LSD Addiction and Abuse

The abuse of LSD has become more prominent in recent years, with surveys showing an increase of 175% in the UK alone. In 2015, 157,000 people aged 16-24 took ecstasy and 49,000, LSD. The increased purity of the drug and relatively low prices has made LSD the drug of choice for party-goers, teenagers and young adults. Global Drug Survey found that many people got their supply from online drug markets on the ‘dark web’. This makes it easier for marketers to transport directly to users, who don’t have to risk buying from dealers on the streets.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LCD) is a hallucinogenic drug, derived from ergot fungus. It’s sold as a street drug in liquid absorbed on blotters, which are further broken down into smaller tabs with a distinct design on them. Alternatively, they are moulded into microdots or dropped on sugar cubes. If you consume a small dose of under 70 micrograms, it’s enough to make you feel the full effect of LSD.

LSD Addiction

LSD is a hallucinogenic narcotic that is also referred to as acid, because when an individual uses LSD, they are said to be ‘tripping’ on acid. Under the influence of LSD, you’re transported to a new reality that distorts your perception of what is real and imagined. You can taste, see and feel things that aren’t real, because LSD alters the way your brain functions. Silicon Valley executives who take LSD say it makes them feel creative, as it stimulates intellect.

The longer you use LSD, the more tolerant you become to the drug. You’ll need higher doses of LSD to feel its stimulating high and effect on your brain. While you technically can’t become addicted to acid, the effects of larger doses could be life-threatening.

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What is LSD?

LSD is a potent acid with mood-changing chemicals. People who use LSD call the experience a ‘trip’, the duration of which lasts around 12 hours. The semi-synthetic drug combines man-made and natural substances, such as diethylamide and ergot. It activates serotonin receptors to stimulate serotonin production in the deep structures and cortex area of the brain.

It is typically held under the tongue or swallowed. While it is not addictive when consumed on its own, there are severe psychiatric reactions that occur when substance users overdose. Reactions include delusions, anxiety and paranoia.

What is LSD Addiction?

When the brain produces more serotonin, it allows more stimuli to be processed than the normal rate. The overstimulation alters attention, thought, emotions and perceptions. Like other hallucinogens, the sensation and experience feel real, even when it’s created by the mind.

Compared to other stimulants and hallucinogens, the addictive component of LSD is more psychological than physical, because it doesn’t create the physical cravings associated with addictive drugs. People who abuse LSD crave the emotions, feelings and experiences they had during the trip (especially when it’s a good trip).

People with substance abuse disorder want to remain in the fictional reality they experienced during the last LSD usage. Hence, LSD addiction is a craving for the experience the drug produces and less about the drug itself.

History of LSD

Albert Hofmann, a Swiss scientist, was the first person to synthesize LSD in 1938 for the treatment of respiratory depression. The hallucinogenic properties were only discovered in 1943 after Hofmann accidentally absorbed it through his skin. Albert Hofmann was part of a research programme looking for derivatives of ergot alkaloid that could be used for its medicinal benefit. It was later discovered that a tiny oral dose of 25 micrograms could produce vivid hallucinations. Sandoz laboratories (where Hofmann worked) introduced LSD as a psychiatric in 1947 and it was experimented upon by psychiatrists throughout the 50s and 60s.

Timothy Leary, an American psychologist, was the first to popularise its’ use in the 60s. He encouraged students to tune in and drop out. This started the abuse of LSD in Europe, America and the United Kingdom, where LSD usage is higher than anywhere else in the world.

For the military and intelligence community, LSD provided a unique opportunity to change the personalities of intelligence targets and control whole groups. It was banned in 1967 and the popularity declined in the 80s, but picked up again in the early 90s. LSD is one of the most common designer drugs you’ll find at raves, parties, clubs and music festivals.

Four causes of LSD Addiction

The psychological addiction to LCD could be severe and need treatment to conquer. The following are causes of LSD addiction:

Tolerance

With repeated usage, LSD alters brain structure and function. Every dose draws you closer to developing a tolerance for the drug and you’ll have to increase your next dose to feel the same effect as the first time you used.  The next dose has to be larger than the last, until you’re taking three times the original amount. The overstimulation forces the brain to develop a stronger tolerance for the drug. Most LSD users end up with ‘polydrug use disorder’ because they need to mix LSD with other addictive substances to experience the original sensation.

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Mental health issues

The major effect of all hallucinogens is that it causes users to break from reality. If you have an existing mental health diagnosis such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and other mental health issues, LSD is an escape from your problems. Its’ especially dangerous because you’re at risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms, bad trips and flashbacks of traumatic events, long after you’ve stopped using. The neurotransmitter that influences bodily functions such as body temperature, hunger, sensory perception and muscle control is also affected. LCD disrupts the natural reuptake and release of serotonin and any damage to serotonin causes mental health problems to worsen.

Environment and social influence

Drug use and social influence have a direct relationship. Many teenagers who’ve experimented with drugs were influenced by peer pressure – wanting to belong – or the ease of availability in the home or neighbourhood. If you attend parties where LSD is passed around or you live in a home where a family member or friend uses LSD, it increases the risk of usage and addiction.

Genetics

Genetics is a predisposition to addiction. Numerous studies have shown that people who develop addiction often have parents who were former addicts.

The progression of LSD Addiction

There’s a reason why addiction specialists and former drug users advise that the only way to prevent addiction is to never try drugs at all. Experimentation is the first step towards addiction. Curiosity to know what an LCD trip feels like is a major reason why many teens try it. Others take it for psychological escape, recreational use, to defy their parents or escape reality.

After experimenting with drugs, most users love the accompanying high and euphoric feelings that they become regular users. You start relying on LSD to fix problems in your life and the only social activity you engage in is centred around LSD and friends with drug dependencies.

As your brain adjusts to the presence of LSD, everything else takes a backseat – family responsibilities, job, personal hygiene, social functions and even your own health. You’ve progressed to a problem user, whose only goal in life is to find the next high. Most LSD users try a cocktail of drugs to increase the potency of the experience.

The problem with drug dependency is that it quickly spirals into addiction, where you live in denial of it. You’ve consumed so much LSD, your body requires large doses at regular intervals to maintain the high. You know the consequences of your drug use, see the havoc it’s wreaking on your family and friends, yet you’re unable to quit even when you try to.

What makes LSD usage so addictive?

Just because a drug doesn’t produce physical addiction doesn’t mean the psychological effects aren’t as dangerous. As your body becomes accustomed to LSD chemicals, the brain develops rapid tolerance until continuous ingestion is useless. The tolerance develops so fast, you’ll be taking large doses within a few weeks.

Tolerance precedes dependence and addiction follows thereafter. It’s easy to ignore LSD dependence, because it doesn’t produce physical withdrawal symptoms until you’ve bonded completely with the drug. An individual with addiction problems continuously pursues drugs, because their decision-making is impaired, craving is magnified and they’re unable to recognise problems with interpersonal relationships and personal behaviour.

LSD Addiction in young adults

In recent times, the number of young Brits experimenting with acid has reached an astronomical high. A survey of England and Wales shows that usage in young adults aged 16-24 rose from 0.4% in 2012 to 1.2% by 2014/2015. The number increases during the summer months, when festivals and raves are held almost every night. In the US, an estimated 20.2 million people have used LSD once in their life, with about a quarter of that figure being under 25 years old.

Most club-goers engage in drug cocktails of some kind. Marijuana and LSD are the most frequent in such drug combinations. A few reasons why it’s popular amongst younger crowds include:

  • Trends in culture and fashion (seen as ’ bringing back the 90s’)
  • Young people are looking for a sociable high that allows them to escape from physical and mental pain
  • Easy access to club drugs. It’s easy to source these drugs online, from friends or at parties and nightclubs.

LSD/Acid Abuse: the risks and dangers of these hallucinogenic drugs

Hallucinogens affect your view of reality by targeting the prefrontal cortex where cognition, conscious thinking and perception occur. A common effect of hallucinogens is hallucinations where you see things that aren’t real. These hallucinations could be dangerous, because you have no control over your concentration or thinking faculties.

Most hallucinogens have different effects on the body while you’re under the influence. Physical dangers include: palpitations, nausea, increased body temperature, increased heart rate, muscle relaxation, seizures, coma and numbness. According to the NIDA, drugs like PCP have serious side effects such as craving, inability to quit, withdrawal symptoms and obsessive drug behaviour.

LSD addiction: Symptoms and Side effects

LSD addiction is psychological, not physical. Therefore, signs of LSD addiction are difficult to spot. However, you’ll detect similar signs of someone under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. There’ll be a general sense of chaos around an LSD abuser’s life. They’ll lie about their drug habit and won’t be able to engage in conversations or daily activities without the presence of LSD.

Signs and symptoms of LSD abuse

The signs a person with hallucinogen persisting perception disorder exhibits depend on the duration, frequency and amount of drug use. Physical signs include: restlessness, increased body temperature, dilated pupils, extreme sweating, loss of appetite, vomiting and inability to perform daily functions.

The effects of using LSD: Issues with LSD overdose

LSD has a negative impact on the serotonin area of the brain. Using acids affects the central nervous system and disrupts the communication between distinct brain networks. Side effects include high blood pressure, impaired coordination, blurred vision, tingling toes and fingers.

People who take the wrong dosage could experience dangerous psychological and medical consequences. Signs of overdose include diarrhoea, rapid heart rate, tremors and dangerously high blood pressure. In extreme cases, there are seizures, bleeding from the skull and coma.

Issues with long-term use of LSD

Long-term effects of using LSD include inability to function in social environments, problems with emotional function and stability, risk of severe depression, ideations of suicide, extreme anxiety and poor sleeping patterns. After they’ve quit, many recovering addicts still experience recurrent hallucinations and lingering symptoms of psychosis.

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The LSD drug effects short-term

Most people who use LSD for spiritual purposes and recreational usage might experience temporary symptoms that last between six to ten hours. Short-term effects of taking LSD include:

  • Distorted sense of time and location
  • Visual hallucination
  • Blending of senses where you hear colour and see sounds
  • Out of body experience
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Increased heart rate

Risks of abusing Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

The associated risks with abusing acid are mostly psychological, as LSD has a powerful impact on the brain that sometimes produces intense, scary, traumatic emotions in individuals. This is common in those with mental health issues and individuals who’ve faced trauma in the past, but never addressed it. Risks include paranoia, panic attacks, detachment from mind and body, erratic mood swings, fear of dying, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and violent behaviour.

The danger lies in the unpredictable nature of the ‘trip’. Each individual has a different reaction and the drug potency is unstable. The stress level, surrounding, mindset, mood and thoughts at the time you take the drug all have a strong impact on the trip you’ll experience. A bad trip is a 12-hour living nightmare that no one can wake you up from. Such extreme emotions induce physical reaction of psychosis and risky, violent behaviour.

Warning signs of LSD Abuse in a loved one

It’s important you pay attention to a person using LSD, because physical signs aren’t always pronounced. Some indicators include:

  • Rambling speech
  • Dilated pupils
  •  Irrational mood swings
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Anxiety

The delivery method for LSD is also a telltale sign. Look for circles of paper or small squares with pictures on them, such as cartoon or comic characters. If you find sugar cubes in odd places like the toilet or bedroom or you notice coloured gelatin lying around, these are signs of LSD abuse.

Factual dangers

LSD is a mood-altering substance made in laboratories around the world and shipped in inconspicuous packages. Once you take LSD, you can’t stop the drug from taking full effect, even during a bad trip. Users have to live through the experience until symptoms subside.

The effects of LSD are not the same across individuals. Therefore, one user could have a good trip and the next person a bad one that lasts 12 hours. Whilst under the influence, your notion of time, feeling and cognition changes quite dramatically. The distortion of the senses is frightening and causes users to panic.

Treatment of LSD Addiction

There are several treatment models for helping people with LSD addiction. They include:

Dual diagnosis programmes: Most LSD users are mixing LSD with other psychoactive drugs. This makes a rehab centre with dual diagnosis programme the best fit for LSD treatment.

Inpatient and Outpatient treatment: An inpatient or residential treatment centre is a structured, disciplined programme for LSD addiction treatment. Services include detox, medication, group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy and alternative treatment. An outpatient treatment is less restrictive. You’ll attend therapy sessions like an inpatient, but the risk of relapse is higher.

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LSD detox treatment

There are no physical withdrawal symptoms from LSD, so most users can quit on their own. Treatment focuses on creating career goals, building personal relationships and learning to be more involved in the community. The duration of detox is from one to two days after your last dose. Psychological symptoms linger months after detox and require professional treatment to manage.

Best Voted Treatment Centres

When seeking help for LSD addiction, it’s important you locate a treatment facility that provides services for your unique treatment needs. For example, LSD users with a polydrug disorder will need rehab with dual diagnosis treatment. Addiction Helper can help you find the best treatment centre with a high rate of success treating hallucinogenic usage disorders.

Every treatment centre has different qualities and services for different addiction needs. Let Addiction Helper find the right rehab close to your location and within your means.

Cost of addiction treatment: paying for rehab

The cost of rehab depends on the location, duration of stay, type of facility (inpatient or outpatient), how much of the cost your insurance will cover, as well as the services you’ll need during detox and rehabilitation.

If you have medical insurance, find out what your policy covers and ask our counsellor to find a rehab centre willing to work out a payment structure for the balance.  If you don’t have insurance, you can get finance from your loved ones, take out a bank loan, use your credit card, pay from your bank balance or enrol at a state-funded facility.

After-treatment support

There are many treatment support options for recovering addicts. We encourage you to join a 12-step programme, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery. Treatment doesn’t end after rehab, but continues indefinitely for the rest of your life. Many individuals with substance abuse disorders also suffer mental illness, especially anxiety and depression. Therefore, your behaviours and thoughts that initially led to substance abuse have to be monitored by a therapist or psychologist.

LSD statistics

  • 3.7% of 12th graders in the US have used LSD at least once in their lives.
  • 4.2% of young people aged 15-24 in Europe have tried LSD.
  • 3.1 million people aged 12-25 in the US have tried LSD.
  • According to a national survey on Drug Use and Health, over 200,000 people each year experiment with LSD for the first time.
  • The age group where LSD abuse is most common is within the 18-25 range.
  • About 4.3% of sexual assault victims were drugged with LSD.
  • 12.9% of young people said it’s very easy to access LSD.

Drug information

  • Most LSD users purchase the chemical in liquid drops or blotter paper.
  • Weight for weight, LSD is the strongest psychedelic in the world, as it is active even at the microgram level.
  • LSD isn’t physically addictive, but users can develop a tolerance with frequent usage.
  • There is no gradual build up of events when using LSD. This makes it easy to abuse it without understanding the consequences.
  • The duration of an LSD induced trip lasts 6.5 to 13 hours. Users start feeling the effects within an hour.

Street names for LSD

  • The most common street name for LSD is acid. Other nicknames for LSD include:
  • Hawk, gel, dots, blaze, dots, fry, blotter, cheer, flash, microdots, stars, purple haze, smilies, rainbow, purple haze, window pane, ticket, paper mushrooms and trips.

FAQs

What is LSD?

LSD is the chemical name for lysergic acid diethylamide, a powerful hallucinogenic drug that distorts the users’ perception of reality and causes them to hear, see and feel things that aren’t there.

How does it affect the brain?

LSD changes brain function by reducing connection with neurotransmitters. It disrupts the patterns of activity in various brain networks that control cognition, thought and behaviour. In time, these disrupted functions affect how you think and act on a regular basis.

What is a bad trip?

A bad trip is a disturbing experience associated with hallucinogens such as DMT, LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. During a bad trip, drug users feel panic, darkness, feelings of despair and hopelessness, intense fear of insanity and loss of control.

What is microdosing?

You’re microdosing LSD when you consume sub-perceptual amounts. The dose is very subtle, whilst having a noticeable impact on your life. Microdosers often report intense focus, higher energy levels, improved interpersonal skills and increased creativity.

What does LSD look like?

LSD looks like gelatin square or capsules, microdots or absorbent paper, designed with cartoon characters. It’s produced in crystal form, which is further broken down into liquid for easy distribution.

Is LSD addictive?

Technically, you can’t be addicted to acid, because it doesn’t generate the obsessive drug behaviour common in addicts of other drugs like cocaine, crystal meth and alcohol. However, you can build up a tolerance and dependence on LSD.

Should I use an Intervention?

If your loved one is dependent on LSD to perform basic functions or they can’t quit on their own, it’s time to hold an intervention.

Is treatment necessary?

If you can discontinue on your own or you’re not mixing LSD with other drugs, you might be able to quit on your own. However, if you’re a polydrug user or have a mental health disorder, you need treatment to stop using LSD.

What chain of events precipitates LSD addiction?

Experimentation with LSD - either at parties, festivals or with friends - is the first step in drug abuse. Most people love the high and become regular users who quickly build up a tolerance and subsequent drug dependence on LSD. If you don’t seek help at this stage, addiction subsequently follows dependence.

Who can I talk to if I don’t trust my family?

If you need to speak to someone about your drug usage problem, Addiction Helper offers a 24-hour helpline, where our experienced counsellors are waiting to hear from you. We’ll listen to you and proffer advice that will help you quit LSD.

What happens after treatment?

After treatment, you’ll continue attending therapy as an outpatient and join a Narcotics Anonymous group, 12-step programme or SMART Recovery, where you’ll continue the process of sobriety.

Is addiction possible?

You can develop physical addiction to LSD, but it’s possible to experience a psychological craving for the drug.

What are the effects of taking LSD?

Effects of LSD abuse include a good trip that makes you feel happy and relaxed, while a bad trip causes confusion, panic - and in extreme cases - thoughts of suicide to escape the hallucination.

What about withdrawal?

LSD users don’t experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit. The brain absorbs LSD so quickly that users don’t feel withdrawal symptoms when they quit. However, you might feel the need to keep using LSD for the experience of the trip.

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