LSD Addiction- The Dangers, the Risks, and Recovery Options

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Springboard Recovery provides effective treatment for substance use & mental health disorders.

Evan Leonard MS, MMS, PA-C

Dr. Leonard is a Doctor of Medical Science and a clinical anatomist. He has practiced in both internal and emergency medicine and has published several, peer-reviewed articles and a medical book chapter.

LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide. It is an illegal street drug. It comes in the form of white powder or clear colorless liquid. It has been found that people of all ages use LSD in the United States. The National  Household Survey on Drug Abuse reported that 20.2 million people 12 years old and older have used LSD at least once in their lifetime. At least 8% of high school seniors have used LSD at least once.
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LSD is not considered to be an addictive drug. However, LSD users develop a tolerance for the drug, meaning that they must take larger doses of the drug in order to obtain the desired hallucinogenic effects of it. People do not die due to overdose of the drug but may die from the risky behaviors they indulge in because of using it.

People need to be well informed of the content of the pills they are taking, the dangers, and the risks of taking those pills. There is help for people who would like to stop misusing LSD. Before we discuss treatment options, we want to inform people about the long and short-term effects and risks of taking LSD.

Our outpatient drug treatment program allows you to keep work and family commitments while focusing on your sobriety.

What is LSD?

LSD is classified as a hallucinogen drug. It is a synthetic drug that is man-made and has been abused for its hallucinogenic properties since the 1960s. LSD alters a person’s awareness of their surroundings as well as their own thoughts and feelings. LSD is often sold as a liquid packaged in small bottles, sugar cubes, gelatin squares, or tablets.

LSD is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and serve no medical purpose. It is the most powerful mind-altering man-made substance. Historically, people have used hallucinogens such as LSD for religious and healing rituals. Today, these drugs are used for recreational purposes, such as for having fun, dealing with stress, having spiritual experiences, and for the purpose of just feeling different.

Street Names for LSD

LSD is an illegal drug and is sold on the streets by dealers. When people want to buy LSD, they can find a way to get it whether they shop online for it through the dark web or they find it on the streets. The following are the street names for LSD:

  • Acid
  • Back Breaker
  • Battery acid
  • Blotters
  • Boomers
  • California Sunshine
  • Doses
  • Dots
  • Elvis
  • Golden Dragon
  • Looney toons
  • Lucy in the sky with diamonds
  • Mellow Yellow
  • Microdot
  • Pane
  • Purple Heart
  • Superman
  • Window Pane
  • Yellow sunshine
  • Zen

The History of LSD in the United States

Albert Hoffmann, a researcher with the Swiss chemical company Sandoz, first developed LSD in 1938. In developing LSD, Hoffmann was working with ergot, a fungus that grows naturally on rye and other grains.

In 1943, Hoffmann accidentally ingested a small amount of his creation (LSD), and this is when he discovered that it had hallucinogenic effects. He perceived “extraordinary shapes with an intense kaleidoscopic play of colors.”  Three days later, on April 19, 1943, he purposefully took a larger dose, and as he rode home from work on his bicycle he experienced the world’s first intentional acid trip. April 19th came to be celebrated by recreational LSD users, as Bicycle Day.

In the 1950s and 60s the Project MK-Ultra, the code name given to the CIA program, conducted experiments using LSD and other substances on volunteers and other unawares people. This program was also known as the CIA’s “mind control program.” They believed that LSD could be used as a psychological weapon in the Cold War.

The Side Effects of LSD

People use LSD because they want the effects that the drug can give them. People want to have the experience of the “trip.” A trip can be good or bad. People expect the trip to end within a few hours. However, this does not always happen. Sometimes trips have been known to go on and on.

The New Yorker posted an article on one man’s trip with LSD. This man was no stranger to hallucinogenic drugs. The next day while sitting in class, he began to hallucinate, having difficulty focusing on anything. He called this experience, “The trip that would not end.” Bad trips have been known to happen. Some people report seeing beautiful colors and feeling happier than they ever have felt. Others have terrifying and very dark trips on LSD.

Classic hallucinogens such as LSD, causes people to see images, hear things, and feel things that seem real but are not real. The effects can begin within 20 to 90 minutes of taking the substance into the body and can last up to 12 hours or can be as short as 15 minutes. Other short-term effects of LSD are:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Intensified feelings and sensory experiences (such as seeing brighter colors)
  • Sensing that time is going by much slower than it really is
  • Increased breathing rate, blood pressure, or body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Spiritual experiences
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Excessive sweating
  • Panic
  • Paranoia-an intense distrust of others
  • Psychosis
  • Bizarre behaviors
  • Memory loss

There are long-term effects that are rare but they can happen when people abuse LSD. The following long-term effects are:

  • Persistent psychosis- there is a series of continued mental problems such as visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia, and mood changes.
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)- this is a recurrence of drug experiences, such as hallucinations or other visual disturbances. These flashbacks of experiences may occur within a few days or more than a year after drug use.
  • STI’s from risky behaviors associated with using LSD.
  • Tolerance to LSD- needing higher and higher doses to get the desired effect
  • Significant memory loss
  • Speech problems
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Weight loss
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Disturbing visual images
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Are Hallucinogens Addictive?

Research is still being done on the addictive nature of these types of drugs. Some evidence exists that suggests that they can be addictive based on the fact that people build a tolerance to them. LSD is an excellent example of this fact. If tolerance is built in the body, then they have to keep increasing the dose they take in order to receive the effect they are desiring. LSD is not considered to be addictive because it does not cause uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior. It is important to keep in mind that LSD is a powerful mind-altering drug and it is dangerous to keep increasing the amount of this drug just for a “trip.”

The LSD Epidemic in the United States

Kayla Kibbe reported on InsideHook, that adults are using LSD to escape the reality that we are living in the Covid-19 pandemic. She reports that life is a waking nightmare and there has been an increase in adults taking “acid” to escape this bleak reality.

There was a recent study conducted on the use of LSD in this country. It was found that this drug is on the rise. Adults are using it to escape their fears due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The world is on fire and adults in this country have been enduring this pandemic for about a year now.

Kibbe reports that in a recent study it was found that there has been an increase in adults using “acid” even before the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a significant increase between 2015-2018. Studying the responses of 168,000 Americans, there was a 56.4% increase in using “acid” between 2015-2018. Researchers discovered that adults between ages 35-49 showed the biggest increase in using LSD. Their interest in the drug shot up 223% in the three-year period. Adults aged 50 and above showed a 45% interest in using LSD.  The use of LSD in people ages 26-34 increased by 59%. LSD saw a 24% decrease in people between the ages of 18-24.

Even though there has been an increase in LSD in the older ages of American adults, this drug is still less popular today than it was in the 1960s and 1970s. However, we do need to take note that it is a problem today. People are using it as a therapeutic mechanism to cope with the terrifying realities of living through a pandemic that has taken the lives of many people.

Recovering from LSD Abuse

Although people do not become physically addicted to LSD, many people become psychologically addicted to the desired effects of this drug. Treatment includes inpatient and outpatient options. Once people decide that they want to stop abusing LSD, it is important that they seek treatment for support and help. Treatment programs use behavior change techniques through talk therapy. The goal is to help people understand why they begin using and to help people understand their behaviors. These treatments involve family members so they can continue to support and help their loved ones.

Since people do not become physically dependent on the drug, there is usually not a need to seek medical help to come off the drug. People can safely come off the drug with no physical withdrawal symptoms. However, mental dependence on LSD requires support, counseling, and treatment just like any other drug addiction.

When coming off LSD, people who experience panic attacks or other signs of a “bad trip” should seek medical help. The following drugs can be administered to relieve some of these bad effects:

  • Fast-acting benzodiazepine– such as diazepam or triazolam.
  •  An antipsychotic tranquilizer such as Thorazine.

However, neither of these medications will end a “bad trip.”

Types of Drug Rehab and Treatment Options

There are many types of counseling that takes place during drug rehab. The goal of counseling is to help people discover and treat the underlying reasons for people abusing LSD. People seeking treatment to break their mental dependence on LSD will participate in individual counseling as well as group counseling.

Many times when people are abusing or become dependent on drugs, there is a co-occurring disorder which means there is either a mental illness or health issue accompanying the drug addiction. Co-occurring disorders must be treated in order for the person to successfully come off the drug without going back into relapse. Dual diagnosis treatment is highly recommended for people suffering from both a mental illness and an addiction. During this treatment, patients will partner with their treatment team to treat both conditions. The psychologist will work with the patient to make sure the medication prescribed to treat the mental illness is the correct dosage and the right medication. They will check in with the patient regularly to ensure the effectiveness of the medication to treat the mental illness.

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SpringBoard Recovery Offers Treatment for LSD Addiction

At SpringBoard Recovery, we have qualified staff to help people who are wanting to be free of their abuse of LSD. We understand the seriousness of this problem and our staff are trained to provide the care and support people need to live free of their addictions. We provide individualized care treatment plans for our patients. We understand the need for a personalized care plan, created to meet the unique needs of each of our patients. 

Clients who come to us with LSD abuse can be referred to a detox program we know and trust. They may need to detox if they have psychotic episodes as they are coming off LSD. They can be given antipsychotic medication to help lessen the symptoms. During the detox program, they will receive therapy as they begin their recovery. Once detox has been completed, they can return to our treatment facility to continue treatment to help overcome the mental dependence on LSD. 

SpringBoard Recovery offers an excellent addiction treatment program on an outpatient and inpatient basis. They will receive several types of therapy, including group and individual sessions. Our quality team members will offer the care that your family member will need to be completely successful in their desire for a full recovery. 

In addition, sober living services are available through our program. This service works well for people when completing our program, their living conditions at home are toxic, and not supportive of them to continue to live a life of sobriety. Please contact us today if you need help and support to live a life free of drugs.

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