What Are the Effects of LSD?

Question: What Are the Effects of LSD?

Answer: The precise mechanism by which LSD alters perceptions is still unclear. Evidence from laboratory studies suggests that LSD, like hallucinogenic plants, acts on certain groups of serotonin receptors designated the 5-HT2 receptors, and that its effects are most prominent in two brain regions: One is the cerebral cortex, an area involved in mood, cognition, and perception; the other is the locus ceruleus, which receives sensory signals from all areas of the body and has been described as the brain's "novelty detector" for important external stimuli.

See also: The Effects of LSD on the Brain

LSD's effects typically begin within 30 to 90 minutes of ingestion and may last as long as 12 hours. Users refer to LSD and other hallucinogenic experiences as "trips" and to the acute adverse experiences as "bad trips."

Effects Are Unpredictable

Although most LSD trips include both pleasant and unpleasant aspects, the drug's effects are unpredictable and may vary with the amount ingested and the user's personality, mood, expectations, and surroundings.

Users of LSD may experience some physiological effects, such as:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Tremors

However, the drug's major effects are emotional and sensory. The user's emotions may shift rapidly through a range from fear to euphoria, with transitions so rapid that the user may seem to experience several emotions simultaneously.

Hearing Colors, Seeing Sounds

LSD also has dramatic effects on the senses. Colors, smells, sounds, and other sensations seem highly intensified. In some cases, sensory perceptions may blend in a phenomenon known as synesthesia, in which a person seems to hear or feel colors and see sounds.

Hallucinations distort or transform shapes and movements, and they may give rise to a perception that time is moving very slowly or that the user's body is changing shape. On some trips, users experience sensations that are enjoyable and mentally stimulating and that produce a sense of heightened understanding.

Bad trips, however, include terrifying thoughts and nightmarish feelings of anxiety and despair that include fears of insanity, death, or losing control.

Developing Tolerance to LSD

LSD users quickly develop a high degree of tolerance for the drug's effects: After repeated use, they need increasingly larger doses to produce similar effects. LSD use also produces tolerance for other hallucinogenic drugs such as psilocybin and mescaline, but not to drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines, and PCP, which do not act directly on the serotonin receptors affected by LSD.

Tolerance for LSD is short-lived it is lost if the user stops taking the drug for several days. There is no evidence that LSD produces physical withdrawal symptoms when chronic use is stopped.

Two long-term effects persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), more commonly referred to as "flashbacks," have been associated with use of LSD. The causes of these effects, which in some users occur after a single experience with the drug, are not known.

Psychosis

The effects of LSD can be described as drug-induced psychosis-distortion or disorganization of a person's capacity to recognize reality, think rationally, or communicate with others. Some LSD users experience devastating psychological effects that persist after the trip has ended, producing a long-lasting psychotic-like state. LSD-induced persistent psychosis may include dramatic mood swings from mania to profound depression, vivid visual how long does weed stay in your system disturbances, and hallucinations. These effects may last for years and can affect people who have no history or other symptoms of psychological disorder.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder

Some former LSD users report experiences known colloquially as "flashbacks" and called "HPPD" by physicians. These episodes are spontaneous, repeated, sometimes continuous recurrences of some of the sensory distortions originally produced by LSD.

The experience may include hallucinations, but it most commonly consists of visual disturbances such as seeing false motion on the edges of the field of vision, bright or colored flashes, and halos or trails attached to moving how long does pot stay in your system objects. This condition is typically persistent and in some cases remains unchanged for years after individuals have stopped using the drug.

No Known Treatment

Because HPPD symptoms may be mistaken for those of other neurological disorders such as stroke or brain tumors, sufferers may consult a variety of clinicians before the disorder is accurately diagnosed. There is no established treatment for HPPD, although some antidepressant drugs may reduce how long does marijuana stay in your system the symptoms.

Psychotherapy may help patients adjust to the confusion associated with visual distraction and to minimize the fear, expressed by some, that they are suffering brain damage or psychiatric disorder.

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Back to: Hallucinogens FAQ

Hallucinogens

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Question: What Are the Effects of LSD?