What is lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)? Effects and hazards of LSD
Written by Kathleen Davis FNP
Knowledge center
Published: Monday 29 June 2015 Published: Mon 29 Jun 2015
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Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is an illegal drug whose primary effect is to alter the senses and cause hallucinations.
Formulated in 1938 as a treatment for respiratory depression , Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann inadvertently discovered LSD's unique properties when he accidentally absorbed some on his skin.
Believing the drug had potential medical use specifically in the field of psychiatry, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals distributed the drug to the medical community. Over the next 15 years, LSD was studied and used by thousands of researchers. The counterculture of the 1960s led to LSD's increased use by the general population.
Descriptions of psychedelic "trips" as well as stories of psychotic behavior and random acts of violence gained media attention. Sandoz subsequently halted the drug's production.
In 1967, LSD was banned and classified as a Schedule 1 drug with no acceptable medical use. LSD remains illegal in the United States as well as internationally.
Contents of this article:
What is LSD?
Extent of use
Street names
Side effects of LSD
Health risks
Withdrawal symptoms
Long-term effects
You will also see introductions at the end of some sections to any recent developments that have been covered by MNT 's news stories. Also look out for links to information about related conditions.
Fast facts on LSD
Here are some key points about LSD. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
LSD is classified as the most potent hallucinogen.
Naturally occurring hallucinogens have been used for thousands of years in many different cultures as part of certain rituals. 1
An estimated 1.3 million persons aged 12 or older in 2013 (0.5% of the population) have used hallucinogens. 2
The present day dose of LSD is only a fraction of what it was in the 1960s.
LSD blurs the line between perception and imagination.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) led bizarre experiments on LSD to evaluate its potential for mind control. 3
Use may trigger the onset of schizophrenia in those predisposed to the illness.
The average users are educated white males ages 18-22.
Using and or selling LSD is a felony crime.
Craving and addiction do not develop with its use.
The hallucinogenic effect can last up to 12 hours.
LSD is odorless, colorless, with a slight bitter taste.
What is LSD?
LSD is a semi-synthetic drug, meaning it combines both natural occurring and man-made substances. It is derived from ergot, a fungus that grows on certain grains, and a non-organic chemical called diethylamide.
Psychedelics, such as LSD, are part of a wider class of psychoactive drugs known as hallucinogens.
LSD over stimulates serotonin in the cortex and deep structures of the brain, causing alterations in sensory perception, mood and thought patterns. 3
These alterations appear as hallucinations, or sensations that seem real but are created by the mind.
Often referred to as "figments of the imagination," these perceptions can involve all or only one of the five senses. LSD primarily causes visual hallucinations such as distorted colors and shapes. It can also cause blending of the senses known as synesthesia, which is hearing colors or seeing sounds. Using LSD is called "tripping" and users can get a good (heaven) or bad (hell) trip.
LSD is colorless and odorless, and a miniscule amount equivalent to two grains of salt is the entire dose needed to experience the drug's effects. LSD is taken orally through capsule, pill, sugar cubes, chewing gum, and liquid drops transferred to colorful blotter paper. Recreational dosage averages between 25 to 80 mcg. 4
LSD activates serotonin receptors in the brain; these receptors help visualize and interpret the real world. LSD literally causes an explosion of serotonin, allowing more stimuli to be taken in as opposed to the brain's normal practice of filtering it out. This stimuli overload produces the profound changes in thought, attention, perceptions and emotions.
The onset of hallucinations occurs within 60 minutes and can last from 6-12 hours. The perceptual changes that frequently occur with taking LSD include visual, touch, emotions and thinking.
Brightened, vivid colors