themselves or others around them in an attempt to escape or fight back. Anxiety and panic attacks related to experiences during the trip may not immediately go away after LSD has left the body.
After the person ingests LSD, the drug takes effect within 10 minutes; the initial euphoric effects last for 20-30 minutes, and effects peak between two and four hours. The comedown, as the drug is metabolized and processed out of the body, begins around six hours after ingestion, although symptoms may not begin for eight hours.
Some negative effects can begin during the trip, and these may continue through the comedown process. These include:
Emotional reactions or mood swings
Changes (usually increases) in heart rate or blood pressure
LSD is found most commonly in liquid form, which is clear, colorless, and odorless. The liquid is applied to blotter paper, which is cut into stamp-like squares or circles. The paper is applied to the tongue, and the drug enters the bloodstream through that membrane. LSD liquid is sometimes applied to sugar cubes, candy, crackers, stickers, or gelatin, so it can be ingested orally. While consuming the drug orally means it takes longer to take effect, the high can last longer and might be less intense.
This substance can also sometimes be found as a white powder, capsule, or in tablet form, although these are less common forms.