LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), commonly referred to as acid, is not considered physically addictive. However, regular users can develop tolerance as well as emotional dependence and, therefore, benefit from professional treatment.
Substance abuse rehab programs are designed to help individuals stop using LSD, other drugs, and alcohol. The most appropriate treatment approach depends on how much of the drug the person is using and whether they abuse other substances or struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders.
Is LSD Addictive?
LSD (Acid) is a hallucinogen that alters a person’s perceptions of reality and induces visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations that can last as long as 12 hours. As noted, LSD is technically not an addictive drug—addictive drugs promote compulsive drug-seeking behaviors, but LSD rarely does. Use also does not typically lead to cravings for more of the drug.
However, individuals who frequently use LSD often develop tolerance. This condition occurs over time and means that the person will need to increase their dose to achieve the sought-after results. And although LSD does not cause physical dependence, it can be psychologically addictive. Moreover, those who enjoy the sensory changes induced by LSD may want to keep using the drug to continue experiencing these effects.
Also, many LSD users are polysubstance abusers, meaning that they regularly use multiple substances such as marijuana or alcohol.
How to Identify LSD Abuse
Hallucinogen use disorder is usually seen in individuals under age 30, and recovery rates are high. Most of those who struggle with substance abuse will continue to use drugs compulsively, even when that leads to adverse consequences.
According to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), an individual who experiences two or more of the following symptoms within 12 months may be diagnosable as having hallucinogen use disorder:
- Using more of the drug than originally intended
- Being unable to control drug use
- Spending a significant amount of time attaining, using, and recovering from drug use
- Experiencing cravings for hallucinogenic substances
- Failing to attend to essential life obligations in areas such as school, work, school, or home because of drug use
- Continuing to use the drug despite consequences that are incurred from use
- Neglecting other activities previously considered enjoyable or important such as sports or other hobbies
- Using LSD under risky conditions, such as driving a motor vehicle
- Continuing to abuse LSD even though it causes or worsens a psychological or physical disorder
- Developing tolerance to the drug, so that higher and higher doses are needed to achieve the sought-after effects
- Experiencing physical or psycho-emotional withdrawal symptoms when use is discontinued
An LSD high or “trip” can cause several short-term effects. Most users experience LSD effects within about 30 minutes of use, and “trips” can last several hours.
Time may seem to slow down or accelerate, and users will usually see, hear, and feel things that are not apparent to others. Users frequently report experiencing synesthesia, an effect that is characterized by an overlapping of senses, such as “hearing” colors.
Using LSD typically leads to some of the following effects:
- Rapid heart rate
- High body temperature
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor motor coordination
Good and Bad “Trips”
Positive experiences while under the influence of LSD are known as “good trips,” and some people report that the distortions of time and sensations feel good or that the high was a religious or spiritual experience. However, sometimes, an individual who has used LSD will have a “bad trip” and encounter frightening hallucinations, feel as if they don’t exist, or have feelings of anxiety and panic and hope that the experience will soon end.
It’s difficult to know what kind of experience someone will have while high on LSD, but regular use increases the risk of a bad trip occurring.
An individual who takes LSD regularly for an extended period will rapidly develop tolerance. As noted, it will then take increasing amounts of the drug for the user to experience the desired effects.
In addition to the development of tolerance, some who use LSD over a prolonged period may encounter some mental health problems.
When a person uses LSD, it can induce persistent distortions in an individual’s understanding of reality. These distortions can manifest even when the person has not used LSD recently and can include difficulty differentiating reality from false perceptions.
Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPPV)
Some LSD users report experiencing “flashbacks” or unexpected disruptions in visual observations or other environmental perceptions, even if they have not used LSD for a long time. These flashbacks can range in intensity from mild to severe, and these experienced can last for variable amounts of time. When this occurs, the person may be experiencing HPPV.
Getting Treatment for Acid Abuse
Although LSD use is not as problematic as the abuse of other drugs such as alcohol or opioids, this habit can impair the lives of those who engage in it and may worsen other conditions, such as mental health disorders and polysubstance addiction.
Persons who are regularly abusing acid are urged to participate in a long-term addiction rehab program that includes psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning. Most people with hallucinogen use disorder will experience a full recovery.
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