Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects of LSD Abuse
Last Updated: November 11, 2022
- LSD is a hallucinogenic drug that changes a person’s sensory perception and how they experience reality
- The drug can be snorted, injected or taken orally
- The group that most commonly uses LSD are those between the ages of 12 and 26
- LSD is not considered addictive but can produce mild psychological addiction
- Side effects of LSD are mostly mental and emotional and only last during a “trip”
- Physical side effects of LSD are usually caused by changes to a person’s behavior
Understanding LSD Side Effects and Addiction
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a well-known illegal drug.
LSD is a hallucinogen, which is a type of drug that alters a person’s perception of reality. Hallucinogens are also sometimes called an entheogen, which means it produces spiritual experiences or unusual states of consciousness.
The drug was originally synthesized by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938. He intended to make a respiratory stimulant to serve as a countermeasure to tranquilizer overdoses. While re-synthesizing the chemical, he accidentally absorbed some through his skin, causing him to directly experience the hallucinogenic substance.
While Hofmann described his experience positively, the information medical professional gained over the decades has illuminated positive and negative LSD side effects.
Is LSD addictive? LSD is not physically addictive and does not cause dependence, but it can have serious short- and long-term consequences on a person’s mental and emotional life.
How is LSD Used?
Pure LSD is a white, crystalline powder or a clear and colorless liquid. The drug can be snorted, injected into a vein or, most commonly, absorbed through the skin.
The drug is active in small quantities and a typical dose is between 25 to 80 micrograms (mcgs). Large doses may be up to 250 mcg. The amount required for a lethal dose is high, ranging between 14,000 and 70,000 mcg for a healthy adult.
The most common way to take LSD is by adding the liquid onto small paper squares and placing the squares onto the tongue. LSD can also be added into candy, sugar cubes and other edible items.
Other forms of LSD use and their associated street names include:
- Acid (liquid LSD)
- Blotter acid (small paper squares)
- Window pane (gelatin squares)
- Microdots (tablets)
LSD Use Statistics
LSD is one of the most well-known psychedelic substances according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), but the use of all hallucinogenic drugs remains low throughout the country.
Each year SAMHSA performs surveys on drug use in the United States. Between the years 2002 and 2014, about 0.1% of people reported using a hallucinogenic drug within the 30 days before taking the survey.
The age group that used LSD most frequently in 2014 were people between the ages of 12 and 26. About 0.1% of adults over age 26 reported using the drug once in 2014.
How Addictive is LSD?
LSD is considered to have a low addictive potential for two reasons.
The first reason is that LSD does not cause or encourage compulsive use. Some drugs, like methamphetamine, have a reinforcing effect, and the person develops strong urges to take more of the drug, even if they are still high. LSD does not have that effect.
The second reason is that the body develops a tolerance to LSD quickly. After only a few days of repeated use, tolerance becomes so high that the drug begins to have no effect at all. Therefore, it lacks the reinforcing mechanism of producing a high after just a few days.
Short-Term LSD Side Effects
Most of the side effects of LSD use are short-term and related to the experience of the LSD “trip.”
A “trip” is the set of symptoms that happen during acute intoxication. The emotional tone of a trip usually takes a distinctly good or bad tone. The results vary from trip to trip.
Physical Side Effects
While LSD can produce many physical side effects, most are minor. Common side effects are dilated pupils, elevated heart rate and elevated blood pressure. These side effects are likely related to the underlying emotional reactions of the LSD trip.
Other physical side effects include:
- Dilated pupils
- Dry mouth
- Fast breathing
- High blood pressure
- High body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Panic attacks
- Tremor or shaking
Behavioral Side Effects
LSD’s primary effect is on the mental and emotional state of a person. The drug can produce some of the following behavioral side effects:
- Altered perception of sights and sounds
- Changes in the perception of time
- Intensified sensory perceptions like light and sound
- Mixed sensory perceptions (for example, “seeing” sounds)
- Mood swings
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)
- Touching, smelling, hearing or seeing things in a distorted way
Long-Term LSD Side Effects
Several long-term studies have concluded that LSD is relatively safe compared to other drugs. Most people who take it experience no long-lasting consequences or side effects.
However, a person who abuses LSD by taking it in high doses or over long periods may begin to develop some effects.
Physical Side Effects
The long-term physical effects of LSD use are usually caused by behavioral changes, rather than direct effects from the drug itself.
Some examples include:
Behavioral Side Effects
Long-term use of LSD may lead to the worsening of some psychiatric conditions because of the impacts on mood and thinking. People with a history of mental health problems have a much higher chance of developing some of the following side effects:
- Disorganized thinking
- Mood changes
Signs of an LSD Overdose
A drug overdose is when someone takes an excessive or a dangerous amount of a drug. A lethal dose of LSD is almost impossible to achieve for most people due to the amount of LSD needed to be lethal.
To spot an overdose, a person should look at intensified behavioral and physical symptoms of LSD use. The symptoms may last longer than a normal trip, which is typically 12 hours long.
How to Address LSD Addiction
Though LSD addiction is rare, the drug can produce psychological addiction for some people. These types of addictions can be just as impactful and harmful as a physical addiction.
LSD use becomes a problem if a person feels they have to have it to function or to feel normal.
Das, Saibal; et al. “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Drug of ‘Use’?” Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 2016. Accessed August 31, 2019.
Department of Justice. “D-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (Street […]id, Window Pane).” 2018. Accessed August 31, 2019.
Drug Policy Alliance. ”LSD Fact Sheet”. 2017. Accessed August 31, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Hallucinogens.” 2019. Accessed August 31, 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Substance Use – LSD: MedlinePlus Me[…]cal Encyclopedia.” 2016. Accessed August 31, 2019.
ToxNet. “LSD – National Library of Medicine HSDB Database.” 2017. Accessed August 31, 2019.
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