Can You Get Addicted to LSD?
Many people question whether LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is addictive. LSD is a powerful synthetic hallucinogen that often causes sensory hallucinations while also changing the mood, emotion, and overall perception experienced by the individual under the influence. Many organizations and professionals do not consider LSD to be an addictive substance due to the long-lasting experiences associated with the drug as well as fast-acting tolerance. However, there have been documented cases of tolerance and psychological dependence on psychedelics such as LSD.
So, can you really get addicted to LSD or not?
History of LSD
LSD is a synthetic hallucinogenic that takes the user on an acid trip in which the individual’s senses and reality are completely altered. LSD is derived from ergot. Ergot is a grain fungus that is commonly found to grow on rye grain. Originally invented in 1938, LSD was discovered as scientists were attempting to discover medical uses for ergot. Albert Hofmann, a chemist working in Switzerland, was researching a blood stimulant when he accidentally took the drug and realized its ability to produce realistic hallucinations. Once the psychological effects of LSD were uncovered, it was introduced as a psychiatric drug in 1947.
From the 1940s to the 1960s, LSD was commonly used in various scientific research experiments due to its ability to create psychoactive effects similar to psychosis. Hofmann worked for Sandoz Pharmaceuticals which began providing free samples of the drug for research purposes during this time. This experiment ultimately led to the widespread recreational usage of LSD. During the 1960s LSD became a popular recreational drug that led to the counterculture movement of the decade. Eventually, the recreational use of LSD spread to other parts of the world as well.
LSD Effects and Addiction
LSD is most commonly known for its profound effects on an individual’s consciousness and overall perception. During a trip, users often experience a wide variety of sensory effects and distortions. Intense emotions, new insights, and perceived life revelations are also common side effects of LSD use. The effects of LSD are long-lasting and tend to peak approximately 4-6 hours after ingestion. Common side effects of LSD use include:
- Extreme hallucinations
- Dry mouth
- Visual hallucinations
- Synesthesia (hearing colors, seeing sounds)
- Panic attacks
- Nonsensical conversations/body movements
Tolerance to LSD develops quickly, which is why there is a great debate over whether you can get addicted to LSD. If a specific dose is ingested every day for 3 consecutive days, then the user will experience no reaction on the third day. However, this does not mean that users cannot take progressively higher doses to achieve the same level of intoxication. In fact, this cycle often leads to the dangerous chances of the individual experiencing a “bad trip” potentially resulting in negative psychological side effects.
Due to the fast-acting tolerance developed to frequent LSD users, these individuals often fall into the vicious cycle of addiction. Individuals addicted to LSD will need to increase doses of LSD in order to achieve a state of euphoria and the hallucinogenic effects of the drug. The risk of overdose is not common with LSD. Furthermore, the risk of fatal overdose is essentially nonexistent.
However, LSD often provokes risky and dangerous behaviors and side effects. For example, when users are under the influence of LSD, these intoxicating trips last up to 12 hours or longer. Individuals often experience low inhibitions as well as increased risk of experiencing psychosis as an individual continues to use higher doses of the drug.
These side effects can lead to reckless behaviors, injury, social, legal, professional, and potentially permanent psychological consequences. LSD is extremely dangerous when mixed with other drugs. More specifically, when LSD is mixed anti-depressants such as lithium. This combination can lead to hyperthermia, suicidal thoughts, and even psychosis.
Can You Really Get Addicted to LSD?
In regards to physical addiction, LSD is not typically categorized to be physically addictive. LSD is not known to create the common physical cravings associated with drug addiction. However, LSD addiction is characterized by a sense of psychological addiction. In other words, individuals abusing LSD often crave the feelings, emotions, hallucinations, and experiences created during their LSD trips. Often times, LSD users want to reconstruct them by obtaining more of the drug.
Hallucinogenics, such as LSD, cultivate similar experiences over and over again each time the individual uses the drug. LSD addicts often crave the associations linked with the drug meaning that LSD addiction is related to the experience of the high, rather than the drug itself. There is a misconception that LSD is not addictive because there is not a physical component associated with this drug’s addictive properties. However, the psychological effects of LSD can be highly addictive and potentially dangerous.
LSD Treatment and Rehab
LSD addiction is not always easy to spot. In fact, the warning signs of LSD addiction are often associated with more psychological effects rather than the obvious physical warning signs of addiction to other drugs. There are several different signs and symptoms that your loved one may be addicted to LSD:
- Dilated pupils
- Increase or loss of appetite
- Extreme changes in personality
- Distorted perceptions
- Nonsensical conversations or gestures
- Impaired motor skills
- Rapid breathing
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Major depression
Treatment for LSD addiction is different than the treatment of most other addictive drugs. The basic LSD addiction treatment plan often includes caring for the individual and maintaining a stress-free and calming environment. There is no proven antidote to counteract the effects of LSD. Hallucinations can lead to violent behaviors, which is why it is vital for an individual addicted to LSD to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. It is important the individual is in a safe environment under direct supervision to ensure that they do not injure themselves or others.
If the individual is experiencing depressive symptoms when withdrawing from LSD, he/she may require antidepressant therapy. Furthermore, individuals experiencing psychotic episodes may require treatment intervention with antipsychotic medication. Individuals who are addicted to LSD should seek a comprehensive drug rehabilitation program in order to maintain long-term sobriety.
Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.