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How to Spot the Signs and Symptoms of an LSD Overdose


What is LSD?

LSD was originally synthesized by a Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann, in 1938, when his team was looking for a respiratory and cardiac stimulant. Hofmann was also the first to experience its mind altering properties when it accidentally entered his bloodstream.

It causes the user to experience major hallucinations, altered sensory perceptions and emotional sensations. Lysergic acid diethylamide is derived from ergot, a fungus found growing on rye and other similar grains. Hofmann ended up using the drug for self-psychological research but he advised against recreational use of the drug due to its potency and effectiveness on the brain’s chemistry.

“Acid” as it’s commonly referred to on the street, typically comes in the form of a tablet, capsule, gelatin square, liquid or dissolved on paper referred to as “blotter”.

The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies LSD as a schedule 1 drug. Their criteria for schedule 1 means there is no medical use and it has high potential for abuse. Those who abuse LSD often build a tolerance to the substance. meaning that each time they take it they have to use greater doses in order to achieve the desired high. Note: cross tolerance can occur across other hallucinogens such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms). When people are chasing the high by taking larger and larger amounts of LSD, they are at risk for an overdose. Before we cover the signs and symptoms of an overdose, it’s important to know the general LSD symptoms and side effects — this way you can spot the difference.


LSD can be very potent. 30 micrograms, roughly the size of quarter-inch square piece of paper, can induce effects for up to 12 hours.

Approximately 30-90 minutes after taking LSD one begins to experience an altered sense of reality. The sense begin to feel stimuli that aren’t really there. Hallucinations can causes your sense to go wild, you may hear sounds, see colors, or feel textures that aren’t really happening. Users can feel as though time has slowed down or even increased. It works by disrupting regular communication of the neurotransmitter serotonin with other cells. Behavioral, perceptual, and regulatory systems are all affected by serotonin. This ultimately affects your appetite, mood body temperature, impulses, sensory perception, and reflexes/muscle control.

Here are some common LSD side-effects which occur when ingesting small doses:

  • Naseau
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore and tight muscles
  • Sweating
  • Numbness
  • Elevated blood sugar
  • Temors
  • Back pain
  • High blood pressure

The above symptoms are generally not dangerous, however when taking large doses of LSD the augmentation of these symptoms becomes extreme, which can lead to an overdose. Out of body experiences are also common, and this is where things can become dangerous, because people aren’t making decisions as themselves anymore. Waves of emotions can take over in a matter of seconds, and if those emotions are negative it can cause people to lose control and make irrational, self-harming decisions. Users who experience “bad trips” may feel severe anxiety and panic, which brings on a nightmarish perception of reality that is seemingly inescapable.

There’s no way to predict whether someone is going to have a good trip or a bad trip, everyone is just wired differently and a myriad of factors come into play, such as dosage size, environmental circumstances, mental stability, or resistance. Those who do have good trips have reported feelings of enlightenment and euphoria — this is what usually leads people to take LSD repeatedly.  People who start abusing LSD are usually the ones who end up overdosing.


Can you overdose?

Yes. Overdosing on LSD occurs for a variety of reasons:

  • The user has built up a tolerance and is taking more than usual
  • The user isn’t aware that it can take up to 90 minutes to kick in and has taken extra amounts
  • Pre-existing health factors
  • Dosage was inaccurate when purchased (higher than sold).

Is it lethal?

Very rarely does the chemical itself cause death. Reports from EMS data shows that when taken with alcohol, there have been some rare instances where a user has died from cardiac arrest, respiratory failure or stroke. More commonly, taking acid will lead to death in the form of self-caused physical harm. A person’s impulses, coordination and decision making skills are drastically altered when high on LSD, which has led people to fall from great heights, drown, or harm themselves in machinery-related accidents, like automobiles.

Is LSD Toxic?

No. LSD is not a toxic or poisonous to the human body.

What is LSD made of?

LSD is a chemically synthesized drug, as such it requires a strong organic chemistry acumen.

Ergot is what most LSD starts from. It’s a type of fungus that grows on rye and other similar types of grain. Ergot is very toxic and when chemists extract the ergot alkaloids they have to be very careful. This is a good time to remind yourself that acid is forged from toxic bacteria, so naturally it’s not a friendly substance for you body to ingest.

The next steps involve solvents and reagents which are used to incite chemical reactions. These solvents and reagents are extremely volatile — some are even explosive and carcinogenic. Another common chemical used is chloroform which is cancerous and can cause damage to internal organs — just another reason acid’s chemical makeup is extremely harmful. After this addition of toxic chemicals, the compound is heated, mixed and cooled, ultimately producing LSD.

Morning Glory seeds is an alternative sources for the building blocks of LSD, as they contain a chemical called lysergic acid amide, which on its own can instill a minor high. These seeds are often sold with toxic coatings to prevent people from consuming them.

Does LSD make you go crazy?

There are several stories and tales about people going crazy and thinking they can fly while on acid. The validity of each story is impossible to confirm, but psychosis during and after the use of LSD abuse is certainly possible. Several reported patients who have taken high amounts of LSD suffer indefinitely from psychosis, depression, anxiety or even schizophrenia. Typically the drugs have to have been abused for a prolonged period for these effects to take place, however, every case is different based on the user’s mental health and history. Medical professionals highly recommend that people who have a history of mental illness refrain from taking LSD.

What is a “bad trip”?

Unfortunately there’s no sure way to prevent a bad trip or predict its occurrence. LSD affects everyone’s mind differently. A bad trip is characterized by anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, a feeling of impending doom, entrapment, and a loss of self-identity.

What are Flashbacks?

Flashbacks are rare, but definitely possible, especially with users who have abused LSD. A flashback is a random brief reliving of an LSD trip. It can happen days, weeks, or even months after the original dosage was taken. Usually flashbacks are brought on by some sort of sensory trigger that accesses a memory from the experience.

Is LSD Addicting?

Unlike cocaine and heroin, LSD does not physically provoke addiction in the body and brain — users do not experience cravings. However, LSD addiction and abuse go hand in hand. When someone has a “good trip” chances are they will want to recreate that feeling. If there are stressors in their life, the “good trip” they experienced may be a welcome escape. As the user does it more and more, a tolerance is built and they have to increase the dosages. This type of pattern behavior is not the same as a cocaine addiction, but it is a psychological dependency. In that vein, yes, LSD can be addicting.

Signs & Symptoms of overdose

In the event that someone takes a large dose of acid they may experience an overdose. Unlike more dangerous drugs, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, there is no amount of LSD that can kill you. There are cases where respiratory or heart failure brought on by LSD has caused death, but this is very rare and not directly a result of the toxicity of LSD itself.

An LSD overdose is more closely related to having a “bad trip”. As mentioned above, this manifests in the form of terrifying hallucinations. There’s no way to predict exactly when and if someone is going to have a bad trip because it affects people on a chemically unpredictable level. Many factors play into having a bad trip: medical history, mental state, environment during high, stress, etc.

In the event that a bad trip occurs, some people may find themselves in the hospital, however other than mild anxiety medication, the only real cure is time, which can make the bad trip feel like it’s never going to end.

In some cases users may think everything is fine, but in reality their judgment and decision making is drastically altered, leading to dangerous behaviors. There are several reported cases of suicide, self-mutilation, and other accidental deaths.

Here are some common physical LSD symptoms to look for if you or someone you know think they are overdosing:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dry mouth
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Tremors
  • Blurred vision
  • Insomnia
  • High body temperature
  • Weakness
  • Losing a sense of self
  • Losing a sense of time
  • Horrifying visual hallucinations
  • Overly detached and irrational sense of reality
  • Loss of identity
  • Nightmarish thoughts and feelings


What to do for LSD overdose?

First and foremost, seek professional medical attention. Health professionals are trained to handle psychoactive overdoses. A lot of what causes a bad trip is an unstable environment and lack of control. Being in a medical facility can help users regain that stability and control, ultimately bringing them comfort while minimizing their negative mental state. Health care professionals also have access to anti-anxiety drugs, which helps reduce the stress and unrest associated with LSD overdoses.

LSD is chemically synthesized using organic chemistry methods. It takes a variety of harmful chemicals in order to create, and every lab setting and chemist is different — their calculations may be off, lab unsanitary, or they may cut corners and use extra harmful ingredients. Therefore, the effects of LSD are extremely unpredictable, so the best way to prevent an overdose is by not taking the drug. Even experienced users who have never had any problems, may suddenly have a bad trip, causing irrevocable damage to themselves.


Abuse & When It’s Time For Treatment

It can be hard to admit that you have a problem and it’s time to seek help. Especially because LSD does not have physically addictive properties — people may reason that they don’t have cravings, so there’s no actual addiction. But when LSD abuse is beginning to disrupt your career, relationships, and lifestyle, it may be time to seek professional treatment.

Here are some signs that you may be abusing LSD:

  • Tolerance has increased so you are taking higher doses than before
  • Your social and work responsibilities are taking a back seat
  • Combining LSD with other substances in order to produce a stronger high
  • Buying LSD is beginning to affect your finances
  • Finding excuses or justifying excessive use
  • LSD is more often a drug that people take in a group setting. If your usage started out in a group setting but now you find yourself taking it alone, this can sometimes indicate a problem.


Wrapping up

The bottom line is LSD is very dangerous. It can be psychologically addicting, as many people use it for an escape from stressors in their life. But dependence with LSD leads to tolerance, and an increase in tolerance means an increase in dosage. High doses of LSD are not considered lethal, but the mind altering side effects of an overdose have often lead to death. The chemicals which make up LSD are volatile and unpredictable — there’s no way to know when even the most experienced user is going to have a bad trip. And that bad trip, may end up lasting their entire life in the form of long term psychological conditions.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a LSD addiction, now is the perfect opportunity to find help. For a safe and guiding recovery, contact our Orange County rehab center today.

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