LSD (Acid) Health Effects & Risks
The psychoactive properties of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, were accidentally discovered in 1943 while Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman was attempting to create new medications.1 Though the therapeutic value of LSD was explored during the 1950s and early 1960s for issues such alcoholism, such use quickly became overshadowed by the growing, negative perception of it being a drug of misuse, widely embraced by the counterculture of the day.2 Today, LSD is classified as Schedule I controlled substance, which is defined as a substance with no currently approved medical use and a notable potential for misuse.3
This article will dive deeper into what LSD is, the effects and potential dangers of LSD, information about LSD overdose and withdrawal, and options for treatment for hallucinogen or other substance use disorders.
What is LSD (Acid)?
LSD is a hallucinogen derived from chemical compounds in the ergot fungus, which grows in various types of grains including wheat, rye, and barley.4 The drug is synthesized as a clear or white water-soluble crystalline form, which can then be used to produce tablets or to instill small paper squares known as “blotters”, both of which are typically consumed orally.3,5 LSD can also be diluted with water or alcohol to produce a liquid form.5 Historic street names for LSD include acid, tabs, microdots, and windowpane.5
According to surveys conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 10.5% of Americans ages 12 and older have used LSD at some point in their lifetime.6 Additionally, 0.9% of people within this same age group had used LSD within the past year.6 LSD is most prevalently used among individuals between the ages of 18 and 25, with 3% of this population using it in 2021 alone.7
Effects of LSD (Acid)
In some instances, LSD can produce subjective feelings of happiness, trust and closeness with other people, increased empathy, and a desire to be around other people (which may result from an increase in oxytocin, a hormone that produces feelings of positivity).8 When taken in large enough doses, auditory and visual hallucinations can occur.9 And while these may be some of the desired effects associated with this drug, it is possible for other, non-favorable effects to develop.
Hallucinogens are sometimes subcategorized based on their different chemical structures and the brain processes they primarily impact.10 LSD, in particular, is an example of a classic hallucinogen. LSD and other classic hallucinogens (a group that also includes drugs like psilocybin and DMT) primarily interact with a certain type of brain receptor (the 5HT2A receptor) to influence the activity of serotonin, a signaling molecule important for regulating behavior, mood, and memory.10,11 As a result of its neurochemical influences, this use of this substance can produce a wide range of undesirable LSD effects, including:3,8
- Loss of appetite.
- Increased body temperature.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- Impaired time perception.
- Distorted sense of identity.
- Fear of losing control.
- Panic attacks.
Dangers of LSD (Acid)
Not only can the use of LSD subject a person to the effects above, but it can also make possible several dangers that can threaten their wellbeing in more significant ways. As the outcomes associated with LSD use can be unpredictable and range in severity, anyone who uses it puts themselves at risk for potentially experiencing one or more of the following LSD dangers:5
- Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) – More commonly known as “flashbacks,” hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) occurs when a person experiences recurrent changes in perception and mood that were experienced while under the influence of LSD or other hallucinogens.10 This disorder can produce flashbacks that continue for years after the use of LSD has ceased.10
- Persistent psychosis – An individual who no longer uses LSD may experience persistent psychosis, which can include visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia, and changes in mood.10
- Behavioral dangers – While under the influence of hallucinogens like LSD, it is possible for individuals to experience impaired thought processes and perceptions that cause them to engage in bizarre, risky, and even dangerous behaviors.10 These behaviors can cause a variety of safety issues and potential injuries, where the outcomes can range anywhere from minor to severe.10
Can You Overdose on LSD?
An LSD overdose often refers to having intense and prolonged trips as a result of large doses, as opposed to the typical overdose that can occur when misusing other substances like heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.12 Deaths that have occurred following the use of LSD have occurred not due to any physical effects of the drug on the body, but because its psychological impacts can cause people to partake in unpredictable and sometimes dangerous activities, such as walking across a busy highway or attempting to go swimming or rock climbing.13
Additionally, fatal overdoses on LSD alone are rare, however research shows that concomitantly consuming large amounts of LSD with other substances (particularly alcohol) can be deadly.10,12
Is LSD (Acid) Addictive?
No, LSD is not considered an addictive drug, primarily because it does not cause one of the hallmark characteristics of addiction, which is compulsive drug-seeking behavior.14 Unlike drugs such as opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine, withdrawal syndromes are not commonly reported, nor well described with classic hallucinogens like LSD.15
Hallucinogen Use Disorder
Though they are not addiction-driving in the way that many other substances like alcohol and opioids are, regular use of LSD may be part of what’s known as a hallucinogen use disorder—a condition which involves problematic use of the drug that causes significant distress or impairment.16 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) outlines 10 criteria that clinicians may use to make such a diagnosis. A few examples of these potential signs of the disorder include:16
- Failure to fulfill obligations at school, work, or home as a result of using the substance
- Taking the substance in larger amounts or for a period of time longer than intended
- Having a desire to stop using the substance or making unsuccessful attempts to stop doing so
- Spending excessive time obtaining, consuming, or recovering from the use of the substance
- Continuing to use the substance despite it causing recurrent social or interpersonal problems
In 2021, among people 12 years and older, 493,000 people (0.2% of the U.S. population) reportedly had a hallucinogen use disorder in the previous year.10
Treatment for Hallucinogen Use Disorder
At our inpatient rehab facility in New Jersey, we understand that challenges that come along with a hallucinogen use disorder. Our team of dedicated and compassionate professionals can provide you or a loved one with the care needed to stop active use and begin a life of recovery.
Call us right now at to learn more about our treatment admissions process, ways to pay for rehab, insurance plans that cover treatment, and the levels of addiction treatment we offer. You can get started on your recovery by having your insurance verified right now. Fill out our secure online to get your results in minutes.
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