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Tripped on Acid

The drug known as acid is a synthetic chemical called lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). It is a psychedelic drug that can cause fairly intense visual hallucinations and distort the way a user perceives space and time. 

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What Does It Mean to Be Tripping on Acid?

A trip is an altered state brought upon through the use of psychedelics. An acid trip means a person is specifically tripping through the use of LSD.[1] 

However, a person might also think they’re tripping on acid when they’ve actually taken a drug from the NBOMe or the 2C family of drugs, as these are commonly falsely sold as LSD. These are newer psychoactive substances that may have similar properties to LSD but can vary significantly in quality.[1]

Assuming one has actually taken LSD, their trip will involve significant changes in the way they perceive the world, think, and feel. They may hallucinate sensations and images that feel real even though they are not. This seems to occur because LSD interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain, affecting certain receptors such that it temporarily alters how a person’s brain functions.[2,3] 

What to Expect During an Acid Trip

When a person takes LSD, it usually takes about 30 minutes for the drugs to start affecting them. At that point, they may start to experience a variety of symptoms, including these:[1]

  • Confusion and trouble concentrating
  • Dilation of pupils
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased body temperature
  • Breathing quickly
  • Vomiting
  • Facial flushes, sweating, and chills

The reason people take LSD is typically for a combination of two reasons. While in this altered state, they will often feel a sense of euphoria and well-being. A user can also experience vivid perceptual changes, which many people find interesting or even spiritually important.[1]

These trips usually last between eight and 12 hours. A person who uses LSD should not expect to be very functional while on the drug.[4] Thinking clearly will be difficult to impossible, and their altered state would make it very dangerous to perform many otherwise normal activities, like driving. 

Bad Trips

Many people view LSD trips as an overall positive experience, but it’s important to highlight the risk of bad trips. 

A bad trip is when a person experiences especially disturbing hallucinations, with the experience becoming frightening or anxiety-inducing. In some cases, people who experience these kinds of trips can become panicked and extremely paranoid, potentially engaging in risky and illogical behavior, such as running away from their hallucinations or engaging in self-harm to try and escape the hallucination.[5]

This is one reason why a person who chooses to use psychedelics should only do so in a safe and controlled environment, ideally with someone they trust who can remain sober and monitor the situation to make sure they stay calm and don’t engage in any dangerous behavior. If a person is resistant to help and inconsolable to the point where you worry they’re a danger to themself or others, treat the situation as a medical emergency. 


LSD is a drug people can quickly build a tolerance to.[6] This means it takes an increasingly large amount of the drug to produce a similar effect to what a lower dose once produced. In fact, it’s been found that many people can’t achieve the desired effect when using LSD on any dose after about the third or fourth consecutive day of taking LSD.[1]

This tolerance also decreases fairly quickly, with a period of drug abstinence of about the same length usually returning a person’s tolerance to normal. This is important to remember if you intend to use LSD, as you might otherwise assume you need a higher dose than you do to achieve a desired trip and instead take a dose that causes a much higher level of intensity than you wanted.[1] 

Risk & Dangers of Acid Trips

The use of LSD can result in a bad trip, as described earlier. Signs a person may be having an experience on LSD that might warrant concern include the following:[1]

  • Paranoia
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Psychosis (an intense break from reality)
  • Paranoia
  • Panic

If taken over a long period, users of LSD have also been known to experience flashbacks, where perceptual and emotional changes that are associated with LSD use occur weeks, months, or years after they last took the drug. These experiences can sometimes be frightening and even outright dangerous if they occur in certain situations, such as while driving or climbing a ladder.[1]

Used recreationally, there have been potential links between LSD and mental health issues, with LSD potentially triggering or worsening issues like anxiety, schizophrenia, or psychosis. These findings are inconclusive, so more research is needed.[7] When used in a controlled medical setting, the drug is sometimes able to help with certain mental health issues.[8]

Because it’s usually purchased illegally, it can be difficult to tell if someone has actually purchased LSD. As noted earlier, other drugs of lower quality are commonly sold as LSD, and these drugs can present unique dangers not normally associated with acid. Be wary of any drug purchased on the street, as it has a high potential to be counterfeit.

Updated March 21, 2024
  1. LSD. ADF. Published November 23, 2023. Accessed February 24, 2024.
  2. Wacker D, Wang S, McCorvy JD, et al. Crystal structure of an LSD-bound human serotonin receptor. Cell. 2017;168(3):377-389.e12.
  3. Protein structure reveals how LSD affects the brain. NIH. Published February 14, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2024.
  4. Why an LSD high lasts for so long. PBS NewsHour. Published January 30, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2024.
  5. Kopra EI, Ferris JA, Rucker JJ, et al. Adverse experiences resulting in emergency medical treatment seeking following the use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2022;36(8):956-964.
  6. Mario, Jaster AM, McGinn J, Silva GM, Saha S, González-Maeso J. Tolerance and cross-tolerance among psychedelic and nonpsychedelic 5-HT2A receptor agonists in mice. ACS Chemical Neuroscience. 2022;13(16):2436-2448.
  7. Nesvåg R, Bramness JG, Ystrom E. The link between use of psychedelic drugs and mental health problems. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2015;29(9):1035-1040.
  8. Fuentes JJ, Fonseca F, Elices M, Farré M, Torrens M. Therapeutic use of LSD in psychiatry: A systematic review of randomized-controlled clinical trials. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2020;10(943).
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