LSD is considered to be among the most potent hallucinogenic substances in existence. Recreational use of LSD is on the rise in the US, having increased by about 56% in the space of three years.

What is LSD? (Acid Trip, Dosages, Comedown, and More)

Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated as LSD, is a synthetic compound that is originally derived from mycotoxins called ergot alkaloids and has powerfully hallucinogenic properties. Ergot alkaloids can be found in fungi of the Claviceps family which grows on rye and other grains.

LSD is produced as colorless and odorless tartrate salt and is water-soluble, and, on the streets, it is usually sold as tablets (tabs, microdots) or squares (window panes) which are added to absorbent paper and decorated with cartoon characters (looney tunes). It can also be found in liquid form.

The chemical, or better put, the International Nonproprietary Name (INN) of the drug, is (+)- lysergide. The abbreviation LSD derives from its German name, which is LysergSäureDiethylamid (Lysergic acid diethylamide) (CAS-50-37-3). Further, LSD belongs to a family of alkylamines, including many substituted tryptamines, like psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and N, N-dimethyltryptamine, commonly known as DMT.

Street Names for LSD

LSD has many street names. Some of the most common are: acid, window pane, dots, mellow yellow, and blotter acid, to name a few.

Understanding Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) On the Chemical Level

How Does LSD Affect the Brain?

LSD was synthesized in 1938, and its hallucinogenic effects were discovered aftertastes. In essence, LSD is a hallucinogenic compound that interacts with serotonin receptors located in the brain. These are essentially proteins based on the surface of the brain. Serotonin, in general, is a chemical messenger that helps/enables brain cells to communicate with each other and, subsequently, the neurons of the body. That said, LSD doesn’t act through every serotonin receptor but with a specific one, called 5-HT2AR.

LSD chemical structure
LSD Chemical Structure

LSD binds its receptor in such a way that causes it to act through a specific pathway, through the β-arrestin pathway instead of the G-protein pathway. As expected, through this interaction, LSD can trigger hallucinogenic effects. Lastly, serotonin seems to close a “lid” over the LSD molecule, preventing it from detaching. In this way, LSD can have its renowned long-lasting effects.

How Long Until LSD Effects Start?

Typically, it takes about 20 to 90 minutes for the effects of LSD to kick in, and this varies based on how you consume it, your age, body weight, and metabolism. The effects should peak within 2 to 3 hours.

Some users report needing to use the bathroom or vomiting 20-90 minutes after taking LSD. Then, a moment later, when they return from the restroom, they find themselves in the middle of an acid trip.

How Long do the Effects Last?

Most LSD trips will last for 10-12 hours, though this will also vary from person to person. Some acid trips will be over in 6 hours, while others can last up to 15 hours. The intensity does wear off slowly in a mostly linear path where the loops are getting weaker and weaker, like landing from a flight. In most cases, you can't sleep, and you're stuck a bit with yourself.

How Long Does LSD Stay In Your System?

How long LSD stays in your system is affected by a person’s age, weight, metabolism, and frequency of consumption. LSD will be detected in blood for 6-12 hours and urine for 2-4 days. In a hair follicle test, LSD can be detected for up to 90 days.

Effects of LSD

When consumed in average dosages, LSD is likely to cause euphoria, which is great for some people, but also it might also cause the following effects:

  • Visual effects such as blurred vision, distorted shapes, and vivid colors
  • Mood changes
  • Distorted thinking
  • Disorientation
  • Dry mouth and sweating
  • Visual snow
  • Hallucinations
  • Loops
  • Losing track of time and place

Please note that most of the effects are subjective and will be interpreted differently by different users, so it is always advisable to start with small doses and titrate upwards if need be.

LSD Adverse Effects

Long-term consumption of LSD comes with some risks that include the following:

  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Aggressive behavior

LSD Comedown

Some people may experience a comedown after consuming LSD, especially if it is their first time or if they have overdone it. This may last for up to 24 hours. An LSD crashing feels like staying home when you're slightly sick. You can chill, and your body feels a bit weird. It is like you're landing from a flight and need to rest and get oriented to your environment, which is the real world. Some people call this “healing time.”

LSD History

LSD was first synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938. In 1943, he accidentally ingested LSD, which resulted in a dream-like state and hyper- imagination. This triggered huge interest and a cascade of research, and Hofmann sent samples to scientists worldwide so that they could investigate how LSD affects the brain.

Possession of LSD was outlawed in the United States on October 24, 1968, while the previous study of LSD from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in patients ended in 1980. In fact, at a time, LSD was considered a weapon that we could use during the Cold War with the Soviet Union during interrogations. It also played a central role in the CIA's secret mind-control project, MK-Ultra, in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the UK, LSD was banned in 1967, while in 1971, all LSD-related research halted.

What Are the Therapeutic Uses of LSD?

LSD has several applications in psychiatry. It was used from the 1950s to the 1970s to trigger behavior and personality changes in psychiatric cases. It has also been used to treat anxiety, depression, and substance addiction. It may also manage symptoms in advanced terminal diseases such as anxiety, pain, and depression.

Recreational Effects of LSD

LSD, like other psychedelics, has hallucinogenic properties that are recreational for some users. It triggers visual, sensory, and auditory hallucinations and euphoria, and the experience may culminate in deep insights into one’s life. This is referred to as an LSD trip.

What Is an LSD Trip?

When someone gets high on LSD, it is called LSD intoxication or LSD trip. When on a trip, you may experience distortions to your senses, changes to how you process your thoughts and even intense euphoric emotions. A trip can last anywhere from 8 to 12 hours, which may feel longer or shorter as LSD causes distortions to the perception of time.

Ego Death on LSD

There's also the feeling of ego death and the feeling that everything is one. Therefore, users feel they're one with the universe but, at the same time, that they're also nothing.

Connection to Nature

What’s more, another concept is that LSD and other psychedelics open up a connection to nature. This story and concept are as old as the discovery of the LSD itself. The first known human who went on a full-on acid trip was Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered the psychedelic.

After taking the substance and going on a bike ride, Hofmann described his psychedelic state as a feeling of oneness with nature. Since then, this has been confirmed by many more people, including scientists.

LSD Loops

This describes the sensation of being stuck in an endless loop from which the user cannot disentangle themselves.

For example, you start imagining that the most remarkable invention human beings could achieve would be creating something that does everything for you. In the end, you come up with a chip that can be used to do all these things for you.

However, you discover that you don’t want a chip inside you, so you settle for a ring. And then you find out that you don’t want to be carrying a ring everywhere you go, which can be a burden. So you are back to square one, creating another invention that still ends up with a chip or a ring.

Another example of an acid loop would be people going to rave parties with psychedelic electronic music. Some report that after the party is over or when driving back home, they still hear the loop of the music even if there's none. As they return home, their brain still hears the party music while they're moving on the sound of the car wheels.

An LSD Trip is Hard Work

You have to keep going around these loops until the LSD wears off. Sometimes you may feel that it is over, and you are finally finished with all the loops, and then it hits again. It is usual for users to keep asking, Is it over? Your brain is on overdrive, and only the lapse of time will save you. It may be helpful to remind yourself that you have taken a drug. After a while, the effects will wear off, and things will return to normal.

Typical LSD Recreational Doses

A typical LSD tab contains 100 or 200 micrograms. Anything from 50 to 200 micrograms of LSD is considered as sufficient and safe for most users as long as the LSD is being stored correctly.

2020 paper summarized a few case studies on recreational dosages for LSD that provide some clues. According to this paper, at a party, a 15-year-old accidentally consumed 1,200 micrograms of LSD and had to be hospitalized overnight. At the same party, a 26-year-old woman consumed approximately 500 micrograms of LSD but was not hospitalized.

Microdosing LSD Dosages

It is possible to consume LSD as a microdose at a level between one-twentieth and one-tenth of a normal recreational dose. If you would like to learn more about this topic, feel to read our full guide on microdosing LSD.

Is LSD addictive?

Frequent LSD use can trigger tolerance. This means that users will need higher doses to achieve the same effect they previously experienced at a lower dosage.

Fortunately, LSD does not cause physical addiction, and neither does it trigger compulsive use. However, after prolonged use, some people may become psychologically dependent on the effects of the drug, even though they are not chemically hooked.

LSD Legal Status

Even though LSD has shown potential in the management of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, with a phase two study demonstrating its efficacy and safety in reducing symptoms of anxiety in 12 subjects, it is classified as a schedule 1 substance in the US, meaning that it is illegal under federal law.

In Canada, LSD is classified under schedule 3 and is prohibited. In the UK, LSD is classified under class A, schedule 1—drugs in this class are illegal and attract a maximum sentence of 7 years. LSD is illegal in all countries that make up the EU.

In Portugal and Mexico, the possession and consumption of LSD are legal. The Netherlands has a paradoxical stand on LSD—it is illegal to possess but not illegal to consume.

Mixing LSD with Other Drugs

In general, as a thumb rule, mixing drugs is a bad idea.

Although it can be very dangerous, mixing LSD with other psychedelics is a common practice among regular users. Most times, LSD is mixed with MDMA, Marijuana, or alcohol. Is it something that you should attempt?

Mixing LSD With MDMA — Candyflipping

Candyflipping—mixing LSD with Molly (MDMA)—is a common practice that we highly recommend avoiding. You start with the LSD and then add some molly about four hours later. This allows you to peak on the LSD before coming down with the Ecstasy. In other words, you get to enjoy the intensity of both worlds. However, it can quickly turn into a nightmare, especially for new users. When first taking LSD, it is essential to do it clean to minimize adverse effects.

Mixing LSD With Cannabis

Some recreational users tend to mix LSD with weed (i.e., marijuana, cannabis) to keep the LSD effects strong. As mentioned above, mixing LSD with other drugs or weed can be a risky ride.

Mixing LSD With Alcohol

It is not advisable to mix LSD with alcohol as this may lead to alcohol poisoning. A report by the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General showed that LSD might reduce the perception of the effects of alcohol.

Mixing alcohol with acid is a really bad idea, and in a way, it's kind of disgusting. You won’t find any benefits to it, and it will probably make you feel bad.

If you have already taken LSD and thinking of drinking alcohol, we highly suggest you wait with the drinking for another day,

Summary

Recreation use of LSD seems to be on the rise in the United States over the last few years. For the most part, people consume hallucinogenics to experience euphoria or positive hallucinations, like ego death, which is the feeling that everything is one in the universe. LSD is also being used to treat depression or substance addiction.

To sum up, LSD can help users connect with nature, discover new things about themselves, and enjoy the uniqueness of life. But still, it can also encourage psychosis and other undesirable effects in some people. Therefore, we encourage you to be rational and cautious when interacting with LSD or similar powerful hallucinogenic substances.