LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that was first synthesized in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, a chemist working at the Sandoz Laboratories drug company in Switzerland. Hofmann synthesized LSD from "ergot alkaloids", a family of natural substances found in the ergot fungus that grows on rye and other grains. Hofmann was trying to make new medicines that might be used to stimulate the heart and lungs. To his surprise, he discovered that LSD instead causes people to experience a distorted sense of reality that is commonly referred to as "tripping."
People generally use LSD because it makes them
- see or hear things in an intensified or distorted way
- see or hear things that don't really exist
- have intense spiritual or religious feelings
- have ecstatic experiences and heightened self-awareness
Other effects of LSD on behavior may include
- distorted sense of the passage of time
- decreased appetite
- difficulty sleeping
- agitation and anxiety
Effects on the body: The physical effects of LSD on the body may include
- increased heart rate
- enlarged (dilated) pupils
- increased body temperature
- increased blood pressure
- dry mouth
Common street names: acid, battery acid, blotter, boomers, cube, Loony toons, microdots, window pane, sunshine, zen
How is LSD used? LSD is usually applied in liquid form to a tiny piece of paper or sugar cube that is then chewed. It can also be swallowed as a pill.
Risk of addiction: LSD is not considered to be an addictive drug because it does not cause an uncontrollable urge or need to take the drug. If people repeatedly use LSD over a long period of time, its effects gradually become smaller and smaller. As a result, few people become long-term habitual users of LSD.
Overdose: The main risk from an overdose of LSD is a "bad trip" characterized by intense feelings of anxiety, fear, panic, paranoia, terrifying thoughts, feelings of despair, fear of losing control, and fear of insanity or death. Such feelings may be accompanied by frightening hallucinations and "cross over" experiences that give the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. The best way to calm down a person having a bad trip is through a reassuring "talk down" from someone who understands the effects of hallucinogens.
Another danger of LSD is that the distorted perceptions and hallucinations can make it difficult or impossible to perform many basic tasks, which may in turn lead to physical injury. Also, some LSD users may re-experience the feelings of being on an LSD trip many weeks, months, or even years after taking the drug. Such experiences, called "flashbacks," can incorporate both positive and negative effects of an LSD trip.
How is LSD produced? Until 1966, LSD was produced and provided by Sandoz Laboratories free of charge to scientist and doctors interested in studying the properties of the drug. Since then, most LSD has been produced illegally by criminal "chemists" who usually start with ergotamine, a substance found in the ergot fungus that is also found in medications used for migraine headaches. The ergotamine is treated with chemicals that break it down to liberate lysergic acid, which is then chemically converted to LSD. Because LSD is so potent, eight ounces of ergotamine is enough to produce one million doses of LSD.
Can LSD be used legally? LSD was originally developed for medical purposes. Some research suggests it may be of value in treating depression, alcoholism, and uncontrollable headaches. It has also been reported to provide long-lasting pain relief for the debilitating pain caused by cancer or other severe illnesses. LSD was readily available as a legal experimental drug until 1966, when widespread recreational use among young people prompted the United States to make it illegal to manufacture or possess LSD without a special government license. As a result, very little LSD research has been done in recent years.
How long does LSD act? The effects of LSD generally begin within an hour, peak in 2 to 6 hours, and last up to 12 hours or more.
Drug tests for LSD: Standard drug tests do not detect LSD in the urine. While it is possible to test for LSD, it is a very difficult and expensive test to run and is very uncommon.
How many students use LSD? About 3% of high school seniors say they have used LSD within the past year.