LSD Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is LSD?

LSD is a powerful hallucinogenic that takes the user on an “acid trip” where the person’s senses and reality are altered. Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly referred to as LSD or acid, is a semisynthetic chemical that is derived from ergot. Ergot is a grain fungus normally found to grow on rye grain. It can lead to LSD addiction and abuse.

LSD was originally invented in 1938 as they were trying to find medical uses for ergot. In 1947, it was introduced as a psychiatric drug. LSD is a hallucinogen and is the most recognized drug in the psychedelic drug family. Its psychological effects are well known.

LSD can induce altered states of thinking, synesthesia (the crossover of senses like hearing colors and seeing sounds), and visual hallucinations. When abusing LSD, the user can believe that he or she is having an intense spiritual experience. It produces an altered sense of time and can tremendously distort reality.

Acid is primarily used as a recreational drug and sometimes used in psychedelic therapy. It can also be used to treat Cluster Headaches. LSD is taken orally. It comes in a liquid, absorbent paper, tablet, or capsule and is known as acid, dots, blotter, sugar cube, and microdot.

Man on Narcotic Trip with LSD Addiction and abuse

LSD Addiction and Abuse Statistics

LSD is non-addictive, is not known to cause brain damage, and has extremely low toxicity relative to dose, although in rare cases adverse psychiatric reactions such as anxiety or delusions are possible [1]. Its abuse is on the rise. In 2009, 779,000 Americans age 12 and older had abused LSD at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [2].

The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 1.2% of 8th graders, 1.9% of 10th graders, and 2.6% of 12th graders had abused LSD at least once in the year prior to being surveyed [2]. Other LSD statistics include the following:

  • In 2010, about one in seven (12.9%) youths aged 12 to 17 indicated that LSD would be “fairly” or “very” easily available [3].
  • The number of past year first-time users of LSD aged 12 or older was 377,000 in 2010, which was similar to the number in 2009 (337,000), but higher than the estimates from 2003 to 2007 (ranging from 200,000 to 270,000) [3].
  • During 1993, 13.2 million Americans, 12 years of age and older, reported having used LSD at least once compared to 8.1 million in 1985, an increase of more than 60% [4].

Causes of LSD Addiction

LSD is not a physically addictive drug, and it does not cause brain damage. Its toxicity level is very low, and there are no withdrawal symptoms due to continued LSD use. The tolerance level to LSD has a rapid build-up and it diminishes after a few days. Although LSD is not physically addictive, it can be psychologically addictive.

The LSD user can become addicted to the “spiritual journeys” that are taken, or they can become addicted to the sounds they see or the visions they hear, and an LSD rehabilitation program can help heal this addiction. Individuals abusing LSD often begin because of peer pressure or curiosity.

Signs of LSD Addiction, Use, and Dependence

People high on LSD exhibit several different signs of being high. When someone is high on LSD, they are considered to be on a “trip” and have a “psychedelic experience” such as people appearing warped and moving shapes. This “trip” can be a bad experience or a good experience and depends on various factors. Some of these factors are:

  • Mood
  • Previous experiences
  • Dose strength
  • State of mind
  • Physical environment

The user can exhibit one or several of the following characteristics:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increase or loss of appetite
  • Changes in personality
  • Euphoria
  • Increased heart rate
  • Distorted perceptions

LSD Effects

Using and abusing LSD can produce multiple consequences. There are both short term and long-term consequences as a result of the emotional and physical side effects. Physical effects of using LSD are minimal but can sometimes be dangerous.

The psychological side effects can be extremely intense and dangerous. People have died as a result of taking LSD because the experience is so intense that they commit suicide due to a bad trip, or they think they can fly and jump off a high rise building.

An LSD treatment center can help avert this from happening. A typical trip will begin about 30 to 90 minutes after consumption, and it will last approximately 12 hours. Once the LSD is ingested, the trip cannot be stopped since there are not any antidotes. Some physical side effects include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Hyperthermia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased appetite

Psychological results of LSD abuse are numerous as well. Prolonged use of LSD can cause short-term memory loss, onset or relapse of schizophrenia, paranoia, and hallucinations. Other psychological side effects include:

  • Pleasant emotions
  • Unpleasant emotions
  • Objects appear to breath
  • Major depression
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Irritability

Many of these side effects will last for the entire LSD trip. Some of the more serious attributes can continue even after the LSD user has stopped using the drug, but most of the side effects should subside soon after the drug effects have worn off.

The effects of LSD can have ramifications that exceed the psychological and physical. LSD addiction can cause ruined relationships, the end of the user’s family. The drug dependency could also end up in losing financial resources and the termination of work. Being hooked on LSD may even result in time spent in prison.

LSD Withdrawal

Since there is no risk of physical dependence, there is no documented evidence of withdrawal symptoms. However, due to prolonged exposure to LSD, the user can experience “flashbacks”. A flashback is when the LSD user experiences a “trip” after the drug effects have worn off.

A person may experience a flashback days, months or years after using the drug. These flashback trips can be triggered by stress, sleepiness, or other drugs such as alcohol or marijuana. It is difficult to deal with the flashbacks alone, but an LSD treatment center can help.

LSD Addiction Treatment

LSD addiction treatment is different than most other drugs that are addictive. The basic LSD treatment is to care for the person and help keep them calm and stress-free. There is no antidote to counteract the effects of LSD. So, the person has to ride the trip out.

Anyone who abuses LSD needs to get help from an LSD rehab center. There are multiple types of rehab and the most effective LSD treatment centers employ several different approaches. LSD treatment for abuse should use a holistic approach including behavioral therapy, intensive treatment therapies and support programs.

The treatment should be personalized for the user and include after treatment support. Overcoming LSD abuse is difficult. Success will depend on the LSD treatment center, the LSD treatment therapist, friends and family, but most of all, the user admitting they have a problem and asking for help.


[1]: The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review –

[2]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –

[3]: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) –

[4]: National Household Survey on Drug Abuse –

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 20, 2018
Published on, Drug Addiction & Abuse Information