Drug Guide

LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)

By Anthony McDaniel, M.D.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD or LSD-25, also known as lysergide and colloquially as acid, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drug of the ergoline family. LSD is non-addictive and well known for its psychological effects which can include altered thinking processes, closed and open eye visuals, synaesthesia, an altered sense of time and spiritual experiences, as well as for its key role in 1960s counterculture. It is used mainly as an entheogen, recreational drug and as an agent in psychedelic therapy.

LSD was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann in 1938 from ergotamine, a chemical derived by Arthur Stoll from ergot, a grain fungus that typically grows on rye. The short form "LSD" comes from its early code name LSD-25, which is an abbreviation for the German "Lysergsäure-diethylamid" followed by a sequential number. LSD is sensitive to oxygen, ultraviolet light, and chlorine, especially in solution, though its potency may last for years if it is stored away from light and moisture at low temperature. In pure form it is a colorless, odorless, and mildly bitter solid. LSD is typically delivered orally, usually on a substrate such as absorbent blotter paper, a sugar cube, or gelatin. In its liquid form, it can also be administered by intramuscular or intravenous injection. LSD is very potent, with 20–30 µg (micrograms) being the threshold dose. Introduced by Sandoz Laboratories, with trade-name Delysid, as a drug with various psychiatric uses in 1947, LSD quickly became a therapeutic agent that appeared to show great promise. In the 1950s the CIA thought it might be applicable to mind control and chemical warfare; the agency's MKULTRA research program propagated the drug among young servicemen and students. The subsequent recreational use of the drug by youth culture in the Western world during the 1960s led to a political firestorm that resulted in its prohibition. Currently, a number of organizations—including the Beckley Foundation, MAPS, Heffter Research Institute and the Albert Hofmann Foundation—exist to fund, encourage, and coordinate research into its medicinal and spiritual uses.

Whilst there have been no documented human deaths from an LSD overdose, LSD may temporarily impair the ability to make sensible judgments and understand common dangers, thus making the user more susceptible to accidents and personal injury and cause signs of organic brain damage-impaired memory and attention span, mental confusion or difficulty with abstract thinking. However LSD is physiologically well tolerated and there is no evidence for long-lasting effects on the brain or other parts of the human organism. There is some indication that LSD may trigger a dissociative fugue state in individuals who are taking certain classes of antidepressants such as lithium salts and tricyclics. In such a state, the user has an impulse to wander, and may not be aware of his or her actions, which can lead to physical injury. Anonymous anecdotal reports have attributed seizures and one death to the combination of LSD with lithium. SSRIs noticeably reduce LSD's subjective effects. MAOIs are also reported to reduce the effects of LSD.

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