What is LSD and Can You Get Addicted To It?

Last Updated: Dec 9th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

What is LSD and Can You Get Addicted To It?

LSD, commonly known as “acid,” is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that completely alters and distorts the user’s perception of reality. Can you get addicted to LSD? Although the matter is up for debate, most professionals agree that LSD isn’t physically addictive. However, it’s possible to become emotionally and mentally hooked on the drug’s mind-altering effects. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), LSD is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which means there is a high potential for abuse, but no currently accepted medical uses.

What is LSD Made of?

 LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide, a chemical synthesized from ergot, a toxic fungus that grows on rye and other grains. LSD is considered a semi-synthetic drug because creation also involves manmade chemicals that change its physical makeup into a crystallized form. 

What is LSD?

 Crystallized LSD is liquified into a clear, odorless substance with a slightly bitter taste. Single doses of the liquid are dropped onto square pieces of blotter paper. Users place the paper on the tongue, and the drug absorbs into the body. Blotter paper is the most common way people use LSD, but it is also incorporated into gelatin squares, sugar cubes, or capsules. LSD is rarely smoked, sniffed, or injected. 

LSD has been around since its hallucinogenic properties were accidentally discovered in the 1930s. In the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Department of Defense experimented with the drug as a chemical weapon that could control entire populations.  LSD was widely researched as a psychiatric drug, and showed promise as a treatment for severe pain. 

In the 1960s, when it was still legal, LSD was widely used recreationally in the United States, soon spreading to the U.K. and across Europe. The United States banned the drug in the late 1960s after the potential hazards became apparent. Although LSD isn’t as popular as it once was, many people still use it illegally.  

People who use LSD refer to the experience as a trip. A good trip is marked by changes in perception, a heightened sense of clarity and awareness, and intensified emotions. Shapes and sizes may pulse or appear distorted, and users may see geometric shapes on walls and other surfaces. Users may experience a rush of euphoria, a total absence of fear, and a feeling of superhuman strength. Objects may appear to ripple, and colors seem brighter. 

Although LSD’s effects on the human brain aren’t widely studied, research suggests it temporarily interferes with serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates senses, thinking, mood, and behavior.  

Is LSD Addictive?

Experts don’t consider LSD as a physically addictive substance, at least not in the same sense as drugs like heroin, meth, or cocaine. While LSD doesn’t cause uncontrollable cravings and compulsive use, people who use the drug frequently may quickly develop a tolerance, which means more and more is needed to attain the same hallucinogenic effects. Typically, normal tolerance returns after stopping the use of LSD for a few days.

Just because LSD isn’t physically addictive doesn’t mean it’s safe. Using large amounts of LSD is risky because it is unpredictable and doesn’t always act the same from one use to another, or from one person to another. 

A bad trip can involve terrifying hallucinations, confusion, and a sensation of being disconnected from reality. Users may experience despair, severe depression, delusions, panic, frightening thoughts such as fears of dying or going insane. It’s not uncommon to swing rapidly from one emotion to another or to feel several emotions simultaneously.  

A person having a bad trip may be combative and may want to harm others or himself, or he may do dangerous things that lead to injuries or fatal accidents. It’s impossible to predict if using LSD will trigger a good trip or a bad one. 

LSD Side Effects

LSD side effects begin to kick in within 30 to 60 minutes after taking the drug, peaking in four to six hours, and typically lasting eight to  12 hours. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Incoherent or garbled speech
  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Bizarre behavior

LSD Presents a Variety of Risks to Mind and Body

Although bad trips are terrifying, they aren’t usually life-threatening. LSD overdoses are uncommon, and fatal overdoses are virtually nonexistent. However, altered perceptions and distorted thinking may lead to reckless or unpredictable behaviors resulting in legal problems, violence,  strained personal relationships, injury, or death.

Although it’s uncommon, some people experience mood changes, psychosis, paranoia, or suicidal thoughts after large doses or frequent use of LSD. Research suggests that people with schizophrenia or other underlying mental illness, or those predisposed to addiction, are more likely to experience adverse effects. 

Some people experience flashbacks, or feelings of being on a “bad trip,” occurring up to a year or more after using LSD. Flashbacks are more common during times of stress or exhaustion and may be severe enough to interfere with everyday life. 

It’s rare for LSD to be cut or diluted with other substances, but it may cause severe reactions when used while taking certain prescriptions, including some antidepressants; or lithium, a medication prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. Using LSD with alcohol is extremely risky. 

Treatment for Psychological Addictions

Consider treatment if you’re having trouble controlling your use of LSD or if your use of the drug has impacted your life in negative ways. Behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) are often helpful with psychological addictions to LSD or other hallucinogenic drugs. 

Stopping LSD generally causes no physical withdrawal symptoms, but you may need support and guidance if you experience feelings of confusion, fear, agitation, or depression. 

Don’t Delay

Each person is unique, and at 1st Step Behavioral Therapy, we’ll work with you to create a treatment plan tailored to your particular needs. We’ll help you work through your dependency on LSD in a calm, supportive environment. To learn more, give us a call at 855-425-4846  or contact us online

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.