LSD, or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, is a potent synthetic psychedelic substance which has had a profound impact on culture, science and spirituality. Also known as “acid,” LSD can spark creativity, engender a sense of mysticism, and herald a sense of healing in those who use it. But it is not without risks, which may include the exacerbation of mental health conditions in some individuals.
Originally synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the mid-20th century, LSD quickly gained popularity as a tool for psychological research and personal self-exploration. Its influence extends beyond the scientific realm helping to spark political and cultural movements and inspiring artistic expression. LSD’s intricate history is entwined with pivotal social change in our era starting in the 1960s to the present. It is the subject of ongoing scientific study into its therapeutic potential in medical frameworks. The profound impact of LSD transcends its chemical properties, reflecting a complex tapestry of scientific inquiry, global spiritual transformation, and ongoing exploration of the human psyche.
Things to Know
- LSD is in a class of substances known as tryptamines that act upon the serotonin receptors in the brain, and is classified as a lysergamide
- The current research looking into LSD focuses on anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, microdosing, cluster headaches, and alcoholism
- While LSD is a Schedule I substance and illegal under U.S. federal law, it has been decriminalized in Oregon, and a number of pending measures nationwide seek to do the same
- LSD helped define the youth counterculture of the 1960s, and was extensively explored in therapy and clinical research before it was made illegal in 1968
Within clinical, recreational, and ceremonial settings, many individuals have found positive benefits after using LSD. Whether these benefits are assessed with quantitative measures or through subjective trip reports, there’s a reason why LSD has such a strong cultural impact, from music and arts, to technological innovation and beyond. Steve Jobs, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and numerous other cultural icons say they were inspired by their experiences with LSD.Read about LSD benefits.
LSD Risks and Safety Considerations
It takes a very small amount of LSD to engender a powerful experience, which is why this substance comes with a great deal of both risks and potential benefits. While most substances are measured in milligrams, it takes mere micrograms for LSD to have a strong effect. The LSD experience encompasses not only the duration of its acute effects, but also the lingering impact of how a person who has taken LSD feels in the days, weeks, or even months to come.Read about LSD risks and safety considerations.
LSD for Conditions
LSD is being used to treat chronic pain and a number of psychiatric indications, including anxiety, depression, treatment resistant depression (TRD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), alcoholism, cluster headaches, and mood disorders.
Individual studies report various findings, depending on study design, dose, predisposition of the participants in terms of mental health or life-threatening disease. While studies have investigated a variety of other factors, such as set and setting, and the “expectancy effect” (if you think you expect LSD to help you, it has a higher chance of helping you), overall the findings on LSD as a potential therapy are generally positive. But it is important to remember that LSD in a non clinical setting may produce different results than the research findings.Read about LSD for conditions.
LSD-assisted therapy refers to a type of therapy in which LSD is used as a tool to help the patient gain greater insight into their inner world and make headway in the therapeutic process. Various forms and therapy methodologies can be combined with LSD. Therapists have used LSD in clinical trials geared toward research and in unregulated underground settings. LSD-assisted therapy was used above ground before the substance was made illegal in the 1960s.Read about LSD-assisted therapy.
LSD Science and Research
For more than 50 years, studies have investigated the potential therapeutic aspects of LSD. Researchers are also approaching LSD as a mechanism through which to understand aspects of cognition and human experience, including mysticism, emotionality, creativity, perception, and the way the brain works.
Currently, LSD is being investigated by researchers for the possible treatment of depression, treatment resistant depression (TDR), anxiety, substance misuse, headache disorders, OCD, inflammation and Alzheimer’s, among other medical conditions. Other research looks at LSD’s role in perception, creativity, spirituality, and more.Read about LSD science and research.
LSD is classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has no currently accepted medical use. It is illegal in most jurisdictions. That said, in some contexts, it is decriminalized for personal possession in the US or abroad, and has been authorized by some research institutions, such as Imperial College London, to be studied in scientific research. However, while LSD has been under prohibition for the past 50+ years, prior it was used legally in research and therapy as an aid to various mental health conditions. In fact, it was even used by the CIA as a “truth serum” in an initiative called MK Ultra.Read about LSD legality.
How to Take LSD
Because LSD is so potent in such small quantities, there are important considerations to keep in mind when taking LSD. When synthesized in a lab, LSD has the form of an odorless, colorless, water-soluble tartrate salt. By the time it becomes available though the underground market, it is distributed in the form of a liquid usually taken from a dropper. LSD can also be saturated into a sugar cube or gel, though the most common form of distribution is blotter paper (a sheet of perforated paper with little squares, each containing a single, dose of LSD). Because the underground market is unregulated, the potency and quality of the effects of a single dose of LSD may vary, as may the exact amount of LSD contained by a single tab of blotter paper.Read about how to take LSD.
Microdosing LSD is an increasingly popular practice that entails taking sub-perceptual amounts of LSD. Some people who microdose do so on a regular basis according to a specific regime. The microdose is not meant to be felt nor to produce a psychoactive response. The idea is that over time, the practice of microdosing may add some benefit to the individual’s life. This could be because they are seeking an increase in focus, a reduction in anxiety, or an improved sense of general well-being.Read about microdosing LSD.
LSD in Combination with Other Substances
It is not uncommon for people to combine LSD with another psychedelic. However, if a person is on a pharmaceutical medication—specifically an SSRI—certain considerations should be taken into account.Read about taking LSD in combination with other substances.
While LSD is derived from the ergot fungus, it wasn’t synthesized as an isolated compound until 1938 by chemist Albert Hofmann. From the lab, LSD made its way into the hands of therapists and researchers, to the CIA who investigated its possible use as a weapon, and to a generation of young people in the 1960’s who revolutionized global culture and helped define a generation who upended older paradigms.Read about LSD history.
LSD and Spirituality
Taking LSD can lead to a mystical experience or feelings of heightened spirituality. In contrast to other popular psychedelic substances, LSD is a synthetic compound and not tied to specific indigenous lineages that have been affected by colonization or cultural appropriation. This characteristic sets it apart from ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, or peyote. LSD is connected to other lineages of users around the world who are not members of indigenous communities, but often have roots in the counterculture use of LSD in the 1960s.Read about LSD and spirituality.
LSD and Creativity
LSD has long been associated with enhancing creativity and promoting divergent thinking. Many artists, musicians, writers, and thinkers have reported that LSD experiences have influenced their creative processes and inspired new perspectives.Read about LSD and creativity.