LSD Signs of Use and Side Effects

Initial LSD effects run the gamut from distorted visuals like seeing trails or ghost images that follow moving objects to experiencing frightening hallucinations and symptoms of anxiety. The severity and duration of LSD side effects depend on several factors.

More About LSD Abuse

Proponents of LSD use call it a “mind-expanding” drug, but it is also mind altering. The active ingredient, lysergic acid diethylamide, is a synthetic form of the fungus that grows on rancid grains. It’s completely colorless, odorless, and cheap to manufacture and purchase. It can also lead to temporary brain dysfunction by disrupting normal serotonin production and cause long-term psychological problems.

What Are the Effects of LSD?

LSD is usually taken by chewing or swallowing liquid lysergic acid diethylamide that’s been dropped onto tiny squares of paper called blotters, onto sugar cubes or candy, formed into small wafers called microdots or placed in tabs of gelatin called window panes. The practice of microdosing is used in a clinical setting to treat some emotional problems. Microdosing means to use small amounts of the drug under supervision to lower inhibitions and open up a dialogue about past trauma. Initial effects begin within 60 – 90 minutes of ingestion, and they’re characterized by enhanced visuals that include seeing trails, colors, and blurred images.

Colors seem brighter, sounds are amplified, and tactile sensation is accentuated. Someone who’s tripping may also laugh hysterically with little prompting or out of proportion to the circumstances. There may be a sense of unreality, of the mind becoming separate from the body. Any sense of time is lost, and some users even describe experiencing a mystical or religious awakening. Mild doses are described as pleasant, even with the appearance of hallucinations, and there is no risk of addiction associated with use.

However, that doesn’t mean that there is no risk of danger from abusing LSD.

LSD is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that there is no medical use, it has a high potential for abuse, and the safety of using the drug can’t be verified even when it’s done under the guidance of a licensed therapist. One report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that there were 377,000 first-time LSD users between the ages of 12 – and 17, and 12 percent of high school students stated that LSD was “fairly easy” to obtain. Emergency room visits due to LSD-related injuries or other problems number about 5,000 per year.

Short-Term LSD Side Effects

Short-term LSD effects peak about four hours after onset, and then they begin to diminish. Most of the time, the effects of the drug are completely gone within 12 hours but can recur in bursts, known as flashbacks, for up to a week if a high dose is taken.

LSD side effects include:

  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating, chills, and goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps and diarrhea
  • Flushed appearance in the face
  • Dizziness and blurred vision

These symptoms and others usually go away after the drug is out of the system. However, continued or frequent LSD abuse can lead to long-term problems.

Long-Term Effects of LSD

The effects of LSD wear off in a relatively short time if use is recreational and infrequent, even if the user experiences a bad trip. The long-term effects of LSD are not so easy to dismiss. Someone who enjoys the LSD experience can become depressed when not under the influence of the drug.

Heavy use can also lead to feelings of anxiety and paranoia that don’t end when the trip is over. Confusion and issues with short-term memory are also possible. Personality changes like abrupt shifts in emotion or aggression may become apparent, and some people report feelings of impending doom or having a fear of dying.

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What is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)?

Bad acid trips can leave lingering effects in some people. A bad trip is defined as feelings of severe anxiety, paranoia, and resulting physical effects like sweating, tremors, and increased heart rate. The physical symptoms usually disappear when the drug wears off, but the psychological effects can linger. In extreme cases, a condition known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) occurs.

HPPD is sometimes referred to in clinical settings as persistent psychosis, and it’s considered as a diagnosis when the effects of a bad trip or feelings of anxiety and paranoia continue for weeks or months. If someone abuses LSD for a long time or takes extraordinarily heavy doses, the symptoms can grow to mimic those of schizophrenia.

Other symptoms of HPPD include persistent and sometimes irreversible:

  • Trouble organizing thoughts and speaking coherently
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia and suspicion
  • Memory problems

Such symptoms could continue to occur for years, especially with continued LSD abuse or dependency on other substances, but those who develop this condition will experience symptoms even if they abstain completely. Treatment for HPPD can include use of anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medications.

What Does LSD Tolerance Mean?

Tolerance means that higher dosages of a drug are needed to produce the desired effect. This can happen when any substance is used frequently or taken over a long period of time. However, LSD tolerance doesn’t work the same as tolerance buildup from addictive drugs like meth or opioids.

Tolerance for LSD builds quickly, often after having three or four experiences within a short period of time. But, habitual or heavy users can cease taking LSD for a few weeks and experience the same high as they did their first time using without increasing the dosage. Taking other hallucinogenic drugs like mushrooms (psilocybin) or mescalin (peyote) can cause a cross-drug tolerance, meaning a tolerance to one substance leads to tolerance for similar drugs.

The Risk of LSD Overdose

The average LSD dosage is between 75 and 150 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylamide. Because there is no standard for LSD production, it’s difficult for anyone but a chemist to determine how much of the hallucinogenic compound is present in any one batch or dose. During the peak of acid’s popularity, doses of up to 200 micrograms weren’t uncommon. To put this into context, the average dose of aspirin contains 3,000 times that amount of its active ingredient.

The drug isn’t toxic in a physical sense, and it would take a massive quantity for a fatal reaction, but an LSD overdose could be considered whenever someone takes more than was intended or experiences symptoms that require medical or psychiatric assistance. Users who have taken large quantities of LSD report symptoms that include:

  • Dangerously high body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain and gastric bleeding
  • Respiratory distress

How to Tell if Someone is Under the Influence of LSD

Signs of LSD use are very characteristic of hallucinogenic drugs, so anyone who has experienced the high themselves or been around people who are using LSD can easily pick up on the symptoms of use. At first, the person may seem relaxed and sociable, but their mood can shift rapidly to suspicion or paranoid feelings.

Laughter may be loud, prolonged, and without much provocation, like when someone gets the giggles and can’t control them. The face may be flushed and coated with a light sheen of sweat. Frequent use leads to outbreaks of acne. Pupils become enlarged, and the person may become sensitive to sounds or lighting. Complex tasks like driving or operating machinery are difficult, and they may seem confused or spaced-out when asked a question.