The material below is not intended to provide medical advice and we don’t encourage the illegal use of any substances. LSD is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage the use of this substance where it is against the law. Due to the high demand for the subject, we created this article for educational purposes. The intent of the content is to help you start learning about the subject.
By the time LSD was banned in the US in the 1960s, it had developed an extensive reputation as a drug that caused abusers to become savage, psychotic, and occasionally homicidal. Over the following years, the ban effectively discouraged various clinical studies attempting to understand its potential benefits in offsetting symptoms like depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug dependence. However, beginning in the early 2000s, and despite LSD continuing to remain a controlled substance, there has been a resurgence of clinical interest in LSD. Particularly its therapeutic use in the treatment of both psychiatric and medical conditions.
LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a man-made chemical synthesized from a fungus that usually grows on rye. It falls in a category of drugs called ‘classical hallucinogens’ – mind-altering substances commonly referred to as psychedelics. The primary effects of LSD include out-of-body experiences and changes in mood, sensory perception, body temperature, and sleep cycles. Recreational use or uncontrolled dosing of LSD can cause a ‘bad trip’ – serious negative experiences that include hallucination, irrational fear, and distorted perceptions of time and space. However, microdosing of LSD in a therapeutic setting – very low but repeated doses in the 5-20 micrograms range, can help treat a variety of conditions.
Following a recent study, Canadian researchers revealed they documented sustained improvements in stress and anxiety for up to one year following two LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions. The same study also found that treatment with LSD was responsible for positive feelings like trust, empathy, and altruism when used in combination with psychotherapy.
Presently, there is a lot of popular and clinical interest on the topic of personal growth and mental health improvement from LSD. Let’s explore how to benefit from LSD.
Psychological and Emotional Effects of LSD
The US government funded a total of 116 studies on various psychedelics including LSD, magic mushrooms, and peyote between 1953 and 1973. Although these studies were undertaken in the right scientific earnest and involved thousands of participants, they were not performed under research standards acceptable today. As a result, there are significant gaps in our understanding of the effects of LSD on the human body and mind.
However, it is generally agreed that the psychological and emotional effects of LSD can be divided into three broad categories – positive, neutral, and negative. Positive and neutral effects are commonly associated with low to moderate doses of LSD. Negative psychological effects are typically the result of high doses.
Let’s now look at the three categories of effects in some detail:
Positive effects of LSD:
- Deep spiritual and mystical experiences
- Heightened sense of euphoria
- Increased creative and lateral thinking
- Weakened sense of the ego
- Feelings of connection and unity with the universe
- Increased social interactivity
- Lowering of inhibitions
- Altered state of mind and consciousness
- A rush of different emotions
- Changed perception of time
- Inability to focus
- Unusual thoughts and ideas
Negative feelings from LSD:
- Acute anxiety
- Overwhelming thoughts, feelings, and emotions
- Fear of death
The LSD Benefits for ADHD, OCD, Substance Use Disorder, Sociability and Connectedness, Cluster Headaches & Migraines, and Pain Relief
The 2018 book titled ‘How To Change Your Mind: The New Science Of Psychedelics’ has been a landmark in reigniting curiosity about LSD. In it, author Michael Pollan explains how psychedelics can “shake the snow globe” of the mind – a description of their reorganizing effects on the brain.
The book reflects a growing scientific consensus over the positive effects of LSD in treating a range of medical and psychiatric conditions. Here’s what we know so far:
- ADHD: Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition involving high impulsiveness and the inability to sit still or focus. It usually begins in childhood but can persist into adult life. A 2020 study by researchers in the Netherlands found that three low doses of LSD resulted in improved attention in a majority of the participants.
- OCD: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a complex condition characterized by uncontrollable urges and repetitive behaviors that can severely impact the quality of life in sufferers. A groundbreaking 1962 study provided the first glimpse of the effects of LSD in treating acute OCD. The study followed an 18-month treatment of a 30-year-old male that resulted in his being cured of all symptoms.
- Substance use disorder: A years-long study beginning in the mid-1960s by Norwegian researchers found that 59% of participants who had been given LSD decreased their alcohol consumption, compared to 38% of participants who were not. Further, the LSD group was 15% more likely to stay sober six months after the treatment. More recent studies have also found that LSD and other psychedelics are safe and effective when used in addiction treatments.
- Sociability and connectedness: Although little is known about the mechanism of action, LSD has been shown to improve empathy and social behavior. Other studies corroborate these findings, with one reporting that LSD enhanced feelings of trust, happiness, closeness to others, and the desire to be with other people.
- Cluster headaches and migraines: A 2011 study on LSD reported significant benefits for patients suffering from cluster headaches – an agonizingly painful condition often referred to as ‘suicide headaches’. Patients administered a non-hallucinogenic form of LSD showed a marked reduction in headache attacks per day. Others were free from the symptoms for weeks and months, with some reporting relief more than a year after the treatment.
- Pain relief: Clinical studies involving LSD and other psychedelics show compelling evidence of their ability to treat various types of chronic pain, including migraine and cluster headaches, fibromyalgia (a condition of acute pain in bones and muscles, fatigue, and tenderness in affected areas), and phantom limb pain (pain that feels like it’s coming from a body part that has been amputated.
Although LSD shows promise in clinical studies, it continues to be a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of the US, which puts it in the same category as heroin and MDMA. It is also illegal in most countries. Although it is not considered addictive or habit-forming, LSD has a high potential for abuse. Therefore, any interest in LSD for medical uses should be complemented by thorough research, awareness of legal implications in your country, state, and local jurisdictions, and consultation with registered doctors and therapists.
Alternatively, you can refer to psychedelic treatment initiatives such as the one by Canada’s Nova Scotia-based Halucenex Life Sciences Inc. The company has begun trials of psilocybin – the active hallucinogen in magic mushrooms – to treat patients with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Risks and Side Effects of LSD
The experience of LSD depends on several factors, the most significant of which is the dose. However, factors like the environment in which it is used and the physical and psychological state of the person using it also factor in. While there have been no documented deaths from LSD overdose, caution is advised on a variety of risks and possible side effects. A long-term but rare effect of psychedelic use is HPPD or hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder. HPPD is a combination of sensory disturbances which can persist for months and even years following the use of psychedelics.
Here are some other risks and side effects related to LSD use:
- Drug interactions: There is little authoritative literature on the effects of LSD when used in combination with other drugs or prescription medication. However, it is known to lessen the effectiveness of certain medicines like antidepressants and benzodiazepines – a class of chemicals used in the treatment of conditions like anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.
- Receptor interactions: LSD is known to interact with certain proteins in brain cells called serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a complex neurotransmitter that plays a role in affecting various physiological processes related to mood, cognition, memory, and learning. Serotonin receptors have been found to close like a ‘lid’ over LSD molecules, a phenomenon that explains the drug’s long-lasting effects.
- Health conditions: Uncontrolled doses of LSD are associated with an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Other symptoms may include insomnia, tremors, sweating, and loss of appetite. It is also known to enhance conditions like schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety when used in high doses.
Frequently Asked Questions about LSD
How to prepare for an LSD experience?
First, research and determine the right dose, with due consideration to your fitness level, BMI, age, and existing health conditions. Second, spend a couple of weeks preparing your body and mind before trying it out. Consult with your doctor if you think you have conditions that might cause bad side effects. Finally, select a place and setting for your experience that is comfortable and pleasant.
How does LSD feel?
LSD is a colorless, odorless, water-soluble salt that has a mild, bitter taste. Feelings caused by LSD can range from mild euphoria to altered states of sensory and mental perception.
How long does an LSD trip last?
LSD remains linked to receptors in the brain for 6 to 15 hours after ingestion. Effects can last for up to 12 hours and more, depending on a variety of factors, including dosage and body weight.