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Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide, is commonly known as acid. According to the “2013 ICD-10-CM directory,” LSD is a typical hallucinogen: it is the drug most commonly thought of when people discuss hallucinogens. Hallucinogens, or entheogens, typically cause people to experience a distorted sense of reality. While using LSD and other hallucinogens, people report seeing visual images, hearing sounds or receiving sensory stimulation that seems real to them, but is not. Taking this drug can cause extreme hunger pangs or appetite loss, higher or lower body temperature, or diminished or heightened sexual response.

Lysergic acid diethylamide and other hallucinogens can cause users to experience profound emotional mood changes. LSD causes these effects by creating disruption between interacting nerve cells and serotonin, a neurotransmitter. The serotonin system controls and regulates behaviors and perceptions. Serotonin is conveyed through the spinal cord and distributed from the brain. Acid users refer to these experiences and sensations as the LSD trip experience. According to author Albert (Abby) Hoffman in “LSD: My Problem Child,” (2013) researchers originally studied LSD for medical and psychiatric uses before becoming the best known psychedelic drug of the 1960s drug culture.

Sandoz pharmaceutical synthesis of LSD. Hoffman first produced LSD in the Sandoz laboratories (Switzerland) in the 1930s. The drug was synthesized as a result of Sandoz’s studies of Digitalis (foxglove), ergot of rye (Claviceps purpurea, Secale cornutum) and Mediterranean squill (Scilla maritima). LSD is popularly considered the derivative of ergot alkoloids. Ergot, a fungus that grows parasitically on rye grain and wild grasses, is potentially poisonous. Hoffman says that ergot was used to kill masses of people in the Middle Ages. Outbreaks of disease from ergot poisoning occurred in Russia in the late 1920s. Conversely, ergot has been used as a drug to quicken childbirth labor.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Federal Classification

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) report that LSD’s federal classification is Schedule I. Schedule I drugs are considered recreational drugs and are not considered appropriate for medical purposes. The DEA considers Schedule I drugs as the most dangerous to users. They are highly likely to create dependence, either psychologically or physically, in the user. For this reason, Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse, according to 21 U.S.C. §802(32)(A) and 21 U.S.C. §813 for the drug schedule.

LSD Appearance

This drug may appear as a type of perforated paper, called “blotterLSD. The paper may be brightly colored or present with printed images. A white powder form of the drug can be made into tablets, called tabs or trips. Occasionally, lysergic acid diethylamide powder is dyed another color for visual effect. A clear liquid form of acid, usually presented in a flask or container. LSD may be offered in thin gelatinous cubes or on sugar cubes. These forms are taken by mouth. Liquid or ‘jello‘ forms may be taken through the tear ducts.

LSD Risks

According to editors Joris Cornelis Verster, Kathleen Brady, Marc Galanter, and Patricia Conrod, (“Drug Abuse and Addiction in Medical Illness: Causes, Consequences and Treatment,” 2012) LSD can permanently change brain function. It causes the locus coeruleus and raphe nuclei of the brain stem to intensely react. After the first LSD trip subsides, the user may have uncontrolled “flashback” experiences throughout life. Researchers Batzer et al. (“Journal of Addictive Diseases,” 1999) report there is some correlation between multiple doses and the development of flashback experiences. Development of flashbacks is the most frequently given reason for users’ decision to stop use. Many research studies point to the potential for chromosomal damage in users.

How LSD Affects the Body

LSD begins to affect the user’s body within 30 minutes of ingestion and may remain in the body for up to 14 hours.

Many lysergic acid diethylamide users report short-term physiological effects, such as:

  • Rising blood pressure and increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite or extreme hunger, nausea
  • Tremors or muscle pain
  • Sweating

The complete understanding of how the drug affects the body remains a matter of study. Ingestion of LSD acts on the body’s serotonin receptors, e.g. 5-HT2, in two regions of the brain. The cerebral cortex, the brain’s perception and mood control center, and the locus coeruleus, involved in the processing of nerve signals throughout the body, show heightened activity after the user takes LSD. The locus coeruleus has also been called as an important detection center for the body’s processing of external stimulus. According to author Robert L. DuPont, (“The Selfish Brain: Learning from Addiction,” 2010) the locus coeruleus is “the alarm when a person is confronted with a novel, exciting and potentially dangerous experience…LSD intoxication makes the locus coeruleus more susceptible to panic attacks.” Taking LSD even once may cause permanent changes to the central nervous system, according to authors Annelie Hintzen and Torsten Passie (“The Pharmacology of LSD,” 2010). Long-term users report the need to increase dosage over time to maintain intense effects.

How LSD Affects the Mind

Researchers do not fully understand how LSD works. Many users report dual pleasurable and frightening aspects of LSD use. They may experience unpredictable reactions to LSD. Frightening or averse experiences are known as bad trips in drug culture, affect the senses and perceptions of users. Intensified perception of color, scents, or sounds may overwhelm the individual. Synesthesia, a shift of perception, may happen: the user ‘hears‘ color or ‘sees‘ auditory stimuli. LSD can cause the user to feel that time has dramatically slowed down. He may experience his body changing shape, or experience a ‘carnival mirror‘ reflection of his body. Users experience a total loss of control or the sense of living through a waking nightmare. Anxiety, terror, or fears of impending death may occur in a bad LSD trip.

Some of the short-term mental affects of LSD include:

  • Mental alertness
  • Anxiety, paranoia
  • Confusion, delirium

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Overdose

Donald G. Barceloux, author of “Medical Toxicology of Drug Abuse,” (2010) reports that psychiatric distress may occur in an LSD overdose. The user may experience a psychotic break, similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia. Researchers report that the LSD overdose is undifferentiated from schizophrenic psychosis. Medical complications, such as headache, small artery or carotid internal occlusion may results from heavy LSD use.


LSD/Acid is an strongly addictive hallucinogen. Users cannot control the effects of LSD on a short or long-term basis. Medical treatment of the lysergic acid diethylamide user is recommended to break the abuse cycle and address the long-term psychological and physical affects.

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