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While some may have heard of LSD or “acid”, “Electric Cool-Aid”, “California sunshine”, “dots”, or “blotter”, many people do not know much about it. Now illegal and considered dangerous, LSD at one time was thought to have therapeutic value. Read below to learn about the history of LSD and why using it now isn’t such a good idea.
LSD is short for lysergic acid diethylamide. It’s a colorless, odorless and tasteless drug. Doses as low as 25 micrograms can cause a user to feel effects. These factors make the drug easy to take and easy to conceal. The body also quickly metabolizes LSD, making it difficult to detect. LSD costs very little and sometimes people can even find it for free.
In 1938, the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally developed LSD. Hofmann worked for a pharmaceutical company by the name of Sandoz, which had isolated lysergic acid from the rye fungus ergot. Hofmann derived two dozen different compounds from lysergic acid, some which provided medicinal benefits such as improved brain function in the elderly and lower blood pressure. The 25th compound Hofmann derived was LSD-25.
It took five more years for Hofmann to discover the unusual effects of LSD-25. After accidental ingestion of the compound, Hofmann experienced, “an uninterrupted steam of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” After that, he began experiments, and by 1947, LSD-25 for purchase under the brand name Delysid, a drug commonly used in psychiatric treatment.
People commonly refer to the effects felt after taking LSD as a trip. After ingestion, it can take up to an hour to feel these effects. They then last for up to 12 hours, often peaking about halfway through the trip. The effects of LSD vary widely from person to person. However, common physical effects after taking the drug include dilated pupils, high body temperature, and increased blood pressure.
Trips mainly consist visual hallucinations and disturbances. A person on LSD will perceive colors and lights as brighter and stronger. Visual changes in patterns and textures in fabrics and other objects commonly occur as well. People often confuse these phenomena with hallucinations and synesthesia. However, a person hallucinating believes that he sees things that are not really there. A person on a trip may see trails of light streaming from an object but will know it is because of the drug’s effects and not truly real. Synesthesia – sensory confusion such as “hearing” color – is actually quite rare during an LSD trip.
Trips fall into two categories: good trips and bad trips. Good trips consist of experiences where everything is beautiful and the LSD user feels a sense of euphoria. These trips are often perceived as enlightening, spiritual experiences. What causes a bad trip is still unknown. Some people suspect that taking LSD while in a poor mood or while trying to function within a school or work environment may trigger the bad experience. Bad trips can be quite frightening, and people having them often experience paranoia and fear.
Effects and Dangers
Interestingly, researchers do not know exactly how LSD affects the brain. They do know that it affects the central nervous system as well as how the eye retinas process and send information to the brain. Scientists suspect that LSD interferes with the brain’s serotonin receptors. Serotonin plays a part in processes such as sleep regulation, sensory perception, moods, appetite, sexuality and muscle control. LSD may inhibit or stimulate neurotransmission.
There are several dangers involved in using LSD. Skewed or poor judgment can result in potentially dangerous behavior such as falling out of a window or walking in front of a car. LSD is often used in combination with other drugs, the interaction of which can cause psychotic symptoms, especially in individuals who already have mental or psychiatric disorders. Extremely heavy LSD users can become completely disconnected from reality, losing all interest in living life in the real world.
LSD and the Law
Though manufactured and used legally until 1965, LSD is currently illegal and considered a Schedule I controlled substance according to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This is the federal classification given to drugs considered to have a high potential for abuse and no valid medical uses. The first offense for LSD possession under federal law carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail or a minimum fine of $1,000.
Current LSD Use
Statistics gathered by the 2007 National Household Survey on Drug Use & Health showed that respondents in higher age groups were less likely to use LSD. Only about nine percent of those surveyed had ever used LSD.
While LSD is not an addictive drug, it is still dangerous. It is impossible to predict how the drug will affect someone, and those effects can be devastating. The consequences of a bad trip, poor judgment or combining LSD with other drugs cannot be undone. Knowing the facts about LSD lifts the veil of its retro hippie mystique and reveals the cold, hard truth: It’s risky, unpredictable and unsafe.