What is LSD?
LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is an illicit hallucinogenic drug. It is a chemical extracted from a fungus.
It comes as an odourless white powder. The pure form of LSD is very strong, so it is usually diluted with other materials. The most common form is drops of LSD solution dried onto gelatin sheets, pieces of blotting paper or sugar cubes, which release the drug when they are swallowed. LSD is also sometimes sold as a liquid, in a tablet or in capsules.
LSD is usually swallowed or dissolved under the tongue, but it can be sniffed, injected, smoked or applied to the skin.
It is also known as acid, trips, tabs, microdots, dots or Lucy.
What are the effects of taking LSD?
When people take LSD, it powerfully distorts their senses — they may see changing shapes or colours, or have hallucinations. It can also intensify mood and alter thought processes. People who use LSD have ‘trips’, which can be enjoyable or can be very frightening.
The short-term effects of LSD may include:
- seeing, smelling, hearing or touching things that aren’t real
- more intense senses
- a distorted sense of time and space
- strange feelings in the body, like floating
- rapidly changing or intense emotions
- altered state of thinking
- dilated pupils
- muscles twitching
- increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure
- insomnia, dizziness, nausea and vomiting
- being flushed, sweating or chills
The effects of LSD usually begin in 30 to 45 minutes and can last for 4 to 12 hours. The effects can last longer, depending on the dose taken.
LSD can affect people differently based on:
- how much they take
- their height and weight
- their general health
- their mood
- their past experience with hallucinogens
- whether they use LSD on its own or with other drugs
- whether they use alone or with others, at home or at a party
What can go wrong with LSD?
If you have mostly negative effects from taking LSD, it is called a ‘bad trip’ and is common when using LSD for the first time.
If you have a bad trip, you might experience:
- extreme anxiety or fear
- frightening hallucinations (e.g. spiders crawling on the skin)
- panic, making you take risks (like running into the traffic or jumping off a balcony)
- 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, they need to be reassured and comforted until the effects of the drug wear off. This can take many hours. They may not get over a bad trip for several days.
If you can’t wake someone up, they are having abdominal pain, seizures, they are overheated, or are paranoid and you can’t calm them down, or you are concerned the drugs may have made them fall and they have injured their head — call an ambulance immediately on Triple Zero (000).
If the person has been mixing LSD with other drugs, tell the paramedic exactly what they have taken.
Can LSD cause long-term problems?
It is 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 are more common in people who use LSD regularly.
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.
Can I become dependent on LSD?
LSD is not thought to cause physical dependence, but regular uses of LSD may experience a need or craving if they stop using the drug. However, this is not common.
Tolerance means that you must take more of the drug to feel the same effects you used to have with smaller amounts. Anyone can develop tolerance to LSD. Taking LSD for 3 or 4 consecutive days may lead to tolerance where no amount of the drug can produce the desired effects. After a short period of abstinence (3 to 4 days), normal tolerance returns.
Resources and support
If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage issues as a result of drug use, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: January 2021