LSD: Everything You Need to Know

Read the complete guide to LSD.

The Complete Guide to LSD, by TripSafe

Overview

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a common recreational drug. It is also commonly known as acid. LSD is usually consumed on small pieces of paper called blotter.

LSD has been taken by about 25 million Americans at least once, and 1.5 million Americans in the past year, based on 2015 numbers.1

We do not endorse the acquisition and use of illegal drugs. If you make the choice to use psychedelic drugs, please do your research.

What is a psychedelic?

Psychedelics are drugs that can induce an altered state, perhaps best described as a dreamlike state, for some number of minutes or hours, depending on the specific psychedelic.

Psychedelics have been used by indigenous people for thousands of years.

Intelligent and creative researchers discovered this indigenous use in the 1950s and 1960s and introduced psychedelics to a tight community of psychotherapists and psychiatrists who found that these tools were very useful.2

Psychedelics then entered the popular culture, and were made illegal.

Psychedelic research is now approaching a renaissance.

Are psychedelics good?

If used with care and expertise, there’s a solid argument that psychedelics can do the world a lot of good.

Now Rick had an opportunity to work within the system, by the system’s rules, to find, or force, common ground around what he believed to be an incontrovertible truth: psychedelics, used with care and expertise, could do people and the world a lot of good.3

Is acid the same as LSD?

Sort of. Acid is a street name for LSD, and LSD is a chemical compound. Unfortunately, not all substances sold as “acid” or “LSD” contain just the pure LSD compound. Pure acid would contain 100% LSD. We will try to use the term LSD in this guide, instead of acid.

See more at: LSD vs acid.

Is LSD (acid) safe?

LSD is relatively safe if it pure LSD, and if you have a trusted and experienced guide who can prevent any risk of harming yourself or others due to intoxication.4

“Hallucinogens generally possess relatively low physiological toxicity, and have not been shown to result in organ damage or neuropsychological deficits (Strassman, 1984; Gable, 1993, 2004; Halpern and Pope, 1999; Hasler, et al., 2004; Nichols, 2004; Halpern, et al., 2005).”5

LSD has been taken by about 25 million Americans at least once, and 1.5 million Americans in the past year, based on 2015 numbers.1 This 2008 paper noted that “there have been no documented human deaths from an LSD overdose.”6

“Since the early 1990s, approximately 2000 doses of psilocybin (ranging from low to high doses) have been safely administered to humans in the United States and Europe, in carefully controlled scientific settings, with no reports of any medical or psychiatric serious AEs, including no reported cases of prolonged psychosis or HPPD (Studerus et al., 2011).”7 Psilocybin is not the same as LSD, though we should expect an extremely similar dosage dependent safety profile.

“This finding is consistent with a US population (2001–2004 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) based study that found no associations between lifetime use of any of the serotoninergic psychedelics (including psilocybin) and increased rates of mental illness (Krebs and Johansen, 2013).”7

“The incidence of risky behavior or enduring psychological distress is extremely low when psilocybin is given in laboratory studies to screened, prepared, and supported participants.”8

“There is no evidence of such potential neurotoxic effects with the prototypical classical hallucinogens (i.e. LSD, mescaline and psilocybin).”5

“Cohen (1960) reported that only a single case of a psychotic reaction lasting more than 48 hours occurred in 1200 experimental (non-patient) research participants (a rate of 0.8 per 1000). Notably, the individual was an identical twin of a schizophrenic patient and thus would have been excluded under the proposed guidelines.” The key methods to minimize this risk are the medical condition guidlines below.5

Acid was ranked as the third safest drug by Nutt et al. All drugs can still be harmful under certain circumstances.4

Relative side effects of LSD and Shrooms

How can LSD be most beneficial?

What had been clear to Hofmann almost immediately had by this time been observed independently by Osmond and a host of others: for LSD to have the greatest positive effect, subjects needed to take it in a safe, supportive, and aesthetically pleasing environment with a clear idea of what to expect. When difficult issues arose-as they often did-the safe setting and supportive presence of a therapist would allow the subject to process this emotional dynamite, defuse it, and transcend it.3

Psychedelic usage was associated with improved mental health indicators

“Lifetime classic psychedelic use was associated with a significantly reduced odds of past month psychological distress (weighted odds ratio (OR)=0.81 (0.72–0.91)), past year suicidal thinking (weighted OR=0.86 (0.78–0.94)), past year suicidal planning (weighted OR=0.71 (0.54–0.94)), and past year suicide attempt (weighted OR=0.64 (0.46–0.89))”9

The two biggest risks of LSD

  • Fake acid: Ingesting what you believe to be pure acid (pure LSD), but is actually something else, particularly NBOMe which has been involved in a few deaths in the last few years10
  • Doing something unsafe during the ~10 hours of being in a decently altered mindstate on the drug. “If someone experiences high anxiety, fear, or paranoia during a psilocybin session, itΚΌs not hard to imagine them behaving in ways harmful to themselves or others.”11

What are the effects of LSD (acid)?

This assumes pure acid, i.e. 100% LSD.

Acid feels like “seeing the world for the first time,” with stimulated and profound seeming thoughts, and sort of a dreamlike feeling.12 Hallucinations also exist, though it would be more accurate to think of them as visual distortions - i.e. seeing extra patterns in the grass, a photo of a waterfall might look like the water is moving when it’s actually not - but don’t think of it as you’ll be seeing green leprechauns that will talk to you.

See the first few images on this page for an accurate depiction of low to moderate acid dosage visual effects.

Read more on the effects of LSD here.

How long does LSD last?

LSD generally lasts ~8-13 hours,13 though it’s wise to plan for ~16-18 hours.

During and after use

Side effects during use

Possible side effects during use include: anxiety, paranoid thinking, discomfort, temporary moderate increases in blood pressure.14

Side effects after use

“Cohen (1960) reported that only a single case of a psychotic reaction lasting more than 48 hours occurred in 1200 experimental (non-patient) research participants (a rate of 0.8 per 1000). Notably, the individual was an identical twin of a schizophrenic patient and thus would have been excluded under the proposed guidelines.”5

If you have close schizophrenic relatives, you should not take LSD. This will be discussed futher in the safety section below.

Read the full page on LSD’s side effects.

Desirable effects during use

Possible desirable effects during use: joy/intense happiness and peace/harmony.14

Desirable long-term benefits

Users following a specific guided trip protocol experienced a variety of benefits including increased purpose, more energy for work, more initiative, getting more work done, increased self-confidence, marriage satisfaction, and more friends at and outside work.15 16

Read the rest at the page on LSD’s effects, including positive effects.

“Bad” trips

What is the probability of having a bad trip on LSD?

This depends heavily on the dosage, your mindstate going into the trip, and the environment where you take LSD.

We can approximate from a psilocybin mushroom study:

  • At a dosage of 200 micrograms of LSD17 in a therapeutic clinical environment, we might expect 86% of people to experience some extreme fear,18 for an LSD-adjusted (increase time to account for longer trip with LSD vs psilocybin) average of around ~22 minutes of strong anxiety19, and we might expect around ~65% to report a persisting positive increase in mood from this dosage assuming they had first tried 35 micrograms, then 67, then 133, then 20018
  • At a dosage of 133 micrograms17 in a therapeutic clinical environment, we might expect 14% of people to experience some extreme fear,18 for an LSD-adjusted average of around ~4 minutes of strong anxiety 19, and we might expect around ~60% to report a persisting positive increase in mood from this dosage assuming they had first tried 35 micrograms, then 67, then 133 18
  • At a dosage of 67 micrograms17 in a therapeutic clinical environment, we might expect 0% of people to experience some extreme fear,18 for an LSD-adjusted average of around ~2 minutes of strong anxiety19, and we might expect around ~45% to report a persisting positive increase in mood from this dosage assuming they had first tried 35 micrograms, then 6718

Bad trips can increase long-term well-being, so call them “challenging trips” instead

Challenging or “bad” acid trips can be most beneficial if they are short, but difficult.8

“Multiple regression analysis showed degree of difficulty was positively associated, and duration was negatively associated, with enduring increases in well-being.”8

Are you currently having a bad trip?

Please visit tripsit chat if you need immediate assistance.

“Say hi, tell us your substance and dose, and describe your issue.

If no one responds within 30 seconds, say ~tripsit and someone will be with you immediately.”

Also, see these two calming videos for if you are having a “bad” trip:

Medical benefits

“For example, a recent meta-analysis of six randomized clinical trials of treatment for alcoholism conducted between 1966–1970 found that a single dose of LSD [acid] reduced the probability of alcohol misuse almost two-fold relative to comparison conditions (Krebs and Johansen, 2012).”9 20

There is less medical research into LSD (acid) vs psilocybin (shrooms), because psilocybin is less stigmatized, and psilocybin also has a shorter duration, which is easier for researchers as with psilocybin they can spend more like 8 hours with a participant instead of having to spend ~16 hours with the participant.

Researchers are also interested in studying LSD microdosing, which involves taking around 10 micrograms of LSD, often with the goal of boosting mood or boosting productivity / entering a flow state. See this article for more.

With psilocybin (we would expect similar results for LSD) for cancer-related emotional distress, “83 percent said it [psilocybin + psychotherapy] increased their well-being or life satisfaction moderately or very much, and 89 percent said it lead to moderate, strong, or extreme improvements in their behaviors. Of the 90 total sessions conducted during the study, none were rated as having decreased well-being or life satisfaction.”11

Watch this video, this video, or this video to get a sense for the therapeutic uses of LSD - these videos are using psilocybin, but they should be useful to anyone evaluating LSD, too.

Psychedelic retreats

While not LSD, magic mushrooms are decently similar in effects and therapeutic potential to LSD.

It is our understanding that magic truffles are legal in the Netherlands, and in Jamaica magic mushrooms are either outright legal or the laws don’t seem to be enforced.

Retreats for therapeutic use of psilocybin:

How to take LSD (Acid) the TripSafe way πŸ‘½

Thank you to Matthew Johnson, Bill Richards, and Roland Griffiths, for all of their work, and particularly their safety research.

These guidelines are designed to maximize the chance of lasting positive benefits, and to minimize the chance of any offputting experience.

Many LSD users are instead seeking to optimize fun instead of lasting positive benefits and safety, in which case some of these guidelines may not apply. For example, if optimizing more for fun and less for safety, a user may prefer not to use a blindfold and headphones, and may choose to drop acid at a festival or in nature instead of in a safe home environment.

We believe the most important tips that should be followed by everyone regardless of their purpose for using acid are:

  1. Avoid with LSD-dangerous health conditions
  2. Avoid drugs that interact with LSD
  3. Have a trusted, sober guide who is experienced in supporting psychedelic sessions
  4. Respect psychedelics
  5. Test your LSD

πŸ™‹ Safe use is important to avoid adverse reactions

These safe use guidelines are based off research into the clinical and research use of psychedelics.

“Persisting adverse reactions are rare when research is conducted along these guidelines. Incautious research may jeopardize participant safety and future research.”5

β˜‘οΈ Safer and more enjoyable usage checklist

  • πŸ‘¨β€βš•οΈ 1. I have no LSD-dangerous health conditions
  • πŸ’‰ 2. I'm not taking medicines that may interact with LSD
  • βš– 3. I will start with 30-70 micrograms if I want to maximize positive long-term benefits
  • πŸ’― 4. I have purchased an Ehrlich's reagent test kit, or I at least have reviews of my LSD's purity
  • πŸ˜‡ 5. I have a trusted, experienced, sober guide who is willing to prepare fully and be with me for 16 hours
  • 🏠 6. I'll take it in a safe, pleasant, and familiar environment
  • πŸ˜„ 7. I'm going to wait until I'm in a good mindset and have been for a few weeks
  • πŸ“ 8. I've read the "prepare yourself" section
  • πŸ•Ά 9. I have an eyeshade and headphones
  • πŸ™ 10. I deeply understand why psychedelics should be treated with respect
  • πŸ—“ 11. I won't trip again until I feel I'm fully re-adjusted to regular life after my previous trip

Many LSD users are instead seeking to optimize fun instead of lasting positive benefits and safety, in which case some of these guidelines may not apply. For example, if optimizing more for fun and less for safety, a user may prefer not to use a blindfold and headphones, and may choose to drop acid at a festival or in nature instead of in a safe home environment.

We believe the most important tips that should be followed by everyone regardless of their purpose for taking LSD are:

  1. Avoid with certain health conditions
  2. Avoid drugs that interact with LSD
  3. Have a trusted, sober guide who is experienced in supporting psychedelic sessions
  4. Respect psychedelics
  5. Test your LSD

🚫 Risks to avoid

Serious risks:

  1. Death or injurity due to ingesting fake LSD (i.e. not pure LSD).10
  2. Doing something unsafe while on the drug. Users may not have their regular common sense about them, and may cause minor or serious harm to themselves or others.21
  3. Psychotic episodes if you have a pre-disposition to mental illness5

These risks can be reduced to near zero with proper precautions.

It’s also preferrable and possible to reduce the risk of having a bad trip.

Read the guide on how to take LSD (acid).

Extra info

Myths

LSD is probably one of the most mythologized and demonised drugs, and its history is full of episodes which are as outlandish as the stories, such as the illegal experiments with the drug carried out by American and British intelligence agencies. Countless urban myths exist about bizarre and frightening things people did whilst tripping.

“Bad Acid”

People have believed in batches of so-called “bad acid” which are blamed for horrible effects and bad trips. Doses of different batches can be very variable and ‘bad’ experiences with LSD can usually be related to unwanted high doses, irresponsibility or unpreparedness and/or the ingestion of a different substance. There are no different types of LSD.

LSD stays in your spinal fluid, causing flashbacks years later

LSD does not stay in your body for long. Flashbacks and HPPD are poorly understood, but the symptoms occur in the absence of LSD.

Orange Juice/ Vitamin C can be used as an antidote to stop a bad trip

This is not true, there are no easy home remedies to end a trip, although doctors use benzodiazepines to ease agitation. However, people are very suggestible when tripping and this can contribute to the perception of such effects.

You can be declared legally insane if you take LSD more than seven times

There is an old rumour that taking LSD more than seven times means that you can be declared legally insane. This is not true and there are plenty of people who have taken LSD more than seven times and are not insane.

People going blind staring at the sun

The rumour about people going blind from taking LSD and staring at the sun was created by a TV show in the 1960s. However, there have been a few case reports of people partially damaging their eyes from staring at the sun whilst on LSD. People do strange things whilst on LSD and LSD dilates your pupils which exposes your eyes to more light than usual.

People think they can fly and jump out of a window

People have fallen out of windows and off cliffs whilst on LSD, but these were probably accidents due to impaired judgement, or suicides, rather than thinking they could fly.

Source: Professor David Nutt and others at DrugScience.org.uk

Alternatives to LSD

  • Shrooms
  • DMT (substantially shorter duration)
  • Ayahuasca
  • Mescaline
  • 2C-B. Shulgin, a well respected chemist who synthesized thousands of drugs, said 2C-B was “one of his favorite drugs”.22
  • Other means of reaching altered states of consciousness: holotropic breathwork, chanting/drumming, sweat lodges, meditation, yoga, float/isolation tanks

Actively recruiting LSD clinical studies

View the studies here.

Email [email protected] to advertise your study here for free.

Actively recruiting LSD surveys

What are your motives for using LSD or other drugs?

Take this questionnaire from Maastricht University about the motives of your drug use: Survey

“Imperial College has set up a new study to investigate the psychological effects of psychedelics. Everyone who has planned to take a psychedelic in the near future can sign up!

You will receive a survey on different time-points, before and after your psychedelic experience. See the website for more information: www.psychedelicsurvey.com

Share your experience and contribute to science!”

Have you overcome alcohol or drug addiction after using psychedelics?

Take this anonymous online survey from Johns Hopkins

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AddictionFree

Disclaimer

Do not consume any drugs without consulting a medical professional. This is for informational purposes only.

Full Disclaimer

Organizations we recommend supporting

Heffter

Donate to Heffter to make psilocybin a medicine

Do you contribute to any Patreon campaigns? If so, please contact Heffter and say that you’d love to contribute to them on Patreon.

Other organizations

😍 RollSafe.org, guides on MDMA

❀️ Datewell.org, a romantic relationship guide

πŸ”₯ )‘( BurnerList.org, a more useful version of the burning man shopping checklist

Things to learn next

What you need to know about Shrooms

About the research into psilocybin (active ingredient from magic mushrooms)

How to help someone having a bad trip

What the effects of LSD are

How to take LSD

About Acid

Drug Harm Reduction: A List of What You Should Know If You’re Considering Using Other Drugs, like Salvia, Tobacco, Alcohol, etc.

References


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.htm#tab1-1a [return]
  2. https://guides.tripsafe.org/how-to-talk-about-psychedelics-at-the-dinner-table-in-public-and-in-the-media-e14639b47f29 [return]
  3. Book: Acid Test [return]
  4. Nutt, D. J., King, L. A., & Phillips, L. D. (2010, November 01). Drug harms in the UK: A multicriteria decision analysis. The Lancet, 376(9752), 1558-1565. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(10)61462-6 [return]
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056407/ [return]
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19040555 [return]
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  11. http://www.csp.org/psilocybin/PressRelease201106.pdf [return]
  12. https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/1xzkr0/what_does_dropping_acid_feel_like_whats_your_best/cfg2rij/ [return]
  13. https://psychonautwiki.org/wiki/LSD [return]
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5367557/ [return]
  15. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022167816674625 [return]
  16. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1594774021/81004-20 [return]
  17. https://books.google.com/books?id=IzGYBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT2219&lpg=PT2219&source=bl&ots=ReA7Jh7m0V&sig=S7Z_j70OS7__5BmvYArlyLlYhi4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjaiLaVwt7TAhUmi1QKHWuhAoYQ6AEIQjAD#v=onepage&q&f=false [return]
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3308357/ [return]
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3308357/table/T1/ [return]
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22406913 [return]
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  22. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/the-last-interview-with-alexander-shulgin-423-v17n5 [return]

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