What is LSD? Effects, History & Research

November 23, 2022

Nue Life

Nue Life

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD): History, Effects, Scientific Research

Could psychedelics be a viable option for helping improve mental health? In the ‘60s and ‘70s, this drug class gained popularity with the support of activists who believed deeper consciousness was the new frontier. Many are beginning to ask: “Do psychedelic drugs have a place in modern mental health research?”

You might have heard of some people beginning to use small doses of psychedelic drugs such as mushrooms and LSD in response to anxiety. It’s becoming more apparent that people want to feel better, and they’re willing to look in new corners to uncover solutions that work for them. 

If you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, or another mental health diagnosis, you may feel that things are hopeless and they’ll never get better. 

We’re here to help walk you through some of your questions about whether psychedelics can help and what other options are out there for you. Even if you’ve tried things that haven’t worked so far, mental wellness is possible.

What Is LSD?

Although scientific research doesn’t currently uphold LSD as a safe, effective treatment for mental health today, that wasn’t always the case. In the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, psychedelic drugs such as LSD were considered viable options for mental health treatment. The scope of usage for LSD treatment included depression, addiction, and psychosomatic diseases. 

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a synthetic chemical that originates from a substance in ergot, a fungus that grows in rye. It’s part of the psychedelic drug class, meaning it contains psychoactive properties that induce altered states of consciousness. 

What Are Hallucinogens?

You may have also heard people refer to LSD as a hallucinogenic drug. Hallucinogens create a unique response in your brain, transforming your awareness of your surroundings, sensations, and mental and emotional state. This can result in auditory and visual hallucinations. Like many drugs, hallucinogens have a history in recreational and spiritual practices, though they remain illegal for current recreational use.

Hallucinogenic drugs are often separated into two categories. One category is known as classic hallucinogens and dissociative hallucinogens. While both can alter your sense of perception and cause distortions of the senses, dissociative drugs can cause you to feel disconnected from your body.

Some of the most popular hallucinogenic drugs include psilocybin, LSD, DMT, ketamine, ayahuasca, MDMA, and magic mushrooms. Most of these are currently Schedule I drugs, but as research develops, they could be granted legal use for therapeutic purposes.

What Does LSD Look Like?

LSD can be tricky to identify. It can be clear or white, and many people take LSD on blotter paper. People using LSD may keep these paper sheets in a container meant to hold breath-freshening strips. 

It’s an absorbent type of paper that is typically in the shape of a square. In addition to blotters, LSD also exists in capsule form, tablets (sometimes called tabs or microdots), sugar cubes, and liquid.

Does LSD Have a Taste or Smell?

LSD tends to taste somewhat bitter. Other than that, it usually doesn’t have a smell. When it exists in sugar cube form, it can taste sweet, but that is primarily a result of the sugar. In general, it should be tasteless or slightly bitter.

How Is LSD Used?

People take LSD orally in its different forms. The most common way to ingest it is through a blotter tab placed on the tongue. 

Recreational LSD users take this substance to get high. LSD highs are known as trips, and they can last for multiple hours at a time. Many people who take LSD describe it as a dreamlike state of being. Like how you can experience a good dream or a bad dream, LSD trips can be either enjoyable or nightmarish.

How Does LSD Work in the Body?

You may be wondering what LSD does to the brain. Scientifically speaking, lysergic acid diethylamide has a chemical structure that’s nearly identical to serotonin, which is a chemical that impacts your mood, perceptions, nervous system, motor control, appetite, body temperature, and sexual behavior. 

When someone starts to trip on LSD, LSD molecules bind themselves to their serotonin receptors. Amino acids effectively trap the molecules into each serotonin receptacle with a lid, keeping them there for hours.

This process allows the hallucinogenic effects to continue until each lid gets knocked off and the molecules exit the serotonin receptors. Then, an LSD user will start to come down from their trip and feel the effects fade.

What Is the History of LSD?

We know that LSD is a powerful psychoactive drug that many have used over the decades. But when did people first begin using this drug recreationally? Who invented LSD? Initially, a Swiss scientist discovered how to create this substance synthetically in the 1930s, but he didn’t know how his discovery would impact the world.

One of the reasons LSD got into the hands of everyday people was through the CIA’s behind-the-scenes experiments with psychoactive drugs in the 1950s. These experiments introduced LSD to the public, and by the 1960s, it played a significant role in American culture. 

As people experimented with LSD, some took their drug usage to new levels. One volunteer for the CIA’s MK Ultra program named Ken Kesey believed LSD to be a powerful substance that more people should participate in. 

He developed a group of followers and began to host LSD-fueled parties known as Acid Tests. During Kesey’s Acid Tests, now-famous bands played music accompanied by strobing lights and psychedelic atmospheric elements while party-goers ingested LSD. 

Kesey wasn’t the only one to get curious about LSD’s effects, and others continued to hold their own experiments to discover how acid affects human consciousness. In 1968, experimental and recreational usage of LSD met its demise with the U.S. government’s outlawing of the substance. Despite its illegal status, many people still seek out this psychoactive substance today.

When Was LSD Discovered?

At first, Swiss Scientist Albert Hofmann didn’t realize LSD produces a hallucinogenic experience. In fact, the invention of LSD was somewhat accidental. Hofmann studied a chemical in the rye fungus ergot for several years before accidentally ingesting it one day and experiencing its psychedelic effects in his senses.

Soon after, Hofmann ingested the substance on purpose –– this time in a more considerable amount. On his bicycle ride home, he experienced his first acid trip.

Is LSD Legal?

Since 1968, LSD has been illegal for recreational, therapeutic, and medicinal use in the United States. Its classification as a Schedule I drug means that it has no current approval for any kind of use and maintains a high potential for abuse. 

It joins a list of other illicit drugs which scientists continue to research for potential medical and therapeutic benefits. Currently, LSD is illegal, and there is not yet definitive evidence to establish potential beneficial properties. 

What Are the Effects of LSD?

When someone first ingests LSD, they’ll usually begin to feel its effects within 90 minutes. How long does LSD last? Most LSD trips last from six hours to twelve hours, with some lingering effects known as an afterglow.

During a good trip, LSD users may experience more vivid imagery around them, visual and auditory hallucinations, enhanced senses, and a feeling of euphoria. There’s also a tendency to encounter spiritual insights and meaningful moments. 

On bad trips, users might feel paranoid, fearful, and upset. The world may feel more dark than usual, and the effects of LSD may trigger anxiety and psychosis. Hallucinations mixed with a distorted sense of time can be terrifying for some. 

Not all experiences with LSD result in a distinct good trip or bad trip. LSD is a tricky drug, and its unpredictable effects still confound researchers. Someone taking LSD may feel overjoyed and experience pleasant hallucinations one moment, only to feel the pendulum swing and experience overwhelming aggression with negative hallucinations accompanying them the next moment. This unpredictable nature is one of the reasons LSD is still illegal, even for medical use.

Is LSD Safe?

If you are wondering is LSD is addictive, you might be surprised to know that the National Institute on Drug Abuse doesn’t consider LSD to be. Despite this, it’s essential to know that it’s possible to develop a tolerance to LSD, which can cause someone to need higher doses of the substance to feel its effects.

Though it’s not physically addictive, there’s no way to consider this illegal drug completely safe for recreational use. Someone considering trying LSD should keep these practices in mind to help reduce the adverse consequences they could meet:

  • LSD shouldn’t be mixed with other substances. Doing so can make a trip unpredictable.
  • Choose a safe environment. Using LSD in a familiar, safe space can reduce potentially harmful consequences. 
  • Start with a small dose. A typical amount found in blotters is 20-80 micrograms. Starting slow can help you avoid any adverse experiences that might affect you more than others.
  • Be with trusted people. It’s not a good idea to try LSD alone, and having someone sober nearby ensures that someone can intervene and get medical help if things go wrong. 

What are the Dangers of LSD?

Though LSD is not addictive, there are risks to weigh regarding its use. One such risk is the adverse side effects that can occur for some people. Though relatively rare, some dangerous effects include:

  • Irregular, shallow breathing
  • Aggression
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Delusions
  • Unconsciousness

For someone experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s best to call 911 or take the person in question to the emergency room to get the care they need. 

In addition to these extreme side effects, there are also a few long-term risks to consider with LSD. These can occur to anybody, but your chances of experiencing long-term symptoms are greater if you take higher doses of LSD or have a mental condition like schizophrenia.

Another long-term risk of taking acid is developing hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). Those who have this condition may experience flashback hallucinations for months or years after their drug use. 

Though some people have good trips with their acid use, it’s not guaranteed for everybody. It’s important to remember that psychoactive substances alter your mental and emotional state, which can lead to various consequences during and after using drugs. 

Can LSD Help With Mental Health?

There is currently no compelling evidence that suggests LSD would benefit your mental health. In the 1960s, researchers sought to learn whether LSD could help treat certain mental health conditions. But when it was outlawed, much of that research subsided. 

Recently, medical experts have developed a renewed interest in LSD and have been studying its therapeutic potential again. Some studies suggest LSD may have more positive effects than previously believed and may benefit mental health in the future. Still, many studies need to take place before LSD can achieve an evidence-based positive reputation and become legal for medical use.

How Does Ketamine Work Compared to LSD?

Ketamine and LSD are both psychoactive drugs, but they differ in a few ways. One of the most pronounced differences between the drugs is their classification. Though LSD is illegal and has no recognized medical use, ketamine has been a well-known Schedule C anesthetic drug for decades. 

The way they work differs, too. Some people may group both as psychedelics, but ketamine tends to have gentler effects than most psychedelic drugs. For example, a person using LSD would likely encounter vivid visual hallucinations and engage in an unfamiliar psychedelic environment during their trip. LSD may alter their sense of time and space and cause a  challenging experience.

On the other hand, ketamine works a bit differently. Both drugs are psychoactive, but ketamine usually evokes a more mild subjective experience for those who take it. It’s a dissociative drug, so it can prompt a feeling of separation from burdens or challenges.

To get into the neuroscience, these drugs also function differently in your brain. Pyramidal cells and chandelier cells are both core players in the process of developing thoughts. Psychedelics like LSD tend to stimulate pyramidal cells in your brain, which, in turn, overpowers chandelier cells.

Ketamine is more gentle. Rather than overwhelming chandelier cells, ketamine helps strengthen the interaction of pyramidal cells, which relaxes the chandelier cells. With pyramidal cells sending information between neurons, this process allows for an enlightened state of consciousness that feels meaningful for the ketamine user.

What Is Ketamine Treatment?

We’ve talked some about how there’s been a renewed interest in psychedelics connected to mental health. One psychoactive drug that is becoming more popular for therapeutic use is ketamine. Its gentle subjective experience and minimal side effects make it a notable option for those seeking alternative treatment for depression and other mental health conditions.  

Though its primary use is not connected to mental health, more doctors have begun prescribing ketamine off-label to treat resistant depression and other mental health conditions. 

Ketamine treatment is one recently-popular treatment tool that allows users to undergo a short-term subjective experience. This experience often only lasts 90 minutes to two hours. Still, it enables users to feel a sense of dissociation from their burdens and often results in powerful, insightful takeaways that last far longer than the treatment.

During this mystical peak experience, the person under ketamine treatment undergoes chemical processes that allow for enhanced cognition and expanded consciousness. In short, ketamine’s alternative approach can prompt a meaningful experience for those struggling with various mental health conditions. 

Is Ketamine Treatment Legal?

If you’ve dealt with depression or other mental health conditions, you might be interested in trying ketamine after hearing how it can help. Luckily, ketamine is an option that’s legally available and FDA-approved as an off-label prescription drug. 

Still, ketamine is a powerful psychoactive drug, and like many prescription medications, it’s not legal to take it outside of prescribed medical purposes. Its Schedule C classification allows doctors to prescribe it off-label as a therapeutic treatment. 

What Does Ketamine Treatment Feel Like?

Perhaps you’re wondering how you might feel while taking ketamine. Embarking on a ketamine experience can impact you in a few different ways. 

First, it can make you feel detached from yourself in a way that many find relieving. This sensation might feel like floating or an out-of-body consciousness. This part of the ketamine experience stems from the fact that ketamine is primarily a dissociative anesthetic. 

Ketamine may cause you to feel temporary distortions of time or hallucinations, but these generally don’t last for long. Overall, being under the effects of ketamine is usually a euphoric, relaxing experience. It’s not uncommon to encounter emotional, mystical revelations or insights during your experience, and these takeaways may stick with you long after ketamine leaves your body. 

Is Ketamine Treatment Safe?

As we’ve mentioned, ketamine is legal with a medical professional’s prescription. It’s not safe to take ketamine outside these bounds, as there’s less transparency about where it comes from or what’s in it.

When you undergo ketamine treatment, you’ll always do so under the supervision of a therapeutic professional. This observation allows you to experience the effects of ketamine safely. Sometimes this person is called a “sitter,” and they help make sure everything goes according to plan so that you can fully relax. 

Does Ketamine Have Side Effects?

Most medications have potential side effects that can impact your experience. For example, many people who take SSRIs for their depression encounter numerous side effects. 

If you’re considering ketamine treatment as an alternative to SSRIs, you’ll be happy to know that a therapeutic dose of ketamine has fewer common side effects than many SSRIs. Still, it’s a good idea to learn about the potential short-term and long-term side effects of ketamine that could influence you. 

Here are a few potential ketamine side effects:

  • Raised heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Stomach or bladder pains

Talking with a medical professional about your medical history can help you figure out whether ketamine is a good option for you. 

How Long Does It Take for Ketamine Treatment To Work?

Waiting weeks and months for medications to start working can feel frustrating. When you’re struggling with depression, it might be challenging to maintain hope when medications aren’t working as quickly as you’d imagined.

Many people are turning to ketamine treatment because of its rapid results. Ketamine can start to produce outstanding antidepressant effects in as little as one hour, making it an option that has brought fast-acting relief to so many people like you.

Who Can Benefit From Ketamine Treatment?

When typical depression treatment methods aren’t working out for you, you don’t have to lose hope. Even if other options haven’t worked out, ketamine treatments could be what you’ve been looking for.

If you live with treatment-resistant depression, you could be eligible for prescribed ketamine treatments in the comfort of your home with Nue Life. We’re here to help you figure out if this alternative is the next step for you. You can book a free evaluation today, and we’ll talk about whether you might be a good fit for ketamine treatments.

Ultimately, the psychedelic properties found in sublingual ketamine from Nue Life are a remarkable and innovative form of treatment. Get started today to find out how ketamine can help you leave your depression behind.

The Bottom Line

Psychedelics are a force of nature, and that’s one reason they continue to fascinate researchers. LSD is not yet FDA-approved for medical use and has high rates of abuse and recreational use. Some research shows that LSD may have some benefits for mental wellness, but more research is still needed. 

We still have so much to discover about LSD and drugs like it, but the findings surrounding psychoactive drugs like ketamine have already begun to bring relief and insightful change to so many.  

Treatment at Nue Life

Nue Life believes in holistic treatment, which means that what happens before and after your ketamine experience is equally as important as the experience itself. We want to ensure you have meaningful takeaways from your experiences and help you establish positive new neural pathways.

That’s why we provide one-on-one health coaching and integration group sessions with each of our programs. We’re here to help map out the mind and body connections in your brain and help you discover the insights that lead to true healing.


LSD and The Hippies: A Focused Analysis of Criminalization and Persecution In The Sixties | The People, Ideas, and Things (PIT) Journal

This is LSD attached to a brain cell serotonin receptor | Pharmacology

Ketamine Rapidly Improves Cognitive Function Making Those in Suicidal Crisis Less Likely to Harm Themselves | Columbia Psychiatry

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