LSD (or lysergic acid diethylamide) is a synthetic drug people have used since the 1960s to experience hallucinations.
People who use LSD may claim they’re taking a very safe drug that should be legal, as it can make people more empathetic and connected. In reality, they’re using a dangerous substance that could alter their mental health forever, even if they only take one dose.
5 Common Signs & Symptoms of LSD Abuse
LSD is illegal to manufacture, buy, sell, or use within the United States. Most people who abuse the drug do so privately, as they’re worried about law enforcement action. But it’s hard to keep drug use a secret forever, as LSD is powerful and creates changes that anyone could spot.
These are common signs of LSD abuse to look for:
LSD starts working in minutes, changing the brain’s chemical signaling process. People who use the drug often experience deep sorrow, which they might discuss in detail, or they might start crying or express suicidal thoughts.
Some people who use LSD report the following sensations:
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of going insane
- Fear of dying
All of these feelings are hallucinations, so they’re rarely based in reality. But it’s hard to convince an intoxicated person that they’re safe. In this altered state, they can be dangerous to themselves and others.
LSD’s acute effects may fade within a few hours, but some people develop recurring hallucinations triggered by stress, exercise, or insomnia. They may repeat the physical or mental sensations created by the drug, and they may be unable to control how they act or react during these flashbacks.
People who use LSD repeatedly must keep the drug handy. You may find it in the person’s room, clothing, or medicine cabinet.
- Liquids (typically sold in very small bottles)
- Blotter paper covered with psychedelic designs
- Sugar cubes
- Gelatin squares
Never touch or taste anything to determine if it contains LSD. Even a tiny amount is dangerous. But if you spot drugs or paraphernalia, discuss those items with the person.
People who use LSD may need to discuss the drug with friends or their dealers. They may use slang terms (like acid, boomers, and yellow sunshine) when holding these conversations. If you feel like you rarely understand what the person is saying to other people, it’s a strong sign of drug abuse.
Why Is LSD Dangerous?
Researchers say the number of people using LSD rose 56.4 percent between 2015 and 2018. All of these people face very real physical, mental, and behavioral risks, including the following:
Researchers say LSD rarely causes long-term physical symptoms. People who develop them often have latent psychological issues that can manifest in physical signs.
But LSD can be contaminated with other drugs, including those within the 2C family. These drugs are very dangerous, as their quality and power are variable. Deaths have been reported due to these drugs, especially when they were taken in large quantities.
Mental Health Risks
While LSD use doesn’t often cause long-range physical harm, it can certainly cause mental health issues. Researchers say long-term psychological problems like schizophrenia and depression can take hold after LSD use.
Even people who don’t develop mental health conditions can suffer with the impact of repeated flashbacks. It’s impossible to predict when they will begin and end, and some people become housebound due to the fear of repeated episodes.
Hallucinations are incredibly dangerous, both for the individual and the community. Some people harm themselves while they’re under the influence. Others get into public accidents and harm others, and they struggle with those consequences for the rest of their lives.
Since LSD is illegal at the federal level, people who use the drug can face very serious consequences. People who have up to 9 grams of the drug can face not less than 5 years and not more than 40 years in prison. Sentences grow more severe with larger doses of LSD.
Does LSD Cause Withdrawal?
LSD rarely causes physical dependence, so it doesn’t cause things like headaches or nausea when long-term users quit. But the drug can cause psychological addiction, so people who quit can feel mental distress.
Psychological LSD withdrawal symptoms include the following:
Some people return to LSD abuse to make these symptoms stop, and this deepens the cycle of abuse, making it harder to quit.
Does LSD Cause Overdose?
People who take LSD can develop an overdose, characterized by high temperatures, respiratory arrest, and coma. Most people have platelet problems too.
It’s difficult to determine exactly how much is too much, especially when people have used LSD multiple times. Some people can take more due to their recurrent use.
If you suspect that someone has taken too much LSD, call 911 and tell the operator about the symptoms you’ve seen. Follow that official’s instructions, and stay with the person until help arrives.
Getting Help for LSD Addiction
Researchers say LSD isn’t considered a physically addictive drug. But some people develop psychological addictions to drugs, and they struggle to quit taking LSD.
Treatment programs help people explore why they started using drugs, and they help people to deal with their relapse risks. If someone you love is abusing LSD, tell them about treatment and offer to help them find the right program for them.
- LSD Fast Facts. (January 2006). National Drug Intelligence Center.
- Trends in LSD Use Among U.S. Adults: 2015 to 2018. (July 2020). Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
- What Are the Long-Term Health Impacts of LSD? Drug Policy Alliance.
- LSD. (January 2023). Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
- Federal Drug Penalties. Illinois Wesleyan University.
- Coma, Hyperthermia, and Bleeding Associated With Massive LSD Overdose. (March 1974). Western Journal of Medicine.
- Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs. National Institute on Drug Abuse.