How Long Does It Take To Develop A Tolerance To LSD?

can you build a tolerance to lsd

When many people think about LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, they may think back to the “peace and love” era of the 1960s when popular culture experienced an awakening of empathy. In reality, LSD is perhaps the most potent psychedelic drug that exists in the modern world. A substance like psilocybin, which is the hallucinogenic ingredient in “magic” mushrooms, requires the user to ingest one gram of mushrooms to feel any effect. In contrast, the average person only needs to ingest about 100 micrograms of LSD to feel its incredibly powerful hallucinogenic effects. 

Like any other drug that a person may ingest regularly, such as opioids or alcohol, the body will begin to develop a tolerance after repeated use. This means that the same dose that you used to take may not have the same effect after repeated use. There are many reasons why the body quickly builds a tolerance to LSD in particular, which we will explore in this article.

First, we will explore the history of LSD from the time it was first synthesized, to its impact on culture, from the past to the present.

The History Of LSD Or “Acid”

Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly referred to as “acid,” is a relatively new substance compared to some other intoxicants such as alcohol, which has been around since the dawn of time. LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by a chemist named Albert Hofmann. Hofmann worked for a company called Sandoz Pharmaceutical, which developed different chemicals used for medicinal purposes in Basel, Switzerland. 

Hofmann’s original goal with LSD was to create a blood stimulant, and its hallucinogenic effects were not known until 1943 when Hofmann accidentally consumed a small amount of the compound. It was later discovered that a dose as little as 25 micrograms administered orally could produce vivid hallucinations. That is the equivalent weight of a couple grains of salt.

LSD shares some structural similarities to a certain chemical found in the brain. Because of this, some of the side effects of acid can be very similar to some aspects of clinical psychosis. This made acid a popular experimentation drug for psychiatrists throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. While the widespread research failed to yield any significant medical use for the drug, the liberally distributed free samples of LSD led to wide use and popularity of the substance.

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LSD As A Recreational Drug

It wouldn’t be until the 1960s that acid started to gain traction as a recreational drug in mainstream culture. Among the most popular advocates of LSD use was Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary. I’m sure you’ve Leary’s popular plea for American students to “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” This saying would become the battle-cry that helped to spark the American counterculture movement that would eventually spread to the use of LSD to the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

Pop-culture icons like The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix helped to further popularity of the drug and catapult it into the mainstream conversation. 

The Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Military even engaged in research to determine whether LSD could be an effective biological weapon. In 1951, these government organizations began a series of experiments that led researchers to conclude that LSD “is capable of rendering whole groups of people, including military forces, indifferent to their surroundings and situations, interfering with planning and judgment, and even creating apprehension, uncontrollable confusion and terror.”

Government experimentation of the possible use of LSD in military context would continue until the United States issued a nationwide ban of the substance in 1967. This made the creation, possession, and sale of LSD illegal in all forms. 

The Effects And Side Effects Of LSD

The effects of acid must be very powerful if the government found it worthwhile to research as a possible biological weapon. They aren’t wrong because the drug can have profound psychological impacts on its users. 

Method Of Dose

The popularity of acid was in part due to its lab-distilled potency and physical form. The drug in its purest form is simply a vial of liquid. As opposed to drugs like marijuana, this vial is easy to conceal and contains no smell. 

However, on the street level, the drug mostly comes as a “tab.” People make these tabs by dropping a set dose amount of liquid acid on a sheet of perforated blotting paper, typically selling the drug on a “by-the-tab” basis. That being said, liquid acid can dropped on nearly anything, so a dose of acid may be a small bit of gelatin, a sugar cube, gummy candies, or even baked goods.

For the user or dealer, the main difference between these different forms is that blotter tabs tend to give the person more control over the dosage amount. A tiny piece of blotter paper is easier to cut than a drop of LSD is to split or measure out into micrograms. Because of the potency of the drug, it is very important to be precise with measuring how much you actually ingest. 

Short Term Side Effects Of LSD

As discussed above, LSD is a drug with significant and profound mind-altering effects. Acid causes its characteristic hallucinogenic effects by interacting with the brain’s serotonin receptors. Serotonin is what’s known as a neurotransmitter, which the body uses to communicate impulses between systems in the brain. It is responsible for a number of different aspects of the brain including your behavior and mood, control of senses, and the moderation of thoughts. 

As with any drug that affects the brain, side effects will vary from person to person. This is because, while most people’s brains share similar characteristics, brain chemistry and reactions can vary wildly.

Typically, the first effects of the drug begin to show themselves within 30 to 45 minutes of oral ingestion. These hallucinogenic effects reach their apex or “peak” within 2 to 4 hours and can last for 12 hours or longer as the drug works its way through your system.

Common effects may include

  • Hallucinations (both visual and auditory)
  • Distorted visual perception of shapes and colors
  • Altered sounds
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Flashbacks, or a return of the “trip” experience, days or even months later
  • Rapid heart rate, increased body temperature and sweating, and high blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils

Extreme changes in mood and disposition can occur. When taken in large doses, the drug can produce extreme delusions and visual hallucinations. An overdose on LSD can lead to severe psychosis. There is no known lethal dose of acid but death while under the influence is often due to the person putting themselves in physical harm during a psychotic episode. 

Other notable physical effects may include nausea, loss of appetite, increase in blood sugar, difficulty sleeping or insomnia, dry mouth, tremors, and even seizures. 

LSD Overdose

The effects of LSD use usually do not continue after the drug has left the system, and data does 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.

What Is LSD Tolerance?

Tolerance refers to the body’s natural resistance to any substance as a result of repeated exposure. As is the case with LSD, it begins to lose its effectiveness if used rapidly over a short period of time. For example, if someone uses acid one day and is able to achieve the desired effects from just one dose, then they use the drug on a second consecutive day, it will most likely require more than one dose to achieve the same effect. 

This concept refers to both the psychological and physiological effects of the drug. As discussed above, LSD is characterized by intense auditory and visual hallucinations. The more often the drug is consumed, the less intense these hallucinations may become. This may also be the case with the uncomfortable physical side effects that occur as well. They may become less intense with repeated exposure.

How Long Does It Take To Build A Tolerance?

As mentioned above, the human body begins to adapt to doses of acid quickly. Within 24 hours, the human brain starts to form a tolerance to the drug. For some people, this period is even shorter, and they show signs of tolerance building after just 3 hours from first ingestion

One study has even shown that the average person will develop a complete tolerance to the psychedelic effects of acid within one week of taking daily doses at the same level. 

What Causes LSD Tolerance?

LSD works by attaching itself to the serotonin receptors in the brain that we outlined in a previous section. Some scientists believe that serotonin receptors become desensitized to the drug immediately after coming in contact with it, leading to less interaction in subsequent doses. This leads to the same dose of acid not have the same effect on a person until those receptors have replenished, which takes time.

Much of the scientific literature we have on LSD use is from the periods in the 1950s and 60s, before the drug was made federally illegal. This was when the effects of the drug on the brain were being freely studied. With the advancement of medical technology, scientists would most likely be able to more accurately study acid and its effects on the brain.

LSD Tolerance Is Universal

Developing a tolerance is universal to all people, and even some mammals. Scientists have found that certain animals can also quickly develop a tolerance to LSD.

During the “glory days” of scientific LSD testing, it was common for the drug to be administered to mammals such as cats, rats, and mice. Like common side effects found in all human users of the drug, there were side effects that showed themselves across all animal subjects as well. Animals were shown to groom themselves excessively, flick their tails and paws more than usual, stare off into the distance as if entranced, and even show signs of twitching that humans also exhibit while under the influence of LSD.

When given regular doses of acid, these mammals were shown to develop a resistance to the constant flicking and twitching within just a few hours. This resistance was shown to subside after three days in cats, and after just one day in rats. 

Obviously these physical signs are the only aspects of LSD’s effects that can be observed in animals. Auditory or visual hallucinations cannot be reported but it is logical to assume that resistances also grew.

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 an LSD 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does LSD tolerance last?

LSD tolerance begins to take effect quickly, typically within 24 hours of the first dose. Some people have even reported experiencing a tolerance building after just 3 hours. That being said, the body’s tolerance to LSD dissipates just as quickly and is back to a pre-dose state just a few days after initial dosage.

How long does it take for LSD tolerance to go down?

The body’s tolerance to LSD dissipates within a few days after the initial dose, returning to normal, pre-dose tolerance.

What happens with LSD tolerance?

LSD tolerance happens very quickly and each consecutive dose will have less and less of an effect unless a higher dose is ingested. Most people will build up complete tolerance to the same dose after just a week’s time.

If you or your loved one is using LSD, and the idea of stopping seems impossible, contact us today at (888) 341-4325. At Regard Healthcare, we are prepared to help you find a substance use rehabilitation program that can help you get the treatment you deserve.

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