Main content area

LSD

acid, tabs, trips, blotters, microdots

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) was originally derived from the fungus ergot, which grows on rye and other grasses. It was first synthesised by a Swiss chemist, Albert Hoffman, in 1938. 

Coloured tabs of paper with red love hearts sitting on aluminium foil

While studying the drug in 1943, Hoffman took 250 micrograms. Shortly afterwards he pedalled home on his bicycle and found himself 'transported to other worlds', thus becoming the first person known to go 'tripping'.
 

In the 1950s LSD was used to treat depression, while the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States began using it in 'mind control' experiments. It gained popularity as a recreational drug in the 1960s when, due to its ability to produce changes in mood, perception, consciousness and thought, it became part of the psychedelic cultural movement.

LSD is usually prepared as a liquid, but is generally sold on small pieces of blotting paper known as tabs. They are taken orally, often held under the tongue until the paper dissolves. It is also sold as a liquid, or soaked into sugar cubes.

LSD and the law

It is illegal to use, possess, supply or manufacture LSD in New South Wales.

How LSD is used

LSD is usually taken orally, although a few users have reported snorting or injecting it.

Short term effects

The short-term effects of LSD may include:

  • vivid perceptual distortions (hallucinations)
  • a distorted sense of time and place
  • poor coordination
  • increased body temperature and sweating, and/or chills
  • a lack of control over thinking processes and concentration
  • in some cases, fear, anxiety and depression.

More experienced users may still experience the more unpleasant reactions.

The effects of LSD may be observed within five to ten minutes, with peak effects being reported after 30 to 90 minutes. Effects may decline after four to six hours, but they may last for up to 12 hours, depending on the amount taken and the user's tolerance, body weight and age.

Long term effects

The most frequently discussed long-term effect of using LSD is flashbacks—a spontaneous recurrence of something that happened while the person was taking the drug. There are three types:

  • perceptual (for example, greater intensity of colour, faces changing shape, being crawled on by non-existent insects)
  • somatic (altered bodily sensations, such as feelings of pain without an apparent cause)
  • emotional (for example, experiencing loneliness or depression).

These are usually brief, but they can occur for days, weeks or even years after taking the drug.

Psychiatric disturbances such as prolonged psychosis, depression, personality disruption and post-hallucinogen perceptual disorder have been attributed to prolonged use of LSD. Other long-term effects include anxiety, and decreased memory.

There is no apparent link between LSD use and the development of schizophrenia or affective disorders, though use could precipitate preexisting psychiatric illness.

LSD and driving

It is extremely dangerous to drive with the distorted sense perceptions, poor coordination and lack of judgement caused by taking LSD and other hallucinogens.

LSD and pregnancy

There is some evidence linking the use of hallucinogens in pregnancy to an increased risk of miscarriage and birth complications. There may also be a higher incidence of birth defects among babies born to women using hallucinogens.

If a mother uses hallucinogens while breastfeeding, it is possible that the drug will be present in her milk and have adverse effects on the baby.

Using LSD with other drugs

Cross-tolerance can occur between LSD and other psychedelics—that is, users with a tolerance to LSD may find that they have a tolerance to drugs with similar effects such as mescaline.

Dependence

Tolerance of both the psychological and physical effects of LSD can develop, though it may be lost within several days. LSD is not thought to cause physical dependence. Regular users may develop psychological dependence, although this is not common.

Withdrawal

There are few physical effects when use ceases. Regular users may have to cope with feelings of anxiety, but these may be at a low level.

Overdose

It is not possible to overdose on LSD. It is not a particularly toxic drug; deaths that have been linked to LSD are usually classed as 'accidents', such as falls.

Treatment

People who use LSD do not generally seek treatment from health professionals and there are few treatment options that can be recommended, apart from those found to be generally effective for drug dependence.