The Most Common LSD Symptoms and Signs
LSD or as most people know it, acid, is a powerful hallucinogenic psychoactive drug that alters your perception of reality and the way you experience the world. It’s unique in that it happens to be one of the only hallucinogenic drugs which can be soaked onto a piece of paper and ingested by simply letting the paper dissolve on your tongue. It comes in a very small and seemingly harmless package, but it is anything but harmless. At a chemical and physical level, LSD can manifest itself on several extremes, and in a long term capacity its effects can be debilitating, especially in cases of abuse.
It was first discovered in 1938 when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally ingested the substance during research. He continued to use LSD for experimental purposes but did not recommend it for recreational use. His company eventually lost the patent once they stopped producing it, and for a few years in the 60’s it was legal to make, until the Drug Enforcement Administration stepped in. It’s now considered a schedule 1 drug as defined by the United States Controlled Substances Act. This ultimately means that it has a high potential for abuse, it has no accepted medical treatment use in the U.S., and it’s not safe to take even under medical supervision.
How It’s Made
Unlike cocaine and heroin, LSD is not lethal or toxic to the body. High doses can result in many problems, but it’s not considered poisonous. That doesn’t mean that LSD isn’t dangerous, quite the contrary in fact. It’s a semisynthetic drug, which means that part of the compound is organic, naturally occurring material and part of it is chemically designed. The entire synthesizing process requires strong expertise in organic chemistry.
Ergot is a fungus that’s found on rye seeds and other similar grains. Extracted from ergot is the primary building block of LSD, lysergic acid, which is where it gets the name “acid”. Ergot is actually known throughout history as causing gangrene, psychosis, convulsions and death after people consumed ergot infected rye bread.
After the initial extraction of lysergic acid, other harmful and even carcinogenic chemicals like chloroform are added to the mix. It should be noted that when chemists are working with carcinogens, they are required to wear masks and eye protection, so it’s easy to see that ingesting LSD is not the safest thing to do. Often drug manufacturers will cut corners by using extra harmful and unstable chemicals either to save money, or because the DEA has made certain chemicals very hard to acquire. For this reason the effects of LSD can be very unpredictable — you never really know exactly what you’re taking.
Once the compound of LSD is complete, it is either formed into tablets called microdots, dissolved into water, made into liquid for dropping, or placed on small gelatin like squares referred to as windowpanes. These methods are actually considered old school, and it is unlikely to see this form of acid anymore. Now it’s most popular to print sheets of blotter acid with graphics on them. They look like sheets of very small stamps — approximately a quarter square inch, and each square is a dose.
The Science Behind The Effects
LSD affects the way we perceive the world, in other words it alters our reality. While it certainly causes hallucinations, it doesn’t create things that aren’t there. For instance if you were in a forest, you wouldn’t suddenly see a football game being played in a desert. Instead what LSD does is it manipulates objects and stimuli which are already present, and makes them appear differently, or it makes you perceive something different about them. Unless you’ve taken a large amount, or you’ve abused LSD, most times people are aware that the effects they are experiencing are just a result of the drug.
Taking even just 30 micrograms of LSD can cause effects within 30-90 minutes which last up to 12 hours. Brain scans have shown that when someone is tripping on LSD they are experiencing images by drawing information from all parts of their brain, rather than just their visual cortex, as when you are sober. In other words, all parts of your brain are chiming in to process what you are seeing. In contrast to that, users will also experience a disconnect from their own personality, called ego dissolution, or a loss of identity. This occurs because LSD severs connections between certain regions of the brain which usually communicate. Scientists have concluded that although scans may show the brain as more unified, the networks that LSD destroys are too valuable for it to be considered a positive effect. The unifying effect on the brain may be the reason many users feel euphoric and “one with the world.”
On a neurological level, a lot the effects of LSD occur because it disrupts the regular flow of pleasure inducing neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are responsible for mood, sleep patterns, and feelings. When they are spiked, your mood, sense of self, and perceptions are drastically changed.
LSD’s Increased Popularity
You may be concerned that a loved one is experimenting with LSD, as its usage has become very popular, especially amongst youths. In fact, in 2016 a study showed that in the last few years LSD usage has increased by almost 200% in the United States. There are many theories as to why the popularity has surged, some believe it’s because of an increased availability on the dark web. There are forums, websites and videos dedicated to people sharing their LSD “trip” experiences. With the online advocation of LSD it’s easy to see why a cultural psychedelic resurgence has taken place amongst the youth. Cultural trends and style have recently glorified the widespread drug use of the 70’s. This goes hand in hand with popular cultural activities like music festivals.
These are really great events, but at the end of the day the facts remain that there is a lot of drug use and influence that goes along with them. It’s important to be aware of these cultural trends if you’re worried about a loved one experimenting with LSD.
Symptoms To Watch For
LSD symptoms and effects are different for everyone, and depending on dosage size, some people may not even hallucinate. Some have incredible euphoric and positive experiences, and some have terrifying, nightmare-like episodes. It’s impossible to predict, because there are so many variables at play — personal medical history, chemical compound of LSD, and environmental factors. There are some common effects and symptoms associated with “tripping”, we’ve listed them below.
- Altered sense of time – the passing of time may seem very fast or very slow.
- Visual hallucinations – streak of light, wavy objects, color bursts, patterns, choppy movements, etc.
- Synesthesia – it’s rare, but this is when senses crossover one another. Smelling sounds, or hearing colors etc.
- Happiness & Euphoria – people believe that everything is beautiful and magic is in the air. Almost like a dreamy oneness with the world.
- Contemplation – inner reflection and deep thoughts.
- Impulsiveness – people’s judgment and rationale is inhibited, often causing them to make impulsive decisions. This can be very dangerous especially if there’s no one else around to supervise.
- Bad trips – even the most experienced user can have a bad trip. It’s characterized by impending doom, lack of self-identity, fear, anxiety, entrapment, paranoia. This terrifying feeling usually snowballs and users feel as though their high is never going to end.
While the psychological or “tripping” effects are important to understand, LSD also has a lot of physical manifestations, which we’ve outline below:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Mood swings
- Dry mouth
- Sore and tight muscles
- Elevated blood sugar
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
The physical withdrawal symptoms can be very challenging with some drugs, but LSD withdrawal symptoms are different; if your dependency on LSD is severe enough there’s a good chance you will experience psychological withdrawals. Because psychoactive drugs alter the pleasure centers of your brain, withdrawal LSD symptoms will usually involve some form of depression or psychosis. Withdrawal symptoms will not manifest physically the way they do with more addictive drugs, such as PCP or painkillers.
Risks & Long Term Effects on the Body
When users take LSD multiple times over prolonged periods they can build up a tolerance. This can actually occur pretty quickly with LSD — within a week. When the effects aren’t satisfying enough users will start to take higher doses in attempt to capture the high they first experienced. This is when abuse starts to enter the picture. Sometimes LSD alone isn’t enough and people will even start mixing it with other drugs. In all cases of LSD abuse, there is tremendous risk for long-term psychological damage.
- Flashbacks are the most commonly discussed post-high effect of LSD. Users will experience a temporary flashback to their high. It can be auditory, visual, or even an emotional feeling, and its trigger can be anything. Imagine if you had a bad nightmarish trip, how disruptive and unpleasant reoccurring flashbacks would be towards everyday life. In some cases where large doses were ingested and a severely bad trip was produced it’s possible to develop a condition called Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptive Disorder. This is a very debilitating condition where people experience constant flashbacks resulting in depression, psychosis and even schizophrenia.
- The psychoactive effects of LSD can cause irreparable damage to the brain’s central nervous system and emotional centers, leading to temporary/permanent severe depression, schizophrenia or psychosis.
- While LSD in large doses is not technically lethal or toxic, the real dangers occur when someone loses their inhibitions, and judgement is compromised. Many accidental deaths have occurred because someone walked into traffic, drowned, drove a car, or fell from a tall building or ledge. Suicide or self-harm is also well documented.
When is it Time to Seek Help
It can be tough to admit you or a loved one has a LSD addiction, especially because it’s not a drug that’s notoriously associated with addiction — unlike cocaine and heroin, users typically aren’t scrambling to get their hands on the drug everyday. Therefore, a sense of urgency for treatment may not dawn upon an LSD abuser right away. Here are some signs to help determine if it’s time to seek treatment for an LSD Addiction:
- Altered senses even when sober – visual/auditory hallucinations
- Changes in the perception of time
- Extreme mood changes
- Rapid heart beat
- Impaired coordination and reflexes
- Dizziness – trouble balancing
- Hot and cold flashes
- Loss of appetite
How to Respond To Symptoms of LSD
If you or someone you know is struggling with LSD abuse it’s important to seek professional help and treatment. Educating yourself with as much accurate addiction and treatment info as possible, will give you the best chance at eliminating the abusive behaviors. Being prompt with a course of action is equally important — addiction to illicit drugs doesn’t just go away naturally, it almost always gets worse.
Promptly seeking out a professional rehabilitation program is the best thing you can do for yourself or someone you love. There are several types of rehab programs which range in intensity based on the severity of each addiction. Below are some common forms of treatment:
Outpatient therapy – Typically recommend for less severe users, it allows the individual to reside at home and visit the treatment location on their own. Treatments often include individual or group counseling.
Inpatient therapy – Recommend for heavy users, this requires the patient to check in to an intensive program in a medical environment. 24-hour supervision and care is provided with an emphasis on support.
12-step program – This is widely used in Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, where a regular meeting group of people who battle similar addictions can create a positive dialogue with one another. This helps patients feel like they’re not alone by building community ties and supporting positive changes together.
Don’t wait to get help. The longer you wait, the worse the addiction will get. With LSD, prolonged addiction can lead to an LSD overdose or a lifetime of problems, even well after you’ve stopped using. The psychological damage and lingering effects are debilitating. Ultimately, LSD can take your life without killing you.
Seek help before it is too late by visiting our Orange County rehab center today.
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