Project Description

LSD Addiction Fast Facts

LSD is in a category of drugs known as classic hallucinogens. This category also includes psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT. An estimated 20.2 million Americans have used LSD at some point in their lifetime.

Approximately 740,000 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have used LSD. About 4.5 million people between the ages of 18 and 25 have used the drug.

A 2014 survey found that 3.7% of American 12th graders, 2.6% of 10th graders, and 1.1% of 8th graders had used LSD at least once.

LSD is not considered to be addictive, but it is possible to develop a tolerance for the drug. It is also possible to develop an unhealthy pattern of use that is clinically diagnosable.

LSD is in a category of drugs known as classic hallucinogens. This category also includes psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT.

What is LSD Addiction?

LSD is the common name for a synthetic chemical called D-lysergic acid diethylamide. It is derived from a fungus that grows on grains. LSD is usually sold in the form of a colorless liquid. Drops of the liquid are commonly put onto blotter paper which is placed on the tongue, where the LSD liquid can be absorbed and swallowed.

Effects of LSD Use

LSD is categorized as a hallucinogenic drug, and it is also called a psychedelic drug. This class of drugs generally alters the sensory and mental perceptions of the user, although the effects of a particular drug vary widely from individual to individual and from use to use.

Common short-term effects of LSD include:

  • Changes in sensory perception, and sometimes sensory enhancement
  • Changes in the perception of time
  • Synesthesia (a condition in which stimuli are perceived by more than one sense, e.g. “hearing” colors)
  • Hallucinations (seeing imagined objects, or seeing real objects behaving in imagined ways)
  • Excited or euphoric mood
  • Feelings of deep insight or understanding

The mind-altering effects of LSD have been studied for possible therapeutic uses, but the drug has been made illegal by the United States’ Controlled Substances Act. No legitimate medical use of LSD is officially recognized.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

What Causes LSD Addiction?

LSD is not considered to be an addictive drug. Users do not develop a physical dependence on LSD the same way that they do on stimulants such as cocaine or opioids such as heroin. Abstinence from LSD does not seem to cause withdrawal symptoms, even after prolonged use.

However, regular users of LSD are likely to develop a tolerance for the drug. In time, sensitivity to the drug decreases, and users need higher and higher doses to produce the expected psychedelic effects. Tolerance can lead to abusive behavior.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

Is LSD Addiction Hereditary?

The use of LSD, as is the case with most drugs, is generally more a product of environmental factors than it is the consequence of inherited tendencies. However, researchers have identified a link between an individual’s genes and the risk of addiction and substance abuse. Individuals with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop a substance addiction themselves.

LSD seems to be among those drugs with the least risk of inherited abusive behavior. Hallucinogen abuse, in general, seems to have a heritability rate only about half that of the riskiest drugs, which include opioids and cocaine.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is LSD Addiction Detected?

Along with the mind-altering effects experienced by the user, LSD also produces physical effects, some of which can be observed externally.

These signs of LSD use can include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling in the fingers or toes
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Blurry vision
  • Excessive sweating or chills
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of mental focus or physical coordination

The effects of LSD can last for as long as 12 hours, and during that time the user may be uninterested in eating, sleeping, or performing ordinary tasks. Thanks to the mind-altering character of the experience, the user may be unconcerned with hiding the drug’s effect, making their LSD use easy to spot.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is LSD Addiction Diagnosed?

LSD rarely, if ever, produces the symptoms of dependence, withdrawal, and abuse that, in the case of other drugs, can lead to a diagnosis of addiction. However, abusive patterns of behavior are possible even with LSD. When those patterns are present, a clinical mental-health disorder called “hallucinogen use disorder” can be diagnosed.

To qualify for a diagnosis, LSD use must cause significant impairment or distress, and at least two of the following symptoms must be present over a 12-month period:

  • LSD use is greater than the user intends, either in dosage or frequency.
  • The user has a desire to quit or has unsuccessfully tried to quit using LSD.
  • The user spends significant time acquiring, using, or recovering from the effects of LSD use.
  • The user has a strong craving for LSD.
  • LSD use is interfering with the user’s obligations or responsibilities.
  • LSD use continues despite the harm it does to the user, physically or otherwise.
  • LSD use interferes with the user’s normal activities and routines.
  • LSD is used in dangerous situations.
  • Tolerance for the drug develops, creating the need for higher doses or more frequent use to achieve the same effect.
  • Abstinence from the drug causes withdrawal symptoms.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is LSD Addiction Treated?

In cases where LSD use crosses the boundary to diagnosable substance abuse–or when the LSD use occurs in conjunction with the abuse of other substances–the patient may be referred to a treatment program, either on an inpatient or outpatient basis.

There are no medication-based treatments for LSD abuse, but medications may be prescribed for any underlying mental or physical health issues identified during treatment.

Psychotherapy, group therapy, and support group meetings are typically used to treat substance abuse.

  • Detoxification. Treatment centers will often require that users undergo a detox period to remove any lingering remnants of the drug from their bodies. This is especially true if the patient is admitted to a treatment center on an emergency basis during active drug use.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of psychotherapy helps drug users to recognize the triggers that prompt their drug use. The therapy also focuses on developing strategies and techniques for dealing with those triggers when they occur. CBT can be effective at preventing relapses once the patient has begun to abstain from drug use.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Does LSD Addiction Progress?

The effects of LSD are often pleasant for the user, but sometimes the drug can produce a “bad trip” that can cause significant distress. The effects of the drug are also less predictable than those of many other drugs; a bad trip can happen even after a user’s previous positive experiences with the drug.

Other short-term negative effects of LSD use can include:

  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure and rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Panic or anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis (thought processes that are disconnected from reality)

The mind-altering effects of LSD also impair the user’s judgment, sometimes leading to risky behavior. The user may, for example, enter into physically dangerous situations or engage in risky sexual behavior.

Rare but serious long-term effects of LSD include two conditions sometimes experienced by long-time users (although even first-time users can be affected in rare cases):

  • Persistent psychosis. This condition is characterized by changes in mood, dysfunctional thought processes, and sensory problems that continue even after use of the drug is discontinued.
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPDD). In this disorder, the patient experiences characteristics of the LSD experience–hallucinations, unusual sensory phenomena, etc.–as long as a year or more after using the drug.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

How Is LSD Addiction Prevented?

Education is the best way to prevent the abuse of LSD and other drugs. Drug abuse prevention programs should be targeted at at-risk groups and clearly lay out the dangers of LSD abuse, including:

  • The potential for risky behavior while under the influence of LSD
  • The unpredictable nature of LSD’s effects
  • The potential for abuse driven by developing a tolerance for the drug
  • The possibility of harm (or death) from tainted drugs

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

LSD Addiction Caregiver Tips

  • Educate your children. Because LSD is not addictive like other drugs and doesn’t present the same dangers of overdose and withdrawal, young people often think that it poses little risk of harm. However, even a positive LSD experience can have a profoundly overwhelming effect on the user, a situation that children are ill-equipped to handle. Using LSD in the wrong way, in the wrong place, at the wrong time can be dangerous, and young people should be made well aware of the risks.
  • Don’t focus only on the LSD. Substance abuse is very often a sign of underlying problems in relationships, in life circumstances, or in mental health. If your loved one is abusing LSD or any other substance, encourage them to seek help for the problems that are driving them to escape via their drug use.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

LSD Addiction Brain Science

The biochemical process through which LSD changes brain function is not yet fully understood. However, research has begun to offer clues to what’s going on in the brains of LSD users. In a recent study, researchers used imaging technology to get a look at brain activity in subjects who were under the influence of the drug, and the results suggested areas that are ripe for further study.

Scientists had previously suspected that a brain chemical called serotonin, which helps brain nerve cells communicate with one another, was involved in the LSD experience. The imaging study had some subjects take only LSD, while other subjects took both LSD and a drug that blocks the effects of serotonin. Those who took the serotonin-blocking drug did not experience the same effects as those who took LSD alone, a result that seems to confirm the hypothesis that serotonin is key to the LSD experience.

In the brains of subjects who took LSD, the drug seemed to disrupt the function of the thalamus, a part of the brain that controls information flow to other parts. This disruption allowed more information to flow to the part of the brain that controls sensory perception and limited the flow of information to the part that controls cognitive thought processes. This unusual pattern of brain activity may begin to explain the strange effects that LSD has on the user’s perception.

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

LSD Addiction Research

Scientists are working on several research projects to expand on what is known about LSD Addiction.  The research will improve knowledge about the factors that increase the risk for LSD Addiction, as well as the causes, and best treatments, and will aid people living with LSD Addiction and their caregivers.

We are currently gathering the information required to support projects such as Psychedelics and Wellness Study (PAWS), and Psilocybin for Depression in People With Mild Cognitive Impairment or Early Alzheimer’s Disease, and A Study of Psilocybin for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).

*The medical information we gather and publish is vetted and intended to be up to date, accurate and express a spectrum of recognized scientific and medical points of view. The information comes from a nucleus of informed scientists, medical doctors, peer-reviewed scientific journals and the National Institute of Health. Please note, differing points of view among scientists and physicians are common. Every effort is employed to ensure the accuracy of these different points of view. That notwithstanding, it is incumbent on persons using this information to consult with his/her physician before reaching any conclusions. Our medical information and publications are not intended to be a substitute for consultation with one’s physician.

You Are Not Alone

For you or a loved one to be diagnosed with a brain disease or disorder, is overwhelming, and leads to a quest for support and answers to important questions. UBA has built a safe, caring and compassionate community for you to share your journey, connect with others in similar situations, learn about breakthroughs, and to simply find comfort.

united brain association

Make a Donation, Make a Difference

We have a direct connection with scientists so we are privy to projects in all stages of research. This gives us the insight to identify projects and allocate the dollars needed to find cures. Donate generously today to make a difference for future generations and your loved ones.  Your donation saves lives and brings us closer to a cure.

Donate to the Cure

Share Your Story

If you have an experience, a story, or someone in your life you want to recognize for their strength and willpower, please share it with us. We want to hear from you because listening is part of healing.

Share Your Story

Connect With Us

Receive news on Brain Awareness, the Latest Research, and Personal Stories

SIGN ME UP