LSD (acid)

Acid was THE drug of the hippy era, but people still take it today. So what is LSD? Is it dangerous? And what was Lucy doing in the sky with those diamonds?

What is LSD?

LSD is a strong hallucinogenic chemical that comes in a colourless and odourless liquid. This liquid (acid) is usually dripped and dried onto paper and sold as LSD ‘tabs’, or sometimes dripped onto food like sugar cubes and swallowed. LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide.

How do people take LSD?

People usually take LSD in ‘tab’ form – small squares of paper that have been soaked in LSD that are placed under the tongue. Some people drop it onto sugar cubes and then eat them. It can also be made into squares of jelly, known as ‘window panes’.

Why do people take LSD?

  • Everything you see changes – colours shift and morph into one another, objects leave trails as they pass, and patterns are everywhere.
  • If you’re having a good trip, you feel generally just happier and more relaxed.
  • Lots of people hallucinate, or ‘trip’ i.e. see and hear things that aren’t there.
  • Your appreciation of music goes through the roof. Suddenly The Birdie Song is, like, so profound and beautiful…
  • All your sensations are heightened and feel extra special, whether it’s a cool breeze on your skin, or the touch of your hand on your arm.
  • Some people say they have massive spiritual experiences and therapy-like reflections on their lives.

What are the bad side effects of taking LSD?

  • You can have a gut-wrenchingly horrible trip. Acid can make you feel scared and confused. You may even have terrifying hallucinations you can’t control – some people felt they were dying over and over, others believed they were drowned in a bath full of spiders.
  • Once you’re tripping, there’s no going back. You have to ride a bad trip, which usually takes about eight to 12 hours.
  • It’s easy to accidentally hurt yourself. Some people get the urge to take a casual stroll along a motorway, others may think their head is full of bees and want to bash it against a wall.
  • LSD is like a psychic, picking up on any underlying mood or emotion you have going on. If you’ve got sadness or tough stuff in your life, it will amplify this.
  • It can make your body temperature soar, turning you into a hot, sweaty tripping mess.
  • Some people who take LSD suffer from ‘flashbacks’ for days, weeks, months and even years afterwards.

How long do the effects of LSD last?

It usually takes between 30 to 90 minutes to start feeling the effects of LSD. Once you’re tripping, this can last between six and 12 hours. It takes some people another two to six hours to ‘feel normal again’ and be able to sleep.

Is LSD dangerous?

It depends on what you mean by dangerous. You definitely need someone sober to look after you if you’re hallucinating – to stop you climbing out a third-storey window and such. That said, if you can stay safe, there’s no evidence that LSD causes any long-term damage.

Does LSD affect your mental health?

It doesn’t… as long as you have absolutely no history or family history of mental illness. If you do, particularly any history of schizophrenia, psychosis or depression, don’t touch acid with a bargepole… covered in nails… attached to another bargepole. It can trigger psychotic episodes and make your mental health condition even worse.

Can you take LSD on antidepressants?

No, it’s really dangerous. If you take lithium or tricyclic antidepressants, the combination with LSD can cause seizures. Combining acid with other antidepressants can hugely increase the effects of the trip, and not in a good way. You may be unable to even communicate, or get dangerously violent.

My friend is on acid and freaking out! How do I help them?

If you’re with a friend who’s having a bad LSD experience you can help by simply being there with them as a steadying influence. Remind them they’ve used LSD (they might have forgotten) and that they’re tripping. Help them to talk if they want to, but don’t constantly question them, as a bad trip can leave users sensitive to feelings of paranoia. If possible, change your environment to encourage a sense of calm – for example, play some less frantic music, or step outside if you’re in a crowded club.

How can I reduce the risks if I take acid?

  • If it’s your first time, take a very small dose as you won’t know how it will affect you. Learn what your tolerance is over time.
  • Always have a sober friend that you trust stay with you throughout the trip to stop you hurting yourself.
  • LSD sponges off your underlying mood, so only take it if you’re in a good place in your head. Being in surroundings where you feel safe and relaxed will help your chances of having a good trip.
  • If you do have a bad trip, get your friend to take you somewhere quiet and safe where you can ride it out.

What happens if I get caught with LSD?

It’s a Class A drug, so the maximum sentence is seven years for possession and/or a fine, and a life sentence and/or an unlimited fine for supplying. For more information about what to do if you’re caught with drugs, see our article here.

Next Steps

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of LSD tabs by Psychonaught