LSD is an illegal drug that can cause certain side effects that are similar to depressants and stimulants. So, which class of drug does it belong to?
What is LSD?
LSD stands for D-lysergic acid diethylamide. It is made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other types of grain. LSD was originally developed as a stimulant in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann. It wasn’t until later that its hallucinogenic properties were discovered and scientists began testing its potential to be used as a treatment for schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.1
LSD became a popular drug of abuse in the 1960s and by that point, it was well-known for its ability to produce vivid hallucinations. People typically abuse it by swallowing LSD tablets or pills, drinking it in liquid form, or consuming LSD-soaked paper pieces called blotter sheets.
Street names or slang terms for LSD include:
- Yellow Sunshines
- Sugar Cubes
- Purple Haze
- Mellow Yellow
Is LSD a Stimulant?
LSD is classified as a hallucinogen, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Center for Substance Abuse Research.2,3 Hallucinogen drugs are substances that alter a person’s awareness of their surroundings and their own thoughts and feelings. They produce images and feelings that seem very real but are not.
The two types of hallucinogens include classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. Some are man-made while others are naturally found in certain plants or mushrooms. LSD is a classic hallucinogen and PCP is an example of a dissociative drug. While both classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs produce hallucinations, dissociative drugs can also make users feel like they are completely disconnected from their bodies.
Hallucinogens have been used for centuries as a part of cultural ceremonies but more recently, these drugs have been used recreationally by people who want to get high. LSD is a popular drug in the rave and club scene.
Side Effects of LSD: How LSD Affects the Mind and Body
LSD can cause both psychological and physical symptoms, but it’s most often praised by users for its ability to provide “trips” (or hallucinations) that reveal some sort of revelation that they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. However, this spiritual experience users claim to have is simply a result of the side effects of the drug. You don’t really need LSD to realize profound truths in your life.
Common psychedelic side effects of LSD include:
- Visual hallucinations
- Distorted sense of time
- Distorted perceptions
- Heightened sense of understanding
- Intense smells, sounds, and other sensations
- Depersonalization (feeling like you’ve left your body)
- Temporary synesthesia (for example, hearing colors or seeing sounds)2
Physical side effects of LSD include:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased body temperature
- Rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure
- Increased blood sugar
- Dry mouth
- Tingling fingers and toes
- Facial flushing
- Chills and gooseflesh
- Loss of appetite
- Blurred vision
Some users may have what’s called a “bad trip,” which is an adverse reaction to LSD that can cause:
- Intense anxiety
- Rapid mood swings
- Feeling like you’ve lost your identity
- Fearing that you’re disintegrating into nothing and reality does not exist
- Violent behavior
Some people may also suffer long-term side effects of LSD abuse, such as:
- Drug-induced psychosis (may last years after taking LSD)
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder or HPPD (spontaneous flashbacks)
Previously, there was some evidence that microdosing LSD (taking very low doses of LSD) could improve some aspects of psychological functioning but a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry did not support this theory.4
While other studies suggested that microdosing LSD could improve cognition and emotional processing, the study referenced above which was published in June of 2019 found that the LSD did not have a significant effect on a test of working memory, a test of cognitive functioning, or a measure of simulated social exclusion.
In fact, the only two significant effects observed were negative. The doses of LSD increased blood pressure and significantly increased self-reported ratings of vigor and anxiety.4 However, users in online forums continue to promote LSD microdosing as a way to increase concentration, promote creativity, and reduce stress, despite what the research says.
About LSD Addiction
LSD is not considered an addictive substance because it does not cause drug-seeking behaviors, produce cravings, or elicit withdrawal symptoms. However, it does cause tolerance, which can motivate users to take higher doses of the drug more frequently. Taking large doses of hallucinogen drugs is extremely dangerous and can lead to overdose.
Help for LSD Addiction
Unfortunately, there are no FDA-approved medications for LSD addiction, but if you’re addicted to LSD, behavioral therapy may help you break free from your drug-abusing behaviors.3 A medical detox program is often the first step in overcoming substance use disorder but continuing treatment with rehab is an essential part of the recovery process.
Residential or outpatient rehab will provide individual behavioral therapy, group counseling, and professional and peer support to help you overcome your LSD addiction. This stage of treatment also often includes family therapy and participation in a community support group like a 12-step fellowship or SMART Recovery group.