Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD, is one of the most powerful commonly-abused psychedelic chemicals and has been a source of controversy for decades. As a hallucinogenic drug, there have been many claims over the years that LSD could have beneficial medicinal properties, especially in the field of psychotherapy. However, to date, no experiment where LSD was used in a therapeutic session has proven to be beneficial.
Instead, LSD is usually used recreationally for its intense, hallucinogenic properties, as well as its ability to alter a person’s feelings, sensations, and perceptions. Though typically taken by mouth, LSD can also be snorted or injected.
LSD works by affecting a chemical in your brain called serotonin—a neurotransmitter that helps control and modulate your mood, senses, and even how you think. Visual and emotional processing, two things LSD effects the most, are heavily influenced by your serotonin levels.
LSD is more effective at activating your brain’s serotonin receptors than actual serotonin, vastly increasing the levels of serotonin and flooding the brain, which accounts for the vivid hallucinations and major shifts in perceptions and emotions brought on by and LSD “trip.”
LSD is not considered a physically addictive drug. The body does not crave LSD when you’re not using it, and it does not provoke uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior. However, if someone heavily uses LSD for an extended period of time, they can become psychologically dependent, which can potentially cause mental withdrawal symptoms when they stop using.
There is little to no risk of developing a physical dependence on LSD. Therefore it is not a drug that typically has any withdrawal symptoms associated with it. People can stop using LSD safely without the need of a medical detoxification.
However, people can and do become psychologically dependent on it. After taking LSD, the normal world can seem bland and uninteresting in comparison, prompting continued use and eventual tolerance that leads to using larger amounts. This only increases the chances of a “bad trip,” which can have serious psychological ramifications. There are several psychological symptoms that can manifest when people have been using LSD in this way for a long time, including:
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There is no LSD withdrawal timeline, generalized or otherwise because the majority of people who take it will not feel any withdrawal effects upon discontinuing use of LSD. As soon as a person “comes down” from their high, things return to normal.
The timeline of an LSD trip is as follows:
LSD flashbacks; however, can happen months or even years after someone has stopped taking LSD.
Flashbacks are an extremely subjective experience in terms of duration and severity and difficult to pin down because it is so hard to study accurately, but they are essentially episodes that resemble LSD intoxication.
In general, even if they don’t experience any specific symptoms of withdrawal, people who have previously frequently used LSD may take as long as several months to feel “normal” again.
While detoxing from LSD is not necessary to begin recovery from addiction, many people abuse other substances in conjunction with LSD, which is incredibly dangerous and potentially life-threatening. LSD and alcohol, in particular, can have especially damaging side effects, including:
If you are abusing antidepressants with LSD, there is also the danger of Serotonin Syndrome, which is when too much serotonin builds up in the body. Both LSD and antidepressants like Prozac increase the brain’s serotonin levels, and taking both together can trigger Serotonin Syndrome, which can cause:
If you are mixing other drugs or alcohol with LSD, it is imperative that you seek a medical detox center and purge them from your system under the supervision of a medical professional.
Learning to live without LSD and overcoming the psychological dependence the drug can cause requires a full treatment plan, just like any other addiction. While residential treatment or removing yourself to a sober living community will most likely be unnecessary, some popular, proven outpatient treatment options include:
With the help of these treatment elements and a commitment to the recovery process, you can attain sobriety and have a much higher chance of avoiding a potential relapse.