How Does LSD Work and the Future of the Drug

Table of Content (Jump to a link): What is LSD, Effects on Brain, Short Term Effects, Long term Effects

LSD, also know as lysergic acid diethylamide,  is a powerful psychedelic drug that had been around for decades. The effects of LSD are so potent that people who take it sometimes say they can hear colors or see sounds. Despite how common LSD use has been in the past, many people don’t know how LSD works or what the long-term side effects are. This article will explore how does LSD works, how long do LSD effects last, and how science is planning on using the drug in the future.

What is LSD?

LSD, also known as acid, blotter, and dots (among many other slang names), is a drug that can cause people to hallucinate. LSD is one of the most powerful hallucinogens that has ever been discovered. Along with psilocybin mushrooms, it is considered one of the classic hallucinogens. It is a synthetic drug, which means LSD is made by humans in a lab, although it is derived from the fungus ergot. The drug was first synthesized on accident in 1938 by a Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann, who then decided to test it on himself, becoming the first person to ever feel its effects. He had done so while trying to develop medications for respiratory and circulatory illnesses.

In its pure form, LSD is a white crystalline material that can be found in the shape of tablets, also called tabs, or capsules. The most common way of taking the drug is by taking a small strip of paper that has absorbed the liquid and placing it on your tongue. Other methods include window panes, which are gelatinous clear squares, microdots, which are dots of the chemical on paper, taking it with sugar cubes, which is the oldest traditional method, and liquid form, which is the most potent. The drug is odorless and flavorless when added to food or drinks which makes it very dangerous because people often ingest large amounts unknowingly. In order to avoid negative side effects from taking place on both short-term and long-term basis while using this illicit substance, medical professionals need to closely monitor how much someone takes at one time before they decide how they can come up with a treatment plan should you be using it for treatment.

How does LSD work on the brain?

The first part of understanding how it works is to understand how our brain functions. The human brain has various chemicals that mimic other important ones, such as serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin plays an integral role in how we feel emotions, whether they be happiness or sadness or anger or fear. It also makes us want to eat food because, without enough serotonin, your stomach will tell your brain not to feed yourself. Dopamine has its own set of roles in the body but one specific role is motivation; this links back with serotonin because if you are happy, you will be more motivated to achieve your goals.

These chemicals are how we process everything in our daily lives. They help us feel emotions, make decisions and understand how other people think. While LSD does not necessarily mimic these specific ones (and this is why it creates such a different effect), the brain still treats it like serotonin or dopamine; but instead of having one type that helps regulate every emotion, there are three types: serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. So when someone takes LSD, which mimics serotonin because of how similar they look to each other, their brain expects more serotonin to be released so it sends signals down your body telling you what you should do next. This is how the effects of LSD are created: because it is mimicking serotonin and dopamine, which regulate emotions and feelings.

how does lsd work
This is your brain on LSD, literally

What are the short-term effects of LSD?

The most common positive psychedelic effects that you will feel while on LSD are visual and auditory hallucinations. Speaking of which, LSD can produce both short-term and long-term effects. The short-term effects are different for each person, but a single dose usually last for a period of time of 8 to 12 hours. People can have positive experiences while taking it, which are referred to as good trips, but they also can have negative experiences too, also called a bad trip. Some people experience sensory changes like how colors look brighter or how sounds seem louder while some have a bad trip with terrifying thoughts and feelings about death, which can be followed by depression.

Besides hallucinogenic effects, the positive short-term effects that are most common are:

  • euphoria
  • feeling on understanding with oneself and others
  • a feeling of oneness with nature and the universe
  • ego death or ego loss, which is the loss of self-identity
  • distorted sense of time, for example, time seems to stand still

Along with these positive aspects, there are also some physical effects that happen when you take acid. The most common being:

  • dilated pupils
  • increased heart rate
  • profuse sweating
  • increased blood pressure
  • loss of appetite
  • wakefulness
  • goosebumps
  • jaw clenching
  • dry mouth

Although you may experience some of these effects, they are not always positive or negative. If you do not take LSD properly or experience a bad trip, you may have the following symptoms:

  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • suicidal ideation
  • fear of dying
  • delusions
  • panic
  • drug-induced psychosis

There are several others too, but these seem to be the most common negative effects. Should you experience a bad acid trip, stop taking the drug. It is important that should you have any suicidal thoughts or psychosis, that you seek help from a healthcare provider immediately. To help avoid having a bad trip, it is important to know and be comfortable with the setting and people who will be around you while on the drug. The more comfortable a situation you are in while taking it, the more likely you are to have a positive psychedelic experience and trip.

It should be noted that no one has ever overdosed on LSD, despite many studies giving patients very high doses. People who die while on LSD do so because of accidents and poor judgment while on the drug. There also is no physical addiction with LSD, only psychological, but usually, when users have been abusing this drug they simply stop taking it as they have no physical addiction to it.

Neuroscientifically Challenged – LSD Intro

What are the long-term effects of taking LSD?

Over time, LSD can cause changes to how certain parts of your brain communicate with each other and how you experience things around you. While not everyone experiences negative side effects from taking this drug, it is important to know that some people have had flashbacks, also called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder or HPPD, even years after trying it once and stopped using longer-lasting mental health issues such as depression anxiety, and addiction. These flashbacks, typically consist of visual snow, which is black, grey, white, or transparent dots in your field of vision similar to static on TV, or palinopsia, which is when an object or the outline of an object stays in your field of vision after being removed from it.

It is recommended that if you have are suffering from mental illness and are not in a comfortable place in your life that you abstain from this drug. LSD has been known to exacerbate mental illness and can even lead to early-onset schizophrenia, study attached here:

Are the effects of LSD permanent?

Some of the effects could be permanent for the long-term effects such as flashbacks. Also, if you are predisposed to certain psychoses like schizophrenia, LSD may precipitate the early onset of this. The reality is that a lot more studies and trials need to be done to fully understand this complex drug and how it affects us long-term.

Although it is a controlled substance, LSD has been used as an experimental drug for psychiatric treatment. It was studied to determine if patients experienced increased well-being and a more positive outlook on life after taking small amounts of this hallucinogen. Even though studies show positive results for those who take small doses of acid occasionally, many agree that overuse could lead to permanent damage.


LSD is a hallucinogenic drug derived from the fungus ergot. It works by mimicking both serotonin and dopamine in the brain. When you take LSD there are many effects you may feel, some of the common ones are euphoria, dilated pupils, panic, and a oneness with the universe. These are just a few of both the positive and negative short-term effects that can be felt and it is important to try this drug in a comfortable setting with trusted people to give yourself the best chance of experiencing a good trip. Even after one use, there can be long-term effects for this drug too. The main concerns being flashbacks and exposing oneself to the possibility of mental illness, although more studies need to be done. We hope to have provided you with a basis of how LSD works and the information needed to decide whether it is right for you.

References, Research, and Sources:

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

The Magical Mushroom is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by tapping into psychedelic users, experts, journalists, and growing community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Chris Riley.

Published by Corey Riley

Owner, entrepreneur, enthusiast of natural medicine

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