LSD

What is LSD?

LSD or acid (lysergic acid diethylamide) is the most commonly used hallucinogen (also known as psychedelics). It is considered a typical hallucinogen causing similar effects to other hallucinogens like mescaline, psilocybin (mushrooms), and ibogaine.

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How is LSD used?

LSD is usually taken by ingesting small tabs of paper (frequently placed under the tongue) which have been soaked in the liquid form of the drug then dried. In rare cases it is taken in a liquid, gelatin, or tablet form. Sometimes a dose is soaked into a sugarcube. Doses range from 20 to 100 micrograms now, though in the 1960s they ranged from 100 to 200 micrograms. Because LSD is produced illegally, it is difficult to know how strong a dose is. The effects of the drug begin in about 30 minutes and last up to 12 hours. It can be very difficult to sleep if LSD has been taken in the last 6 hours.

Why do people take LSD?

LSD, like other hallucinogens, produces a distortion in the user's sense of reality, including images, sounds, and sensations that do not really exist. These hallucinations can be pleasurable and for some people even intellectually stimulating, but they can also be disorienting or disturbing and result in a negative emotional experience (bad trip). It is difficult to determine what kind of an experience a person will have on LSD because the same person can have very different experiences each time. As with all drugs, but especially with LSD, a user's experience is shaped by their previous drug experience, expectations, setting, as well as the neurological effects of the drug.

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What are the short-term risks of taking LSD?

The most common dangers of LSD result from bad trips, including terrifying thoughts and feelings, despair, fear of losing control, and fear of death. These problems are especially common and severe in people with underlying mental problems like severe depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disease. Some fatal accidents have also occurred among users who could not perceive the reality of their situation. They hallucinate safe situations when they are actually in danger or are unable to judge distances. You should never operate machinery or drive cars while taking LSD. Problems that might occur include:

  • Extreme changes in behavior and mood; person may sit or recline in a trance-like state
  • Chills, irregular breathing, sweating, trembling hands
  • Changes in sense of light, hearing, touch, smell, and time
  • Nausea, especially in the first two hours
  • Increase in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar
  • Fatigue the next day.

Are there long-term consequences to taking LSD?

Hallucinogens can trigger or aggravate conditions like depression, mania and schizophrenia.  Flashbacks can occur suddenly, often without warning, and may occur within a few days or more than a year after LSD use.  In some people, the flashbacks can persist and cause significant distress or impairment in functioning, a condition known as hallucinogen-induced persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD). Some of the long-term problems associated with chronic or heavy LSD use are:

  • A person can experience rapidly changing feelings, immediately and long after use.
  • Chronic use may cause persistent problems, depression, violent behavior, anxiety or a distorted perception of time.

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Is there any way to reduce the risk of having a bad trip?

LSD experiences are heavily influenced by environment. Here are some ways to reduce the risk having a bad trip:

  • Make sure you take it with someone you know and trust, preferably someone who knows how strong the effects of a hallucinogen can be.
  • Make sure you are somewhere where you feel safe, secure and comfortable.
  • Avoid taking LSD if you are upset, feeling low or insecure--this could lead to a bad trip.
  • Avoid taking more. The effects come on stronger after a while, and you could end up having a much stronger trip than you can handle.
  • If you're having a bad trip, avoid flashing lights and visuals, and get a friend to take you to a safe, calm space.

How do I help a friend who's having a bad trip?

It is important to make your friend feel safe and comfortable, usually away from other people, visual stimulation, or noises. Speak in a soothing voice to them and reassure them that their bad emotions, sensations, and visions are just the effects of the drug and will wear off in time. If your friend is inconsolable or seems violently agitated, then seek medical help right away. Call EMS at 401.863-4111.

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Is LSD addictive?

LSD does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Addiction to hallucinogens is rare, although poly-drug addicts (people who are addicted to several drugs) frequently abuse hallucinogens as well.   However, LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take higher doses to achieve the same effects.  This is very dangerous given the unpredictability of the drug.  Cross tolerance between LSD and other hallucinogens has been reported.

Is LSD illegal?

Yes, LSD is illegal and its possession, use, and sale carry heavy prison sentences and fines and disciplinary consequences at Brown. See the Brown University Policy on Drugs on the Student Rights and Responsibilities web site. 

How do I help a friend who's having trouble with drugs?

If you are concerned about a friend's drug or alcohol use, this page contains information about different ways to help them.

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Resources at Brown and in Providence

If you or a friend are having trouble with drugs or alcohol, or just have questions, there is help available

Links you can use

Dance Safe
Dance Safe promotes health and safety within the rave and nightclub community. The website has drug information, e-news archives, information on testing kits and features like Your Brain on Ecstasy.

National Institutes of Health Club Drug Site  
Provides trends and statistics, research reports and health information on club drugs.

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