One of the most powerful hallucinogens in circulation, LSD is a psychedelic drug that creates perceptual, sensory and thought distortions. With an average dosage of just a mere 100 micrograms, LSD is most often orally ingested from paper coated with the drug (known as “tabs” comprising “sheets of acid”). LSD can also be suspended in gelatin, infused into sugar cubes or transferred transdermally to the system.
While LSD is not considered to be physically addictive, psychological addiction to the drug can take place with repeated dosages. Additionally, because of the ways in which LSD affects the memory, cognitive and emotional centers in the brain, psychological damage from prolonged LSD addiction can persist for years, even after successful recovery from drug addiction has been achieved.
Psychological Aspects of LSD Addiction
For many users, psychological addiction to LSD encompasses several factors. First, reasons for LSD usage may include the need for emotional escape, identity issues, low self-esteem or depression. Although the hallucinogen provides a temporary reprieve from these emotional and psychological issues, mental health issues may resurface as sobriety returns, causing the user to engage in drug use again.
Secondly, tolerance can occur as LSD use continues, causing LSD users to increase their dosages in order to activate the drug’s psychedelic properties – with many users feeling no effects unless they intake a double or triple dose if LSD has been used in the previous 72 hours. Cross-tolerance can also occur among other hallucinogens, such as psilocin or psilocybin, causing polydrug users to ingest higher doses of other drugs to achieve highs, as well.
LSD affects serotonin levels in the brain after a drug trip, leading to crashing mood and energy as the drug exits the system. As a result, many users engage in re-dosing in order to stave off the effects of lowered mood. Like most other illegal substances, LSD also affects the reward pathways in the brain, causing the forming of behavioral habituation as heavy associations take place between use of the drug and pleasure.
Finally, efforts to minimize the chances of a user’s “bad trip” on LSD often lead to addicted individuals using secondary drugs aimed at mood elevation, such as ecstasy or cocaine. As a result, the secondary drug can lead to physical addiction that serves to compound the existing psychological addiction to LSD.
Symptoms of LSD Addiction
LSD abuse largely can be seen in behavioral changes, such as intense paranoia, delusional thinking and rapid, incoherent speech. Additionally, LSD users may exhibit intense perspiration, enlarged pupils, shaking, weak muscles, tingling fingers and hands or high body temperatures. Mentally, LSD addiction can cause persistent and marked changes in psychological function and emotional state, leading to synesthesia (transferred senses such as “seeing” music or “hearing” color), severe mood swings, insomnia and psychosis.
For those who have been predisposed genetically, LSD addiction can lead to the activation of psychological disorders such as schizophrenia. In some users, flashbacks can occur even years after the last LSD trip, in a condition known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).