Individuals who abuse the psychedelic drug LSD do not usually need to worry about addiction, as the drug itself is not considered to cause addictive behavior (CESAR). In fact, “the powerful hallucinations produced by LSD will often prompt users to abstain from use in order to recover and reorient” which helps these individuals avoid the issue of compulsive, drug-seeking behavior. However, this does not mean the drug is safer to abuse than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine or that it does not have its own harmful effects. It is necessary to understand the real dangerous of LSD which differ from those of other substances.
Delusions and Hallucinations
These two effects, which are often the reason most individuals abuse LSD, can cause some of the more dangerous issues associated with the drug’s use. For example, it is common for users to experience “the sense that [they are] undergoing a profound mystical or religious experience.” This can cause them to react to things differently or to believe themselves to be invincible.
Delusions of grandeur are also common with the abuse of LSD, making users believe themselves to be greater than others. This can lead them toward dangerous behavior, the effects of which they will not consider. Some users become arrested for actions they would normally never perform or attempt impossible things like trying to fly which cause them to become injured. Even when an individual is experiencing a positive reaction from the drug, these effects can be dangerous.
An experience called a bad trip can occur where these reactions are much more negative, and the possibility for dangerous results is much more intensified. According to the NIDA, “Bad trips… include terrifying thoughts and nightmarish feelings of anxiety and despair that include fears of losing control, insanity, or death.” Some individuals even commit suicide as the result of a bad trip.
Because of the unpredictable nature of the drug, there is no way to know whether an individual is going to experience a positive or a negative reaction. Therefore, someone who has taken LSD before and enjoyed it has no way of knowing if the next time they use it, they will become incredibly frightened, horrified, or depressed.
In some rare cases, individuals can experience seizures as a result of a bad trip. When this occurs, the person must be taken to the hospital immediately. It is one of the reasons why abusing LSD alone is especially dangerous and can lead to more problematic side effects.
Psychosis and HPPD
When someone does take LSD regularly over a long period of time, they may not be in danger of addiction, but they may very well experience some long-term psychological side effects, including:
- Drug-induced psychosis
- Problems thinking
- Problems communicating
- Visual disturbances
- Mood disturbances
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
- Hallucinations which occur when the individual is not on the drug
- Seeing halos and trails attached to moving objects
- Symptoms that are similar to those of a stroke or brain tumor
Long-term psychotherapy may necessary to treat these conditions, but certain side effects can linger for years as a result of consistent LSD abuse. The drug does create its own dangerous results which differ greatly from those caused by other commonly abused substances.