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LSD Addiction in Teens

Users take a “trip” with this psychedelic drug that lasts for up to 12 hours and can cause intense feelings and hallucinations. Once a teen experiences it, they may have trouble returning to a life without it. If your child has abused LSD, it's time to talk to a professional.

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Is LSD Dangerous?

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)is an immensely powerful hallucinogenic — or “psychedelic” — drug. It has an intense effect on the brain and can impact a teen’s physical and emotional health. The side effects of LSD can range from mild to severe.

The high from LSD is known as “tripping.” An LSD trip can last upwards of 12 hours, during which people experiences overwhelming and often disorienting sensations, including intense hallucinations. Even after decades of research, it’s impossible to predict how each acid trip will impact a given person.

lsd abuse fact

Effects on the Body

As the psychological effects take place, the body can experience several unusual side effects. The physical effects of LSD can include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Trembling
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Sleeplessness

Effects on the Brain

During an LSD trip, the regions of the brain responsible for constraining consciousness are turned off, resulting in a free flow of thought. The ensuing hyperactivity of the imagination is caused by serotonin receptors, specifically the HT2A receptor, which is involved with the cognitive processes in the prefrontal cortex and controls a person’s impulsiveness.

LSD hallucinations result from a combination of effects. LSD mimics a brain chemical that shares characteristics of psychosis — this involves uncontrolled memory retrieval, altered sensory and perception, and other indescribable emotions and images. Some believe that “LSD flashbacks,” a phenomenon where random acid trips occur later in life, result from this chemical being stored in the spinal cord for a lifetime after taking the drug.

In the short term, these dramatic changes in the brain can cause emotional swings, an exhausting rush of thoughts and a lost sense of time and self. One can feel like they’re feeling several emotions at the same time.

Altered perceptions can make a user’s senses “cross over,” during which they may “see sounds” or “hear colors.”

Some people handle the exhausting mental effects of LSD better than others. In adolescents who have preexisting mental conditions or are psychologically vulnerable, a form of psychosis may result from tripping on LSD. These symptoms can mirror those exhibited by teens with schizophrenia and may require professional rehab.

Other Dangers of LSD

The strength of LSD can not only overwhelm, but it can also cause a teenager to lose control and self-awareness to the point that it endangers their life. A number of stories report young people acting violently while tripping. During a particularly bad acid trip, some teens self-harm, attempt suicide or engage in life-threatening scenarios without realizing it.

In 2015, the 15-year-old son of songwriter Nick Cave fell off a cliff to his death while on acid. According to a detective on the case, he “couldn’t tell what was real and what was not real,” and witnesses saw him zig-zagging before stumbling off the edge.

Is LSD Addictive?

young woman dancing on acid trip at club

A psychological addiction to LSD is very possible. Teen addiction to LSD or other psychedelics develops from the urge to revisit the experience again and again. After a teen tries acid, they may have difficulty readjusting to the real world. The more they use the drug, the higher their tolerance gets — meaning they have to take higher doses to feel the effects of the drug.

People who frequently take acid are sometimes nicknamed “acid heads” or “acid freaks.” Hurtful name-calling and prevailing addiction stigma does not help teens who may be suffering from the disease of addiction. If your teen has an unhealthy relationship with LSD, it can be difficult to convince them that something is wrong. Reach out to loved ones and gather support before trying to intervene.

The more someone uses the drug, the greater their risk of a bad trip, violent experience or psychological disturbance. Even one hit of LSD is widely considered a powerful dose. LSD use leads to nearly 5,000 ER visits in the U.S. each year. Especially when mixed with other substances, LSD can be a physically exhausting and sometimes traumatic experience.

What Does LSD Do?

Depending on the individual, the purity of the drug and the amount they take, an acid trip can look and feel like a number of things. If your teen is on LSD, their perception will be altered drastically. People who have used this drug report a hyperactive imagination, uncontrollable laughter, distorted senses and hallucinations. LSD visuals are sometimes wavy or “melting,” and can make images appear more vibrant or appear to be shifting in front of you.

Acid trips are unpredictable and may take your child to a scary mental place. This is known as a “bad trip.”

During a bad LSD trip, users may see disturbing images, feel extremely paranoid and experience emotional breakdowns.

In 2013, an “LSD party” near San Francisco ended with several teens covered in blood from self-induced injuries. Several of the teens became combative with cops and even displayed what was described as “superhuman strength.” While teens may try LSD in hopes of seeing pretty colors, a bad trip can send them into a form of madness where they’re a danger to themselves and others.

What Does LSD Look Like?

Tabs of LSD

Upon being synthesized, LSD is a clear, odorless liquid. Liquid LSD is usually then transferred to tiny squares of absorbent blotting paper. Sheets of this paper presoaked with LSD are known among the drug community as LSD blotters.

When a teen buys the drug, they normally buy a small square of an LSD blotter, also known as a “dose” or “tab.” It can appear as an inconspicuous bit of white paper, but some dealers will print colorful designs on the paper to help distinguish it, sometimes using famous images or logos. Dealers may also sell hits of acid on sugar cubes, gummy bears or other pieces of candy, such as Smarties.

Why Would My Teen Use LSD?

Who uses LSD? A myth about this powerful drug is that only a select class of people use it — especially, those in the counterculture (i.e. hippies). This is far from the truth. A 2013 report shows that psychedelic drug use is as common today as it was in the 1960s, and these drugs are reaching whole new groups of teens. There are several reasons that your child may decide to give LSD a spin.

Pleasure

Among his many trips — some good and some bad — the chemist Albert Hoffman sometimes reported “an inner joy.” There’s no secret why kids often try LSD with friends at music festivals. If your child avoids a bad LSD trip, then they may experience a carefree, euphoric feeling, with laughter being a common symptom of tripping on acid.

Peer Pressure

If your child’s peers convince them that acid will “expand their mind” or that “everybody’s doing it,” it can be tough to pass up. Peer pressure causes 55% of first-time drug experiences among young people.

Media Influence

The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin — among the most popular musical acts of the last century — have all spoken publicly about their LSD use. Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, was also outspoken about using acid as a creative catalyst. Nowadays, teens may come across LSD and other psychedelics from social media influence and other forms of media. When impressionable adolescents see other people trying a drug — especially if these people are famous — they may be tempted to try the drug for themselves.

Depression

Roughly 10–15% of U.S. teens suffer from clinical depression. To these millions of kids who feel hopeless and desperate for something more, hearing fun stories about LSD makes the drug sound like a logical way to ease their pain.

Where Would My Teen Get LSD?

Over one in 10 U.S. teens say that they could easily get LSD, whether through a friend, a dealer or some other source like the Internet. Because of the popularity of LSD and other drugs at music festivals, teens may be able to track it down just by asking strangers at concerts. If your teenager is planning on attending a live music event in the near future, it’s a good idea to talk with them about the risks of LSD or other drugs they may encounter.

How Is LSD Used?

young girls on acid trip at party

A tab of LSD blotter (or sugar cube, piece of candy, etc.) is typically sucked on and then swallowed. This releases the drug into the body. Using the method, LSD takes around 30–60 minutes to kick in. The trip will then last anywhere from 8–12 hours, with the “peak” (the period when effects are the most intense) usually occurring a couple of hours into it.

Teens may also take liquid LSD directly, usually from a plastic eyedropper bottle or a similar container. They may put it on their tongue and swallow it — each drop of liquid LSD equates to around one hit. In some cases, users will put liquid LSD in other parts of their body or rub it into their skin. But oral consumption is the most common and effective method for taking the drug.

Teen LSD Use

Around 230,000 Americans aged 12 and older reported having used of LSD within the past month when they were asked, and 2.7% of high school students took the drug in the past year.

Boys are more likely than girls to try LSD, and American teens are especially at risk for trying LSD.

A recent study revealed that nearly 5 million people in the U.S. aged 12–25 had experimented with LSD. Parties that promote the drug — like the one in California that ended with teens hurting themselves — are a rising trend. Music festivals are a booming industry among young people, and music festival drugs are often a teen’s first exposure to illicit drugs like hallucinogens. In 2014, 14.7 million millennials attended at least one music festival in the U.S. At around $10 a dose, the drug is relatively inexpensive, so if it’s available, it’s not difficult for a teen to acquire it.

As if taking LSD alone isn’t intense enough, teenagers have taken to combining the psychedelic drug with other illicit substances. Mixing acid with ecstasy is a popular trend called “candy flipping.” Teens may also combine LSD and alcohol in an effort to reduce the intensity of the acid, as alcohol dulls the senses. But according to a study at University of California Santa Barbara, mixing these two is a recipe for danger. It can lead to nausea, vomiting, changes in blood pressure and other adverse side effects.

History of LSD

Lysergic acid (a crystalline compound) is derived from ergot, a type of fungus. It’s combined with diethylamine, similar to ammonia. It was first synthesized in 1938 by the chemist Albert Hoffman. It was intended to be sold as a pharmaceutical for stimulating the respiratory and circulatory systems. The company Hoffman worked for rejected the invention, but Hoffman continued to experiment with it in secret for several years and started to test the drug on himself.

“A demon has invaded me, had taken possession of my body, mind, and soul … I was seized by the dreadful fear of going insane. I was taken to another world, another place, another time. My body seemed to be without sensation, lifeless, strange. Was I dying?”

Albert HoffmanChemist; Inventor of LSD

Word spread of the drug’s “mind-expanding” potential over the following years, and was written about at length by authors like Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary. Musicians joined in, too — the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is considered a reference to LSD. Alongside marijuana, acid became a centerpiece of the hippie movement in the 1960s, and has continued to be popular among young people.

The most common slang term for LSD is “acid.” Other street names for LSD include:

  • L
  • Tabs
  • Doses
  • Lucy
  • Dots
  • Hits
  • Window Pane
  • Blotter
  • Cheer
  • Yellow Sunshine

Signs of LSD Use

You may be able to identify your child’s struggle with LSD use by paying attention to the following signs:

  • Excessive talking or laughing
  • A sudden increase in creative hobbies
  • Changing friend groups
  • Rebellious attitudes or thoughts
  • Lack of sleep or other strange sleeping patterns
  • Eating less
  • Decrease in hygiene or appearance
  • Being secretive about plans or whereabouts

LSD paraphernalia may include small squares or sheets of paper (often perforated), plastic eyedroppers or visual stimulants (e.g. abstract art, tie-dye, glow sticks).

LSD Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

When a teen’s LSD addiction coincides with a mental health disorder, doctors refer to these as co-occurring disorders (or a dual diagnosis). Some teens may be more likely to experiment with LSD if they have a pre-existing condition like a personality disorder or ADHD. Similarly, teens who abuse (or misuse) drugs can develop anxiety or depression as a result.

young girl feeling effects of using lsd

Does Your Teen Need LSD Treatment?

If you suspect your child may be using LSD, you can help the by taking immediate action. First, speak with your teenager’s guidance counselor or your family doctor, who can help you determine if your child has a problem with drugs. If so, they may recommend an addiction specialist or drug rehab .

LSD rehab may include cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, behavioral management or substance abuse counseling. Therapy sessions may be done in groups or in individual settings. You’ll also have the choice between inpatient rehab — where your teen stays on-site throughout the process — or outpatient rehab, where they continue to live at home and attend sessions during the day.

In the event that your child does need rehab, you face a big decision: choosing treatment options. We understand that this may be an overwhelming process. At TeenRehabCenter.org, we are always available to speak with you about your options and make quality care recommendations for your child. Help is free and confidential. It’s time to help your child make a change — take the first step by calling us today.

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