Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a hallucinogenic drug. In its pure form, it is colourless, odourless and mildly bitter. LSD is diluted from its crystalline form, and paper is sometimes soaked in the liquid to produce ‘tabs’ of acid.
Because it is a hallucinogen, taking LSD will cause distortions to a person’s reality. Their senses and emotions will be heightened after taking a dose of LSD. A ‘trip’ of LSD can last between 8–12 hours. It is difficult to tell the potency of a dose, so the effects can be variable and unpredictable.
The biggest risk from LSD is the uncertainty of the dose. If the user is not expecting a strong dose, it can be a frightening experience to hallucinate or feel strong emotions. A bad trip can cause the user to feel like they have insects crawling on their skin. They can lose control of their emotions or feel like they have lost their grip on reality.
People who have existing mental health issues can also be at risk from LSD use because it can exacerbate symptoms of their illness or trigger LSD psychosis.
The 'come down' from LSD usually lasts for 24 hours and can cause the user to feel depressed, panicked or paranoid. These symptoms will vary from person to person. They usually go away but, in some cases, they can last for several days or even months.
Although LSD is not thought to be addictive, a person can become psychologically dependent, which means they are reliant on using it in certain situations.
The New Zealand Drug Foundation’s message is clear: no drug use is the safest drug use. However, we know there will be occasions when people ignore warnings and use drugs in a dangerous manner. To help keep communities safe, here is some information about proven methods of drug harm reduction.
If someone who has taken LSD is experiencing a bad trip, take them to a quiet, safe place. Speak calmly and confidently to them, reassuring them that what they are experiencing are the temporary effects of the drug, and that it will stop. Stay with the person, keeping them calm until the initial effects of the drug wear off.
Do not combine LSD with other drugs including alcohol. This can trigger unpredictable effects such as bad trips.