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LSD Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Jennifer Cousineau, MSCP, LPCI, NCC

Medically reviewed by

Jennifer Cousineau, MSCP, LPCI, NCC

April 29, 2019

LSD is a psychoactive substance that alters a person’s senses and perceptions, causes hallucinations, and changes the way the person sees the world. The longer a person abuses LSD, the more likely they may need substance abuse rehabilitation.

What Is LSD?

LSD is the abbreviation for D-lysergic acid diethylamide. This synthetic compound was originally derived from a parasitic fungus, known as ergot. While researching ways to help during childbirth in the 1930s, chemist Albert Hoffman created the compound known as LSD-25.

LSD-25 was one of many compounds that were found to have no medicinal use and was put away for some time. Later, after reevaluating many compounds, Hoffman discovered that LSD-25 caused euphoria, hallucinations, and shifts in perceptions. LSD became marketed for treatment in individuals with severe mental disorders.

The ’50s and ’60s were a popular time for recreational use of hallucinogens, especially LSD. While still being used by psychologists like Dr. Timothy Leary for research and treatment of mental health problems, it was also being used by young people in an attempt to expand their minds

The Drug Enforcement Administration eventually determined that LSD had no medicinal use, is considered high risk for dependence, and listed it as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. This has drawn an objection from many communities, as it has been proven effective for the treatment of some psychiatric issues, and has not been shown to cause severe physical dependence.

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How Does LSD Work?

The primary function of LSD is to evoke a “mind-expanding” experience, involving hallucinations, perceptual distortions, and mild dissociation. Mescaline and Psilocybin mushrooms (commonly referred to as ‘magic mushrooms’) also have similar properties to LSD.

LSD is an extremely potent drug. Very small amounts produce effects that can last up to twelve hours. A typical dose of LSD is between 100 and 200 micro milligrams. LSD is a liquid and is dosed using a dropper. It is typically put on blotter paper, gel tabs, sugar cube, or another item that can be ingested (a pill or powder).

LSD Abuse Effects

LSD has a significant list of effects, which include:

  • hallucinations: visual, auditory, smell, taste, touch
  • perceptual heightening: a sensitive sense of smell, colors more vibrant, sounds more clear high levels of euphoria, well being, and overall giddiness
  • physical effects: increased heartbeat, dizziness, impaired motor function, irregular heart rate, headache, vomiting, decreased reflexes
  • cognitive: impairments of judgment and problems with decision making that can be potentially life-threatening

There is a potential for what is commonly referred to as a “bad trip”, which is influenced by the psychological state of the person and the environment in which they are using the LSD. This can contribute to increased depression, severe anxiety, self-harm, and being apathetic.

LSD Overdose

The effects of LSD abuse usually do not continue after the drug has left the system, and data do not show a high rate of overdose with LSD use. In fact, many overdoses that involve LSD are connected to other dangerous substances (opioids, cocaine, meth, or alcohol).

The limited documented effects of an LSD overdose include gastric issues (including bleeding), changes in breathing, a spike in body temperature, and unconsciousness. Research studies have shown a lack of long term effects of high levels of LSD, and that most individuals recover without side effects due to high doses of LSD.

While not necessarily a symptom of overdose, when a person is under the influence of high levels of LSD they may experience dire consequences as a result of being unable to make responsible decisions or misperception of dangerous situations. This can have permanent repercussions.

A common false belief is that the use of LSD leads to the development of mental illnesses. However, several studies have researched this specific topic and found no connection between LSD use and the later emergence of mental health diagnoses, like schizophrenia or mood disorders.

Is LSD Addictive?

A person who abuses a substance for any length of time is at increased risk for developing dependence, even if that dependence is psychological. LSD does not meet criteria for physical dependence, as there are no observable withdrawal symptoms associated with LSD use.

However, an individual may experience emotional or other psychological problems when they suddenly stop taking LSD after a period of time. Some of these issues include irritability, jitteriness, cravings, and heightened responses to stress.

An LSD addiction may also be characterized in the following ways:

  • preoccupation with using LSD
  • spending an excessive amount of time and money on LSD
  • avoiding situations that using LSD is not allowed
  • unable to maintain responsibilities due to LSD use
  • taking LSD with other substances to increase effects.
  • continue to use LSD despite the problems it causes

Because LSD does not cause the usual chemical changes in the brain to provoke cravings, persons struggling with LSD addiction are often diagnosed with hallucinogen use disorder. This specific diagnosis can address the compulsion associated with long term LSD use, as well as the need to increase dosage due to tolerance.

LSD Addiction Treatment Options

While there are no current medications to treat LSD addiction, or hallucinogen use disorder, that does not mean a person will not benefit from a substance abuse treatment program.

Inpatient treatment programs remove the stressors of daily life and allow the resident to focus on sobriety and recovery. Exploring individual reasons for using LSD can be explored in individual and group therapy, and coping strategies can be developed during treatment as well. Aftercare planning can prevent relapse and help maintain sobriety.

If you or your loved one is abusing LSD, and the idea of stopping seems impossible, contact us today. We are prepared to help you find a substance abuse rehabilitation program that can help you get the treatment you deserve.

American Psychological Association - Recent developments in the pharmacology of substance abuse

Psychopharmacology - Lysergic acid diethylamide: a drug of ‘use’?

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