Lysergic acid diethylamide (a.k.a. LSD) is an extremely potent hallucinogen. Just 25 micrograms (less than the weight of two salt grains) is enough to feel the effects of the drug. It’s manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in the ergot fungus that grows on rye and other grains. LSD is also referred to as acid, blotter, dots, and California sunshine. Typically, LSD is produced in illegal laboratories in crystal form. These crystals are then converted to liquid for distribution. LSD is odorless, colorless, and has a slight bitter taste. LSD is often added to absorbent paper (see above picture), which is then divided into smaller squares typically decorated with designs or cartoon characters. The user puts the “tab” on or under their tongue until it dissolves.

History of LSD

LSD was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann, a chemist working for Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, in 1938 in Basel, Switzerland. However, the hallucinogenic effects of the drug were not discovered until 1943 when Hofmann accidentally ingested LSD. LSD was used in experiments by psychiatrists through the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s because of its similarity to a chemical already present in the brain. The researchers didn’t discover any medical use for the drug, but Sandoz Pharmaceuticals supplied free samples which were broadly distributed, leading to the widespread popularity of LSD.

In 1951, the CIA and the U.S. military began a series of experiments testing the use of LSD as a chemical weapon. Researchers noted that LSD is “capable of rendering whole groups of people, including military forces, indifferent to their surroundings and situations…”. Experiments with the drug continued until it was banned in the USA in 1967.

The ban didn’t stop LSD from becoming wildly popular with the 1960s anti-authority counterculture, however. LSD was popularized by the works of psychologists like Timothy Leary, who advocated the use of the drug. Use of LSD declined in the USA during the 1980s, but it became popular again in the 1990s. According to the 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey, the use of LSD remains at very low levels and has stayed that way since the early 2000s.

Effects of LSD

The effects of LSD can be very unpredictable. Typically, the user will begin to feel the first effects just 30 minutes or so after taking the drug. These effects may include rapid mood swings, delusions, and hallucinations. Physical effects include dilated pupils, nausea, sweating, dry mouth, insomnia, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.

The user may also start to feel distorted depth and time perceptions where time seems to move very quickly or not at all. They may also experience sensations that seem to cross over, leading the person to feel as if they can hear colors or see sounds.

LSD can be very dangerous because it can produce a very long, or “bad” trip. The ability to make clear-headed, rational decisions is significantly impaired during an LSD trip and the user may accidentally hurt himself. After an LSD trip, the user may feel anxiety or depression and they may experience flashbacks. Flashbacks can occur days or even months after taking the drug.