Generic Name: Lysergic acid diethylamide
Common or street names: LSD is sold under more than 80 street names including acid, blotter, cid, doses, dots and trips, as well as names that reflect the designs on the sheets of blotter paper (for example, "purple dragon")
What is LSD?
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), first synthesized in 1938, is an extremely potent hallucinogen. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
LSD is produced in crystalline form and then mixed with excipients, or diluted as a liquid for production in ingestible forms. It is odorless, colorless and has a slightly bitter taste. LSD is sold in tablet form (usually small tablets known as Microdots), on Sugar Cubes, in thin squares of gelatin (commonly referred to as Window Panes), and most commonly, as blotter paper (sheets of absorbent paper soaked in or impregnated with LSD, covered with colorful designs or artwork, and perforated into one-quarter inch square, individual dosage units).
Effects of LSD Use
The effects of LSD are unpredictable. Usually, the first effects of the drug are felt 30 to 90 minutes after taking it. The user may experience extreme changes in mood, feel several different emotions at once, or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. If taken in large enough doses, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations. The physical effects include dilated pupils; higher body temperature and sweating; nausea and loss of appetite; increased blood sugar, heart rate and blood pressure; sleeplessness; dry mouth and tremors.
The user may also suffer impaired depth and time perception, with distorted perception of the size and shape of objects, movements, color, sound, touch and own body image. Sensations may seem to "cross over," giving the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. These changes can be frightening and can cause panic. Some LSD users also experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings, fear of losing control, fear of insanity and death.
An experience with LSD is referred to as a "trip" and acute adverse reactions as a "bad trip". These experiences are long, with the effects of higher doses lasting for 10 to 12 hours.
Under the influence of LSD, the ability to make sensible judgments and see common dangers is impaired, making the user susceptible to personal injury, which can be fatal. After an LSD trip, the user may suffer acute anxiety or depression, and may also experience flashbacks, which are recurrences of the effects of LSD days or even months after taking the last dose. A flashback occurs suddenly, often without warning, usually in people who use hallucinogens chronically or have an underlying personality problem. Healthy people who use LSD occasionally may also have flashbacks. Bad trips and flashbacks are only part of the risks of LSD use. LSD users may also manifest relatively long-lasting psychoses, such as schizophrenia or severe depression.
LSD produces tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take progressively higher doses to achieve the state of intoxication that they had previously achieved. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug.
Extent of LSD Use
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NHSDA) in 2010 estimated that the percentage of the population aged 18 to 25 who had ever used LSD (the lifetime prevalence rate) was 6.4 percent, down from 15.9 percent in 2002. In 2010, the number for past-year initiates of LSD among the population 12 years and older was 377,000, similar to the number in 2009 (337,000), but higher than the estimates from 2003 to 2007 (ranging from 200,000 to 270,000). Past year and past month use of LSD was 0.6 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, for youth in 2010, similar to rates in 2009.1
Since 1975, Monitoring the Future Study (MTF) researchers have annually surveyed almost 17,000 high school seniors nationwide to determine trends in drug use and to measure attitudes and beliefs about drug abuse. In the class of 2010, 2.4 percent of seniors had reported using LSD at least once in their lives. In 2002, 3.8 percent of seniors had experimented with LSD at least once in their lifetimes, according to MTF.2
In the 2010 NHSDA survey, 71.5 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 perceived great risk in using LSD once or twice a week, compared to the 76.2 percent who saw great risk in using LSD once or twice a week in 2002. About 12.9 percent of youth indicated that LSD would be fairly or very easily available. Between 2002 and 2010, there were decreases in the perceived easy availability of LSD (from 19.4 to 12.9 percent).1
- Bath Salts
- PCP (Phencyclidine)
- Psilocybin (mushrooms)
- Speed (methamphetamine)
- Synthetic Marijuana (Spice or K2)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011.
- Monitoring the Future. National Results on Adolescent Drug Use. Overview of Key Findings 2010. http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2010.pdf Accessed November 12, 2011
Last updated: 2014-05-18 by Leigh Anderson, PharmD.