Is LSD Addictive? Abuse Potential and Treatment

Is LSD Addictive? Abuse Potential and Treatment

What is LSD & Is It Addictive?

What Is LSD?

LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide, and it is a purely synthetic chemical, meaning it exists nowhere in nature and must be created in a lab. Despite being synthetic, it is derived from a similar molecule found in a variety of mold that grows on rye grains. 

It belongs to a group of drugs called psychedelics and operates differently depending on the dose that is taken. Smaller doses, sometimes called micro-dosing, can create very mild and manageable changes in visual and auditory perception, as well as modulation of mood and changes in thought patterns. Larger doses frequently produce visual hallucinations, significant distortions of time and space.

While many times the LSD is pure, sometimes it is known to be adulterated with other chemicals, often referred to as “research chemicals” that are part of a new group of psychedelics, like 2C, 2D, and NBOMe. This can make the experience inconsistent, or simply dangerous if the person taking it is not aware of the possible effects.

LSD is a white crystalline substance that is so incredibly potent that mere microgram amounts are dried onto blotter paper, gelatin sheets called “geltabs”, sugar cubes, gummy bears, or other media. The media are then taken orally, often letting them sit in the mouth for several minutes until the LSD is completely dissolved and absorbed.

LSD will usually take effect in 30-45 minutes, at which point the user will begin to feel the “rising” of the LSD. This indicates that they are beginning to feel the effects and that they are intensifying. The experience will usually last between six and ten hours long, with a “peak” occurring at about the midpoint of the experience. The peak is where the experience is at its most potent. While ‘peaking” users are likely to experience side effects such as:

  • Enhanced sensory input
  • Delusions
  • Sweating
  • Alienation
  • Dry mouth
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Muscle tremors
  • Synesthesia
  • Dissociative episodes or behavior
  • Anxiety attacks or general anxious feelings
  • Impaired depth perception
  • Flashbacks for traumatic trips or prolonged heavy users
  • Post-comedown depression

Is LSD Addictive?

LSD is different from many drugs, in that long time users do not often report “diminishing returns” in regard to the experience itself. While most sources consider LSD to not be physically addictive, the experience itself is often what the users crave to achieve over and over. Users can become emotionally or psychologically addicted to the sights and sounds that are experienced, as well as the emotional and therapeutic breakthroughs that many people claim to have. 

Users report that the experiences are often so beautiful, or enlightening, or otherwise life-changing, that they desire that feeling more and more. This leads to taking the drug more often, and it can lead to administering higher doses as well. While many times this can go on for a long time without ill-effects, eventually it will begin to affect the user’s daily life and work activities.

Users can begin to develop a tolerance if taking LSD often enough, and since LSD is active at doses as low as 20 micrograms, users can raise dosages in order to gain the same level or strength of the experience. Users can also develop some negative side effects at larger doses or prolonged usage. Some of these negative effects can include paranoia or even psychosis.

The tolerance to LSD is oftentimes significantly increased after 3 consecutive days of dosing, in many cases. Some users who abuse the drug on any regular basis must eventually take increasingly large doses to achieve the same state of being or the same level of experience. This can become particularly dangerous as the likelihood of a bad or traumatic experience increases in accordance with the size of the dose.

The risk of overdose, however, is quite rare, and the risk of death by overdose is nearly impossible. That being said, LSD is by no means safe, and many researchers are still struggling to understand how it works and what causes it to affect our brains and bodies like it does. Users can be under the influence of LSD for 10-12 hours or more, and while they are under the influence they can show signs of reduced inhibitions, or they can react in dangerous ways to the effects of the drug. Therefore, the behaviors and actions stemming from taking LSD can have dangerous, even fatal, outcomes for the user. 

Side-Effects Stemming From the Addictive Nature of LSD

Since users crave the experiences of the LSD trip, they may begin to take the drug more regularly, or in larger doses. When users regularly take LSD for extended periods of time, may eventually experience what are known as “flashbacks”.

A flashback is when an LSD trip resurfaces after a period of time without taking a dose. The victim can be completely sober, doing any number of activities, and may render the victim unable to communicate or care for themselves until the flashback subsides. They can be a pleasant experience, despite their unexpected nature, or they can be disturbing and frightening. This will often be dependant on the trip that is recalled. Flashbacks can be the result of high levels of stress, tiredness or fatigue, exercise, or even the use of other drugs. Flashbacks will generally only last a few minutes.

Many users report a general depression that sets in when they are not able to use LSD. They may experience such intense positive experiences, or “highs”, while on the drug that they have what amounts to an emotional rebound when they are not dosing, and it causes them to adopt a feeling of depression.

Is There a Way Out of Addiction?: What to Do if the Addictive Nature of LSD Has Set In

While there are no currently known standard physical withdrawal symptoms from stopping the use of LSD, there are psychological symptoms and triggers that the addict will need to learn to deal with by using healthy coping mechanisms and other strategies conducive to sobriety. There are a number of resources that you can use to increase personal accountability, and help you find ways to break free of the addictive nature of LSD.

One of the best ways to overcome an addiction to LSD is to go to an inpatient drug rehab facility that can safely and effectively guide the individual suffering from addiction to a path of sobriety. Inpatient rehabs are particularly helpful as they remove all outside distractions that often tempt an individual to go back to the drug and they also provide medical attention needed to help the individual navigate any side-effects that may have occurred as a result of taking LSD.

If you or a loved one is struggling from an addiction to LSD, the time to get help is now. Reach out to a premier inpatient rehab facility who can answer any questions you may have and get you on a path to a healthier, more fulfilling future right now.