This article covers lysergic acid diethylamide. For other meanings, see LSD (disambiguation)

D-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (Chem: C20H25N3O -- Acid, Lysergide, or Tripz) is a hallucinogen and psychedelic entheogen. LSD is an abbreviation of the German term for the compound, Lyserg-Säure-Diaethylamid.

LSD blotter paper.

LSD is one of the most potent drugs in common use, and the only drugs that are more potent are closely related to LSD in their chemistry. LSD is 100 times more potent than psilocybin and psilocin and 4,000 times more potent than mescaline. Dosages of LSD are measured in micrograms, or millionths of a gram. By comparison, dosages of almost all other drugs, both recreational and medical, are measured in milligrams, or thousandths of a gram.

The dosage level that will produce a hallucinogenic effect in humans is generally considered to be 25 micrograms. In the late 1990s, LSD obtained during drug law enforcement operations in the United States has ranged between 20 and 80 micrograms per dose.

Table of contents
1 Effects of LSD
2 History of LSD
3 Early History: Its Synthesis
4 Psychiatric Use
5 Dr. Timothy Leary
6 Government Experiments
7 Recreational Use
8 LSD Today
9 LSD Usage
10 Chemistry
11 Forms of LSD
12 Legal Status
13 LSD in the United States
14 Related topics
15 External links
16 Research

Effects of LSD

Physical reactions to LSD may include: body-temperature increase, dry-mouth, "goose-bumps", heart-rate increase, muscle-tension, nausea, perspiration, pupil-dilation, salivation, mucous production, sleeplessness, tremors.

LSD's psychological effects vary. Beginning in the first hour after ingestion, and continuing for the duration of the "trip", the user may experience changes in visual perception and a change in mood. The user may also suffer impaired depth and time perception, with distorted perception of the size and shape of objects, movements, color, sound, touch and the user's own body image. The change in time perception may lead a user to sit or lie in awkward positions for an extended period of time, resulting in muscle cramps and soreness that are often mistakenly attributed to the action of the LSD itself. The user may experience a great variability in ability to focus on ideas and external stimuli.

LSD's psychological effects normally last at least 8 hours, and the effects of higher doses last for 10 to 12 hours. It is typical for a user of LSD to be unable to sleep restfully until at least 12 hours or more have passed, and they do not feel completely "back to normal" until after getting one or two full nights of restful sleep, although they will exhibit no outward signs of impairment after the drug has worn off.

While LSD is generally considered nontoxic, dangers can arise from bad judgments made during the experience. As with many drugs, while under the influence of LSD the ability to make sensible judgments and understand common dangers can be impaired, making the user susceptible to personal injury. If the user attempts to drive a car or operate machinery, their impaired state can lead to accidents and injury. An LSD trip can have lasting psychoemotional effects of neutral, negative and positive variety. If repeated or taken in large doses, it can induce "psychotic" states such as egolessness and catatonia.

There is also a commonly reported risk of "flashbacks", a psychological phenomenon in which an individual experiences an episode of some of the subjective effects of LSD (this may be a positive or negative experience) long after the drug has been consumed and worn off -- sometimes weeks or months afterward. But despite claims that flashbacks are common, studies have shown that these experiences are relatively rare.

Debate continues over the nature and causes of flashbacks. Some say flashbacks are a manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder, not directly related to LSD's mechanism, and varying according to the susceptibility of the individual to the disorder; while others argue that flashbacks are the result of trace amounts of LSD or related chemicals being released into the body after having been stored in fat or spinal fluid cells, and that there is a clear link between flashback incidences and a history of LSD consumption. Most such debate is carried out with only anecdotal evidence and is not supported by scientific research. Drug studies have not confirmed that LSD can cause flashbacks or lasting psychoses, according to a meta-study one can read at (see the link at the end of this article).

It is common for users to experience permanent or long-lasting changes in their life perspective. LSD is also considered an "entheogen", and can catalyze intense spiritual experiences where users feel they have come into contact with a greater spiritual order. Such mystical experiences under the influence of LSD have been observed and documented by researchers like Stanislav Grof. LSD experiences can be indescribably ecstatic as well as hellishly difficult; many difficult experiences (or "bad trips") result from a panicked user feeling that they have been permanently severed from Reality and the Ego.

LSD is not addictive in that its users do not exhibit the medical community's commonly accepted definitions of addiction and physical dependence (see the link at the end of this article). LSD users do, however, exhibit tolerance; LSD's effects diminish with frequent, repeated use, especially over short periods of time. This tolerance passes after only a few days' abstention from use.

History of LSD

Early History: Its Synthesis

LSD was first synthesised by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz (now Novartis) laboratories in 1938. It was developed initially as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. However, no extraordinary benefits of the compound were identified and its study was discontinued. The hallucinogenic effects were unknown until 1943, when Dr. Hoffman accidentally consumed some LSD.

Interest in the drug was revived in the 1940s when it was thought to be a possible treatment for schizophrenia. Because of LSD's structural relationship to a neurochemical that is present in the brain, and its similarity in effect to certain aspects of psychosis, LSD was used as a research tool in studies of mental illness.

Psychiatric Use

Sandoz Laboratories (a precursor to Novartis), the drug's sole producer, began marketing LSD in 1947 under the trade name "Delysid", and it was introduced into the United States a year later. Sandoz marketed LSD as a psychiatric cure-all and hailed it as a cure for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, sexual perversions and alcoholism. In fact, Sandoz, in its LSD-related literature, suggested that psychiatrists take the drug themselves in order to gain an understanding of the subjective experiences of the schizophrenic.

In psychiatry, the use of LSD by students was an accepted practice; it was viewed as a teaching tool in an attempt to understand schizophrenia. From the late 1940s through the mid-1970s, extensive research and testing were conducted on LSD. During a 15-year period beginning in 1950, research on LSD and other hallucinogens generated over 1000 scientific papers, several dozen books, and 6 international conferences, and LSD was prescribed as treatment to over 40,000 patients. Scientific study of LSD ceased circa 1980 as research funding declined, and governments became wary of permitting such research fearing that the results of the research might encourage illicit LSD use.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency claims:

Although initial observations on the benefits of LSD were highly optimistic, empirical data developed subsequently proved less promising... Its use in scientific research has been extensive and its use has been widespread. Although the study of LSD and other hallucinogens increased the awareness of how chemicals could affect the mind, its use in psychotherapy largely has been debunked. It produces no aphrodisiac effects, does not increase creativity, has no lasting positive effect in treating alcoholics or criminals, does not produce a 'model psychosis', and does not generate immediate personality change.

However, drug studies have confirmed that the powerful hallucinogenic effects of this drug can produce profound adverse reactions, such as acute panic reactions, psychotic crises, and "flashbacks", especially in users ill-equipped to deal with such trauma.

Dr. Timothy Leary

A significant number of researchers disagreed with the government's assessment of LSD. Dr. Timothy Leary, a psychology professor at Harvard University, was the most prominent pro-LSD researcher. Leary claimed that using LSD with the right dosage, set (what one brings to the experience), and setting, preferably with the guidance of professionals, could alter behavior in dramatic and beneficial ways.

Dr. Leary began conducting experiments with psilocybin in 1960 on himself and a number of Harvard graduate students after trying hallucinogenic mushrooms used in religious rituals while visiting Mexico. His group began conducting experiments on state prisoners, where they claimed a 90% success rate preventing repeat offenses. A student introduced Leary to LSD, and he then incorporated that drug into his research as his mental catalyst of choice. His experiments produced no murders, suicides, psychotic breaks, or bad trips. On the contrary, almost all of Leary's subjects reported profound mystical experiences which they felt had a tremendous positive effect on their lives.

By 1962, faculty discontent with Leary's experiments reached critical mass. Leary was informed that the CIA was monitoring his research (see Government experiments below). Many of the other faculty members had harbored reservations about Leary's research, and powerful parents began complaining to the university about Leary's distribution of hallucinogenic drugs to their children. Further, many undergraduate students who were not part of Leary's research program heard of the profound experiences other students had undergone, and began taking LSD (which was not illegal at the time) recreationally. Leary and another professor, Richard Alpert, were dismissed from the university in 1963.

Leary and Alpert, unfazed by their disimissals, relocated to a large private mansion in New York known as Millbrook, where they continued their experiments. Leary later wrote, "We saw ourselves as anthropologists from the twenty-first century inhabiting a time module set somewhere in the dark ages of the 1960s. On this space colony we were attempting to create a new paganism and a new dedication to life as art."

A judge who expressed dislike for Dr. Leary's books sentenced him to 30 years in prison for possession of half a marijuana cigarette (which was later reversed by the Supreme Court). Publicity surrounding the case further cemented Leary's growing reputation as a countercultural guru. Around this time, President Richard Nixon described Leary as "the most dangerous man in America." Repeated FBI raids instigated the end of the Millbrook experiment. Leary refocused his efforts towards countering the tremendous amount of anti-LSD propaganda being issued by the United States government at the time, coining the slogan, "Turn on. Tune in. Drop out."

Many experts blame Leary and his antics for the near-total suppression of psychedelic research over the last thirty years.

Government Experiments

LSD was the original centerpiece of the United States Central Intelligence Agency's top secret MK-ULTRA project, an ambitious undertaking conducted from the 1950s through the 1970s designed to explore the possibilities of pharmaceutical mind control. Hundreds of subjects, including CIA agents, government employees, military personnel, prostitutes, members of the general public, and mental patients were given LSD, many without their knowledge or consent. The experiments often involved severe psychological torture, and many victims committed suicide or wound up in psychiatric wards. The researchers eventually concluded that LSD's effects were too varied and uncontrollable to make it of any practical use as a truth drug, and the project moved on to other substances. See MK-ULTRA.

Though no evidence has yet come to light in the West, it is presumed likely that the Soviet government conducted its own experiments on the properties of LSD during the Cold War.

Recreational Use

LSD began to be used recreationally in certain, primarily medical, circles. Some psychiatric and medical professionals, acquainted with LSD in their work, began using it themselves and sharing it with friends and associates. During the early 1960s, this first group of casual LSD users evolved and expanded into a subculture that extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often engendered by the drug's powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raising consciousness. The personalities associated with the subculture, gurus such as Dr. Timothy Leary, usually connected to academia, soon attracted a great deal of publicity, generating further interest in LSD.

The popularization of LSD outside of the medical world was hastened when individuals such as Ken Kesey participated in drug trials and liked what they saw. Tom Wolfe wrote a widely read account of these early days of LSD's entrance into the real world in his book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, which was written as he traveled around the country in a psychedelic bus with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

The Beatles wrote a song which many assumed referred to LSD, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," although John Lennon is said to have always dismissed the connection as mere coincidence; the song title is reputedly based on how Lennon's son Julian described the subject of a drawing he made (the Lucy of the song is one Lucy O'Donnell). The Beatles were, however, experimenting with the drug, and the songs "She Said She Said" (the line,'I know what it's like to be dead' is from an LSD trip that the Beatles took with Peter Fonda. Peter kept saying that to John Lennon) and "Got To Get You Into My Life" from the album Revolver were admittedly about LSD trips.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the drug culture adopted LSD as the psychedelic drug of choice, particularly amongst the hippie community. However, LSD dramatically decreased in popularity in the mid-1970s. This decline was due to negative publicity centered on side-effects of LSD use (most misleading or patently false,) its criminalization and the increasing effectiveness of drug law enforcement efforts, rather than new medical information.

LSD Today

LSD Usage

As a recreational drug, LSD has remained popular among certain segments of society. Traditionally, it has been popular with high school and college students and other young adults. LSD also has been integral to the lifestyle of many individuals who follow certain rock music bands, most notably the Grateful Dead. Older individuals, introduced to the hallucinogen in the 1960s, also still use LSD.

LSD made a comeback in the 1990s, especially through the acid house scene. However, the current average oral dose consumed by users is 30 to 50 micrograms, a decrease of nearly 90 percent from the 1960 average dose of 250 to 300 micrograms. Lower potency doses probably account for the relatively few LSD-related emergency incidents during the past several years and its present popularity among young people.

Retail-level distribution of LSD often takes place during concerts and all-night raves. Users usually obtain LSD from friends and acquaintances.


LSD commonly is produced from lysergic acid, which is made from ergotamine tartrate, a substance derived from an ergot fungus on rye, or from lysergic acid amide, a chemical found in morning glory seeds. Although theoretically possible, manufacture of LSD from morning glory seeds is not economically feasible and these seeds have never been found to be a successful starting material for LSD production.

Only a small amount of ergotamine tartrate is required to produce LSD in large batches. For example, 25 kilograms of ergotamine tartrate can produce 5 or 6 kilograms of pure LSD crystal that, under ideal circumstances, could be processed into 100 million dosage units (50 micrograms), more than enough to meet what is believed to be the entire annual U.S. demand for the drug. LSD manufacturers need only create a small quantity of the substance and, thus, enjoy the advantages of ease of concealment and transport not available to traffickers of other illegal drugs, primarily marijuana and cocaine.

Manufacturing LSD is time consuming and dangerous. Relatively sophisticated and expensive laboratory equipment is required, and it takes from 2 to 3 days to produce 30 to 100 grams of crystal. Some of the reactions necessary may cause significant explosions if not performed properly by a trained organic chemist. It is believed that LSD usually is not produced in large quantities, but rather in a series of small batches. Production of LSD in small batches also minimizes the loss of precursor chemicals should they become contaminated during the synthesis process.

The DEA has indicated that it believes almost all LSD sold in the United States comes from a single unidentified northern California laboratory which has been operated by the same person or group since the 1960s. The product is then easily concealed in small vials and distributed via commercial package delivery services to wholesale-level distributors, who then resell the vials to associates, who in turn apply the liquid to media such as blotter paper, sugar cubes, or geltabs for retail-level sales.

Forms of LSD

LSD is produced in crystalline form and then mixed with excipients or diluted as a liquid for production in ingestible forms. Often, LSD is sold in tablet form (usually small tablets known as microdots), on sugar cubes, in thin squares of gelatin (commonly referred to as window panes), and most commonly, as blotter paper (sheets of paper soaked in or impregnated with LSD, covered with colorful designs or artwork, and perforated into one-quarter inch square, individual dosage units). LSD is sold under more than 80 street names including acid, blotter, cid, doses, and trips, as well as names that reflect the designs on the sheets of blotter paper. On occasion, authorities have encountered the drug in other forms-- including powder or crystal, liquid, and capsule-- and laced on other substances. More than 200 types of LSD tablets have been encountered since 1969 and more than 350 paper designs have been acquired since 1975. Designs range from simple five-point stars in black and white to exotic artwork in full four-color print. Inexpensiveness (prices range from US $2 to $5 per dosage unit or 'hit'; wholesale lots often sell for as little as $1 or less), ready availability, alleged 'mind-expanding' properties, and intriguing paper designs make LSD especially attractive to junior high school and high school students.

Legal Status

The United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (adopted in 1971) requires its parties to prohibit LSD. Hence, it is illegal in all parties to the convention, which includes the United States and most of Europe. However laws varies from country to country.

Unlike alcohol prohibition, LSD prohibition does not make an exception for religious use, presumably because of the belief that entheogen-centered religions are not real religions.

LSD was not illegal in the United States until 1967. The US Federal Government classified it as a Schedule I drug (a drug with strong potential for abuse, and no redeeming medical use.) according to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

As such, LSD allegedly meets the following three criteria: it is deemed to have a high potential for abuse; it has no legitimate medical use in treatment; and, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision. Judging from the behavior of courts in marijuana cases, they will tend to deny that the government has made a mistake in classification regardless of the evidence. This does not, however, prove that the government has made a mistake in classification. Lysergic acid and lysergic acid amide, LSD precursors, are both classified in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Ergotamine tartrate, a precursor to lysergic acid, is regulated under the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act.

LSD in the United States

LSD has been manufactured illegally since the 1960s. A limited number of chemists, probably less than a dozen, are believed to be manufacturing nearly all of the LSD available in the United States. Some of these manufacturers probably have been operating since the 1960s.

LSD manufacturers and traffickers can be separated into two groups. The first group, located in northern California, is composed of chemists (commonly referred to as 'cooks') and traffickers who work together in close association; typically, they are major producers capable of distributing LSD nationwide. The second group is made up of independent producers who, operating on a comparatively limited scale, can be found throughout the country. As a group, independent producers are of less concern to the Drug Enforcement Agency than the northern California group-- inasmuch as their production is intended for local consumption only.

Much of the LSD manufactured in clandestine laboratories is believed to be located in Northern California, and initial distribution sources for the drug are typically located in the San Francisco Bay area. LSD is available in at least retail quantities in virtually every state, with supply increasing in some states.

Related compounds: LSA, psilocybin

Related topics

External links