LSD: A Primer

What is LSD?
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) is a hallucinogenic drug discovered in 1938. It was first ingested by the Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann, on April 19th, 1943.
  • LSD is most often absorbed into small pieces of paper called “blotter,” but it can also be found in liquid form. It is almost always consumed orally.
  • LSD is extremely powerful. A typical dose is between 100 and 200 micrograms (mcg), which is such a small amount it makes it extremely difficult to measure. A single square of blotter or drop of liquid usually contains a typical dose, but may contain much more.
What are the Effects?

An LSD experience is often described as a “trip.” This experience may be broken up into four phases:

  1. The Onset – After about 30 minutes, colors appear sharper, moving objects leave “trails” behind them and flat surfaces may appear to “breathe.”
  2. The Plateau – Over the second hour, the effects become more intense. Open and closed eye visuals may begin to appear, from shapes in smoke to movement in the lines on the palms of the hand.
  3. The Peak – Time is often slowed significantly. Users may feel like they are in a different world, or a movie. Familiar things seem strange or unusual. For some this is profound and mystical, but it can be very frightening for others.
  4. The Comedown – 5 or 6 hours after taking the drug the effects begin to subside. After 8 to 12 hours, the trip is usually over, although residual effects may last much longer.
Caution
  • Because of prohibition, LSD is unregulated. Other, far more dangerous drugs, such as 25I-NBOMe (a synthetic hallucinogen that is used in biochemistry research for mapping the brain’s usage of the type 2A serotonin receptor) have been misrepresented as ‘LSD’ and sold in blotter or liquid form, leading to numerous deaths.
  • LSD trips can sometimes be frightening, inducing extreme anxiety and panic. Although rare, some people relive the experience days, weeks or even years later in episodes known as “flashbacks.” Flashbacks are not unique to hallucinogenic drugs; they can result from any intense psychological trauma.
  • LSD can induce very intense experiences that may exacerbate or bring out mental health conditions, especially mood or psychotic disorders. There is no hard and fast rule, but individuals with a personal or family history of mood or psychotic disorders have a higher baseline risk level when ingesting LSD and other psychedelics.
  • In a very small percentage of people, LSD and other hallucinogens have caused a long-lasting disorder known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) that affects the person’s visual perception.
  • LSD can impair judgment. Never drive while under the influence of LSD.
  • LSD is illegal and possession can result in long prison terms. Supplying LSD to someone else (whether or not money was exchanged) carries even longer sentences.
  • If you choose to use LSD, knowing why is the best way to maximize the benefits and reduce the risks. Whether it’s for insight, self exploration or simply for fun, your intentions will greatly impact the kind of experience you have.
Bad trip and what to do
  • As with all psychedelics, “set” and “setting” are important factors in determining whether someone has a positive or challenging experience. “Set” is the mental state a person brings to the experience— their thoughts, mood and expectations. “Setting” is the physical and social environment in which the drug is consumed. Being in a good mental state with trusted friends in a supportive environment before taking LSD reduces the risk of having a bad trip.
  • If someone is having a difficult or challenging psychological experience on LSD, take them to quiet surroundings where they feel comfortable. Find a friend who can reassure them. Clarify to them that their panic is caused by the drug, and will wear off soon.
  • If you are at a festival, find out if they have a safe space or cooldown area, especially one that is equipped with people who can offer support during difficult experiences.

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