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Hallucinogens are a group of drugs that produce very vivid changes in sensory perceptions. LSD is a hallucinogen, meaning that it is similar to drugs like mescaline, psilocybin, and even PCP. The use of LSD produces feelings of euphoria, marked alterations in sensory perception (particularly hallucinations), dissociative experiences in some individuals (alterations of a person’s sense of being real or that other things are real), and emotional changes that can include feelings of wellbeing, empathy, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.
People who obtain LSD often get it in tablet or liquid form that is added to some form of paper that can be ingested. The drug is taken in very small doses (microdoses), but the effects are typically long-lasting, often lasting 12 hours or even longer. Standard dosages are reported as being around 100-200 micromilligrams.
The literature often reports that individuals who suffer fatal overdoses when using LSD had combined LSD with some other drug of abuse. In addition, many claims of individuals suffering fatalities as a result of overdosing on LSD are actually wrongly attributing LSD overdose to some other drug.
The case studies of individuals who are known to have taken extremely high amounts of LSD only do not report fatalities. Typically, the effects of LSD overdose are reversible. The effects of overdose include:
The documented cases of LSD overdose did not result in any long-term effects. In addition, while there are some physical and psychological effects of chronic LSD use (see below), most individuals do not suffer serious effects.
A Swiss chemist by the name of Albert Hoffman was researching potential medications that could be used in facilitating childbirth and stopping the bleeding that occurs during the birthing process. In 1938, Hoffman was researching the potential of the fungus ergot to be used as an aid to childbirth. Hoffman had developed a number of compounds from this fungus, and the 25th compound he developed (lysergic acid diethylamide-25) was one of these. It was found not to have any significant stimulant properties; therefore, it was not believed to be useful in speeding up the childbirth process. As a result, research with this particular compound was abandoned.
Attitudes towards the use of hallucinogenic drugs have slightly shifted. For example, the notion that individuals can develop physical dependence on hallucinogenic drugs has changed even in clinical circles. Even though it is recognized that individuals may develop tolerance to some hallucinogenic drugs, there are no reliable reports that individuals develop physical dependence on them (experiencing both tolerance and withdrawal). In addition, the notion that individuals are extremely susceptible to developing an addiction (hallucinogenic use disorders) has also changed. It is generally considered unusual for individuals to develop an addiction to hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, although the American Psychiatric Association does still list hallucinogen use disorders in its current diagnostic manual.
Despite the evolving attitudes toward the use of LSD, there are still recognized potential drawbacks to using hallucinogenic drugs like LSD.
Despite some evidence regarding changing attitudes related to LSD, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that first-time use of hallucinogens has remained relatively stable from the years 2000 to the present time. This suggests that even though use of drugs like LSD remains problematic for younger individuals, changing attitudes regarding the drug have not resulted in a significant “epidemic” in the same way that the abuse of prescription drugs has increased. Nonetheless, any individual who abuses LSD and meets the criteria for a hallucinogen use disorder should seek formal treatment.