What Are the Side Effects of LSD?

What Are the Side Effects of LSD?One of the most famous and potent hallucinogenic drugs is LSD, which stands for D-lysergic acid diethylamideWhen it is manufactured, it is a clear, odorless liquid. Although the drug has been experimented with in medical settings in the past, LSD is currently listed as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) because it has no accepted medical use.

Abuse of LSD

LSD is taken orally, typically from blotter paper. Sometimes, it is ingested in liquid form through a dropper, or it is taken in pill or capsule form. Once the drug is absorbed through mucous membranes in the mouth and moved through the digestive system, it begins to affect the brain. This takes between 30 and 90 minutes; however, the direct effects from an LSD high can last up to 12 hours.

This powerful hallucinogen can, if taken regularly enough, lead to cross-tolerance with other hallucinogenic drugs like mescaline, psilocybin, and DMT. Some medical researchers are considering whether microdosing LSD could become a future treatment for chronic depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder; however, as LSD is abused now, it is unpredictable and can cause serious problems.

While LSD is not considered addictive, it is frequently abused and can lead to serious side effects. Even one dose can cause lasting side effects, although this is more likely to happen if a person abuses LSD several times or at high doses.

Short-Term Effects

LSD causes several effects after it begins to bind with receptor proteins in the brain. These are divided into physical and psychological effects.

Physical effects from LSD include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Changes in salivation, either more saliva or dry mouth
  • Tingling in the extremities like fingers and toes
  • Physical weakness
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Heart palpitations
  • Flushing in the face
  • Goosebumps
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite changes, usually suppressed appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sleepiness or fatigue

Reaction time and physical impairment continue for about four hours during and after the peak of the LSD trip. Reaction time is slowed, and decision-making and visual processing abilities are impaired.

Effects on the brain are psychedelic effects and can lead to hallucinations and sometimes to a “bad trip.” Symptoms of a bad trip include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Feeling as though one’s identity is being lost
  • Dissociation
  • Fear of becoming nothing or disintegrating
  • Becoming disoriented
  • Detachment from reality, leading to fear
  • Seeing frightening visions or hearing frightening sounds
  • Increased aggression
  • Increased violence, leading to self-harm or harming others
  • Seizures

More general psychedelic effects from LSD include:

  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Changes to other senses, including touch, taste, and smell
  • Altered perception of time and reality
  • Depersonalization
  • Feeling like one is having a mystical, spiritual, or religious experience
  • Synesthesia, or the blending of sensory experiences together

Long-Term Effects

There are two common long-term effects that LSD causes.

  1. Drug-induced psychosisPeople who are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia or other forms of psychosis, often related to family history or genetics, may have this mental health condition triggered if they take LSD or other hallucinogens.
  2. Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD)Referred to colloquially as “flashbacks,” these episodes are random and spontaneous, leading the person to re-experience some of the hallucinations from a previous trip for no discernible reason. They may also experience halos or light trails attached to moving objects in their visual field.

Other long-term effects are rarer, but they can occur. A heart attack or stroke could occur if the person’s heart rate and blood pressure elevate enough during a trip or if they are predisposed to cardiovascular conditions. Consistent abuse of LSD over time may exacerbate diabetes due to elevated blood sugar, although this is extremely rare. Changes to the brain could lead to cognitive and memory problems as well as difficulty with verbal communication.

People who have a bad trip may experience residual anxiety; worse, if they experience intense delusions or paranoia, they may accidentally harm themselves or those around them. This could lead to long-term physical damage. Mental state changes could make maintaining a job, continuing education, or committing to social responsibilities more difficult even if the person does not take the drug regularly. This may lead to financial instability and damage to personal relationships.

End LSD Abuse

Since LSD Is not considered addictive, and does not involve physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms, few people who abuse this hallucinogen think they need rehabilitation. However, consistent abuse of this drug is very dangerous and indicates some level of addictive behaviors. Mixing LSD with other drugs, like alcohol, opioids, marijuana, and more, can also indicate a problem with polydrug abuse, which is very dangerous and can lead to long-term health problems, including overdose.

There is help available via comprehensive substance abuse treatment. With the right help, people can leave LSD abuse in their past, learning to embrace a healthier, more balanced approach to life in the future.

About The Contributor

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers

The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More

Get Help for Drug Addiction during Coronavirus

Traveling for healthcare & essential services is permitted across the US. Addiction treatment is essential, and we are here for our patients in this difficult time.

Learn More