People often look for ways to escape from humdrum reality and experience something completely new and different. Some people turn to extreme sports such as skydiving or bungee jumping to get the thrill they seek, while others turn to scary movies or engrossing novels in order to escape their own lives and their own troubles, at least for awhile. While these behaviors have their own dangers, there are some activities that are even more hazardous for people to engage in. For example, some people turn to LSD in order to strip away reality and experience sensations that are both new and unexpected. Those who abuse LSD, however, may experience an altered sense of reality that is remarkably persistent. Unlike people who do extreme sports or who consume entertainment, and who can walk away when these experiences are complete, people who abuse LSD may experience the consequences of their abuse for months, or even years after the abuse is over.
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LSD, also known as d-lysergic acid diethylamide, is in a class of drugs known as hallucinogens. These drugs alter the chemical makeup of the brain, and as a result, they cause users to experience a radically altered version of reality. It’s a bit complicated to explain, but in essence, the reality a person experiences is determined, in part, by chemicals in the brain. Sensory information comes in through the nerves, and the brain interprets these signals and tells the higher functioning parts of the brain exactly what is happening. All hallucinogens disrupt this pathway in some way, changing the way the brain interprets the information coming in through the senses.
While hallucinogens may all work in the same way, they are not all created equal. In fact, according to a research article published by Medscape, LSD is a particularly dangerous hallucinogen because the drug is so incredibly strong. The article states that LSD is 100 times more potent than psilocybin (the active ingredient in mushrooms) and 5,000 times more potent than mescaline (the active ingredient in peyote). People who might take mushrooms or peyote could have negative experiences, but it’s possible that they might know the experiences are due to the drugs they’ve taken. By contrast, people who take LSD might be so completely overwhelmed by their sensory changes that they might be unable to deal with them adequately.
While researchers might be horrified by the power of LSD, consumers might have a very different reaction to this news. In fact, the power of LSD might help to explain its popularity. People who choose to take drugs or drink alcohol are often drawn to substances that seem to pack a powerful punch, especially if people want to gain the most “value” for the amount of money they spend on drugs. The more powerful the drug is, for these people, the more they’ll want to try the drug.
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LSD is often sold in these formats:
- Small tablets, known as microdots
- Gelatin squares, known as windowpanes
- Infused papers printed with “loony toons”
- Liquid drops
- Visual hallucinations, including flashes of light
- Increased sense of smell or hearing
- A sense that the mind has left the body
- Synesthesia, which allows the senses to blend, so people may hear colors or see scents
People who are under the influence of LSD might report that they’re undergoing a transformative religious experience, unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. People feel as though they’re more intelligent, and more in touch with truth, than they have ever been before. These are amazing experiences that might be quite hard for people to forget, and these experiences might drive people to use the drug again.
Unfortunately, people who take LSD may not always experience these positive feelings each time they use the drug. It’s not completely understood, but people who take the drug can sometimes experience so-called “bad trips,” in which they become consumed with terror. They may believe they are under the threat of death, or they may become convinced that they are seeing things that are dangerous, and that aren’t visible to anyone else. People who are going through negative experiences like this can become so distressed that they lash out at the people around them, and they can become seriously injured if they run into traffic, jump from buildings or do something else extreme while under the influence.
People who take LSD can also experience physical symptoms including a rapid heartbeat and elevated blood pressure. People who have underlying heart conditions could have an extreme amount of difficulty with symptoms like this, especially if they last for 12 hours. People on LSD may also develop chills, palpations and trembling, as well as nausea, dizziness and a loss of appetite. Some of these symptoms might prod family members to take their loved ones to the hospital for examination. Since LSD is an illegal substance, some of these calls to authorities could result in arrests or other problems with law enforcement agencies.
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Abuse and Addiction Potential
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), LSD isn’t considered addictive. It’s important to note, however, that the NIDA uses rather stringent terms in order to define what is, and what is not, addictive. To the NIDA, drugs must cause compulsive use, despite the consequences, in order to be addictive, and they must also cause some sort of withdrawal when people stop using them. LSD might not cause this sort of problem, but it is clear that some people who use LSD do so repeatedly, and they suffer extreme consequences as a result.
People who take LSD may develop a tolerance to the drug. This means that the sensations they felt the first time they took the drug might be hard to achieve in later days, unless the people take larger and larger doses of the drug. Taking very large doses of the drug is associated with more negative experiences, meaning that people who take high doses are more likely to have bad trips.
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Some people who take LSD develop hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). According to a study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, HPPD seems to be relatively uncommon, but people who have the disorder may struggle with the symptoms for months or even years, and the disorder may have a serious impact on the well-being of the people impacted.
One moment, these people might feel totally fine, but the next moment, these people may experience:
- Visual hallucinations
- Rapid mood swings
It’s unclear why people with this disorder suddenly slide back into the bad trips they once felt, but it is easy to see why this disorder would be so disruptive. People who are consistently afraid that they’ll slide into inappropriate behavior might be afraid to spend time with friends, go to work or take public transportation. People with this disorder may end up confined to their homes with fear.
Other people who take LSD develop drug-induced psychosis, in which they have a distorted ability to think clearly, and they may not be able to communicate with others. These symptoms may begin during a drug-taking episode, but the systems can persist for years after the episode has ended. According to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, people who develop this form of psychosis may already have risk factors for the mental illness schizophrenia, and something about taking LSD turns the signal on and allows the disease to begin. More studies are needed, but it’s clear that the drug could cause serious and life-long damage to people who abuse it.
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Some people are able to stop taking LSD on their own, and they may not have any physical problems to deal with as they go through this process. However, there are some people who would benefit from getting help for their LSD abuse. The drug is powerful, and it can do a lot of damage. Some people benefit from spending time in rehab facilities, so they can learn more about how the drug works and why taking drugs of any sort can be dangerous. Some people also benefit from therapies that help them to cope with flashback trips without becoming paralyzed with fear. People who develop psychosis may particularly benefit from rehab programs so they can learn how to manage their conditions and have lives that are productive and comfortable.
Entering a rehab program can be frightening for some people, and they may worry that their friends or family members will think less of them for getting help. Thankfully, this sort of criticism is relatively rare. Most family members and friends are happy when their addicted loved ones agree to get help for the problems they face.