LSD Addiction and Abuse

One of the most storied types of drugs in film, literature, and music is LSD. But, taking a trip on the drug is not all about seeing colors and mind-expansion.

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More About LSD Abuse

What is LSD?

One of the first questions people ask about LSD is “What does LSD stand for?” The letters “LSD” are short for lysergic acid-d (diethylamide). It’s one of the most powerful mind-altering substances on the illegal drug market, and it naturally occurs in a fungus called ergot that grows on certain types of grains when they spoil. People taking it for its hallucinogenic effects are actually experiencing ergot poisoning.

The drug is classified as a Schedule II hallucinogen, meaning it has no clinical value but a high incidence of abuse. Those who use it are prone to auditory and visual hallucinations that can recur for some time after the drug is out of their system.

molecular makeup of LSD and LSD paper strip

How is LSD Made?

LSD was first synthesized by a Swiss scientist in the 1930s. However, it was discovered accidentally after investigating why people in rural areas of Europe were experiencing mass hallucinations after eating moldy rye bread. Now, it’s synthesized artificially in labs. The active ingredients in LSD are extracted from rye or morning glory seeds and refined through a very specific chemical process. This has led to commercially available seeds from these plants being treated to prevent amateur chemists from making low-quality acid in home laboratories.

In lab settings, the lysergic acid-d extracted through a complex chemical process. It’s then “grown” until it forms white crystals, which are converted into a liquid before distribution. This transformation makes the drug easy to camouflage and transport. Care should be taken when handling anything with lysergic acid-d on it, as it can be absorbed through the skin.

A Brief History of Lysergic Acid-D

This drug was initially explored as a way to treat alcohol addiction. “Dropping acid” became popular on college campuses and at concerts, and it was widely used during the counter-cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s. Although popular use waned from the mid-70s and throughout the 1980s, it became popular again in the early 90s and use continues among young people today.

What Does LSD Look Like?

In its pure liquid form, LSD is colorless and odorless, and it has a bitter taste. During the early days of its underground popularity, each LSD dosage was dropped onto a sugar cube to disguise the taste. Since the 1960s, it has been ingested by a variety of means.

How is LSD Used?

Ingesting LSD is called tripping. The most common way to use the drug is by taking something treated with the liquid and chewing or swallowing to extract the drug. Other than the previously mentioned sugar cubes, it can also be dripped onto small gelatin squares are known as window panes or formed into wafers, which are called microdots due to their small size. Taking these is known as micro-dosing LSD.

A popular way to distribute and ingest LSD is to drop it onto small squares of absorbent paper with images or cartoon characters printed on them, which are called blotter or paper. The squares are known as “Loony Toons” on the street, and each variety is named for the character depicted on the square. For example, paper with Mickey Mouse on it would be called by that character name when it’s for sale, such as a dealer saying they have some Mickey Mouse or “the Mouse is around”. Different cartoons or designs are more popular than others at various times, and the names can change by location.

How Long Does LSD Last?

Regardless of how it’s ingested, an LSD trip begins within an hour of taking it and lasts for up to 12 hours. At the height of popularity, dosages of up to 200 micrograms weren’t uncommon, but today’s LSD is much weaker by comparison. Each dose contains approximately 20 – 80 micrograms of liquid lysergic acid-d. Heavier doses of acid can stay in the system or several days, and frequent or hard use can lead to experiencing flashbacks of previous trips for years after the drug is out of the system permanently.

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Is LSD Addictive?

Lysergic acid-d is technically addictive in the sense that people who enjoy taking it can develop cravings for the drug. Frequent or heavy use leads to tolerance, which means the user needs to take more to achieve the desired effect. There are no known cases of death due to overdose. However, it is often taken while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, which can increase the risk of overdose or alcohol toxicity.

Those taking the drug in high doses, which is the technical definition of overdose, have reported experiencing symptoms like:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Elevated body temperature

Many of the effects of an LSD trip are psychological in nature rather than physical. Since there is no standard dosage of this drug, there is no uniform set of symptoms or behaviors. Negative experiences, known as having a bad trip, can result in problems with anxiety after this first time taking the drug. There are also cases of injury or accidental death occurring while under the influence of this drug.

Getting Help for LSD Addiction

Although Lysergic acid-d is a naturally occurring substance, that in no way makes it safe to ingest. It is technically a form of food poisoning that alters perceptions and can lead to permanent problems with brain function. According to the latest reporting from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), about 3 percent of high school seniors have tried LSD at least once.

The drug does not cause physical addiction, but it can negatively impact the user’s life in many other ways. Addiction is defined as compulsive behavior that continues despite negative consequences. That means any behavior that causes someone to shirk responsibilities or who allows drug taking to interfere with personal relationships has issues that need to be addressed.