LSD Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD or acid, is a hallucinogenic drug with recreational, spiritual, and therapeutic uses. LSD is a synthetic drug created in 1936 by Albert Hoffman while working at Sandoz Laboratories. He did not discover the psychedelic effects of LSD until he accidentally consumed some of it five years later.
Today, some mental health researchers believe that LSD could help treat a broad range of ailments, including alcoholism. Unfortunately, LSD and similar psychedelics remain popular as street drugs that can have unpredictable effects. The hallucinogen isn’t physically addictive like many other drugs, but it still poses a threat to healthy lifestyles because of its physical and mental health consequences.
Is LSD Addictive?
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists LSD as a Schedule I drug, which means the agency believes it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.
However, researchers distinguish between abuse potential and addiction potential. LSD users rarely, if ever, get addicted to the drug, and they do not display “uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior.” However, tolerance to LSD builds quickly, so frequent users must take higher doses to achieve desired effects.
Although not physically addictive, LSD abuse could lead to psychological dependence. It can also decrease sensitivity to other psychedelic drugs, including psilocybin.
Since practically all LSD comes from clandestine laboratories without professional supervision, the drug does not have predictable effects. This unknown factor makes LSD especially dangerous for people to take in large doses. Therefore, frequent use of LSD can lead to drug abuse that responds well to treatment programs.
What Are the Side Effects of Taking LSD?
LSD interferes with neurotransmitters in the brain, producing various physiological and psychological effects. Some common side effects of the drug include:
- Visual hallucinations
- Altered perception of time and space
- Vivid colors and sounds
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Increased body temperature (hyperthermia)
- Loss of appetite
- Synesthesia (experiencing sound as color or vice versa)
Adverse side effects of taking LSD are often associated with “bad trips.” Not everyone who uses LSD will experience these episodes. Effects commonly attributed to bad trips include:
- Psychosis and other disturbing psychological effects
- Thought distortions that can lead to strange beliefs or behaviors
- Suicidal thoughts
- Dissociation (feeling separate from the surrounding world)
Although commonly disputed as inaccurate rumors, some reports say that users experience flashbacks. Intense flashbacks can have symptoms similar to severe mental illnesses.
Taking small doses of LSD might help users avoid these adverse effects. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict the size of a dose. Buyers typically purchase LSD on blotter paper, gel tabs, and sugar cubes. Even the seller might not know how much crystal or liquid LSD was applied to the item.
Drugs Fraudulently Sold as LSD
Although LSD can have adverse psychological effects, it’s a relatively safe drug from a physical perspective. However, drug dealers might misrepresent considerably more dangerous drugs as LSD.
Law enforcement struggles to stay ahead of fraudulent LSD because dealers can source novel chemicals from labs overseas. From 2009 to 2018, nearly 900 new psychoactive substances were reported.
LSD-like drugs such as 25I-NBOMe and its related compounds are particularly concerning. NBOMe has properties similar to LSD and MDMA, a stimulant. NBOMe series drugs are extremely powerful. Someone planning to take a small dose of LSD could unknowingly consume a large amount of NBOMe, leading to paranoia, heart palpitations, and other distressing effects.
Illicit drug sellers can also substitute LSD with PCP. Although PCP produces some effects similar to LSD’s, it is more associated with violent behavior. PCP is an addictive drug, which means someone who thinks they’re taking LSD could develop a physical dependency. Eventually, they could experience cravings for a drug they believe has very low addiction potential. Ongoing PCP drug use could require addiction treatment.
What Does LSD Look Like?
When trained chemists make LSD, they produce an odorless crystal. The crystalline LSD is often turned into a white or clear liquid before it’s introduced to the black market.
Suppliers might try to identify and market LSD by applying the drug to colorful blotter paper. The blotter paper can include graphics, such as dancing bears and fractals.
Distributors can also add LSD liquid to gel tabs or sugar cubes that melt on the tongue.
Regardless of form, oral ingestion usually produces noticeable results within half an hour. The drug experience peaks after about four hours. Experiences typically last eight to 12 hours, but high doses can last much longer.
Substance use disorder responds well to substance abuse treatment. If you worry that you might have been exposed to a substance other than LSD, contact Zinnia Health at (855) 430-9439. Our substance abuse and mental health professionals have experience working with a broad range of patients. We can develop a personalized medical detox and behavioral health counseling plan by working with your needs.
The History of LSD and Its Use
LSD has a complicated history that makes it easy for young adults, law enforcement, and others to find misinformation. Throughout its history, LSD has been upheld as a chemical with the potential to expand consciousness. It has also been demonized as a drug that can cause insanity after a single dose.
These extreme scenarios are unlikely for people without severe mental health issues.
Even proponents of using LSD have taken diverse approaches to popularizing and taking the drug. Philosophically-minded users in the 1960s often tried to use LSD to expand their minds, create more expressive art, and discover ways to transform human society. At the same time, plenty of people took the drug to enjoy its euphoric effects. This dichotomy still exists today.
The United States government added LSD to the list of Schedule I substances in 1968. This change made it extremely difficult for researchers to explore positive ways to use the drug. For years, psychologists and psychiatrists had experimented with LSD as a treatment option for patients struggling with mental health disorders and substance abuse. That research ended quickly. However, a renaissance in psychedelic therapy has grown over the last several years.
LSD Abuse and Treatment Options
Even though few experts consider LSD an addictive drug, substance abuse deserves professional treatment. This treatment helps the patient stop using LSD or other drugs while addressing underlying mental health issues that might contribute to the behavior.
Zinnia Health’s team of professionals uses personalized treatment plans that can include various approaches.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps treat substance abuse, addiction, and other behavioral health issues by teaching people to recognize connections between thoughts, feelings, and actions. Once you identify negative patterns, you can confront thought distortions to gain a more realistic perspective of your situation.
For example, a person who often uses LSD to deal with challenges in their life might learn to identify and challenge a thought distortion like “I never do anything right at work!” It’s unlikely that the person never does anything right at work. Instead, their brain has learned to focus on perceived failures.
The thought “I never do anything right at work!” probably makes the person feel worthless. They might decide that trying to change isn’t worth the effort. They believe they’re beyond help. These negative feelings reinforce the thought distortion, further heightening the emotions. The feedback pattern makes the problem seem insurmountable.
In response, the person might turn to behavior that offers short-term relief. In this case, the person takes LSD to experience euphoria and forget their problems. The next day, they haven’t improved their situation.
CBT shows the person how to scrutinize thoughts and feelings to find inaccuracies. With practice, they get better at accepting failures as a part of life instead of career-ending events. As a result, they no longer feel the intense desire to cover their feelings with LSD or other substances.
Therapists can change CBT’s approach to address a person’s unique experiences, concerns, and harmful coping strategies. With time and practice, the therapist and person work to replace the unhealthy coping strategies with more successful options.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is an evolution of CBT that includes more aspects of mindfulness, stress management, and emotion regulation.
DBT is primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD), but therapists have found success using it to address everything from substance use disorder to eating disorders.
DBT works by focusing on four key strategies:
- Distress tolerance
- Interpersonal effectiveness
- Emotion regulation
Mindfulness teaches people how to stay in the moment instead of projecting into the past or future. Being present can help patients choose healthy behaviors instead of unhealthy habits.
Distress tolerance trains patients to use techniques like distraction and self-soothing during stressful situations. Over time, practicing can foster a positive attitude about the present and future.
Interpersonal effectiveness seeks to balance relationships by meeting each person’s needs without letting one take advantage of the other. It includes learning how to communicate, handle difficult people, and respect yourself.
Emotion regulation involves identifying and naming an emotion. Then, you change the unwanted emotion by participating in an activity. For example, if you feel sad, you identify the emotion as “sadness.” Then, you would schedule an activity that makes you happy, such as playing a game or spending time with friends.
Medication therapy usually involves taking mental health prescription drugs that address issues like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and psychosis. It can take some time for doctors to find the correct medication or series of drugs to treat an individual’s mental health issues. Unfortunately, trial and error is often the only way to find a combination of drugs that work well for the person.
Some popular medications used to treat mental health disorders include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): antidepressants like sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), and paroxetine HCl (Paxil)
- Selective serotonin and norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs): antidepressants like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor)
- Gabapentin: a drug often used “off-label” to treat anxiety
- Benzodiazepines: sedative anxiolytics like clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium)
- Mood stabilizers: medications like divalproex sodium (Depakote) and lithium (Lithobid) that help control manic and hypomanic episodes
- Antipsychotics: prescription drugs like quetiapine (Seroquel) and aripiprazole (Abilify) that help prevent psychosis
Patients recovering from substance use disorder might need outpatient care as they adjust to medications. Outpatient care also allows providers and patients to track progress and intervene before minor problems become major obstacles to success.
Substance abuse treatment centers give you the essential tools to live a healthier life. Ongoing support helps you stay on the right path by forming relationships with people who understand your struggles.
Support groups play essential roles in long-term sobriety. Finding a group of supportive people with similar experiences can make it easier to focus on maintaining sobriety and accepting the things you cannot change.
You probably won’t find an LSD support group in your area. Luckily, plenty of other 12-step programs accept all types of drug users. Start by searching for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) chapters near you.
You can also join online groups of people who support each other during their journey toward lifelong sobriety.
Getting Help From Zinnia Health
If you, a family member, or another loved one is struggling with LSD abuse or drug addiction, Zinnia Health can help. Don’t dismiss the severity of LSD abuse just because it doesn’t cause physical dependence. It can create major blocks in a person’s life, preventing them from maintaining relationships and reaching goals.