Updated on November 20, 2023
7 min read

LSD - Effects, Addictiveness & Treatment

LSD, one of the most recognized hallucinogenic drugs, has been controversial for decades. Synonymous with counterculture movements, psychedelic music, and exploration of the human mind, LSD has both positive and negative effects. 

Its varied physiological effects on those who use it often dictate how likely they will be addicted. While some may view addiction as inevitable in certain cases, treatment options are available for those looking to overcome their dependency on LSD.

This post examines LSD’s physical and mental health effects during and after misuse. It also discusses treatment options available to those struggling with compulsive drug abuse.

Is LSD Addictive?

LSD users don’t experience withdrawal or drug-seeking behavior similar to other drugs. However, LSD can still be addictive.

LSD addiction differs from other drugs through the following:

  • The effects are long-lasting, so users don’t need more of the drug.
  • LSD tolerance develops quickly, so repeated ingestion doesn’t produce the desired effects.
  • The effects of LSD are unpredictable and potentially adverse, leading to limited use.
  • The intense psychedelic effects that users experience often cause them to refrain from repeated use. 
  • Most people take ample time to recover and reorient themselves.

Although LSD is a non-addictive drug, you can become addicted to the sights, sounds, and revelations you experience while “tripping.” Users can develop a psychological dependence on psychedelics like LSD.

Difference Between Physical and Psychological Addiction

Physical addiction is when your body depends on a substance to function properly. With substances like LSD, there's also the looming danger of LSD overdose. 

Some physical symptoms of LSD addiction include:

  • Cravings for the drug
  • Withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing use, such as nausea, tremors, headache, and mental confusion
  • Tolerance development (needing more of the drug to reach the same effects)

Psychological addiction is when you depend on a substance to cope with life stresses. The symptoms of psychological addiction include:

  • Feeling the urge to take the drug during specific activities (studying, partying)
  • Using the drug to escape from reality
  • Taking more of the drug than initially intended
  • Continuing to use the drug even if harm arises

What Are Available Treatments for LSD Abuse?

Doctors often treat “bad trips” by placing the user in a quiet, nonstimulating environment. Direct monitoring is necessary so that they don’t cause harm to themselves or others. 

Medical professionals may also require hospitalization. Sometimes, they may administer a low to medium dose of benzodiazepine to reduce anxiety and promote sedation.

Chronic Effects and Treatment Options

Long-term effects, such as drug-induced psychosis and HPPD, are much more severe. They may also require long-term treatment.

Unfortunately, there are no standard medical treatments for these disorders. However, drug treatment with anti-seizure medications—specifically lamotrigine and clonazepam—may provide lasting relief.

Alternative Therapies and Prevention

Other treatment options include talk therapy, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. However, the best action is to abstain from LSD, seek help, and undergo supervised treatment until the symptoms disappear.

Self-medication is never the best option. Doing so greatly increases the risk of overdose and long-term effects. Furthermore, it can lead to more serious psychological problems.

Seeking help from medical professionals is always the best way to avoid harm from LSD abuse. Doing so promptly can prevent further damage or injury and ensure a full recovery. 


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What Are the Side Effects of LSD?

Users typically begin to feel the effects of LSD 30 to 90 minutes after ingestion. The effects of the “trip” usually last 4 to 8 hours. Although, with a higher dosage, the effects can last up to 12 hours. 

Physical Side Effects

The physical effects of LSD use include:

  • Raised body temperature and facial flushing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Tingling in extremities
  • Weakness and tremors
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Restlessness

Psychological Side Effects

The mental side effects of using LSD include:

  • Visual hallucinations (intensified colors and flashes of light to geometrical patterns, distortions of reality, and false images)
  • Heightened senses
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Depersonalization
  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Synesthesia
  • Mystical or religious encounters
  • Change in mood or personality
  • Impaired depth perception
  • Inability to sense the passing of time
  • Impaired judgment
  • Insensitivity to common dangers

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What Are the Severe Side Effects of LSD?

Those who use LSD are at a higher risk of experiencing “bad trips” or adverse reactions from the drug. These symptoms typically end after the primary effects of the drug wear off but can linger for up to 48 hours after ingestion:

  • Anxiety and intense panic
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Loss of identity
  • Disillusionment
  • Seizures
  • Flashbacks

In some cases, users may experience long-term adverse effects from LSD. Frequent users are more likely to experience them.

First-time users are also susceptible to drug-induced psychosis, hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Drug-Induced Psychosis

Drug-induced psychosis, or substance-induced psychosis, can last for weeks.8 The condition sometimes lasts for months or years after taking the drug.9

This severe LSD side effect involves psychotic episodes where the user cannot reason or communicate with others. They may also experience the following:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Paranoia
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder

Hallucinogen-Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

HPPD is commonly referred to as “flashbacks.” Users with this condition experience a spontaneous recurrence of psychedelic mental effects, including:

  • “Halo” vision
  • Trails attached to moving objects
  • Flickering lights and colors
  • False motion in peripherals
  • Sense of levitation

These effects are sometimes mistaken for other disorders like stroke or brain tumor. They may cause long-term problems, including:

  • Inability to focus
  • Intense anxiety
  • Depersonalization
  • Derealization
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts

If you or someone you know exhibits these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. The signs above may progress to paranoia and other critical conditions.

What is LSD?

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD or acid) is a powerful synthetic hallucinogen. A lysergic acid found in ergot—a fungus that grows on rye and other grains—produces LSD.

LSD disrupts the interaction of serotonin and nerve cells, causing hallucinations, heightened senses, and other intense physical and mental effects.

It often changes the user’s perception of time and space, which can profoundly affect how they perceive their environment. LSD can also create a feeling of heightened awareness, including feelings of euphoria and fear.

The common street names for LSD include:

  • Lucy
  • Doses
  • Tab
  • Dots
  • Blotter
  • Windowpane

Drug Classification

Researchers discovered LSD in 1938. It underwent thousands of medical experiments until authorities deemed it illegal in the 1960s.

LSD is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substance Act. Schedule I drugs are substances with a high potential for abuse. 

LSD in Modern Medicine

There are no currently accepted medical uses of LSD in the United States. However, results from clinical trials indicate that LSD can potentially reduce psychiatric symptoms.

These studies reported positive short-term changes in those with: 

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Heroin addiction
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Other psychosomatic illnesses 

Despite some controversial findings, LSD can be a potential therapeutic option in psychiatry. The strongest evidence supporting this is its use in treating alcoholism.11

However, LSD's Substance I classification limits research and access to LSD as a treatment. More research is necessary to explore the potential of this drug.

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What Are the Types and Forms of LSD?

LSD is a clear, odorless, and water-soluble crystal. It also has a slightly bitter taste.

Users often crush it into a powder before dissolving it. Street LSD often comes on small paper squares dipped into the drug solution. 

These are LSD’s various forms:

  • Crystal
  • Liquid
  • Powder
  • Capsules
  • Gelatin
  • Sugar cubes
  • Laced with other drugs

Each dose contains approximately 20 to 80 micrograms.10 Users typically chew or swallow them. However, they can also inhale, inject, or apply LSD to their eyes. 


LSD is a highly potent psychedelic drug in liquid, powder, capsule, or gelatin form. Users experience visual and psychological effects that may last up to 12 hours.

The drug can also have adverse reactions. LSD isn’t physically addictive, but users may become psychologically addicted to the “trips” they experience. Hence, supervised LSD addiction treatment is necessary for long-term effects and psychological dependence.

Seek immediate medical help if you or someone close to you is abusing LSD. Early intervention is key to preventing the long-term effects of the drug.

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Updated on November 20, 2023
11 sources cited
Updated on November 20, 2023
  1. U.S. Department of Justice. “Drugs of Abuse.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2017.
  2. Orsolino et al. “The “Endless Trip” among the NPS Users: Psychopathology and Psychopharmacology in the Hallucinogen-Persisting Perception Disorder. A Systematic Review.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2017.
  3. Hwang, K.A.J., and Saadabadi, A. “Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD).” StatPearls Publishing, 2023.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023.
  5. Fuentes et al. “Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry: A Systematic Review of Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trials.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2019.
  6. Liechti, M. “Modern Clinical Research on LSD.” Neuropsychopharmacology, 2017.
  7. LSD as a therapeutic treatment.” Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2018.
  8. Tamminga, C. “Substance-/Medication-Induced Psychotic Disorder.” MSD Manual, 2022.
  9. Fiorentini et al. “Substance-Induced Psychoses: An Updated Literature Review.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2021.
  10. Lysergide (LSD) drug profile.” European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
  11. Fuentes et al. “Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry: A Systematic Review of Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trials.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2019.

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