How is LSD made? The chemistry behind the magic:

Written by: Marvin Benthien



Time to read 6 min

LSD is certainly one of the most interesting chemical substances that exist: a molecule that seems to magically break the boundaries of our perception. Today we embark on a journey that couldn’t be more fascinating, to uncover the secret behind the production of one of the most famous and mysterious hallucinogens of our time.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a guide to illegal activities. Please do not try to set up your own lab at home or move to the dark side of the moon to produce LSD! This is not a good idea, and we don't want you to get into trouble. Also, always make sure to handle psychedelic substances responsibly.

Hold on. What is LSD again?

LSD is a chemical substance that has gained notoriety as a hallucinogen due to its psychedelic effect, and is nowadays partly consumed illegally as a party drug. The abbreviation LSD stands for the chemical substance lysergic acid diethylamide. The substance was discovered by chance in 1938 by the chemist Albert Hofmann when he was conducting research for a circulatory drug. In 1943, Hofmann discovered that LSD could be used as a narcotic.

Today, LSD is produced in special laboratories mainly outside Europe, because in this country, LSD is basically classified as a non-marketable narcotic. In the context of microdosing, however, the demand for the LSD derivative called 1D-LSD is increasing. We therefore explain how LSD is produced and what is special about the derivative.

LSD chemistry: What does LSD consist of?

Since LSD is not a natural substance, it has to be synthesized in a lab. This is a complex process that not many chemists have mastered - after all, the question "How is LSD produced?" is not exactly part of the A-level knowledge in chemistry classes.

Chemistry nerds beware: The molecular formula of LSD is C20H25N3O.

LSD, or rather a molecule, consists of 20 parts carbon (C), 25 parts hydrogen (H), 3 parts nitrogen (N) and one part oxygen (O). Of course, these molecules are not simply put together like in a construction kit during production, but rather so-called starting materials are used.

After LSD is produced, it crystallizes in its pure form into a salt-like structure. This is called tartrate or tartrate salt. This can be dissolved again in water, which is partly done during dosing.

LSD structural formula
The LSD structural formula

What is LSD made out of?

The question of how LSD is produced can be answered in different ways. The only certainty is that in the end the desired LSD composition must be achieved, and that the answer to the question "How is LSD made?" will always be: in the lab!

Either lysergic acid, ergot alkaloids or lysergic acid monohydrate are used as starting materials in the production process. Lysergic acid can be obtained by cleavage of ergot alkaloids. This is how Albert Hofmann once succeeded in synthesizing the substance when he experimented with ergot.

In the laboratory, a compound of lysergic acid and propanolamine takes place. Since lysergic acid can be obtained via the natural ergot, LSD is considered by experts to be a so-called semisynthetic drug. Nowadays, however, lysergic acid monohydrate is often used.

Lysergic acid diethylamide production reached its peak when the preparations Delysid and Lysergamid, two products that make use of the LSD formula, achieved high market shares. As a result, production was boosted and knowledge about manufacturing LSD spread.

Gradually, however, numerous states began to restrict or completely ban the use of LSD. Due to this fact, nowadays, it is less known how LSD is produced, and in many cases, the production is done secretly or in laboratories outside Europe.

In what forms is LSD manufactured?

After we have clarified the question of what LSD is and how LSD is chemically produced, we should still talk about the dosage form. Because once the lysergic acid diethylamide is produced, the resulting substance cannot simply be put into circulation.

Instead, the question of how LSD is made does not stop until the hallucinogen has been applied to a transportable medium. For this purpose, the LSD is often dissolved and applied to a kind of blotter paper. They are also known as tabs or tickets. Dealers put the inconspicuous papers into circulation, and users place them on their tongues so that they dissolve and develop their effect.

Less frequently, LSD is offered in liquid form. More common forms include the presentation in pill and tablet form. In some cases, LSD is drizzled on sugar cubes after production.

With our microdosing LSD, we have deliberately chosen the tablet form of administration, as the active ingredients are more stable here than on a small piece of paper.

LSD tablets

What makes LSD a party drug?

The LSD effect can vary greatly after ingestion:

  • alteration of sensory perception
  • increased color perception and hallucinations
  • euphoric and detached feeling
  • loss of sense of space and time

However, it is also possible for a substance-induced psychosis - also known as a horror trip - to occur. After the effects of LSD wear off, however, all effects usually cease again - both positive and negative.

Interesting: LSD is considered to be non-addictive. In the long run, LSD can therefore be considered more harmless compared to other (partly legal) intoxicants. However, the illusions of consciousness during excessive use can be so strong that LSD poses a danger, which may ultimately have led to its prohibition.

How much does LSD actually cost?

When it comes to the question of how LSD is produced, the price is of course also interesting. Here, at least, it can be said that the manufacturers of LSD cannot exert great price pressure because LSD is not addictive. The production can therefore not be scaled as lucratively as drugs with a strong addictive effect.

However, the use of LSD is shifting more into another area anyway - as a food supplement in the form of microdosing. For this purpose, however, normal LSD cannot be used, but a so-called derivative must be used.

LSD derivatives: A new trend with fewer dangers?

Since LSD is banned in Germany, among other countries, so-called derivatives have increasingly come into focus in the past. These are a group of lysergic acid amides that are produced similarly to LSD, but differ in nuances.

From a legal point of view, known drugs are covered by the Narcotics Act (BtMG), while the New Psychoactive Substances Act (NpSG) is responsible for derivatives that are basically equivalent or similar in effect. Here, the press sometimes speaks of a race between the manufacturers and the legislators, because the former are constantly developing new derivatives of known psychoactive substances, while the latter have to test and, if necessary, ban them.

It is not possible to say whether LSD derivatives, such as the currently very popular 1D-LSD, have a better or different effect compared to normal LSD. The aim in the production of derivatives is to copy or optimize the mode of action of the imitated drug as best as possible.

When dealing with LSD-like substances, it is important not to exceed a certain dosage. Even a dose of 25 micrograms can be sufficient to cause psychoactive effects. If you want to experiment with LSD-like substances in the context of microdosing, you are advised to take only very small amounts and observe the effects on the body. At MODERNmind, you can do your research during a retreat in a supervised setting, and thus explore the effects for yourself in a special way.

Conclusion for LSD production

In conclusion, the production of LSD is a complex chemical process that was once discovered rather accidentally by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. It was not until much later that he realized that LSD could produce psychedelic effects, and the development of LSD and its systematic production was advanced.

Since LSD is considered a drug in Germany and is prohibited under the BtMG, LSD is not officially manufactured in this country. Instead, it is produced abroad or even outside Europe in specialized laboratories. There, experiments are also carried out with so-called LSD derivatives. These are substances that are quite similar to LSD in terms of their mode of action. Typically, such substances do not fall under the BtMG, but are covered by the NpSG.

LSD derivatives are becoming increasingly popular in the context of LSD microdosing. This involves experimental low doses of LSD-like substances with the aim of learning more about the mode of action. Some users report that they have noticed positive effects (e.g., ability to concentrate) when they have taken microdoses of LSD derivatives.