Taking high doses of the hallucinogenic drug LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) leads to unpredictable consequences, possibly landing a person in the emergency room with psychotic thoughts,a racing heart and elevated blood pressure. Treatment for LSD overdose varies, but should include psychological counseling to help patients avoid further destructive drug use.

LSD and Tolerance

Users who take LSD repeatedly develop a tolerance and need higher and higher doses of the drug to achieve hallucinogenic effects. Since the drug is unregulated and made in underground labs, it often includes added toxic ingredients. It may not even be LSD, instead it may be a more dangerous synthetic form; 251-NBOMe, which is toxic and causes death at much smaller doses.[1]

LSD, also known as acid, blotter, doses, etc., first emerged in the 1930s as part of lab research and later experimentation of the drug led to widespread use in the 1960s. Today use is less common than in past decades, but the drug may be more dangerous, due to its unknown origins. Users in the 1960s often got pure versions made in a research lab, while current users must rely on versions made in foreign countries or other unknown sources.[2]

LSD’s association with psychological experiments contributes to misinformation about it. Advocates of the drug point out that it’s non-addictive, meaning the drug’s interaction with the brain does not create the chemical dependency of drugs like cocaine, morphine or heroin.While this is true, there is strong potential for psychological dependency in regular users. LSD advocates also point out there are no documented cases of fatalities connected to LSD overdose, but this ignores the high risk of harm or death due to violence or paranoia from a person “tripping” on LSD. Still others endure long-form or even permanent damage to normal psychological health after taking the drug.[3]

LSD Overdose

It takes an exceptionally large dose of LSD for a person to have an extreme physical reaction. In such a case, someone may experience respiratory arrest, hyperthermia, seizures, intracranial hemorrhage and other serious symptoms. More often a person who takes a high dose experiences psychological symptoms such as panic, depression and fear of not returning to normal as well as physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, flushing, nausea and diarrhea. A person in a panic-stricken state needs a calm, relaxing environment to wait out the effects of the drug. In rare cases, a person may need sedation or physical restraint and medical professionals may use a benzodiazepine, such as Xanax or Valium.[4]

LSD Side Effects

The psychological side effects of LSD use are unpredictable and often frightening. Users may experience flashbacks, or sudden hallucinations and other mood disturbances, days or more than a year after using the drug. In rare cases, they may develop hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), which disrupts a person’s senses and thinking even when drugs are not in his system.3

A person under the effects of LSD sees things that aren’t actually there, with their eyes open or closed. Solid surfaces seem to ripple or “breathe”; objects move, change shape or color. Prior to use no one knows if a trip will be positive or negative. Many users experience terrifying alterations of perception, leading to panic, anxiety and self-destructive or even fatal behavior.  Trips may last from a couple to upwards of twelve hours, with some effects lingering much longer than that.[5]

While there is no evidence of chemical dependency or addiction to LSD, it is highly possible to develop a psychological addiction to the distraction the drug provides from “normal life.” If a person uses LSD to escape some aspect of her life, and only experiences pleasant trips, the temptation to return to those altered states is high. The body, however, builds a tolerance to LSD very quickly, requiring a significantly stronger dose for the same effect in as little as one day after use. Because the drug is so intense in tiny amounts (measured in millionths of a gram – or microgram), it is possible to overdose unintentionally.

Need Help Finding Treatment for LSD Abuse?

If you or a loved one is concerned about LSD abuse, please call our 24-hour, toll-free helpline any time. Our highly trained admissions coordinators offer advice about treatment for LSD use and information about available facilities and insurance coverage.

[1] Brauser, Deborah. (2014). New Deadly Class of Synthetic Hallucinogens Mimics LSD. MedScape. Retrieved Aug. 15, 2016 from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/836297.

[2] Freeman, Shanna. (2008). How LSD Works. HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved Aug. 15, 2016 from http://science.howstuffworks.com/lsd.htm.

[3] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What are hallucinogens? Drug Facts. Retrieved Aug. 15, 2016 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens.

[4] Rega, Paul P. (2015). LSD Toxicity: Practice Essentials. MedScape. Retrieved Aug. 15 from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1011615-overview#a1.

[5] Burgess, Patrice and Monti, Peter. (2014). LSD Topic Overview. WebMD-Healthwise. Retrieved Aug. 15, 2016 from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/tc/lsd-topic-overview.