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LSD (acid)

9-minute read

Key facts

  • LSD is an illegal hallucinogenic drug that is usually swallowed.
  • People who use LSD usually experience trips that change their perception of reality.
  • However, trips can be frightening, and cause users to take risks and attempt harm.
  • Users can develop tolerance to LSD, which means they need higher doses to feel the same effect.

What is LSD?

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is an illicit hallucinogenic drug. It’s a chemical extracted from a fungus.

It comes as an odourless white powder. LSD is also sometimes sold as:

  • a liquid
  • in tablets
  • in capsules

The pure form of LSD is very strong, so it’s usually diluted with other things.

It’s usually taken by dropping LSD solution onto a material such as:

  • gelatine sheets
  • pieces of blotting paper
  • sugar cubes

These materials release the drug when swallowed or dissolved under your tongue.

LSD can also be:

  • sniffed
  • injected
  • smoked
  • applied to the skin

LSD is also known as:

  • acid
  • trips
  • tabs
  • microdots
  • dots
  • Lucy

What are the effects of taking LSD?

LSD can powerfully distort your senses. You may:

  • see changing shapes or colours
  • hallucinate
  • have intensified moods
  • have altered thought processes

People who use LSD have ‘trips’, which can be enjoyable or can be very frightening. They can involve:

  • seeing, smelling, hearing or touching things that aren’t real
  • more intense senses
  • a distorted sense of time and space
  • strange feelings in your body, like floating
  • rapidly changing or intense emotions
  • altered state of thinking

The short-term effects of LSD may also include:

The effects of LSD usually begin in 20 to 60 minutes. The effects of LSD usually last between to 12 hours, depending on the dose taken.

In the days after using LSD, you may experience:

LSD can affect people differently based on:

  • how much you take
  • your height and weight
  • your general health
  • your mood
  • your past experience with hallucinogens
  • whether you use LSD on its own or with other drugs
  • whether you use alone or with others, at home or at a party

What can go wrong with LSD?

LSD users may experience a ‘bad trip’, which is common when using LSD for the first time.

If you have a bad trip, you might experience:

  • extreme anxiety or fear
  • frightening hallucinations
  • panic — making you take risks (like running into the traffic or jumping from high places)
  • feeling you are losing control or going mad
  • paranoia — feeling that other people want to harm you

Very rarely, someone experiencing a bad trip may attempt suicide or become violent.

If someone you know is having a bad trip, it may last some hours. You should stay with, reassure and comfort them until the effects of the drug wear off. They may not get over a bad trip for several days.

Call an ambulance immediately on Triple Zero (000) if a person who has taken LSD:

  • isn’t waking up
  • is having abdominal pain or seizures (fits)
  • is overheating
  • is paranoid and you can’t calm them down

You should also call an ambulance if you are concerned that the effects of LSD may have caused a person to fall and injure their head.

If the person has been mixing LSD with other drugs, tell the paramedic exactly what they’ve taken.

Can LSD cause long-term problems?

It’s possible to experience flashbacks weeks, months or years after taking LSD. Flashbacks are when you feel the effects of the drug again, like having hallucinations, for a minute or 2. They can be frightening and happen more in people who use LSD regularly.

Some LSD users may develop hallucinogen persisting perception disorder. This involves long-term hallucinogenic experiences, which can be distressing.

Using LSD can damage your memory and concentration. LSD may also trigger or worsenmental health problems like:

What if I use other drugs or alcohol together with LSD?

The effects of taking LSD with other drugs (including those purchased over the counter or prescribed by your doctor) can be unpredictable and dangerous.

You can increase your risk of a bad trip or a stroke if you use LSD with:

Using LSD with alcohol may make you more uncoordinated and increase the chance of:

Can I become dependent on LSD?

LSD use does not usually cause physical dependence. Regular LSD users may experience a need or craving if they stop using the drug. However, this is not common.

Anyone can develop tolerance to LSD. Tolerance is when you need more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

Taking LSD for 3 or 4 consecutive days may lead to a higher level of tolerance. This is where no amount of the drug can produce the desired effects. After a short time of not using LSD — 3 to 4 days — normal tolerance returns.

How can I stop using LSD?

People who take LSD don’t usually need to seek treatment. However, if you want to stop using LSD and want advice, you can speak to your doctor. They can suggest general treatment options, such as:

  • participation in support groups
  • counselling and therapy
  • referral to an addiction specialist
  • inpatient detox and rehabilitation

Resources and support

See 'What are the effects of taking drugs?' on the Department of Health website for more information.

Find out more about how drugs and alcohol can impact your health, including where to find help and support.

You or someone you know may be finding it hard to manage issues related to drug use. You can try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek professional help. The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare step for you. This could be:

  • self-care
  • talking to a health professional
  • going to a hospital
  • calling triple zero (000)

You can find support and information about LSD through:

  • the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website or you can call their Drug Info and Advice Line on 1300 85 85 84
  • the Drug Help website or call the Alcohol Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015
  • the Turning Point website — Australia’s leading national addiction treatment, training and research centre —or call them on 1800 250 015
  • the Touchbase website for Australians identifying as LGBTI
  • Narcotics Anonymous Australia on 1300 652 820
  • the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14

Support for injection behaviour

If you inject LSD, you can reduce your risk of blood-borne disease by attending a Needle and Syringe Program (NSP).

Needle and Syringe Programs provide clean needles or syringes to people who inject drugs. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘needle exchange’.

The types of Needle and Syringe Programs vary, from pharmacies to vending machines.

You can also find a local Needle and Syringe Program using the healthdirect Service Finder. Select ‘By name’ and type ‘needle’ into the search bar.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

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