But what is LSD and is it actually dangerous? When you hear LSD you might think of a Beatles song or a little piece of white paper that’ll take you on a trip.
While both heralded as a mind-expanding wonder drug or derided as dangerous and triggering delusions, LSD holds some power in our collective imagination.
But what is Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)?
LSD is a derivative of ergot. If that’s familiar to you, it’s because ergot is a fungus that frequently grows on rye and wheat.
And sometimes that’s baked into bread that people eat and some young girls start tripping on the fungus and then suddenly the villagers decide to kill a whole bunch of people for being witches.
Seriously ergot probably caused the salem witch trials.
ANYWAYS in small doses, ergot was used as medicine for centuries.
It was used to aid childbirth to quicken delivery and stop bleeding afterwards.
So naturally a pharmaceutical company looked into it’s potential benefits in the early decades of the 20th century.
One guy at the company, chemist Albert Hofmann, was tasked with isolating the compounds and trying to synthesize it by other means so that maybe it wouldn’t kill you.
In 1938 he tried a few variations, but not with much success.
On a few animal experiments he noticed that one variation, Lysergic aciddiethylamide -25 or LSD-25 had a strange effect on the mice. They acted excited for some reason. But still the company didn’t think much of the compound and mostly forgot about it. Hofmann, however, couldn’t’ stop thinking about it and those excited animals.
A few years later he tried to recreate the compound.
But one day, while working on it, he felt a little strange. He went home and laid down.
And well. He tripped the heck out. But he couldn’t figure out what did it- he knew it could be poisonous so he took extra precautions to avoid ingestion.
So he concluded that he absorbed a tiny tiny amount of LSD through his fingertips. So well…he made the compound and proceeded to experiment on himself.
And the rest, is history.
How LSD was being Used and What You Don’t Know
LSD became a centerpiece of the counter culture movement in the 60s after the patents expired. Millions saw it as a way to expand their spiritual horizons.
But soon, there was a cultural and literal crackdown on any sort of drug and LSD became illegal in 1968. Since then it’s been really difficult to study in a lab because of legal restrictions, I mean it’s hard to get funding for something that’s technically illegal.
It’s still classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I drug, labeling it one of the “most dangerous drugs” with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
But from early experiments and a few recent ones, we know some things about the drug.
It works in a few ways.
One study published in the journal Cell Press found that hallucinogens like LSD work on serotonin receptors in the brain called 5-HT2A receptors (2ARs).
While you might know serotonin as the “feel good drug”, it actually has a number of uses in the brain.
Clare Stanford, a psycho pharmacologist at University College London thinks that “serotonin helps keep a handle on perception and actually stops us from hallucinating,.
So by blocking the serotonin receptors in your brain, your brain just kind of loses its grip on perception.
Or another idea, Andrew Sewell, a Yale psychiatrist who studies psychedelic drugs, thinks that LSD enhances some part of your perception.
That such drugs lower activity in your thalamus. It sits in the center of your brain and filters your sensory information from all your nerves.
Sewell thinks that by dampening down this filter, you become more aware of the information actually coming into your system.
So sights and sounds become louder or brighter, and you might start seeing things you never noticedbefore.
Or you might just start seeing things period.
Is LSD mind Altering Drug Dangerous?
Well, one study, published in the journal Lancet found that it’s actually one of the least harmful drugs, both to the user and to others.
I mean when people do take it, they tend to be overly cautious, like being aware that there’s a time and a place for it.
Like festivals in the middle of a desert.
And there’s no link between the drug and mental illness, according to one study published in the journal Psychopharmacology and in fact it might be beneficial for those who suffer from depression.
Should You Use LSD? No Because there Downsides
Like bad trips or one common charge aimed at the drug is that it will induce “acid flashbacks”.
Or the idea that the drug changes a person’s brain so much that days, months, or years later, you’ll momentarily get the hallucinations associated with the drug. Which in a recent case study published in the Israel Journal of Psychiatry led to one person from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
No he doesn’t keep falling down rabbit holes, but he does keep seeing things and people as bigger or smaller than they really are.
But on the other hand one study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol dependence concluded that such flashbacks or Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder as it’s formally called, is incredibly rare.
So either way it’s clear more research is needed on this drug and in the past five years, more research is being green lit so hopefully we’ll have more to talk about in future. Share your comments and answers below what your experience with LSD.