LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide is a hallucinogen and is considered one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. Lysergic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in ergot, a fungus that thrives on rye and other grains.
In the late 1940s, American researchers began using the drug in psychotherapy, simulate mental illness, and treat alcoholism. By the late-1960s, the ill-effects of LSD such as “flashbacks”, convulsions, homicidal impulses and suicidal thoughts surfaced.
Unlike heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, alcohol and nicotine, LSD does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior. However, psychological dependence on lysergic acid diethylamide is possible. Regular intake of the drug produces tolerance so that most habitual users progressively take larger doses to get “high”. United States law classifies LSD as a controlled substance.
Screening Cut-off and Detection Time
Drug testing has two cut-off levels to demonstrate positive detection. Initial drug testing is considered negative if drug detection is below cut-off level. Note that a negative sample does not necessarily means that it is drug free but its concentration may be below the cut-off level. If the sample tested above the cut-off level, a confirmatory test is required.
In urine drug testing, cut-off levels are measured in Nano gram per milliliter (ng/ml). For LSD, the cut-off level is 0.5 ng/ml within a detection period of 1-5 days.4 Confirmatory cut-off level for said drug is 200pg/ml.
DEA Drug Class
The DEA is the prime federal agency tasked to combat drug use, manufacture of drugs, drug trade, and drug smuggling in the United States. Under the Department of Justice, DEA implements the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) of 1970 and persecutes violators. Under the CSA chemicals, substances, and drugs are classified into five schedules or categories based on the drug’s safety, medical use and dependency potential.
LSD is a Schedule 1 drug. It has not only a high potential for abuse but also the potential to create grave psychological and/or physical dependence. Schedule 1 substances have no acceptable medical or therapeutic use.5
LSD is a hallucinogen. Also known as psychedelics, this drug alters one’s mood, thought and perception when taken in small doses.6 When taken in large doses, hallucinations and distortion of time and space could happen. The hallucinations, images or sensations seem real to the user. Hallucinogens may be found in some plants and mushroom, or synthetically manufactured.
Forms and Routes of Administration
In its purest form, LSD is an odorless and colorless powder. It is usually sold in capsules, tablets and at times, in liquid form. Some users prefer to buy blotting paper that has been soaked in LSD. Divided into small squares, each blotting paper square is equivalent to one dose. This drug is also available in thin gelatin squares and as sugar cubes.
This drug is abused orally, taken as a pill or ingested in liquid form.7 However, there are some users who sniff, inject, or smoke LSD. Using this drug in combination with other drug such as ecstasy or ice can increase the probability of a “bad trip”.
- White lightning
- Blotter Acid
- Mellow Yellow
- Window Pane
- Yellow Sunshine
- Golden Dragon
- Heavenly Blue
- Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
- Looney Tunes
- Purple Heart
- Yellow Submarine
Effects and Symptoms
The effects of LSD depend on the amount taken; the strength of the drug; the health, personality, mood and expectations of the user; and the surrounding where the drug is used. Effects of LSD are felt after 30-45 minutes of taking it, lasting for 4 to 12 hours.8 The user experiences:
- Sense of euphoria and well-being
- Pupil dilation
- Hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that are not there)
- Irregular or fast heart beat
- Quick/shallow breathing
- Chills, sweating, and facial flushes
- Dry mouth and tremors
- Loss of appetite
A psychedelic experience where the user’s thinking and perception are radically altered could be brought about by a large dose of LSD. A “trip” can give a user a “high” that could last for days, or make himself detach from reality. This experience is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. “Flashbacks” could happen days after a psychedelic experience. The varying amounts present in one product, and the generally high potency of LSD make it difficult to determine its effect.
Tolerance, Dependence and Withdrawal
Tolerance to the effects of LSD quickly develops. After taking the drug for three to four consecutive days, the desired effects are diminished. Normal tolerance will return after a short period of abstinence.8
Though tolerance to LSD is indicated, it is not an addictive drug. However, psychological dependence may occur. Symptoms of LSD withdrawal include fatigue, cravings, irritability, and diminished ability to experience pleasure.
Risks in Taking LSD
- Physical harm and death – The tiny dose used to experience an LSD trip is potent but below toxic quantity. In this connection, fatally overdosing on LSD is a rarity. The danger lies in ingesting drugs with stimulant and hallucinogenic effects that are sold or mistaken for LSD. One such drug is DOB which could take 3 hours to take effect, thus the possibility of overdosing. People on LSD have a higher risk of injuries and accidents due to their lack of judgment and weird behavior. Psychedelics make users feel invincible- that they can fly and jump out of windows unscathed. Incidence of suicide attempts, suicides, and self-injuries of people with a history of mental illness have been linked to LSD effects.9 Run-in with authorities is also a possibility.
- Psychological/ Mental Harm – Psychedelic crisis or prolonged bad trip is rare but when it does happen, the effect is psychologically harmful and traumatic. An LSD trip cannot be stopped once it starts. If a person seems to be undergoing a psychedelic crisis, it is best to take him to a medical doctor for sedation to lessen the traumatic effects. Recovery from psychedelic crisis is almost always assured. However, users with pre-existing or predisposition to mental health problems are at risk of relapses or lasting symptoms of their current conditions if they take LSD.
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder or HPPD –It is a rare yet potentially harmful LSD effect. HPPD is the re-appearance of some of the effects of a past LSD trip. “Flashback” usually occurs after a bad trip (hallucinogenic drug episode). HPPD could be long-lasting but partial and even complete recovery is possible weeks or months after.
Health Conditions that Make LSD More Dangerous
Anxiety, depression and other related mental health issues increase the incidence of a psychological harm brought about by a psychedelic episode. People with psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia, have an increased risk of triggered psychotic episode due to the effects of LSD.
- Pregnancy – Consumption of illegal drugs is unsafe for both mother and the unborn child. A 1972 study (Sally Long) of 162 children of parents who took LSD before and/or during pregnancy showed that 7 of them developed limb defects that could be attributed to the intake of LSD. Another study (Jacobson et al) indicated the development of heart defects, sacral myelomeningocele, hydrocephalus and various limb defects on such children. Speculation was that LSD could alter DNA that could result in cellular abnormalities.10
- Breastfeeding – Two facts about breast milk and drugs are: almost all drugs pass into human milk; and drugs pass into the bloodstream before they appear in the breastmilk. Nursing mothers who take LSD are most likely to pass the drug into their infants even in minute quantity.11
There is evidence that LSD has been around and had affected mankind for centuries. Lysergic acid is a chemical produced by ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea) that grow on rye and other species of grain. If an infected grain is eaten, violent physical reactions and strange behavior may be manifested. Ergot poisoning symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, vomiting, muscle spasms, and crawling sensations on the skin.
A research indicated that fungus on rye grain could have caused the bizarre behavior of Salem residents that ultimately led to the infamous witch trials and ensuing executions in 1691.1
In 1938 Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist working in Sandoz Pharmaceutical, synthesized LSD-25. He accidentally discovered the semi-synthetic ergot alkaloids derivative while looking for a stimulant for blood circulation. Five years later (1948) Hoffman accidentally exposed himself to LSD-25. He reported that for two hours, he saw “an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscope-like play of colors.”2
Three days later, Hoffman intentionally took a rather large dose of LSD-25 which had frightening results that he asked his assistant to take him home on a bicycle. Among LSD advocates, April 18, 1943 is known as Bicycle Day.
Other researchers at Sandoz came to know of Hoffman’s research, and also experimented with this drug in smaller dosages. Sandoz Chemical asked for volunteers to test the viability of this drug for psychiatric treatment.
Knowledge of LSD spread through publications in medical journals. The drug cannot be produced in a large scale until Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals found a method to grow ergot in tanks and developed a way to synthesize it.
LSD was widely used as a recreational drug in the 1960’s and 70’s.3 Its psychedelic or mind-altering effects allegedly led users to higher states of enlightenment and consciousness. Researches showed that taking the drug was psychologically risky and a “bad trip” may even trigger full-blown psychosis. In connection, research on potential medical and therapeutic uses of LSD was discontinued, and the drug deemed illegal.