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Long Term Effects of LSD

Although notorious for its "bad trips," LSD can also lead to dangerous longterm effects on physical and mental wellbeing.

In the 1950s and 60s psychiatrists used LSD to help with psychotherapy in a practice known as psychedelic therapy. At the time, little was known about the long term effects. Since then doctors and scientists have studied the effects of LSD use over time. Unfortunately, because LSD affects everyone a bit differently it is difficult to predict what long term effects will show up later on. This makes the long term side effects of LSD use unpredictable. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse LSD is not considered addictive but does cause long term physical, psychological, and secondary side effects when used in high doses. It is important to know and recognize these effects when considering treatment.

Long term physical effects of LSD use

lsd effects

LSD can cause a variety of longterm effects such as loss of coordination.

As with most intoxicating substances, LSD creates long term physical changes in the body. These changes are usually only significant after high dosage, long term use. These physical effects include:

  • changes in vision,
  • changes in appetite,
  • changes in neurotransmitters, receptors, particularly serotonin and dopamine levels,
  • loss of coordination, and
  • permanent changes in heart rate and blood pressure.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Many of the physical effects of LSD on the brain have not been thoroughly studied. There may be permanent changes in the brain that are not attributed to the use of LSD but are in fact caused by LSD. The fact that LSD affects everyone differently makes it difficult to pin point what physical symptoms are due to ordinary genetics and aging and what is attributable to the LSD use.

Long term psychological effects of LSD use

The long term effects of LSD vary depending on the amount and length of use. Counted among the identified long term psychological effects of LSD are:

  • Flashbacks – also known as acid flash backs these are hallucinations that occur long after the actual drug has left the body. These hallucinations can occur without ingesting the drug again.
  • Loss of or inhibited ability to communicate – this is commonly thought to be due to an issue with the speech centers of the brain.
  • Reduced reasoning capacity or reduced ability to think rationally
  • Persistent psychosis and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder
  • LSD may increase risk of mental illness and the emergence of a latent mental illness.
  • LSD increases the occurrence of psychosis according to the California Courts Juvenile Justice Center.
  • People who use LSD frequently may experience anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
  • There are some reports of suicidal thoughts and feelings according to the University of Hawaii.

Many of these long term effects are not substantiated due to the majority of the research subjects having prior psychiatric histories. It is important to remember that some of these studies are conflicting in nature.

Secondary or indirect long term side effects of LSD use

Like any drug, LSD has several secondary side effects. These indirect side effects are more from the social and political climate than the drug itself. The secondary effects are:

  • Legal difficulties – because LSD is illegal in many places, people caught with it face serious judicial consequences including incarceration.
  • Financial difficulties – due to both the increased need for more LSD as tolerance is built and due to loss of income while dealing with the psychological long term effects of LSD.
  • Relationship difficulties – flashbacks, persistent psychosis, and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder cause relationships with family and friends to degrade or become difficult to maintain.
  • Decrease in the ability to cope with stress and reduced social skills are reported in long term LSD users. The lack of coping and social skills continues long after the drug use.
  • High risk behaviors engaged in while on LSD can lead to unwanted, unplanned pregnancy, and high risk pregnancies. Taking risks is a side effect of many drugs but people on LSD sometimes believe their hallucinations or flashbacks. The risks that they take in a delusional state of mind tend to have more long term consequences than while under the influence of other drugs. Some of these behaviors result in death or long term disability.

Although indirect side effects are rare, they need to be considered when discussing the long term side effects of LSD use.

The bad trip effect

Although infrequent, some research suggests that the negative long term side effects of LSD use occur at a higher rate when someone has a bad trip. A bad trip happens when a person has a very negative experience on LSD. During a bad trip anxiety, panic, suicidal thoughts, and vivid violent hallucinations may occur. When this happens, those feelings and hallucinations can continue for weeks afterwards. Users report the flashbacks associated with a bad trip to be more powerful, fear inducing, and more debilitating. There are also more incidents of severe psychosis and lasting damage when someone has experienced a bad trip.

Unfortunately, the majority of the long term effects of LSD are not treatable. Flashbacks, psychosis, and mental illness can be treated but not cured. Recognizing the symptoms is crucial to managing and treating all of these negative effects. Many researchers state that the long term physical, mental, and indirect effects cannot be predicted and this is what makes LSD use dangerous. Each person reacts differently to the mind altering hallucinations, some create new consciousness while others create a vast horror filled world. Who creates which is unpredictable as are what the long term consequences of LSD use are.

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