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LSD Use, Addiction, And Treatment Options

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LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a synthetic, mind-altering hallucinogenic drug made from an acid compound commonly found on fungus or grains. Due to its high potential for use, LSD is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports 32 million U.S. residents used LSD in 2010. Roughly 180,000 Americans (12 and older) reported using LSD within the past month, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

This drug is not known to be addictive, however, frequent use can cause tolerance. The greater someone’s physical tolerance becomes, the larger the dose of LSD they will need to feel the same effects. The greater someone’s psychological tolerance, the more intense cravings for LSD they will experience.

There are several treatment options for LSD use and addiction. The exact treatment approach used will depend on the severity of an individual’s LSD addiction.


Signs And Symptoms Of LSD Use

LSD acts on the central nervous system (CNS) and affects the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a naturally produced brain chemical that influences an individual’s mood, behavior and the way they relate to their surroundings.

As a hallucinogen, LSD causes hallucinations (seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not real). It is important to note that LSD is very potent and experiencing hallucinations can happen even after taking a small dose.

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Psychological Effects Of LSD Use And Addiction

People taking LSD refer to the resulting hallucinations as “trips.” Depending on the size of the dose and how the brain responds to LSD, a trip can be considered good or bad. There is no way to predict whether someone will have a good or bad trip while under the influence of LSD, as either can happen.

Good trips are usually stimulatory and result in the desired effects. During a good trip someone may feel:

  • as if they are floating away from the earth
  • completely disconnected from reality
  • joy, euphoria or a “rush”
  • less inhibited, similar to being under the influence of alcohol
  • like their thinking is abnormally clear
  • as if they have superhuman powers, such as super strength
  • unafraid of anything

Bad trips may cause individuals to feel uncomfortable and very frightened. Other possible indications of a bad trip include:

  • terrifying thoughts
  • experiencing many emotions at once, or quickly switching from feeling one emotion to another
  • distorted senses, shapes and sizes of objects may be altered
  • sensational crossover, wherein a person may hear colors or see sounds
  • inability to control the sensation of fear

Physical effects of LSD use and addiction include:

  • increased heart and respiratory rates
  • blood pressure
  • increased body temperature
  • sleepiness
  • loss of appetite
  • excessive sweating

How LSD Is Used

The most common form of LSD is a liquid that has been transferred onto a small paper square, sometimes called a blotter or microdot tablet. It can also come in powder or crystal forms, which are dried on gelatin sheets and put into capsules or sugar cubes and usually taken with other substances. Typically, LSD is chewed and swallowed, but it can also be inhaled or injected.

What is microdosing? Microdosing is an established behavior of individuals who believe that LSD may also have medicinal applications. Essentially, microdosing is using LSD in very small, or “micro” amounts. At very low doses, LSD is more likely to result in increased alertness, energy and increased creative capacity. However, scientific research on the medicinal uses of LSD is very limited, and the drug remains illegal throughout the United States.

Even if someone is microdosing LSD, they still run the risk of it being cut with other, toxic substances, as there are no regulations over the making of this drug. Experimenting with LSD, even in limited amounts, could expose an individual to serious side effects and adverse reactions. Individuals seeking therapeutic benefits of the drug are better off talking to their doctor for safer alternatives.


Risks Of LSD Use And Addiction

People who have chronically used LSD may experience some long-term health effects. Long-term LSD misuse may result in hallucinogen-induced persisting perception disorder (HIPPD). HIPPD is a somewhat rare occurrence, only reported in about five percent of people with a lifetime history of LSD use. Risk factors for HIPPD include a history of bad trips, a co-occurring mental disorder and a history of polydrug use (abusing more than one drug at a time).

Continued LSD use may cause individuals to develop a physical tolerance to the drug. Physical tolerance can cause individuals to need larger and more frequent doses of the drug to experience the same desired effects. Increases in dosage and frequency can quickly turn physical dependence on LSD into addiction or a hallucinogen use disorder.

Possible signs of an LSD-induced hallucinogen use disorder include:

  • trouble controlling LSD use
  • using more LSD than intended
  • expressing the desire to stop using but being unable to do so
  • experiencing frequent LSD cravings
  • developing a physical tolerance to LSD

Is It Possible To Overdose On LSD?

When someone takes too much LSD or mixes it with another substance, they can experience an overdose. While there is very little evidence that someone can suffer a fatal overdose on massive amounts of LSD alone, individuals may experience some adverse side effects, including:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • bleeding in the digestive tract
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing
  • unconsciousness and potential coma

Typically, when there is a fatal overdose involving LSD, it is a result of combining it with another substance, such as alcohol, prescription pain medications or stimulants. Accidental deaths are also likely as a result of the panic attacks or bad trips produced by LSD use.

Researchers do not fully understand all the effects of LSD on the brain. Because LSD is not considered to be an addictive substance, most people can stop using it without experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms.

There is some evidence that LSD may be psychologically addictive. People who have used LSD may experience flashbacks months — even years — after they stop using. Flashbacks are usually relatively short and can be triggered by stress, sleepiness or other substances, such as marijuana or alcohol.

Overcoming the psychological addiction to LSD usually requires more than sheer willpower.

Treatment Options For LSD Use Or Addiction

There are many different options for LSD use and addiction treatment. An inpatient treatment program may be the best option for someone who has been abusing multiple substances at once, has an underlying mental health disorder or has been using LSD for a long time. The severity of an individual’s addiction and the number of times they have attempted to stop using on their own are factors to consider when choosing a treatment approach.

Due to the high likelihood of psychological addiction, behavioral therapies are also useful in treating LSD use and addiction. Some examples of behavioral treatments that may be used in an inpatient program include dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) or cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Recovery is a lifelong process, and formal LSD use and addiction treatment is only the first step. Ongoing participation in an aftercare program is beneficial to individuals who are suffering from LSD addiction.