LSD Abuse: Short and Long Term Effects - PAX Riverbend

LSD Abuse: Short and Long Term Effects

people tripping on the effects of LSD

LSD, or acid, is a synthetic psychedelic drug that has profound effects on the body and mind. LSD is an odorless substance that causes hallucinations and pleasurable or adverse reactions. These LSD-induced reactions are referred to as a “trip”. Typically, LSD is taken by young adults in order to experience a hallucinogenic trip, either at a rave, in nature, or even at home. However, LSD abuse can be dangerous.

While LSD may produce pleasurable experiences, the side-effects of this drug are potentially harmful to one’s wellbeing. This drug has the ability to cause distressing short-term health problems as well as a host of long-term complications among frequent users. However, it is common for LSD users to be unaware of the health risks associated with the use of this drug. As a result, users may abuse this drug frequently, unconsciously causing severe health issues over time. Consequently, it is important to understand the short and long-term side effects that LSD abuse can cause.

What is LSD?

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, is a synthetic crystalline compound with hallucinogenic properties and effects. LSD is active at small doses (around 20 micrograms) and is taken orally, sometimes as droplets or more commonly on blotter paper and absorbed on the tongue and then swallowed. This drug was discovered in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist working at Sandoz Laboratories. Hofmann was the first person to experience the effects of LSD, as he accidentally ingested the substance in 1943. The effects Hofmann reported included, “restlessness, dizziness, a dreamlike state, and an extremely stimulated imagination.”

Known as “acid”, LSD is sold on the street in small tablets (microdots), capsules, in liquid form, or gelatin squares (gel tabs). Additionally, LSD is often sold after being added to absorbent, small paper squares with decorative art. However, no matter what form LSD comes in, this substance always leads the user to a serious disconnection from reality.

Short-Term Effects of LSD Abuse

Acid trips are characterized by a series of auditory and visual hallucinations. People high on LSD often experience intense flashes of light, geometric shapes, or seeing real objects become warped or altered. These distortions of reality can occur when an individual’s eyes are opened or closed.

Psychological effects of LSD include:

  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Distorted sense of time and body perception
  • Sensitivity to sounds, smells, and other sensations
  • A blending of the senses (synesthesia)
  • A heightened sense of understanding and identity
  • Mystical or spiritual experiences

LSD also produces distressing physical reactions, such as:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Palpitations
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Tremors
  • Rapid heartbeat

Each person who takes LSD reacts differently. Reactions to LSD depend on the dosage, a person’s surroundings, his/her mood, expectations, and health. Acid abuse is exceptionally harmful to pregnant women, often resulting in miscarriage or premature labor. Additionally, LSD should never be mixed with alcohol, as LSD can negate feelings of “drunkenness” – increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning.

Equally important to stay aware of, LSD can be laced with more potent substances such as phencyclidine, also known as PCP. The combination of these drugs may lead to significant health complications. Despite popular belief, it is possible to overdose on acid. Symptoms of an LSD overdose include violent or hazardous behavior, psychotic episodes, and seizures. An overdose requires immediate medical attention.

Long-Term Effects of LSD Abuse

LSD is not known to cause addiction, which is a brain disorder characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and physical dependency. However, regular acid abuse may lead to long-term health problems. For example, repetitive LSD abuse can cause persistent psychosis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, persistent psychosis is associated with visual and mood disturbances, disorganized thinking, and paranoia. Individuals with no history of psychological disorder or mental health conditions can develop persistent psychosis after repeated LSD abuse. These individuals lose the ability to think rationally, communicate with others, and distinguish between reality and fantasy.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

In addition to persisting psychosis, long-term LSD abuse can cause hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, a condition characterized by repeated, spontaneous distortions in reality that are similar to the effects of LSD. In other words, this condition is caused by the repeated use of a hallucinogen and can cause individuals to feel as if they never stopped tripping. People with HPPD often experience visual disturbances, such as halos or false motion in peripheral vision – months or even years after their last LSD trip.

Symptoms of HPPD include:

  • Intensified colors
  • Bold bursts of unexplained color in an individual’s vision
  • Difficulty telling colors apart
  • Objects in peripheral vision may appear larger or smaller than they truly are
  • A glowing rim (halo) around objects
  • Lingering outlines of an image or object may follow or trail through your vision.
  • Seeing geometric patterns that are not real
  • Seeing images within images that are not real
  • Difficulty reading
  • Feeling uneasy

This disorder can occur as a result of the repetitive use of a rage of psychedelic drugs, including MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD. While HPPD is often associated with prolonged hallucinogen use, it has occurred in people after their first experience with hallucinogens.

Treatment for LSD Abuse

While LSD is not addictive, it can cause severe health complications. Treatment options are available for those who are having a hard time quitting the use of LSD. Additionally, individuals who have been using LSD for a long period of time would benefit from the medical stability and supervision that drug addiction treatment centers provide. If you or a loved one have been abusing LSD, are experiencing adverse effects, and can not stop the use of acid, it is time to consider professional LSD abuse treatment. Contact Pax Riverbend today to learn about all of your treatment, therapy, and support options.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.