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Overview of LSD

LSD, which is the abbreviation for lysergic acid diethylamide, is a psychedelic drug which is used on a recreational basis and its role in the 1960's counterculture is well documented.

LSD causes the psychological and sensory effects of euphoria, an altered sense of time, spiritual experiences and synesthesia. An example of the latter is where the user may experience flashes of colour when listening to sounds or music.

Ingestion of LSD can also include the following physical symptoms and signs:

  • Generalized weakness or numbness.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Hypothermia or hyperthermia.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Jaw clenching.
  • Excessive saliva and/or mucous production.
  • Tremors and jitteriness.
  • Sleeplessness.

LSD was synthesized and used commercially in 1974 as a drug to manage various mental health issues. The eventual and subsequent use of this drug in the 60's by the youth led to this drug being banned for recreational use.

As of today, LSD has no recognized medical indication for its use.

Adverse effects

LSD has been documented to cause a myriad of adverse issues and these will be discussed as follows:

  • Mental disorders - LSD can trigger panic attacks or extreme anxiety in the user. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has also been noted in people who have had bad experiences with the use of LSD.
  • Psychosis - there is data available that suggests that long-term LSD use, in otherwise healthy users, occasionally resulted in them experiencing psychotic symptoms. There is also evidence to show that people with mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, were more likely to experience adverse effects from LSD use.
  • Suggestibility - publicly available documents show that in the 1960's, the American CIA and Department of Defense, conducted research into the use of LSD as a "mind control" drug. From that research it was found to suggest that both mentally ill and healthy individuals are more suggestible while under the influence of LSD.
  • Flashbacks - individuals who had used LSD complained that they were experiencing flashbacks of the effects of the drug after it had worn off. These flashbacks were noted to last for months or even years after last using LSD. The likelihood of a person to experience these flashbacks, who doesn't suffer from any known psychiatric condition, is between 20-28%.
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) - this is a syndrome where, unlike flashbacks which are characterized by brief and temporary visual changes due to LSD use, the effects of LSD are persistent and cause significant distress in the person.
  • Uterine contractions - early testing of LSD, when it was eventually became commercially available in 1947, showed that the drug caused uterine contractions. This could have negative impact in pregnant women who use this drug. 
  • Overdose - massive doses of around 1-7mg of LSD can lead to an overdose of the drug. These patients would have to managed in a hospital setup where medication such as benzodiazepines would be used to help with agitation. High blood pressure, increased heart rate and hyperthermia (fever) would be treated symptomatically and the patient will be put on an intravenous infusion to receive fluids and necessary medications.

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