The Essential Guide to LSD

(Acid, L, Tabs, Blotter, Doses)

The Essential Guide to LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide


Disclaimer: LSD is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage or condone the use of this substance where it is against the law. However, we accept that illegal drug use occurs, and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this guide is designed to ensure the safety of those who decide to use the substance.



LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a psychedelic drug derived from a chemical in rye fungus. It is best known for its use during the counterculture of the 1960s, and its resulting prohibition gave it a mostly negative reputation.

In 1938, Albert Hofmann, a Swiss scientist, synthesized LSD in his laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland. He unexpectedly discovered its hallucinogenic effects in 1943 when a tiny amount came in contact with his skin.

LSD is an extremely powerful hallucinogen, and has immense therapeutic, spiritual and cultural potential.

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History & Stats


General timeline

  • Synthesised in 1938.
  • Hallucinogenic properties discovered in 1943.
  • Discovered by mainstream America in the 1950s.
  • Widely used in therapy throughout the 1950s and 60s.
  • Influenced the counterculture of the 1960s.
  • Declared an illegal drug in 1968. All related therapy research stops.
  • Used by about 10% of Americans and Europeans throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.
  • A resurgence of interest in the modern age.

Synthesis of LSD

Albert Hofmann, a Swiss pharmacology researcher, synthesised LSD in 1938 while trying to develop a drug to aid uterine contractions during childbirth. He began synthesising compounds from a rye fungus called ergot, and eventually created LSD. It was the twenty-fifth substance in a series of lysergic acid derivatives, and hence, its official name was lysergic acid diethylamide — abbreviated LSD-25.[1]

LSD turned out to be a less effective childbirth aid than other drugs at the time, so Hoffman shelved it for years. However, in 1943, he re-synthesized the drug so that a sample could be given to the pharmacological department for further tests. At some point during the synthesis, a small drop of LSD landed on Hoffman’s skin. In the final stage of the synthesis, he was interrupted by a strange sensation in his work. As Hoffman described it in his book LSD, My Problem Child:

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

Hoffman had just experienced the world’s first LSD trip.

LSD use in the 1950s – focus on medical science

After discovering LSD’s potent effects, Hoffman and other researchers at Sandoz, the Swiss laboratory where Hoffman worked, carried out animal trials to determine tolerance and toxicity properties. Shortly thereafter, they carried out the first systematic investigation of LSD on human beings at a psychiatric clinic in Zurich in 1947.

The first studies involved healthy subjects as well as schizophrenic patients. In the experiments, subjects consumed small to moderate amounts of LSD — anywhere from 20 to 130 micrograms (µg). Although these first experiments did not measure LSD’s therapeutic ability, the researchers did speculate about the possibility of drug-assisted psychotherapy.

In the late 1950s, research expanded outside of mental illness into assisting psychotherapeutic pursuits. Psychedelic therapy — that is, using hallucinogenic drugs to facilitate therapy — became increasingly mainstream.

Between 1950 and 1965, research on LSD and other hallucinogens generated over 1000 scientific papers, several dozen books, and six international conferences. In total, LSD was prescribed as a treatment for over 40,000 patients.[2]

MKULTRA, the CIA, and the 1960s counterculture

In the 1950s, the CIA also became interested in the use of psychedelics as a truth serum and began experimenting with it in their covert mind control division named Project MKULTRA.

Inspired by the Nazis’ use of mescaline in concentration camps during WWII, the CIA carried out these top-secret studies by administering LSD to experimental subjects. Hundreds of participants, including CIA agents, government employees, military personnel, prostitutes, members of the general public, and mentally ill individuals, consumed varying amounts of the powerful drug, often unknowingly and without consent.

These experiments went on until the mid-1970s. Eventually, the CIA shut the program down due to the wild variability of its results.

In the 1960s, Dr. Sidney Cohen, who carried out measured, well-controlled experiments to test the psychoanalytical capabilities of LSD, warned of the coming widespread use by the mainstream public. In congressional hearings on LSD in 1966, Cohen told Congress that the substance was safe only if administered under strict medical supervision and that, if in the wrong hands, it was a “dangerous drug.”

His statement characterized the turning point in the public’s perception of LSD that occurred from the 1950s to the 1960s. While the 50s focused on the medical use of LSD, the counterculture movement of the 60s resulted in the abuse of a potentially harmful drug.

As LSD grew in popularity in the counterculture, publicized horror trips were commonplace. Although the public latched on to dramatic stories of murders, staring at the sun until blindness, and birth defects as a result of LSD, none of these stories held any truth.[3] The unfortunate reality is that without taking the proper precautions (including Set and Setting), people ended up doing reckless things on LSD – and these were inevitably exaggerated by the media.

As Albert Hofmann wrote in his book LSD, My Problem Child,

“Publicity about LSD attained its high point in the years 1964 to 1966, not only with regard to enthusiastic claims about the wondrous effects of LSD by drug fanatics and hippies, but also to reports of accidents, mental breakdowns, criminal acts, murders, and suicide under the influence of LSD. A veritable LSD hysteria reigned.”

The initial attention gained by Hofmann’s problem child was never going to be good. In 1968, the U.S. government declared possession of LSD illegal; and as quick as the counterculture movement blossomed, it died. In 1970, it was declared a Schedule I drug, meaning that the government considered it to have ‘a high potential for abuse’ and was without ‘any accepted medical use in treatment.’

Although there had been myriad of positive results when used under controlled circumstances, the dissemination of LSD into the hands of mainstream US culture caused its eventual prohibition.

From the 1970s to today

Use of LSD dropped off in the late 60s and 70s. In the 1980s, as MDMA became increasingly popular, recreational and psychotherapeutic use of LSD also increased. In 1986, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) was founded by Rick Doblin, with the purpose of investigating the psychotherapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs. MAPS hosts a yearly conference called ‘Psychedelic Science in the 21st Century.” Over 1200 people showed up to the conference in 2010, including legal researchers and not-yet-legal guides. This massive turnout for a conference about largely illegal substances showcased the increased interest in psychedelic therapy going forward.

Since the re-emergence of interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy, many new research organisations have sprung up; perhaps most notably The Beckley Foundation, who have funded several groundbreaking scientific studies into LSD’s effects on the brain.

Current LSD use

In many research reports, hallucinogens are often lumped together as a single class of drugs, so, unfortunately, LSD statistics are not as informative as statistics on other non-hallucinogenic drugs.

That said, here are a few stats on LSD use:

  • An analysis of data collected in 2010 for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated that between 22 and 25 million people in the US have used LSD at some point in their lifetimes.[4] The highest usage rates reported were among 30 to 34 year olds: about 20% people in this age group are estimated to have used it at some point in their lives. An estimated 15-18% of people ages 21-64 had used it at some point in their lifetimes.
  • The more recent 2015 NSDUH survey showed that LSD was used by about 287,000 people 12 years of age and older within the past month in the US.
  • Data collected from 2002 to 2010 by the NSDUH show that first-time LSD use in people 12 years and older steadily increased from 2003 to 2008 and then plateaued in 2009 and 2010. That year, an estimated 377,000 people 12 years of age or older tried it for the first time.
  • In Europe, up to 4.7% of all aged 15-64 have taken LSD at least once, and more than 0.3% of this same age group (in countries such as France, Germany and the UK) have used it in the last year.

For additional reading on the History of LSD, please refer to the resources section. One highly recommended book is Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: the CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond.

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When ingested into the human body, LSD acts as a 5-HT (serotonin) receptor activator, while also dramatically increasing serotonin levels in the brain by deactivating systems that regulate serotonin levels.

Of the 15 different serotonin receptors in the brain, LSD mostly prefers the 2A subtype (5-HT2A). The 5-HT2A receptor is involved in cognitive processes in the prefrontal cortex. This is an important point, for this is where many of LSD’s benefits come from: its involvement in the prefrontal cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is thought to be active in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. It also plays a key role in a human’s ability to process information from all other brain systems, and make goal-directed decisions as a result.

Recently, researchers at The Beckley Foundation began to investigate the specific effects of LSD on the brain. The research is led by a group of neuroscientists at the Imperial College London. They raised money for the research through a crowd-funded campaign.

Beckley’s latest study involved giving 20 volunteers a small dose of LSD and then using MRI and MEG imaging to show how it affects brain processes.

The researchers believe LSD may reduce blood flow to the control centers of the brain and thus dampening their activity, which ultimately enhances brain connectivity. It’s thought that this increase in brain connectivity, or ‘entropy’, gives rise to the creative and unique thought patterns associated with the psychedelic experience, and could even be responsible for feelings of ‘ego death’ (losing your sense of self).[5]

Toxicology of LSD

Numerous studies have found no evidence of chromosomal damage or developmental defects in humans. However, in mice, LSD administered during pregnancy did cause some developmental damage at extraordinarily high doses (up to 500 µg/kg). [6]

There have been no documented deaths from LSD overdoses in humans. Even while “supra-heroic” doses can be dangerous, the risk of death or serious harm is still minimal for healthy individuals. There’s one report of eight people who had between 1000-7000 µg of LSD per 100 mL of blood plasma (that’s an extremely high concentration) from snorting LSD after mistaking it for cocaine. They suffered comatose states, hyperthermia, vomiting, light gastric bleeding, and respiratory problems, but all of them eventually recovered with hospital treatment and without any residual effects.



This section draws mostly from a review on the pharmacological effects of LSD by Torsten Passie and colleagues. [7] For effects by dose, click here.

LSD is highly potent, as tiny doses of 75-150 micrograms (μg) produce significantly altered states of consciousness. The minimum perceptual dose in humans is about 25 μg. Anything below that is typically considered a sub-perceptual “microdose.” An optimal dose for experiencing the typical range of psychedelic experiences is usually between 100-200 µg.

Physiological effects

Physiological effects of LSD can be highly variable; however pupil dilation, reduced appetite, and wakefulness are the three main physical effects.

Other physical effects include:

  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Hypothermia or Hyperthermia
  • Elevated Blood Sugar
  • Goose Bumps
  • Heart rate increase
  • Jaw clenching
  • Perspiration
  • Saliva Production
  • Mucus Production
  • Hyperreflexia
  • Tremors

Many of these effects depend on dose size and Set and Setting. Many of these effects are secondary to the overwhelming psychological aspects of an LSD trip.

A common neurological effect is an exaggerated patellar reflex — the reflex that’s tested when a doctor taps below your kneecap and your leg kicks up involuntarily. Instability while walking, altered gait, and tremors are somewhat common as well.

Changes in sleep related to LSD use

Low doses of LSD can lead to prolonged first or second REM sleep cycles and generally shortens subsequent cycles, with an overall net increase of REM sleep. No qualitative changes during sleep after taking LSD have been found in EEG measurements.


Tolerance, or a decrease in the responsiveness to a drug, occurs with LSD after a moderate dose. After about 3 days of abstinence, the typical range and intensity of the effects will return.

Interactions with other substances

Early studies found that the antipsychotic medication chlorpromazine (brand names Thorazine and Largactil) diminishes many of the physical effects of LSD at moderate to high doses without significantly altering its hallucinogenic effects.

Chronic use of the antidepressant medications that employ selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; e.g., Prozac) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs; e.g., Marplan) also appear to diminish the effects. Some tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., Anafranil) have been reported to increase the the effects of LSD.

Lithium, often prescribed for treatment of bipolar disorder, has been reported to greatly increase the effects of LSD and increases the risk of temporary comatose states.

Psychological and emotional effects

The psychological effects of LSD can be divided into three main categories: positive, neutral, and negative. At low to moderate dose amounts, the positive and neutral effects predominate. However, as the dose size increases, negative psychological effects begin to increase.


  • Increase in associative and creative thinking
  • Closed and open-eye visuals
  • Ego dissolution
  • Sense of unity and connectedness to other life forms
  • General sense of euphoria
  • Life-changing spiritual experiences


  • Change in consciousness
  • Lost track of time
  • Lack of focus
  • Unusual thoughts and speech
  • Range of emotions

Negative (many of these are associated with a ‘bad trip’):

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Fear of death
  • Overwhelming feelings
  • Flashbacks

Sensory effects

One of the primary effects of LSD is an increase in sensory perception. Users report an enhanced appreciation for music, reporting that they ‘heard’ music for the first time. Others report a sharper sense of smell and more developed sense of taste.

Touch becomes a necessity. Users experience a strong desire to touch soft items as well as other human beings.

One unique property of both LSD and other psychedelics is synesthesia. Synesthesia is when senses start to become merged; for example, a you might begin to ‘taste’ music or ‘feel’ colors.

Psychiatric complications

Importantly, there’s a lack of evidence suggesting persistent and pervasive complications in healthy individuals who take LSD. That is, any undesirable side effects experienced during or after taking LSD are virtually always short-lived in healthy people. Several studies totalling more than 10,000 participants have found few, if any, complications from LSD use. [8]

Long-term effects

Although scientific research has been limited on LSD due to its prohibition as a Schedule 1 drug, much of the research carried out in the 50s and 60s showed no long-term damage to the brain.

There is no conclusive evidence suggesting that psychedelics can activate latent mental health problems, although this is a theory that many scientists ascribe to. [9] As such, if you have a family history of mental illness (especially schizophrenia), it is advised to avoid any psychedelic drug.

It is critically important to pay attention to set and setting when taking any psychedelic, as this will often dictate the actual journey while tripping. Adhering to sensible guidelines will make a bad experience very unlikely.

LSD, and other psychedelics, cause no long-term physical dependency or addiction. Although science has yet to establish the exact reasons why this is the case, it is assumed this occurs because of the manner in which psychedelics act on serotonin and dopamine receptors. Although moderate LSD use temporarily reduces the relative levels of serotonin available, it does not have a long-term effect on serotonin levels. If intermittent abstinence is practiced, serotonin levels will return to normal within 1-2 weeks.

One long-term (although very rare) potential effect of psychedelic use is hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). HPPD is characterized by a continual presence of sensory disturbances, most often visual, sometimes continuing for months or years following psychedelic use. It can be treated with antipsychotic or antiseizure drugs. HPPD is very rare, but is more likely to occur if psychedelics are taken outside of a safe, responsible situation (i.e. without adhering to the 6 S’s). [10]

New research on LSD safety

In 2015, a large study (~130,000 people) was conducted in the United States that found no association between psychedelic use and mental health disorders, psychological distress, suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety.[11]

Effects by dose

NOTE: Effects listed below aren’t meant to be definitively comprehensive, particularly at the lower dose ranges. They may be subject to change as more reliable, more widely representative data becomes available.

Microdose (6-20 μg)

  • Mood enhancement
  • Decreased stress
  • Emotional stability
  • Increased empathy and sociability
  • Alleviation of persistent conditions such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, PTSD
  • Increased motivation (e.g. to make positive lifestyle changes)
  • Increased focus/productivity
  • Increased flow states
  • Clearer, more connected thinking
  • Improved memory
  • Enhanced appreciation for music, art, etc.
  • Increased creativity
  • Spontaneity
  • Easier meditation
  • Increased enjoyment of physical activity and everyday tasks
  • Enhanced athletic endurance
  • Moderate stimulation
  • Amplification of mood, positive or negative
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Suppression of hunger and thirst
  • Possible manic states
  • Potentially increased neuroticism

Mini-dose (15-50 μg)

  • Mood enhancement, mild euphoria or excitement
  • Emotional stability
  • Emotional detachment or mindfulness
  • Increased empathy and sociability
  • Introspection
  • Increased motivation (e.g. to make positive lifestyle changes)
  • Increased focus/productivity
  • Ease of transitioning from one task to another
  • Increased flow states
  • Clearer, more connected thinking
  • Enhanced appreciation for music, art, etc.
  • Increased creativity
  • Spontaneity
  • Easier meditation
  • Better sleep (after the 8-12 hours of primary effects wear off)
  • Decreased reliance on alcohol and tobacco
  • Increased stamina
  • Increased energy (comparable to strong cup of coffee without jitters, sweating, etc.)
  • Mild to moderate body high
  • Increased enjoyment of physical activity and everyday tasks
  • Enhanced athletic endurance
  • Enhanced visual acuity and color perception or awareness
  • Amplification of mood, positive or negative
  • Increased emotional sensitivity
  • Time dilation (time passing more slowly)
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pupil dilation possible
  • Mild tingling sensations
  • Suppression of hunger and thirst
  • Possible manic states
  • Potentially increased neuroticism
  • Difficulty focusing or thought loops
  • Difficulty with some cognitive tasks
  • Anxiety or uncomfortable stimulation
  • Difficulty or discomfort socializing
  • Frustration at dosage (too high to be comfortable, too low to be “recreational”)

Museum dose (50-75 μg)

  • Mood enhancement, euphoria or excitement
  • Mild visuals (e.g. tracers)
  • Increased empathy
  • Conversational fluidity
  • Introspection
  • Increased flow states
  • Clearer, more connected thinking
  • Enhanced appreciation for music, art, etc.
  • Increased creativity
  • Spontaneity
  • Increased enjoyment of physical activity and everyday tasks
  • Enhanced athletic endurance
  • Moderate stimulation
  • Body high
  • Clear come-up, peak, and come-down
  • Amplification of mood, positive or negative
  • Time dilation or contraction (time passing more slowly or quickly)
  • Altered perception of sound
  • Synesthesia
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pupil dilation
  • Tingling sensations
  • Suppression of hunger and thirst
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty focusing or thought loops
  • Difficulty with some tasks
  • Anxiety or uncomfortable stimulation
  • Difficulty or discomfort socializing
  • Frustration at dosage (at lower end)

Moderate dose (100-200 μg)

  • Strong euphoria or excitement
  • Life-changing introspective or philosophical/spiritual insights
  • More connected, associative thinking
  • Enhanced appreciation for music, art, etc.
  • Increased creativity
  • Spontaneity
  • Increased enjoyment of physical activity and everyday tasks
  • Stimulation
  • Body high
  • Clear come-up, peak, and come-down
  • Open- and closed-eye visuals (e.g. geometric patterns, tracers)
  • Rapidly changing emotions
  • Thought loops
  • Time dilation or contraction (time passing more quickly or slowly)
  • Significantly altered perceptions
  • Synesthesia
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pupil dilation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased perspiration
  • Unusual physical sensations (e.g. chills)
  • Compulsive yawning
  • Fear and anxiety (“bad trip” experiences)
  • Unpleasant or frightening visuals

Mega dose (250+ μg)

  • Strong euphoria or excitement
  • Mystical experience (e.g. ego death or “oceanic” consciousness/connectedness)
  • Life-changing introspective or philosophical/spiritual insights
  • More connected, associative thinking
  • Enhanced appreciation for music, art, etc.
  • Increased creativity
  • Spontaneity
  • Stimulation
  • Body high
  • Clear come-up, peak, and come-down
  • Open- and closed-eye visions (e.g. seemingly autonomous entities)
  • Rapidly changing emotions
  • Out-of-control thought loops
  • Time dilation or contraction (time passing more quickly or slowly)
  • Radically altered perceptions
  • Synesthesia
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Pupil dilation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased perspiration
  • Unusual physical sensations (e.g. chills)
  • Compulsive yawning
  • Extreme fear and anxiety (“bad trip” experiences)
  • Unpleasant or frightening visions
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Physical discomfort (e.g. tension in jaw, dehydration, nausea)



Because of LSD’s widespread use in the 1960s counterculture, scare tactics and propaganda were used by governments and law enforcement to spread misinformation about psychedelics that persists to this day. Here are just some of the myths surrounding LSD, and the truth behind them.

Myth 1: LSD is often laced with strychnine and other adulterants

Adulteration happens with every well-known drug: cocaine, heroin, marijuana, LSD, to name a few. But the extent to which contamination occurs must be analyzed.

According to the Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, the definitive text on responsible LSD use, LSD has a reputation of adulteration with toxic substances; but this is largely unsubstantiated. Prominent among this myth is the fear of methamphetamine and strychnine (rat poison).

For strychnine, the myth may have been fortified by a report filed by Albert Hofmann himself. Apparently, he analyzed a powder sample purported to be LSD that turned out to be 100% strychnine. This one-off occurrence somehow led to a widespread belief that LSD was commonly laced with strychnine.

For methamphetamine adulteration, the myth is derived from more tangible evidence. Forty years ago, when studies were carried out on adulterant use in LSD, 581 street samples were tested. Of the 581 street samples, 84.5% contained LSD alone, 6.9% contained PCP and .9% contained amphetamine or methamphetamine. None of the samples contained strychnine.

Even though nearly 15% of the samples were adulterated in this study from the 60s, the possibility of such adulteration today is almost zero. While most LSD came in liquid form in the 60s, making it much easier to adulterate, today’s LSD is primarily sold on blotter paper. For blotter paper to properly work, it cannot contain sufficient amounts of adulterants. Otherwise, the substance would not bind to the blotter paper.

Important Note: these days, blotter papers sold as LSD can contain potentially harmful chemicals such as NBOMes and DOxs. If you purchase LSD blotter from an unknown source, make sure to test your substances with a kit or send them to a lab for testing. A good rule of thumb is to get rid of blotter that tastes extremely bitter – LSD is relatively tasteless, so a strong taste could be an indicator of an NBOMe that could be harmful.

Myth 2: LSD causes chromosome damage and birth defects

In 1967, the reputable journal Science published a short study claiming that LSD added to cultured human white blood cells produced chromosomal abnormalities. The results of this study snowballed into a myth of ‘genetic damage’ in grown adults and birth defects in newborns.

The fear of permanently damaged chromosomes produced widespread condemnation of a once-loved drug.

According to an excerpt from the Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide:

“Later and more careful studies demonstrated that the conclusions drawn from the initial research were ill-founded. A comprehensive review of sixty-eight studies and case reports published in the four years following the initial 1967 article appeared as a major article in Science in 1971. The review concluded that ‘pure LSD ingested in moderate doses does not damage chromosomes in vivo, does not cause detectable genetic damage, and is not a teratogen or carcinogen in man.’”

So fear not. If you want to take LSD while pregnant, your child is likely to turn out OK.

Myth 3: LSD will make you go crazy

One of the most insidious LSD myths is the belief that it causes users to go crazy, activating some sort of mental illness. Or, as parents around the world might put it, “if you do LSD, you’ll turn into a wet noodle!”

When uninformed individuals think of LSD, two thoughts often come to mind:

  • If I do LSD, I’ll go crazy and jump out of a 10th story window (acute insanity).
  • If I do LSD more than once (or twice), I’ll become psychologically insane and never function as a normal human being again (long-term insanity).

There is a sliver of truth in each of these statements. But our disposition to jump to dramatic conclusions has created pervasive, damaging myths. Although psychoactive drugs produce a variety of acute behavioral effects, the degree of the effects is directly related to the size of the dose. Countless people have taken LSD without feeling an urge to jump out of a building or in front of a car.

Six factors affect a trip on LSD: set, setting, substance, sitter, session, situation. When controlled, these six factors minimize the chance of a bad trip. In fact, the possibility of an individual following these recommendations then doing something totally ridiculous is almost zero. If a person has a bad trip or does something physically harmful to him or herself, he or she did not take responsible steps to control for all 6 S’s.

Acute insanity, or a ‘bad trip’, is also susceptible to biased beliefs. As the six S’s suggest, the LSD experience is not only determined by the pharmacological effects (substance) but also by beliefs that accompany the experience (mindset).

The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide explains the effect of this bias:

“Because of the highly suggestible nature of the LSD experience, belief in the myths can contribute to [a] self-fulfilling prophecy and increase the likelihood of having an adverse reaction. Cohen [Dr. Sidney Cohen, a researcher from the 1950s] called this the phenomenon of ‘excessive initial apprehension’ and cited it as a significant factor contributing to bad trips. Given this, it is perhaps not surprising that the number of reported bad trips increased markedly during the media blitz of the late 1960s. After media coverage died down at the close of that decade, so did the number of negative experiences. This occurred despite the fact that the total number of LSD users was still increasing into the early 1970s.”

Psychedelics have a reputation for causing mental insanity and permanent brain damage. Such legends include egregious statements like ‘use LSD seven times and you are legally insane’, or ‘I know someone who took LSD and felt like they turned into an orange, and they still feel like an orange.’

Is there a kernel of truth in these statements? Yes. Are they outrageously exaggerated? Absolutely.

Lasting adverse effects of LSD use occur in a very few individuals. However, reviews of clinical literature suggest that chronic problematic effects occur because of psychological instability that is present prior to drug use. For example, individuals with latent mental disorders (like family history for schizophrenia) may experience activation of symptoms from LSD use and chronic problems afterward.

In the 1950s, Dr. Sidney Cohen carried out a comprehensive review of LSD use in psychotherapeutic environments. He administered approximately 25,000 doses to 5,000 recipients and reported that “the incidence of acute and chronic problematic reactions was extremely low when LSD was administered under controlled therapeutic conditions to individuals not having preexisting severe psychopathology.”

If you are psychologically stable prior to using LSD, the chances of experiencing long-term psychological damage are about zero. If, however, you have a family history of certain mental disorders, then it is probably best to avoid using psychedelics.

Myth 4: Flashbacks brought on by stored LSD leaking in the body

This myth comes from claims that LSD lodges itself in the brain, spinal cord, and body fat, and can leak out at later times — even years later — to produce adverse effects.

This assumption is misguided because there is no evidence suggesting that the substance remains in the body for extended periods of time. Instead, LSD has a short half-life of 3-5 hours and is entirely metabolized within a day after ingestion.

So if people have flashbacks, why do they occur? The concept of flashbacks is a convoluted subject in the literature about hallucinogenic drugs. However, two reasons are often brought up in the discussion about why flashbacks occur:

  • An easily activated occurrence of memory
  • The re-emergence of conflictual material released from the unconscious mind during the time of drug action

One of the leaders in LSD therapy, Stanislav Grof, states in his classic book, LSD Psychotherapy:

“Sessions in which the drug activates areas of difficult emotional material and the individual tries to avoid facing them can lead to prolonged reactions, unsatisfactory integration, subsequent residual emotional or psychosomatic problems, or a precarious mental balance that becomes the basis for later ‘flashbacks.’”

By dispelling myths like this, the general public can begin to make informed decisions and hold rationale debates about both the upsides and downsides of psychedelic use.

Optimize your microdosing efforts

Do you worry about taking too much, not measuring correctly, or losing control of your experience?

Enroll in our online microdosing course to have a safe, effective, and valuable microdosing experience.

Therapeutic Use


Studies from the 1950s and 60s

In the 1950s and 60s, more than 1000 academic papers and dozens of books were published on the use of LSD in psychotherapeutic settings.[12] However, following the counterculture backlash in the 1960s and the subsequent classification of LSD as a schedule I drug by the federal government, systematic research in universities and commercial laboratories on the drug became impractical if not impossible.

Nonetheless, two primary and polar forms of therapeutic approaches were used in these initial studies. One focused on the mystical experiences elicited by LSD and the resulting after-effects while the other focused on the use of LSD as tool for exploring the unconscious in psychoanalysis.

Relatively large, single doses (200 µg or more) were used to treat addicts, criminals, or even to help transform the lives of normal, everyday people. Other approaches used small to moderate doses (up to 150 µg) repeated session in conjunction with psychotherapy to treat various neuroses. People with chronic neurotic tendencies, such as major depression and general anxiety, who were resistant to traditional therapy appeared to benefit greatly from LSD’s effects during treatment.

Therapists who used LSD and other psychedelics in their practice noted that one of its greatest advantages was that it allowed the patient to explore their unconscious drives and motives while a part of their adult ego was left intact. This allowed the individual to observe and vividly remember their experience and identify areas where they were previously resistant to change. For example, in therapeutic settings, people often became acutely aware of the defense mechanisms they most often used.

Some of early therapeutic uses of LSD indicated some promising results in treating addiction, OCD, cluster headaches, depression and end-of-life anxiety. [13]

1980s Swiss study

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, research on the therapeutic use of psychedelics was more or less forbidden worldwide. In 1988, however, the Swiss government granted special permission to a select group of therapists to conduct to research the therapeutic uses of MDMA and LSD. This lasted until 1993, when the Swiss government reversed its decision and forbid any and all research with psychedelics.

However, a follow-up study was commissioned by the Swiss government and written by one of the researchers, Peter Gasser, who was involved in the studies.[14]

The study examined patients who were seeking psychotherapy for various mental disorders and issues, but all of them (121 surveyed) were involved in group therapy of some sort in conjunction with their psychedelic dosing treatments. The patients also saw a therapist one-on-one in regular intervals during their treatment. Interpersonal problems, psychological issues, self-exploration, and somatic issues were all cited as reasons for seeking treatment in this sample.

Diagnoses included personality disorders, adjustment disorders, affective disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety), eating disorders, addiction, psychosis, and sexual disfunction.

Overall, about 90% of the patients involved in these studies reported having good or slight improvement on the issues for which they sought therapy. No complications from the study of the treatments were observed, though one patient expressed becoming more depressed during therapy. No suicides were committed, no one was hospitalized, and no one had a psychotic episode lasting more than 48 hours.

Recent therapeutic research

A recent review of 25 years of research (1990-2015) on LSD, as well as psilocybin and ayahuasca, found that results consistently suggested therapeutic uses for hallucinogens in treating anxiety disorders, depression, and addictive disorders.[15]

In a double-blind study, LSD in combination with non-drug psychotherapy sessions was specifically found to reduce anxiety related to associated with having life-threatening diseases such as cancer, and the effects were sustained in a 12-month follow up interview.[16]Improvements were also seen in a cancer quality of life questionnaire and a hospital anxiety and depression scale.

Addictive disorders, especially alcoholism, have been the target of psychedelic therapies since soon after their discovery as a therapeutic tools. In 2012, meta-analysis of six randomized control trials including 536 subjects confirmed the efficacy of a single dose of LSD in treating alcoholism.[17] Results of these studies showed that LSD had a success rate for treating alcoholism, defined as the abstinence of alcohol use at first follow up, of 81%-100%.

Outside of strictly therapeutic uses, a 2016 study found that healthy individuals had a more positive outlook on life and more openness two weeks after taking LSD.[18]

As cultural values continue to shift, more and more research with robust modern methods and new technologies will continue to shed light on the various ways psychedelics can be used in therapeutic and nontherapeutic ways.

Personal Growth


LSD has been as a tool in self-exploration for personal and spiritual growth since its invention. It’s not the be-all, end-all solution to your life’s problems; anyone who claims it is lacks serious perspective. Many of the benefits of psychedelics from a personal growth perspective can be experienced in one form or another through other means as well, such as with meditation. LSD and other psychedelics, therefore, are simply tools in the larger toolkit of self-exploration and personal and spiritual growth.

Many who have had powerful spiritual experiences (in any sense of the word) often point out out that LSD made them face parts of themselves they didn’t even know existed. This can be incredibly difficult and even terrifying, depending on the person and the personal hurdles and issues they’re facing. Yet virtually everyone who has had difficult yet profound experiences while using psychedelics claims that they’re better off for it.

However, to date, very little systematic research on representative samples of the population exist on LSD and spiritual experiences. This has caused some to question the direction of the relationship between psychedelic use and spirituality and personal growth; i.e., is it that LSD aids spiritual growth, or is it that people who are more inclined to seek spiritual growth also end up taking LSD?

The answer is probably a little of both. For now, though, we can look to the anecdotal evidence to begin to uncover how LSD and other psychedelics aid in spiritual and personal development.

Creativity and innovation

Many famous creative people have credited LSD as their inspiration for some of their most impactful work.

Aldous Huxley is perhaps one of the best known advocates of psychedelic use. His novels The Doors of Perception (1954) and Island (1962) were inspired in part by his psychedelic experiences. On his deathbed, Huxley asked his wife to inject him with a huge dose of LSD, and he died experiencing something we may never get close to ourselves.

Steve Jobs also took LSD a few times, and credits his experiences for many of his industry-shattering innovations:

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

Francis Crick says he envisioned the double-helix structure of DNA while tripping on LSD. He and Jim Watson won a Nobel Prize for their work and this is now considered to be one of the most important scientific discoveries in history.

Kary Mullis purportedly told Albert Hofmann that his experiences with LSD played a crucial role in his invention one of the most important DNA research methods ever invented, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), for which he also won a Nobel Prize.

There’s also plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that LSD can play a role in enhancing creativity in everyday tasks, and studies with similar psychedelics such as ayahuasca and mescaline show they can improve problem solving or creative thinking.

Ego dissolution

Ego dissolution occurs when one’s sense of self is either greatly diminished or completely (though temporarily) eradicated. It can have a profound impact on your perspective about life, consciousness, and the world and universe around you, to name a few.

It’s difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced a sense of literal selflessness, but it isn’t something to be feared. It’s a common occurrence with psychedelics.[19] People under the influence of LSD and other psychedelics often report that their sense of self is replaced by sense of beauty and interconnectedness with those around them, with nature, and with the world and the universe at large.

This can be jarring for some, however, especially for many Westerners who are socialized to believe that their core identities are separate, self-contained entities. The idea that you’re not a unique snowflake floating in the midst of the snowstorm can be so foreign to many people that often their initial reaction is to resist it and even fear it. But this is normal.

Most successful methods of personal and/or spiritual growth advocate for a greater focus on others rather than oneself. Knowing what it means to be “a part of something bigger than oneself” is often the first revelation people have when starting out on fruitful paths of spiritual development.


Your relationships improve when you’re not so focused on what you get out of them, but rather what you put into them.

You’re more compassionate once you accept that you cannot control certain things in life and that you’re a very real part of something that is much bigger and much more important than your singular, relatively trivial life that you lead every day.

You have less tolerance for suffering and a greater desire to contribute to the good of humanity when you accept that the division between you and those who suffer is essentially arbitrary.

All of this is much easier to do when you realize that your sense of self — that is, your identity — is an illusion and that there is an inherent interconnectedness of everyone and everything around you that creates a shared experience for all of us. In this way, we all share the joy and the suffering of the world.

Research supports this effect of LSD – a study has recently shown that LSD enhances people’s ability to feel emotional empathy and increases people’s desire to be with other people. [21]

Psychedelic retreats

Psychedelics are a powerful tool by which interconnectedness and sense of belonging to something greater than oneself can be realized and integrated into your everyday life.

As such, psychedelic retreats such as Synthesis (in Amsterdam) and Rythmia (in Costa Rica) have become popular, as people search for ideal ways to translate the psychedelic experience into lessons for living a better life.

Retreats can be varied in their focus and approach. Larger, more expensive retreats like Rythmia use the formidable psychedelic brew ayahuasca to induce intense spiritual experiences in guided ceremonies, over the course of several days. Smaller, less intimidating retreats like Synthesis offer psilocybin truffle experiences personalized to the individual participants, designed to help you get what you want out of the retreat.

If you decide you are interested in taking part in a psychedelic retreat, research your options to make sure you are signing up for the right experience.



Can it be detected in a drug test?

The short answer is yes, but there are a few caveats.[20]

Excretion through urine reaches a peak about 4 to 6 hours after administering a dose in humans, but even then, the amounts are quite small. There are four known major metabolites of LSD in humans that are excreted and can be detected in urine for up to 4 to 5 days after ingestion, with observed inter-individual variation.

There are several criteria that determine how long LSD can be detected in the body:

  • the test being used;
  • the detection limit placed on the test;
  • the point of collection;
  • the type of sample fluid;
  • the amount that was ingested.

The average time LSD can be detected in blood is 6-12 hours and in urine is 2-4 days. However, one metabolite (2-oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD) is typically present in higher concentrations and can be detected for longer periods of time in urine.

Tests for LSD (but not its metabolites) in hair samples are also available and they’re good for detecting both low doses and single uses, apparently for an underdetermined but long period of time after dosing.

However, for now, it is not typically included in standard drug screens.

Can I test my LSD to find out if it’s safe to take?

Testing your LSD is always good practice even when you trust your supplier. Reagent test kits from Bunk Police can identify hundreds of adulterants and substitutes—offering peace of mind and potentially saving your life.

25I-NBOMe, for example, has on occasion been mis-sold as LSD with tragically fatal consequences. The Ehrlich reagent can help to rule it out. Simply place a tiny amount of LSD into a sterile test tube or onto a sterile white ceramic surface and add a few drops of the reagent. Then check the color change (or lack thereof) against the supplied spectrum booklet.

Do I have real LSD?

Depending on the dose and route of ingestion, LSD should take 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to kick in. The experience can last 12-16 hours. Click here to learn more about what to expect from real LSD.

If you feel any other effects, or your experience lasts considerably longer than 16 hours, you may not have taken LSD. If your blotter paper had a bitter taste, or numbed your tongue, it may have contained NBOMe or DOx.

It’s safest to be sure about what you’re taking (see the 6S’s), so if possible, get your drugs tested. Kits for home testing can be found online, or you can send your substance to a lab for testing.

Can LSD cause psychological trauma?

If you follow the 6S’s of psychedelic use, and avoid taking psychedelics if you have a family history of mental health issues, they are unlikely to cause psychological trauma.

LSD can cause you to feel crazy for a short time (acute psychosis), known colloquially as a “bad trip,” if you don’t follow the 6S’s. Although there is no concrete evidence, it’s thought that psychedelics might be able to cause latent mental health issues to appear, so avoid taking them if you have a family history of mental health issues.

How do I take it?

LSD is most often sold as blotter, dissolved onto paper squares. It can also be taken in tablets, as a crystal or as a liquid, though these forms are not common these days.

In blotter form, a tab of the paper is held on the tongue until dissolved. The paper can be swallowed.

25-100ug is recommended as a first dose. This is typically about a quarter to a full tab.

How do I microdose with LSD?

A microdose of LSD is typically around 10ug, and is re-dosed every four days. Microdoses are easiest to measure out with blotter paper, which can be cut into tenths. Click here for a detailed guide on microdosing with LSD.

How does tolerance work?

Taking a moderate dose of LSD will produce an immediate tolerance. If you take the drug again soon, it will have a weaker effect. You should wait at least three days between doses.

Can I mix LSD with other drugs?

LSD should not be mixed with Tramadol, as it can lead to serotonin syndrome. Be cautious if mixing LSD with cannabis, amphetamines or cocaine. Click here for a detailed chart of safe drug combinations.

Optimize your microdosing efforts

Do you worry about taking too much, not measuring correctly, or losing control of your experience?

Enroll in our online microdosing course to have a safe, effective, and valuable microdosing experience.



[1] To see the full history of how LSD came into being, see this article.

[2] Henderson and Glass, “Introduction,” p. 3; Goodman and Gilman, p. 554.8

[3] Joseph L. Zenter, “The Recreational Use of LSD-25 and Drug Prohibition,” Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, Vol. (No. 4), Oct.-Dec. 1976, p. 301.

[4] Krebs, T. S., & Johansen, P.-Ø. (2013). Over 30 million psychedelic users in the United States. F1000Research.

[5] Tagliazucchi, E., Roseman, L., Kaelen, M., Orban, C., Muthukumaraswamy, S. D., Murphy, K., … Carhart-Harris, R. (2016). Increased Global Functional Connectivity Correlates with LSD-Induced Ego Dissolution. Current Biology.

[6] Annelie Hintzen, Torsten Passie (2010). The Pharmacology of LSD: a critical review (p.78). Oxford University Press.

[7] Passie, T., Halpern, J. H., Stichtenoth, D. O., Emrich, H. M., & Hintzen, A. (2008). The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 14(4), 295–314

[8] Passie, T., Halpern, J. H., Stichtenoth, D. O., Emrich, H. M., & Hintzen, A. (2008). The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 14(4), 295–314

[9] Nichols D.E. (2004) Hallucinogens. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 101, 131-181

[10] Nichols D.E. (2016). Psychedelics. Pharmacological Reviews 68(264-355)

[11] Johansen, P.-Ø., & Krebs, T. S. (2015). Psychedelics not linked to mental health problems or suicidal behavior: A population study. Journal of Psychopharmacology.

[12] See: Grinspoon, L., & Bakalar, J. B. (1980). The psychedelic drug therapies. Current Psychiatric Therapies, 20, 275–283.

[13] Nichols D.E. (2016). Psychedelics. Pharmacological Reviews 68(264-355)

[14] Gasser, P. MAPS – Psycholytic Therapy with MDMA and LSD in Switzerland. (1994).

[15] dos Santos, R. G., Osório, F. L., Crippa, J. A. S., Riba, J., Zuardi, A. W., & Hallak, J. E. (2016). Antidepressive, anxiolytic, and antiaddictive effects of ayahuasca, psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): a systematic review of clinical trials published in the last 25 years. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 2045125316638008.

[16] Gasser, P., Holstein, D., Michel, Y., Doblin, R., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Passie, T., & Brenneisen, R. (2014). Safety and efficacy of lysergic acid diethylamide-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 202(7), 513.

[17] Krebs, T. S., & Johansen, P. al-Ørjan. (2012). Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for alcoholism: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 26(7), 994–1002.

[18] Carhart-Harris, R. L., Kaelen, M., Bolstridge, M., Williams, T. M., Williams, L. T., Underwood, R., … Nutt, D. J. (2016). The paradoxical psychological effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Psychological Medicine, 46(07), 1379–1390.

[19] Tagliazucchi, E., Roseman, L., Kaelen, M., Orban, C., Muthukumaraswamy, S. D., Murphy, K., … Carhart-Harris, R. (2016). Increased Global Functional Connectivity Correlates with LSD-Induced Ego Dissolution. Current Biology.

[20] Passie, T., Halpern, J. H., Stichtenoth, D. O., Emrich, H. M., & Hintzen, A. (2008). The Pharmacology of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide: A Review. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, 14(4), 295–314

[21] Dolder et al (2016). LSD acutely impairs fear recognition and enhances emotional empathy and sociality. Neuropsychopharm, 41(11):2638-2646

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Reader Interactions


  1. I have hoped to find any research on LSD consumption by anyone who has had a stroke. In this case a stroke with no remaining side effects occurring approximately 14 months ago. Is there any evidence that suggests a potential for harm in someone who has previously had a stroke? Currently with good blood tests for plaque.

  2. Hi, there!

    I’m not a doctor, but I’ve read a great deal about LSD and the pharmacology of it, so I’ll offer my two cents here still. Here is the advice I’d offer my own family members in a similar situation:

    – After a stroke, the probability of having another one within 5 years is pretty high.
    – LSD does have slight hypertensive and vasoconstricting effect, meaning it increases the chance of having a stroke. By very little, but still more than nothing.
    – If your cholesterol and blood pressure is too high currently, or you smoke/drink too much, LSD can change health/diet habits enough to outweigh the risk many folds

    So my personal recommendation would be the following. If you really want to take it, make sure you eat healthy and excercise for two weeks prior, lowering the risk for a stroke. Your purpose/goal for the experience should also maybe be diet/lifestyle changes. This is based on the assumption that you can improve in these areas. If you’re already living a healthy lifestyle and just want to take it “for fun”, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Hope it helps.

  3. very useful information for anyone that would like to venture into LSD. Please note that Albert Hoffman synthesized LSD while working for Sandoz in Basel, not in Zurich as you mention on your page. A correction would be desirable.

  4. Hello. My name is Griffin and I am working on a report for my school heath class on substance abuse. I would like to know what use, misuse, and abuse look like while using LSD and what it can do to a relationship. I would also like to know what laws there are against it.