Tox Tuesday: LSD

LSD is one of the most well known hallucinogenic drugs, and one of the strongest.

Also known as acid, LSD causes hallucinations that include a distorted perception of time and space along with mood changes and impaired judgment (this impairment can lead to injury given the inability to perceive danger). LSD causes dilated pupils, and a rise in body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Notably, LSD users can have flashbacks to a previous LSD trip days or even months after they last used the drug.

LSD is taken orally, either in tabs, capsules, or liquid. Frequently, it’s administered to blotter paper, with each square marking one dose.

LSD is listed as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no medically accepted usage. It was discovered in 1938 as part of research into lysergic acid, which is derived from the ergot, a mold that grows on grains such as rye and can sicken those who consume it. Interestingly, ergot poisoning has been suggested as a root cause of the hysteria that later would lead to the Salem witch trials (more on that here).

In recent years, first time LSD use in the U.S. has trended upwards, from about 200,000 in 2002 to 421,000 in 2012, according to the most recent figures from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The average age for first use of LSD was 19 years old; however, almost 71 percent of youths surveyed said they perceived the usage of LSD once or twice a week as having a great risk. In Europe, the prevalence of LSD usage among people ages 15 to 34 is relatively low, from 0 to 1.7 percent.

Recent headlines have seen LSD research back in the news.  In February, the editors of Scientific American called for an end to the restrictive classification of certain psychoactive substances such as LSD in order to make it easier for scientists to conduct legitimate research into their possible medical use.  A recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology by researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that use of psychoactive substances like LSD within the criminal justice system may benefit those offenders who have a hallucinogen-use disorder.  Another recent study by Swiss scientists found that LSD-assisted psychotherapy sessions had helped to diminish anxiety in persons with advanced-stage life threatening diseases.

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