Also known as acid, LSD is a drug that had a major impact on the culture of the United States during the 60s and 70s. While many people have heard about this chemical, there is a lot of misinformation and mythology surrounding the substance.
Hallucinogens have been both demonized and hailed as potentially therapeutic in the last several decades. So which is it?
In short: it’s complicated. That being said, taking recreational drugs always poses a long list of risks.
Let’s take a look at what the long-term effects of LSD are, as well as what LSD is and what it does.
What Is LSD?
LSD, also known as lysergic acid diethylamide, is a psychedelic drug that can profoundly alter and distort sensations and perceptions. Potentially lasting up to 12 hours, this long-lasting drug is also one of the most potent mood-altering drugs that are available.
The drug has been around since 1938, when it was synthesized from ergot. Ergot is a type of fungus that grows on grains. It was first synthesized by Albert Hofman, a Swiss chemist who was part of a large research program that was looking for alkaloid derivatives of ergot that were medically useful.
Interestingly, the psychedelic properties of LSD weren’t discovered until Hofmann accidentally ingested an unknown quantity of the substance five years after synthesizing it. he then began intentionally ingesting it.
In 1947, the drug was introduced as a psychiatric medication. At the time, it was marketed as a drug that could cure a wide range of mental disorders.
During the 1950s, the CIA started experimenting with the potential of LSD under a program that was called Project MKUltra. During this time, they introduced the drug to the US and distributed it to research centers, hospitals, clinics, and prisons. The existence of this project wasn’t revealed until 1975.
During the 1960s, LSD became a central part of the countercultural movement. Cultural figures such as Al Hubbard, Aldous Huxley, and Timothy Leary were advocates of consuming this drug. LSD is considered to have been a profound influence on the countercultural movement in the way the new generation of youth thought.
Possession of LSD was made illegal in October 1968 in the United States. In the 1980s, research involving LSD was also ended. As of November 2020, possession of small amounts of LSD has been decriminalized in the state of Oregon, making them the first state to decriminalize possession of LSD.
What Does LSD Do?
Scientists and researchers believe that LSD influences the receptors in your brain that deal with regulating serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is involved in controlling perceptual, behavioral, and regulatory systems. These include motor control, mood, hunger, sensory perception, sexual behavior, and body temperature.
When an individual takes LSD, their perception of reality can be profoundly distorted. They can experience hallucinations where they hear sounds, see images, and feel sensations that are not real but seem real at the time.
LSD effects can be quite unpredictable, as it can cause an individual’s emotions to swing intensely and rapidly. This means that an LSD “trip” can transform from a pleasant and enjoyable experience to an incredibly unpleasant experience very fast.
There has been some research that suggests that there might be therapeutic benefits to LSD, but legal restrictions have made it difficult to perform this research.
Common Side Effects of LSD Use
Some of the most common and dramatic side effects that have been reported by researchers include:
- Altered sense of time
- Altered sense of self
- Dramatic changes in feelings and sensations
- Synesthesia and crossover senses
- Feeling several different emotions at one time
Some individuals might panic when they experience some of these altered sensations and perceptions. It can lead them to experience feelings of despair, terrifying thoughts, fear of insanity, fear of losing control, and fear of death. When this occurs, it is referred to colloquially as a “bad trip.”
There are also some physical side effects of taking LSD. These include trouble sleeping, seizures, loss of appetite, nausea, and dry mouth.
If an individual has overdosed on LSD, they might experience psychosis, seizures, panic attacks, or delusions. If you believe that someone has overdosed on this drug, you’ll want to contact emergency services and attempt to keep them as calm as possible while you wait for help.
Long-Term LSD Effects on the Body and Brain
Even though LSD is a potent drug that can cause intense experiences, it is not considered to be an addictive drug. However, there is evidence that the dramatic brain chemistry changes brought on by LSD can lead to long-term effects. These long-term changes might clear up over time, but they can persist for years.
One condition is known as HPPD or hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder. Typically referred to as flashbacks, this is one a person who has previously taken LSD suddenly re-experiences the sensations or feelings of an earlier trip. This might include visual trails coming off light sources of halos around lights.
In rare instances, LSD can trigger something known as serotonin syndrome. This is most common in individuals who are already prescribed prescription psychiatric medications. Serotonin syndrome symptoms include:
- Restlessness or agitation
- Vomiting or nausea
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
- Fever or high body temperature
- Loss of coordination
- Rapid changes in blood pressure
For people who are predisposed to psychosis, LSD can trigger drug-induced psychosis. On its own, LSD won’t cause psychosis, but it’s important to learn about your family’s medical history to understand the risks. There are always associated risks when taking recreational drugs.
The Long-Term Effects of LSD: More Research Needs to Be Done
LSD is a complicated substance to understand. Restrictions on use and research have made it so scientists don’t know as much about this chemical as they might otherwise. That being said, what information we do have indicates that taking LSD is not without potential short-term and long-term risks.
While the long-term effects of LSD might not affect everyone who takes the drug, the consequences are potentially quite serious. Although LSD is not inherently an addictive substance, if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, learn more about Healthy Life Recovery’s outpatient addiction rehab.