LSD Abuse

LSD is a hallucinogen that can change the way a person feels, thinks and experiences the world.

While it’s not considered an addictive drug by most experts, as people who use LSD tend to stop using the drug on their own without the help of outsiders and without developing a compulsive need to use the drug no matter the consequences, it is still considered a remarkably dangerous drug that can do long-term damage to the people who take it.

Understanding LSD

LSD stands for lysergic acid diethylamide, and it’s considered an illegal drug in the United States.

While LSD is synthesized from a fungus that grows naturally on grains like rye, it also takes a significant amount of time and expertise in a laboratory to create even a tiny dose of LSD. In fact, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, it can take up to three days to create one to four ounces of crystal LSD.

Street Slang

Some users call the drug “LSD,” but more creative street names include:

  • Dots
  • Battery acid
  • Superman
  • Loony toons
  • Lucy in the sky with diamonds
  • Blotter

Dealers of LSD may print colorful images on squares of absorbent paper and then infuse that paper with liquid forms of LSD. Users can then place the tiny square of paper on their tongues to extract the drug and allow the changes to begin. Some dealers also sell LSD in liquid form, allowing users to place drops directly on the tongue. Some users even place liquid LSD drops in their eyes. LSD is also sometimes sold as a gel that can be dissolved into drinks or dissolved directly in the mouth. The drug has a bitter taste, so people who use LSD often follow the drug with a sugary drink or a sip of alcohol, to wash the bitterness away.

An Unpredictable Experience

According to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Study, 1.2 percent of 8th graders, 1.9 percent of 10th graders and 2.6 percent of 12th graders admitted to abusing LSD at least once in the year prior.

It seems that the pressure to use LSD increases as the teens get older, and that more teens fall prey to experimentation as they move closer and closer to graduating from high school. The reasons they use the drug are slightly unclear, but it’s quite possible that teens have no idea how dangerous the drug really is. Teens might be told that LSD can expand their minds and open them up to realities that they might not be exposed to in any other way. Unfortunately, teens who experiment with LSD might get a much more intense experience than they ever thought possible, and sometimes, those experiences hold dangers for the teen’s health and later sanity.

Signs of LSD UseLSD disrupts the serotonin system in the brain. Serotonin is used in the regulation of all sorts of activities, including behavior, perception, muscle control and body temperature. When this system is disrupted, a variety of side effects begin to take effect, and they can stay in place for up to 12 hours. While the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that no properly controlled studies have been performed to track how LSD impacts the human brain, case reports from people who use LSD can be used to describe what it’s like to be under the influence of the drug.

For some users, the feelings are overwhelmingly positive. They report an enhanced ability to experience colors and sounds, and they may be overwhelmed with euphoria. Movements, colors and sounds become distorted and fascinating. Some people experience the ability to hear colors or taste sounds, crossing signals from one sensory perception to another. While the user might feel happy, the user might also behave in completely unacceptable or dangerous ways. People on LSD might wander into traffic, jump from high places, engage in unsafe sex or drive and injure other drivers. Even a positive experience can quickly go awry.

LSD has also been associated with seriously negative feelings.

Some people develop persistent fears that they’re dying, being chased or about to be diagnosed with a horrible disease. They may find the sensory changes to be terrifying, and they may not recognize their own faces in the mirror. People under the influence of LSD on a “bad trip” might mutilate their own bodies, attack their friends or commit acts of extreme violence. While these experiences might be terrible to deal with in the moment, they can also return later in the user’s life. People who use LSD sometimes report that they experience flashback episodes in which they are dropped right back into the terrifying emotions they felt during the bad trip, and those flashbacks can last for minutes or even for hours.

Bad Trip

Bad LSD TripIt would be ideal if users could determine why they have a positive experience and why they do not, and then just try to replicate the positive experience while eliminating the bad trip; however, there is no accurate way to make this sort of prediction. The experience the person endures has to do with multiple factors, including:

  • The strength of the drug
  • The environment in which the drugs were taken
  • The person’s health
  • The person’s expectations about what the drug will do

Some of these factors are within a person’s control, but other factors are not. And the way a person reacts during one LSD episode is not indicative of how that person will react during a later episode. A teen who has an amazing time on LSD one day may have a severe hallucination the very next time the drug is taken.

LSD and Addiction

When experts determine whether or not a drug is addictive, they attempt to find out if the abuse causes persistent chemical changes in the brain that could lead someone to take the drug again, even though the person knows that drug use is harmful. While some drugs like heroin or cocaine have passed this test, and study after study indicates that these drugs do cause compulsive behavior, the research about LSD is much less clear. At this moment, most experts do not believe that LSD can cause addiction. There is one complicating factor, however.

According to an article in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 72 percent of people who abuse alcohol also take drugs at the same time.

While the most common alcohol-drug combination involved marijuana, 16 percent of these teens used hallucinogens like LSD along with alcohol. Teens who mix and match drugs and alcohol, or drugs and other drugs, might develop strong addictions to these other substances. They might also create persistent changes in their brains that haven’t yet been studied. Most studies on addictiveness use only one drug at a time. It’s hard to know how addictive LSD might be when it’s combined with a myriad of other substances.

Risk Factors

Risk of Drug AbuseAlmost any teen could be at risk for LSD use or drug abuse, but according to a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, teens who had been physically or sexually assaulted, teens who had witnessed violence, or teens with a family history of drug or alcohol abuse were at higher risk for drug use or misuse. These teens may turn to substance abuse to help them cope with the unresolved emotions that trauma can cause.

Some teens may be particularly drawn to LSD and other hallucinogens when they attend dance parties.

Since the drugs increase their sensory perceptions, they may find the thumping music, flashing lights and sweaty bodies to be even more appealing than they would be if the teen were sober. Some teens take LSD at these parties on the urging of their friends. They might be told that they are “uptight” or “stiff” and that the drug will help them to relax and enjoy themselves more.

Teens who don’t have ready responses to peer pressure suggestions like this might find themselves at risk for taking the drug.

Long-Term Effects

Teens who repeatedly take LSD develop a tolerance for the drug, meaning that they must take larger and larger doses of the drug in order to feel the same effect. While this is not a good practice to follow with any drug, it can be particularly disastrous with LSD.

In addition to changing a person’s sense of perception, LSD can also interfere with the body’s temperature regulation capability. People who use LSD may develop extremely high body temperatures, and since their ability to reason and make good decisions has been decreased, they may not know that their temperatures are climbing. High body temperatures can cause damage to the kidneys, and extremely high temperatures can lead to death.

The risk of long-term flashbacks is quite high in people who abuse LSD. It’s hard to overstate how frightening these flashbacks can be. One moment, the user is performing a mundane activity like driving or sitting in a board meeting, and the next moment, that user is plunged into a terrifying hallucination that can’t be controlled or stopped.

According to case studies published in the Journal of Pediatrics, some teens develop severe flashbacks when they attempt to get help for symptoms of depression.

Taking medications for depression seem to cause the flashbacks to increase in intensity, and it’s likely that makes living with depression even worse. Other teens become so frightened of experiencing a flashback and behaving strangely while under the influence of a flashback that they become socially isolated, unable to leave their homes or otherwise live a normal life.

What to Do

As there are no medications that can stop the effects of LSD once the drug has entered the bloodstream, people who are under the influence of the drug can be a danger to themselves and others. Parents who spot their children behaving strangely should call a medical facility for advice. Sometimes, it’s best to bring the teen in for observation so doctors can monitor the teen’s temperature, heart rate and behavior to ensure than nothing dangerous happens to the teen while the effects of LSD wear off.

Parents who know their children are using LSD, either occasionally or on a regular basis, need to intervene right away.

In some cases, parents can simply talk to their teens on a one-on-one basis, and outline why the drug is dangerous and why its use is not acceptable. By staying open and honest, and creating clear boundaries, parents may be able to stop the use right then and there. But, teens who continue to use LSD, or who use LSD and other drugs, may need more intensive help. In a structured rehabilitation program, they can learn more about why they chose to use drugs, and they can get the help they’ll need to stop using drugs for good.

At Newport Academy, we provide this sort of help to teens from all walks of life. We’d love to talk with you about our programs and help you determine if we’re the right fit for your family. Please contact us today to find out more.