LSD, commonly called “acid,” is short for lysergic acid diethylamide, a substance derived from a hallucinogenic fungus.
This drug is most commonly taken orally and produces vivid hallucinations and other mind-altering effects. LSD is different from many other common drugs of abuse in that it’s not thought to be associated with significant reinforcing properties, physical dependence, nor withdrawal—several reasons why it may not be as heavily abused as substances like heroin or cocaine. It’s more common for it to be used on occasion for the experience of the hallucinogenic effects.
Signs of LSD (Acid) Overdose
It’s also distinct from other hallucinogens in that it tends to produce images and sensations that are so vivid that they can seem completely real. Though not as immediately toxic as some other illicit drugs, LSD overdose is absolutely possible and can produce some highly disturbing effects, primarily psychological distress.
LSD overdose symptoms include:
- Suicidal or homicidal ideation.
- Fear of going insane.
- Severe depression.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Loss of appetite.
- Inability to sleep.
- Dry mouth.
- Pins and needles sensation.
- Hyperactive reflexes.
- Mild fever.
Most of the directly dangerous symptoms require a massive overdose to occur. A typical dose is around 50 micrograms to 150 micrograms, though it’s important to note that different individuals will respond differently to similar doses of any drug, but especially hallucinogens. It can also be difficult to tell just how pure and potent any drug is when obtained from an illegal source. Possible effects of a massive overdose include:
- Irregular heartbeat.
- Breakdown of muscle tissue.
- Respiratory arrest.
- Intracranial hemorrhage.
What Causes a Bad Trip?
Overdose also increases the chance of having a negative hallucinogenic experience, commonly called a “bad trip.” These are characterized by hallucinations that are distressing or frightening in some way, possibly producing panic or a feeling like one is going to endure serious harm. Any of this can result in injury to the person who took the drug or those nearby.
Aside from potentially permanent damage from injury, some of the more commonly reported long-term effects are flashbacks to bad trips. People who abused LSD years in the past can end up having vivid flashbacks to the disturbing things they saw and/or felt during these hallucinations. However, this experience is still quite rare. Around 60 percent of people who had used a hallucinogen self-reported a mild kind of flashback a few days after using the drug, only 4 percent found this distressing, and even fewer continue to experience distressing flashbacks for long periods of time.
Although LSD isn’t associated with significant dependence, the use of the drug can still become compulsive and problematic for some people. Even when use is infrequent, large doses of the drug can result in a greater chance of toxicity, overdose, or a bad trip. If the use of LSD has become problematic, a consultation with a medical professional or addiction specialist could help someone avoid additional injury or health problems.
There are few, if any, deaths from taking too much LSD; however, the experience can still be psychologically damaging. A person can experience terrifying hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and long-term changes to mood or mental health. The effects of a “normal” dose of LSD can last for hours, and taking more than that can put a person at risk of hospitalization due to serious psychological and behavioral issues, which may take days to clear up on their own.
Is LSD a Natural or Man-Made Drug?
LSD is a synthetic drug, meaning it is man-made. LSD stands for D-lysergic acid diethylamide, a chemical synthesized from ergot, a fungus that grows on some grains like rye. This fungus can cause hallucinations and delusions when too much of it is ingested. Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist, synthesized LSD from ergot in 1938 while attempting to find some therapeutic value in the chemicals. He discovered the hallucinogenic and psychedelic properties of the drug in 1943 when he accidentally took some himself.
While its pure form is a clear liquid, LSD is commonly taken by eating or licking blotter paper that has a small amount of the liquid saturated into it. It can also be consumed as tablets or capsules. It is rarely consumed in its pure liquid form.
Does Having a Bad Trip Mean an Overdose Has Occurred?
Although symptoms of a “bad trip” can be part of an overdose on LSD, the two are not the same. A bad trip involves feeling anxious, paranoid, afraid, and seeing or hearing frightening things that are not real. A bad trip, however, ends in the same amount of time a good trip ends; it just leaves negative feelings behind, and it is more likely to occur in people who have a pre-existing mental health condition, like anxiety or depression.
An overdose, however, involves a dangerous level of toxins in the body. Taking too much LSD leads to longer trips, an increased risk of psychosis, and possible death. People who experience psychosis because of too much LSD may attempt to harm themselves or others. They may experience hyperthermia, or dangerously high body temperature, or tachycardia, heart problems, or irregular heartbeat. They may suffer rhabdomyolysis, which is the breakdown of skeletal muscles leading to physical weakness, toxins flooding the body, and eventual kidney failure. Emergency medical attention, including respiratory support, may be needed in rare instances of severe LSD overdose.
What Negative Effects Does LSD Use Have on Body Systems?
LSD can cause some serious changes to the body. Short-term side effects from taking LSD include:
- Dilated pupils.
- Elevated body temperature.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Tingling in the extremities.
- Physical weakness.
- Tremors or shakiness.
- Heart palpitations.
- Flushing in the face.
- Chills and goosebumps.
- Changes in appetite.
- Blurred vision.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Acid on the Brain?
In some instances, people who have no previous episodes of, nor predisposition toward psychotic illnesses can experience drug-induced psychosis, although symptoms may be temporary and can be treated with hospitalization.
Though there is no significant withdrawal associated with many of the classic hallucinogens, including LSD, medical supervision and management of the relatively-lengthy period of intoxication in a safe, comfortable, low stimulus (e.g., dimly lit, quiet rooms) environment can be very helpful. Learn more about LSD “detox” information here.
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is the clinical term for flashbacks, which can occur even after one dose of LSD. Episodes of HPPD are spontaneous and involve re-experiencing some of the psychedelic effects of the LSD trip. A flashback may include visual or auditory hallucinations that were experienced during the original trip too. The individual may also experience halos or shining visual trails attached to objects, or see motions in their peripheral vision that are not there.
What Other Drugs Have Similar Effects to LSD?
There are many kinds of hallucinogenic and psychedelic drugs, both synthetic and natural. Some that induce similar experiences to LSD, including changes in sensory and time perception, hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and more, include:
- DMT (a synthetic derivative of ayahuasca)
- Peyote, or mescaline
- Psilocybin, or magic mushrooms
These drugs have a cross-tolerance with each other, meaning consistent abuse of one will most likely lead to physical tolerance to the others.