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 come1 . Because LSD is so potent, it was researched extensively2 and used as a therapeutic tool3 in the early 1950s and 1960s before former U.S. President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which placed LSD in Schedule I4 . In recent years, scientists have begun to again investigate the possible therapeutic benefits of LSD.
LSD Risks and Safety Considerations
Things to Know
- Current studies show that LSD is physiologically safe; there have been no recorded lethal overdoses
- LSD can trigger unwanted or undiagnosed mental health conditions if there is an underlying predisposition, or exacerbate existing ones
- LSD can be transcendent and spiritual, as well as beneficial in treating mental health conditions like anxiety, PTSD, or depression when paired with psychotherapy
- LSD’s effects are influenced by the set and setting in which they are experienced
- The effects of LSD are also dose dependent
Is LSD Safe?
Yes and no. From the standpoint of toxicity, LSD is generally safe. However, cognitively it carries some risks, such as exacerbating present or undiagnosed mental health conditions or causing hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder5 . That said, even the challenging aspects associated with taking LSD or its ill effects are often short-term. Side effects can include dizziness, weakness, hallucinations, and slight blood pressure elevation6 , but according to researchers, not to the point of being medically dangerous. In other cases, individuals might experience psychotic or neurotic side effects, which have often been temporary.
There is no clinical evidence showing that it’s possible to lethally overdose on LSD.It is possible to take too much and experience mental overwhelm, distress, or prolonged psychological effects after the LSD wears off. Anecdotal evidence of those who have “overdosed” on LSD, however, points to its general safety. Interviews7 done with people who “overdosed” on LSD found all were physically safe and few suffered lasting side effects.
Is LSD Addictive?
No, LSD does not have addictive potential; it actually decreases dopamine firing8 , which is the main receptor that is heavily expressed during addiction.
Some individuals might experience LSD flashbacks, defined as spontaneous, often intrusive recurrences of certain psychological and visual aspects of the experience in the days, weeks, or even years after using LSD.
LSD HPPD (Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder)
In rare cases, LSD has been associated with HPPD, a condition in which individuals experience prolonged psychedelic visuals long after the other effects of the substance have worn off. While very little is actually known about HPPD, these types of flashbacks may affect at least five percent9 of psychedelic users at least once within their lifetime. HPPD10 can be caused by LSD or other psychedelics, and varies in its severity and effects.
LSD and SSRIs
In rare cases, LSD has been associated with HPPD, a condition in which individuals experience prolonged psychedelic visuals long after the other effects of the substance have worn off. While very little is actually known about HPPD, these types of flashbacks may affect at least five percent11 of psychedelic users at least once within their lifetime. HPPD12 can be caused by LSD or other psychedelics, and varies in its severity and effects.
LSD Harm Reduction
While LSD is generally safe and nontoxic, there are ways to enhance the quality of the experience for best possible outcomes. That starts with cultivating the right set and setting.
LSD vs. N-BOMB
The psychedelic 25I-NBOMe13, also called N-BOMB, can be easily confused with LSD. Both are taken as tabs, odorless, and have hallucinogenic effects. But N-Bomb’s effects last longer, and in some cases it can be fatal.