LSD Addiction and Abuse
LSD Addiction and Abuse
Table of Contents
In 2014, around 1.2 million people older than twelve said they had used hallucinogens. Hallucinogenic drugs have been used for a range of reasons, including recreationally, religiously, as a stress-relief, or to experience enlightenment. One of the more potent and mood-altering hallucinogenic drugs is LSD. Its generic name is lysergic acid diethylamide, or also known as “acid.” Even in small amounts, the drug can produce powerful mood alterations and visual hallucinations. Although it was outlawed in 1968, it’s recreational use has remained at a high level.1 Addiction to LSD may require treatment at a rehab facility.
Is LSD Addictive?
Hallucinogenic drugs don’t have a high potential for physical dependence. Meaning, they don’t tend to produce withdrawal symptoms when the substance stops being taken. Although acid isn’t regarded as a drug that causes physical addiction, it can create tolerance. Extended use may create a tolerance to the substance, and will require higher doses to experience the same effect.
Acid is better known for producing a range of psychological effects. Psychological addiction can manifest intense cravings for the drug. In other words, psychological addiction is about the experience of the high and not the drug itself.
Mixing Acid with Other Drugs Increases Addiction
Those who develop an addiction to LSD are prone to addiction and are frequently polydrug users. It’s common for LSD use disorder to be attached to an addiction to another drug, for example, marijuana or opiates. With a genetic predisposition for addiction, someone’s LSD use might develop into a habit.
More About Hallucinogens
What are the Street Names?
LSD is sold under more than 80 different street names. The most common include:
Many of its street names are connected with the designs on sheets of blotter paper.
Moreover, LSD has a range of other slag terms when it’s combined with other substances, for example:
Outer limits or sheet-rocking (LSD/crack cocaine)
Black acid (LSD/phencyclidine)
Banana split (LSD/2C-B)
What Class of Drugs Does It Belong To?
LSD belongs to the class of drugs called hallucinogens. Hallucinogens can be extracted from some plants and mushrooms or can be human made. In history, different tribes have used hallucinogenic drugs in religious rituals to help them get in touch with a spirit world. In more recent years, the substance has been used for social and recreational purposes.
Hallucinogens have also been studied as a possible treatment for:
They are drugs that lead to a powerful distortion of reality, changing thinking processes, and perception, including seeing sounds or hearing colors. Sometimes, these drugs are a gate to new and expanded consciousness. Other effects might include hallucinations, an altered sense of time, and dissociative experiences.
Apart from acid, other common hallucinogens include:
Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
Ketamine (Special K)
Two Categories of Hallucinogens
There are two categories of hallucinogens: classic and dissociative hallucinogens.1 Classic hallucinogens usually produce visual and auditory hallucinations, an altered sense of time, and heightened senses. Dissociative hallucinogens typically produce feelings of detachment, causing feelings of being disconnected from reality or one’s own physical body.
Examples of classic hallucinogens include acid, peyote, DMT, and psilocybin. The most notable dissociative drugs are PCP and Ketamine.
Research suggests that classic hallucinogens act on neural circuits in the brain that use serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that regulates mood, sleep, sensory perception, body temperature, sexual behavior, and hunger.
Dissociative hallucinogens are believed to disrupt the chemical glutamate throughout the brain. This chemical regulates emotion, pain perception, learning and memory, and responses to the environment.
Acid and psilocybin were largely studied in the 1950s and 1960s and were considered as a treatment for alcoholism and other illnesses. But, they later gained a reputation as dangerous substances. In 1968, they were outlawed nationwide, and in 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act.
Where is LSD on the Schedule?
LSD is classified as a Schedule I drug. It has no known medicinal use and a high potential for abuse. It’s one of the most researched psychedelics drugs, and it’s also active at minimal doses.
Is Acid Safe?
Acid affects serotonin, the chemical that’s involved in sensory perception, causing hallucinogenic effects, detachment from reality, and visual hallucinations. The effects of LSD can last for twelve hours or more, during which it’s possible to engage in dangerous actions and injuries. The 2014 Global Drug Survey found that 27.22% of Americans have experienced a bad trip from acid.
Young men seem to be more affected by LSD than women. Out of 5,000 emergency visits in 2011, 84 percent were male, and 70 percent of them were between 18 and 24 years old.2
Moreover, acid can result in a range of adverse side effects, including delusions, tremors, dissociation, and anxiety.
Acid is Unpredictable
The hallucinogenic is unpredictable, and users sometimes don’t know the dosage they’re taking. This can be unsafe and result in adverse side effects.
Combining with Other Drugs is Dangerous
Acid is also dangerous when taken in combination with other drugs. Most people who take LSD don’t have a medical background or enough information to know which combinations are hazardous. For example, mixing lithium or tricyclic antidepressants with LSD can be deadly. Acid is also often mixed with amphetamines. Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants. When combined with psychedelics, the mix can lead to increased levels of energy and hallucinations. When cocaine is taken in combination with LSD, it may result in paranoia, hallucinations, and delusional thinking.
Serious side effects can only happen with the drug is taken in large and frequent doses. The most dangerous side effects include hyperthermia, suicidal thoughts, and psychosis.
How do People Use LSD?
LSD is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other types of grains. It’s odorless, colorless, and has a bitter taste. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young adults are more prone to abusing acid than any other age demographic. In 2016, 209,000 people aged 18 to 25 reported to current usage of acid.3
The hallucinogenic drug can be found in a broad array of forms, including:
Blotter paper. Blotter paper is acid soaked onto sheets of absorbent paper. The paper usually comes in various designs and is cut in small, single dosage units. People can buy one piece of paper, a whole sheet, or an entire book, which is multiple sheets of LSD. The paper is absorbed through the lining in the mouth.
Thin squares of gelatin. This form is also known as windowpanes. It’s taken orally.
Tablets. Users can find acid in a small tablet form known as Microdots that is taken orally.
Pure liquid. Pure liquid is swallowed, and it’s incredibly potent.
Some people may snort acid through the nose or inject it into a vein.
Short-Term Effects of LSD
During a “trip,” people who have taken LSD experience a wide variety of short-term effects that last around eight to twelve hours. The peak effects occur four to six hours after ingestion. The effects can be described as drug-induced psychosis, causing diminished capacity to recognize reality, think rationally, and communicate with other people.
The most typical physical side-effects include:
Increased blood pressure and heart rate
Elevated body temperature
Loss of appetite
Acid can have powerful effects on mental health. Some common psychological side-effects include:
Altered perception of time
Quickly shifting emotions
Mystical or religious sensations
Fear of dying
Aggressive or violent behaviors
LSD, taken in an uncontrolled setting and in high doses, causes a danger of experiencing a bad trip. Also, people who have a family history of psychosis or other psychiatric disorders are at great risk of having a bad trip.4 A bad trip can be dangerous, causing unexpected and harmful behavior.
Long-Term Effects of LSD
Some hallucinogenic drugs like acid can cause one to re-experience the effects of the drug days, weeks, even years after last use. These perplexing visual effects are known as “flashbacks.” When these flashbacks occur frequently, it’s known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).5
Although HPPD is quite rare, those suffering from the disorder report experiencing distressing visual distortions, such as:
Blurring of small patterns
Flashes of colors
Seeing geometric patterns
Images within images
There are reports of people who have only used hallucinogens once or twice but began experiencing similar symptoms.
HPPD flashbacks are not pleasurable. The only flashback symptom experienced is visual disruption, not the positive effects of the “trip.” Those experiencing flashbacks will be completely aware of what is real. This means that HPPD visual disturbances are pseudohallucinations.
The medical world hasn’t agreed on one course of treatment for HPPD. However, there are two medications that initial research shows might help. These are:
Can You Overdose on LSD?
Technically, one cannot overdose on acid. Too much LSD might be taken, which can result in a “bad trip.” The side effects of a bad trip can vary significantly, from mild to intense. They can range from feelings of anxiety and alienation to scary delusions and hallucinations that can lead to accidents.
Although a trip is an individual experience, there have been reports of engaging in dangerous activities, such as believing one can fly, climbing to dangerous heights, or thinking one can run into traffic safely. These kinds of delusions have led to serious injuries and deaths.6
However, it takes a high dose of LSD to cause an extreme reaction. Some of the most severe reactions can include:
Rapid mood swings
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a person experiencing a bad trip needs to be placed in a calm and relaxing environment until the effects disappear. Staying in such an environment can reduce the chances that they will harm themselves or other people.
How Can a Person Stop Using LSD?
Although acid doesn’t produce physical dependence, it does create a range of psychological effects, including a psychological addiction that can manifest by intense cravings for the drug, especially for the feelings and emotions experienced during the “trip.”
In some cases, those who take acid are taking acid in combination with other drugs or take different drugs at different times. If someone stops taking acid and a physically addictive drug, like cocaine, they will experience withdrawal symptoms from the physically addictive substance.
Moreover, it’s common for someone with a substance use disorders to also have an underlying mental health illness, such as depression or anxiety. If left untreated, these illnesses can complicate recovery from addiction to acid. Those with a mental illness might try to self-medicate by abusing drugs or alcohol and potentially harm themselves. The safest way to heal is a formal treatment program for recovery from addiction, where sobriety can be achieved in a safe and comfortable environment.
As previously mentioned, LSD is not physically addictive. The brain doesn’t get physically used to its presence. LSD addiction is psychological, causing mental and emotional struggle, rather than physical. As a result, withdrawal from acid is unique and requires a specific approach.
Intense Psychological Cravings
Acid use may result in cravings for a new and expanded consciousness, an escape from reality, and that feeling of heightened senses. Consequently, the drug may be used over and over again, and in higher doses, to recreate the feeling. Ending use of the drug won’t cause physical withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, nausea, and vomiting. Instead, the feeling to take more LSD might become overwhelming, leading to anxiety and depression.
The most common LSD withdrawal symptoms include:
Anxiety: a feeling of anxiousness about acid use and the impact of the drug on the brain and health.
Confusion: it might take several days for cognitive function to go back to normal, causing difficulty separating real life from hallucinations.
Flashbacks: a sense of revisiting the acid trip, including the hallucinations and distortions.
Lack of concentration: it can take a few days to regain a normal level of attention.
Depersonalization: depersonalization can be part of the aftermath, with a struggle to distinguish what’s real and what’s a flashback of the acid trip.
Quitting Cold Turkey Isn’t Recommended
It’s possible to withdraw from LSD cold turkey, although that’s not the recommended method. Due to safety concerns, the best road to sobriety is to seek professional help.
LSD withdrawal symptoms can vary and depend on several factors:
How long the person was using acid
How often the person was taking acid
The person's state of mind at the time
There’s no general time for when one might start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, or what type of symptoms might appear. For example, people who use LSD infrequently or first-time users might not experience any withdrawal symptoms. People who regularly use LSD, on the other hand, might experience strong mental withdrawal effects.
The bottom line is that everyone’s brain is different. LSD is an individual experience and, as such, comes with a set of varying withdrawal scenarios.
LSD Addiction Treatment
Dealing with the psychological withdrawal symptoms of LSD, the best option is turning to a medical detox program. At a detox center, a team of experienced professionals will help with detox from LSD in a safe and comfortable setting.
With the utilization of an individualized detox plan, each experience will be different. First and foremost, medical personnel will address the psychological symptoms of the use of acid. Some of the psychological symptoms might include hallucinations, anxiety attacks, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and psychosis.
In case of a bad trip, medications may be prescribed, such as diazepam or triazolam. Also, antipsychotic tranquilizers may be given if there’s a risk there might be an injury to themselves or others.
For patients who have developed tolerance, the best way to detox is to flush out the drug out of the system. This approach can help restore the natural chemical balance in the brain.
As soon as the withdrawal effects of the acid are addressed, a recommendation is made to enter a rehab center. There’s a common misconception that because acid doesn’t produce physical addiction, treatment isn’t required. However, there’s a range of psychological issues that must be addressed to ensure long-term sobriety.
According to reports by the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 50 percent of people who have a mental disorder also suffer from substance abuse. Moreover, 53 percent of people with a substance use disorder and 37 percent of people with an alcohol use disorder have at least one serious mental illness.
LSD can have a profound effect on cognitive function; flashbacks may occur weeks, months, even years after the last use. For that reason, the best treatment is an inpatient/outpatient program.
LSD Inpatient Rehab
Inpatient treatment is the best option for some, especially if depression, anxiety, or psychosis is involved. During inpatient treatment, patients live on-site, away from normal environment and away from triggers that lead to drug abuse.
Inpatient rehab can last anywhere from 28 days to several months. During the time at rehab, a wide variety of activities will take place, such as one-on-one and group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, as well as the teaching of various coping mechanisms that can help in everyday life.
Many other activities might be part of the treatment program, including:
LSD Outpatient Rehab
Outpatient rehab involves the patient living off-site but attending treatment on-site a few times per week. This type of treatment can include a range of activities, such as one-on-one and group therapy, twelve-step meetings, vocational therapy, and cognitive therapy. Depending on the rehab center, holistic classes, such as meditation and yoga, may be available.
Co-Occurring Disorder Therapy
There’s a strong relationship between addiction and mental health. Addiction is the result of an underlying mental health issue for some. In other circumstances, addiction develops first, and mental health symptoms appear later. Sometimes, mental health symptoms might be worsened by drug use.
The mental health side effects of acid use might linger on weeks, months, even years after the drug leaves the body, including flashbacks that can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.
For that reason, the most recommended treatment is a co-occurring disorder therapy. It can be especially helpful for people who need to be treated for substance abuse and mental illnesses. This type of treatment will address substance abuse and mental illnesses simultaneously to ensure proper recovery.
LSD addiction treatment shouldn’t stop with inpatient/outpatient rehab. It requires continuous monitoring and support so that the patient stays on the path of sobriety.
Before leaving inpatient/outpatient treatment, patients are encouraged to work with a therapist to develop an aftercare plan. The purpose of an aftercare plan is to help patients maintain sobriety, find meaning in life, and create healthy relationships with themselves, friends, and family.
Although each person receives a customized plan, some common components of a typical aftercare treatment plan include:
Participation in a twelve-step or alternative support group
LSD is one of the most commonly abused hallucinogens. Even after one use, one can experience intense cravings for the emotions and new realities that appear with the trip. It’s psychological side effects can last for weeks, months, or even years after the last use. With psychological addiction to LSD, many inpatient and outpatient rehab centers can help. A range of different types of therapy, such as dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, are used in the treatment of hallucinogenic dependency. Ongoing recovery efforts, including support groups, have also been proven to be effective.
This information should not replace a visit to a doctor or treatment center. If you are concerned that you or your loved one might be suffering from LSD addiction, ask for professional help today.