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Everything about LSD
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LSD is notorious for its role in the counterculture of the 1960s and remains one of the most popular hallucinogens available today. It was first synthesized in the 1930s by a Swiss scientist named Albert Hofman and was a fixture during the Cold War.
It is a powerful mind-altering drug that causes the user to hallucinate, meaning they see, hear, or feel things that are not actually there. Recreational use of LSD is common in the music festival scene among people who enjoy the way it alters their perception of the experience.
Ingesting LSD causes intense and sometimes unpredictable experiences depending on numerous factors. The results of LSD use can be dangerous especially for those with no prior experience or those who struggle with mental illness.
Are you interested in learning more about LSD? Continue reading to find out everything you want to know about this powerful hallucinogen.
What is LSD?
LSD, short for D-lysergic acid diethylamide and also referred to as acid, is a strong, synthetic hallucinogenic or psychedelic drug. It is a mind-altering drug that causes extreme distortions to the way a user perceives the world around them.
Hallucinogen use isn’t as widespread as the use of other drugs, such as alcohol or prescription opioids. Still, an estimated 5.6 million people, or 2.0 percent of the population, used at least one hallucinogen in the past year.
They also aren’t addictive in the same way alcohol and opioids are but it is possible to develop a tolerance. Despite the differences between LSD and other drugs, it’s still a serious substance that can lead to dangerous outcomes at any dose.
LSD is used as a recreational drug among people looking to alter their perception of life. Many people who use the drug describe the spiritual experience they have while under the influence, also called “tripping.” Acid causes a number of different physical, psychological, and sensory effects during these trips.
Acid trips consist of visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations. This means the user sees, hears, or feels things that seem real to them but don’t exist in reality. These visuals include geometric patterns, vivid colors, and other illusions that vary in intensity depending on the dosage.
The drug also affects distorts the user’s perception of time while they are tripping. Some feel like time speeds up, slows down, or repeats itself. Users often experience a blend of these perceptions of time within a single trip.
There are some dangerous effects of LSD, especially for users with preexisting mental illness or other mental disorders. Someone who is inexperienced with hallucinogens or who takes an extremely high dose may experience heightened anxiety or panic attacks.
Other Names For LSD
Even though LSD is the most common name for the drug, people refer to it by a variety of other names. Another popular name for LSD is acid or blotter acid. Sometimes users refer to acid as “tabs” or “dots” because of the blotter paper tabs the drug is often dripped onto. One dose of acid is usually one small square tab or dot and is also called a “hit” of acid.
LSD Chemical Structure
LSD is short for lysergic acid diethylamide, the molecular structure of the drug. Although it’s based on the isolated nucleus of a naturally-occurring fungus, LSD itself is not a drug that occurs naturally. Instead, it’s one particular derivative synthesized from the lysergic acid found in ergot.
How LSD Looks
The pure, synthesized form of lysergic acid diethylamide is a prismatic crystal. The water-soluble crystals are tasteless, colorless, and odorless. Pure LSD crystals are a highly concentrated chemical. One dose of the drug is between 50 and 500 micrograms which, in its crystalline form, is a grain roughly one-tenth the size of a grain of sand.
This is why you wouldn’t find LSD in its pure form on the street: the potency is much too high in quantities that are far too small. Instead, the crystals are diluted into a solution that allows for more manageable dosing.
Acid is most often found in the form of small squares, or “tabs,” torn from sheets of blotter paper. The blotter sheets are often decorated with cartoon characters or psychedelic patterns in bright colors. Each tab has one dose of acid dripped onto it. A user places the tab on or underneath their tongue where the acid can soak from the paper and enter their system.
You can also find acid in tablets, gelatin squares, or sugar cubes. Occasionally acid is found in its potent liquid form, the most concentrated and, therefore, the most dangerous form of the drug. These are less common than the typical blotter sheets, though, since blotter tabs are the easiest way to distribute acid.
Is LSD Legal?
LSD is not a legal drug in the United States. It is listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Schedule I drugs do not have any accepted use in the medical community and also have a high potential for abuse. LSD is categorized alongside other drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, peyote, and marijuana.
Despite the research stating there isn’t much risk for physical addiction to LSD, the hallucinogen remains a Schedule I drug. Although there is little risk of developing a traditional substance use disorder with LSD, though, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.
There is a risk that its powerful hallucinogenic properties will be too overwhelming to someone with a low tolerance for the experience. These “bad trips” have the chance to be the event that triggers a full-blown state of psychosis in an individual.
Lysergic acid diethylamide was first synthesized on November 16, 1938, by a scientist named Albert Hoffman. Hoffman worked in the Sandoz pharmacological department in Basel, Switzerland. His team was studying derivatives of lysergic acid, the isolated nucleus of a fungus called ergot.
Hoffman synthesized the diethylamide derivative of lysergic acid, named LSD-25 at the time. Researchers noticed restlessness in the animals they ran tests on but observed no other useful medical properties. Lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD-25, was tabled and nothing more was written or observed about it.
Five years later, though, Hoffman couldn’t seem to forget about the restlessness observed as an effect of LSD-25. He synthesized the derivative once again on April 16, 1943. During the process, he accidentally ingested a small amount of this new synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide. He soon noticed the strange effects of the drug.
On April 19, 1943, Hoffman decided to run another self-experiment with LSD-25. This time he ingested a larger dose of 0.25 milligrams and wrote about the experiment in his journal. Hoffman documented his psychedelic, hallucinatory experience of shifting perceptions, difficulties speaking, and visual distortions.
Today, Hoffman’s intentional dosing on April 19 is acknowledged as the world’s first intentional acid trip.
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Who Discovered LSD and When?
The origins of LSD are accidental rather than intentional. The scientist who discovered the chemical compound didn’t set out in search of a psychedelic experience. In fact, Albert Hoffman, the scientist who first synthesized LSD, almost missed the discovery entirely.
Hoffman’s willingness to follow through on his persistent curiosity is the reason LSD exists today. If it weren’t for a nagging inquisitiveness that took him back to his lysergic acid diethylamide synthesis more than five years later, LSD would have likely been shelved and forgotten forever.
The History of LSD
LSD has come a long way since Hoffman’s first intentional trip on April 19th, 1943. LSD is most often associated with the counterculture of the 1960s. Hippies and LSD seem to go hand-in hand but they weren’t the only ones using LSD. The drug has seen a variety of uses throughout the years following its discovery, some recreational and others controversial.
Project MK-Ultra was a program run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the 1950s and 1960s. Sometimes referred to as the “mind control program,” Project MK-Ultra was a series of experiments that tested a variety of possible mind-control techniques. They tested numerous techniques including LSD, shock therapy, interrogation, hypnosis, and more.
The CIA thought LSD could be a useful psychological weapon during the Cold War. They tested the drug both on volunteers and unknowing participants to determine the variety of possible effects. Experiments involved not only government testing but tests run at universities, medical facilities, and pharmaceutical companies as well.
Ultimately, though, test results deemed LSD to be too unpredictable of a substance to use.Then in the 1970s the public learned of the Project MK-Ultra experiments. The scandal led to multiple lawsuits as well as a congressional investigation.
Leary and Alpert’s Harvard Experiments
LSD was popular during the late 1950s and early 1960s with academics at various universities. It hadn’t been criminalized at that time so use, although stigmatized, was still legal. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert, two professors of psychology at Harvard University, conducted their own experiments with the drug.
Leary and Alpert gave Harvard graduate students doses of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms to learn more about their effects. Both were usually under the influence of the drug while they ran their experiments. The public became aware of the Harvard Psilocybin Projects, Leary and Alpert’s tests, which expanded concerns about LSD use.
Criminalization of LSD
As the 1960s progressed, the public attitude surrounding LSD turned increasingly cynical. The drug became synonymous with the counterculture and found itself lumped in with the negative opinions of it.
The LA Times published an article entitled “U.S. Plans Intensive Campaign Against LSD” in 1966. Science magazine published a piece in 1967 containing a claim that LSD damages chromosomes, furthering the negative view of the drug.
Public fear surrounding the drug grew quickly and the United States government banned the use of LSD officially in 1967. They categorized it as a Schedule I substance with the Drug Enforcement Administration where it remains today, along with substances including heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana.
The Use of LSD Today
Despite its inclusion as a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, LSD is still in use today. It’s part of the family of hallucinogens containing drugs like psilocybin mushrooms and DMT.
Acid is a recreational drug that sees use among people seeking a heightened sense of consciousness or induced spiritual experience. It’s also a drug commonly used at music festivals, either on its own or in combination with substances such as ecstasy or molly.
LSD Use Statistics
LSD is far more of a niche drug than alcohol or marijuana and sees much less use in comparison. Still, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, more than 20 million people in the U.S. ages 12 and older have tried LSD at least once in their life.
4.5 million of those individuals who have used LSD in their lifetime are between the ages of 18 and 25. Far more concerning, though, is the number of adolescents that have tried acid: approximately 742,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17.
Monitoring the Future, a study from the University of Michigan, offers further insight. Almost 4 percent of high school seniors throughout the United States have used LSD at least once in the last year. More than 8 percent of that same group tried LSD at some point in their life.
LSD Myths and Facts
There are plenty of myths surrounding the use of LSD, just like there are with any other drug. Some myths stem from the fear-mongering used to keep people from using drugs. Others come from simply misunderstanding the way the drug or its effects work. LSD myths can be dangerous, though, so it’s good to know what is a myth and what is a fact.
Some LSD Myths
There are many different LSD myths, some that grow from a kernel of truth while others are entirely outlandish. Regardless of their origin, though, LSD myths are just that: myths. Knowing what is true and what is false when it comes to using acid keeps people safe.
Friends can keep you from having a bad trip
Some people believe that taking acid with a group of friends can keep you from having a bad trip. This isn’t necessarily the case, even if there’s only one person in the group taking acid. LSD completely alters the way a person perceives the world. It isn’t always possible to reason with someone who is tripping. Your friends might not be able to help you stay in touch with reality nor keep you from having a bad trip.
Orange juice or Vitamin C can stop an acid trip
Some people believe that drinking orange juice or taking Vitamin C stops a bad acid trip. This is just another LSD myth. Neither orange juice nor Vitamin C can eliminate the effects of an acid trip. Once your body metabolizes the drug the effects are in place and you can’t keep them from happening. This is one of the reasons acid is such an intense drug: the effects are unpredictable and there is no way to stop them after they start.
Acid is necessary for a spiritual experience
Many people look to LSD as the ultimate way to unlock a connection with a spiritual realm. They believe taking acid is necessary to achieve a spiritual experience. Although the drug is known for its effects on perception, LSD is not necessary for a spiritual experience. You don’t have to take a substance to make that desired connection. There are many different ways to connect with the world around you, both spiritually and otherwise, without taking drugs.
Once you take acid it never leaves your body
There is a common LSD myth that claims once you take acid it doesn’t fully metabolize and instead stays in your body indefinitely. Some believe that leftover LSD remains in your spinal fluid. Others take it further and insist that remaining acid can release at any time and send you into another trip. None of these statements are true, though. LSD is an unstable drug which means it metabolizes and passes through the body easily and quickly. It doesn’t leave behind a stockpile of residual psychedelics.
You’ll experience severe “acid flashbacks”
The idea of acid flashbacks piggybacks off the above LSD myth, that some of the drug stores up in the body and releases later on. In these terms, “acid flashbacks” do not exist. You won’t find yourself thrown into the depths of a psychedelic experience months or years after you take acid. Some people experience vivid recollections or sudden activation of memories of their acid trip that feel like a flashback. But the idea that you’ll experience severe acid-induced flashbacks months later is just a myth.
Now that you know some LSD myths it’s also good to know some facts. Acid is a powerful drug that can lead to some serious side effects in people who aren’t able to handle the intensity of the shift in perception.
LSD blurs the lines between reality and your imagination
LSD does blur the line between reality and your imagination. It has hallucinatory properties that affect your senses and the way you observe the world around you. You might see, hear, smell, or feel things that feel completely real to you but are truly just part of your imagination.
The effects of LSD can last up to 12 hours
The effects of an acid trip can last as long as 12 hours in some cases. Although the drug itself metabolizes quickly its effects are long-lasting and difficult to come down from. You can’t truly talk or rationalize your way out of an acid trip. The only thing that diminishes the psychological effects of acid is time.
LSD use may trigger pre-existing mental illness
Another dangerous side effect of LSD is its ability to trigger pre-existing mental illnesses. It doesn’t necessarily cause conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. If someone has the condition already, though, but hasn’t shown signs of it, an intense acid trip may trigger the effects of these conditions.