LSD — casually known as acid — is a powerful hallucinogenic drug made from lysergic acid, a fungus that grows on grains like rye. You might also hear it referred to as “dots” or “lucy.”
An LSD high is referred to as a “trip.” Anyone who’s done it will tell you that it takes your mind on a wild ride, though not always a good one.
These trips have been described as everything from a spiritual awakening to a trip to the depths of hell (aka the dreaded “bad trip”).
While it’s been studied for potential therapeutic uses, LSD remains a Schedule I drug in the United States. This means it’s illegal to possess, manufacture, or distribute it.
Healthline does not endorsethe illegal use of any substances,and we recognize abstaining is always the safest approach. However, we believe in providing accessible and accurate information to reduce the harm that can occur when using.
There are a few ways to use LSD. The most common way is in the form of a blotter tab. These are tiny pieces of paper that have been infused with LSD.
You place the tab under your tongue, where it’s absorbed into your bloodstream via mucous membranes.
In its original form, LSD is an odorless crystal. It’s then crushed into a powder and dissolved in liquid. While this liquid can be injected, it’s not a very common way to use it.
LSD can produce a range of short-term psychedelic and physical effects, but guessing which ones you’ll experience is a bit of a crapshoot. The combo of effects varies from person to person, and even from one trip to another.
Physical effects can include:
- dilated pupils
- rapid heartbeat
- elevated blood pressure
- increased body temperature
- flushed skin
- tingling in the fingers and toes
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
- loss of appetite
Mental effects include:
- visual hallucinations, which can involve intense flashes of light and distorted images and reality
- intensified senses, including smells, sounds, and sensations
- feeling detached from your body or like you’re having an out-of-body experience
- blending of sensory perception (synthesis), like hearing colors or seeing sounds
- distorted sense of time and environment
- feelings of euphoria
- paranoia and delusions
- mood swings
- anxiety and panic
The effects of LSD typically kick in within 20 to 90 minutes and peak around 2 to 3 hours in, but this can vary from person to person.
There are a few variables that can affect when acid kicks in and how intense the effects are.
- your age
- your body mass index (BMI)
- your metabolism
- how much you take
It depends on the same factors that influence when the effects will kick in. If you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) meds, that can affect how long the effects last, too (more on this later).
A typical acid trip can last from 6 to 15 hours. You can also expect to have some lingering effects after that, aka the “afterglow.”
Depending on whether you had a good or bad trip, the afterglow can involve feeling energized and happy or anxious and unsettled. This phase lasts around 6 hours, but it can last days or even weeks if you took a lot of acid, according to some research.
There can be.
Some people experience an LSD hangover or comedown instead of or after the afterglow. How your trip goes and how much you took can dictate how you’ll feel when you’re coming down.
An LSD hangover can leave you feeling “off” for a few hours or days. For most people, the entire experience from trip to comedown lasts around 24 hours.
While coming down, you might feel nauseated, agitated, and anxious, all of which can make it hard to get some sleep.
How long LSD hangs around in your body, and can be detected by a drug test, depends on a few factors.
- your body composition
- your liver function
- your age
- how much you take
The time between taking LSD and testing matters, too, as does the type of drug test being used.
The liver quickly metabolizes LSD and transforms it into inactive compounds. After 24 hours, you excrete only about 1 percent of unchanged LSD via your urine. As a result, routine drug tests — often urine tests — can’t detect LSD.
Unless you take a heavy dose of one or both, the combo isn’t life threatening. But it still carries some risks.
Combining LSD and alcohol reduces the effects of both substances. Not feeling the full effects of either makes you more likely to reach for more, increasing your risk for overdoing it.
Some people may enjoy the effects they get from partaking in both, but your chances of a bad trip and rough comedown with nausea and vomiting are higher when you mix the two.
The effects of any substance get pretty unpredictable when you start mixing, so before taking LSD, it’s important to know how it might interact with anything else you’re taking.
This includes prescription medications and other substances.
LSD can lessen the effects of certain prescription medications and prevent them from working properly.
Some known LSD and prescription medication interactions include:
Keep in mind that LSD may interact with medications in ways that experts haven’t yet identified.
When you mix LSD with other substances, the effects of either or both can be increased.
While not every substance has been studied for potential interactions with LSD, we know that mixing it with any of the following can have unpleasant and potentially harmful effects:
When tolerance happens, you need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. This increases the chances of bad trips and long-term effects.
LSD can produce long-term effects in some people.
Your chances of experiencing long-term effects, including persistent psychotic symptoms, is
Long lasting effects are also possible after a bad trip. Some people find it hard to shake off a bad trip and have trouble adjusting to reality, even long after the LSD’s effects have worn off.
Another potential long-term effect of LSD is a condition called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). People with HPPD experience recurring hallucinations and other effects of LSD for weeks or even years. These experiences are called flashbacks.
There are also risks related to the intense effect LSD has on your mood and perception of reality.
Hallucinogens like acid can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. For some folks, it causes extreme mood swings that may lead to aggressive and violent behavior.
There’s no such thing as totally safe substance use, but taking certain precautions can help you avoid a bad time:
- Don’t do it alone. Have at least one sober person around who can intervene if things take a turn.
- Don’t mix. Don’t combine LSD with other substances, including alcohol. It’s hard enough to know how you’ll react to LSD on its own. Things get even trickier when you add other things into the mix.
- Pick a safe place. Make sure you’re in a safe, comfortable place when tripping. No one wants to have a bad trip in uncomfortable surroundings.
- Do it when you’re feeling good. An acid trip can be intense, so doing it when you’re already in a positive frame of mind is key.
- Go slow. Start with a low dose. Be sure to give it plenty of time to kick in before you consider taking more.
- Know when to skip it. Avoid LSD or use extreme caution if you have a preexisting mental health condition or take any medications that might interact with LSD.
A fatal overdose from LSD is unlikely, but adverse effects that require medical intervention are possible, especially when someone takes a large amount.
If you or someone else experiences any of the following after taking LSD, go to the nearest emergency room, or call 911 or your local emergency services:
- shallow or irregular breathing
- high body temperature
- agitation or aggression
- irregular heartbeat
- chest pain
- hallucinations or delusions
- loss of consciousness
If you’re concerned about law enforcement getting involved, you don’t need to mention the substances used over the phone (though it’s best to give them as much information as possible). Just be sure to tell them about specific symptoms so they can send the appropriate response.
If you’re caring for someone else, get them to lay slightly on their side while you wait. Have them bend their top knee inward if they can for added support. This position will keep their airways open in case they begin to vomit.
If you’re concerned about your substance use, you have a few options for support.
You can reach out to your primary healthcare provider if you’re comfortable doing so. Don’t worry about being reported to law enforcement. Patient confidentiality laws prevent your doctor from sharing this information.
Here are some other options:
- Call SAMHSA’s national helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357), or use their online treatment locater.
- Find a support group through the Support Group Project.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.