What is LSD? Everything you need to know about the psychedelic substance.

Written by: Konstantin Neumann



Time to read 10 min

Behind the three letters LSD is lysergic acid diethylamide, a strongly hallucinogenic substance that is still one of the most popular recreational drugs today. LSD was discovered in 1943 by Albert Hofmann, who experienced his first trip through a self-experiment. Artists, actors and the hippies of the 1960s then made the drug popular.

Development and invention of LSD since the beginning of discovery

The question “What is LSD?” is easy to answer. The story behind it is much more interesting. Albert Hofmann, the inventor of LSD, made it known with his self-experiment in 1943, but he already discovered it in 1938, when he produced the substance synthetically for the first time.

Albert Hofmann: Discoverer of LSD

The pharmaceutical company Sandoz developed an interest in LSD and released it as a drug. It was primarily used to treat mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, alcohol abuse and depression. With the hippie movement, recreational use increased rapidly and criticism of the substance became vocal.

BUT: What is LSD?

This question was asked by people worldwide, because the drug was increasingly used and abused as an intoxicant.

Due to the risk of abuse, drugs containing LSD were banned, and the substance was classified as dangerous worldwide. In the artist and party scene, however, the popularity remained.

What does LSD look like and in what dosage forms is it used?

The best known is the administration of LSD in the form of a blotter. The drug is dripped onto a piece of cardboard or paper as a liquid substance, which is then placed in the mouth. Theoretically, LSD can also be produced as a powder and used in capsule form, but this form of administration is much rarer. With us, you can get legal LSD in tablet form.

Why we have chosen this dosage form? Because the substance evaporates quickly on the blotters and thus loses its effect. Basically, LSD is very sensitive to light, water and air. In our tablets, it can remain much more stable, in contrast to classic blotters.

The liquid, which is often described as colorless, actually shimmers blue, but this only shows under certain light conditions. The actual appearance of the blotter is created by the cardboard, with various images usually printed on it. But what is LSD now? Is it a synthetic drug or does it come from nature (like cannabis?).

What is LSD from a chemical perspective?

Chemically, lysergic acid diethylamide is a synthetic substance derived from lysergic acid. LSD is produced in the laboratory, where lysergic acid is treated with diethylamine and other chemicals. The finished substance is counted among the psychedelics responsible, among other things, for perceptual disorders.

How does LSD affect the brain?

So far, the LSD effect has not been conclusively clarified, although there is sufficient conjecture. In science, it is assumed that the serotonin system of the body plays the main role in the effectiveness of LSD. Here, it is believed that the substance binds to the 5-HT2 receptor and provides activation. The receptor itself is actually responsible for clear perception in humans. This theory of action would explain why LSD causes perceptual disturbances.

Effects of LSD on the brain

What is LSD as a drug - how does the substance work?

The LSD effect on the brain and thus on the perception of the user begins about 30–40 minutes after ingestion. A "trip" occurs, the intensity of which is largely dependent on the LSD dosage. LSD ingestion is almost always oral; a topical effect via the skin is not possible.

Perceptual disturbances are the characteristic feature of ingestion, however, many LSD experiences are not negative, but are described by users as positive and mind-expanding. Below you will learn more about the effects and the different symptoms.

Fusion of sensory perceptions (synesthesia)

During an LSD trip, many experience reports describe a merging or mixing of different sensory impressions. Thus, in the context of synesthesia, it can happen that seeing a number is automatically associated with a color, or that colors have a certain smell.

Synesthesia often, but not exclusively, occurs when LSD is used as a narcotic. About 4% of people are thought to regularly experience such altered sensory perceptions, even without the use of psychedelics.

The best-known perceptual disturbances under LSD include, for example, the intensified perception of colors and sounds, as well as a change in the perception of space and time. Depending on the user, however, there can be a great deal of variation. The dosage of the trip and whether LSD and alcohol or other drugs were taken together are also decisive.

Hallucinations caused by an LSD trip

When we answer the question of what LSD is, we quickly come across the word hallucinogen. This name describes the effectiveness very strongly, because LSD triggers acoustic and optical hallucinations. Users of LSD may perceive sounds, smells and images that are actually not real. Many users find it difficult to assess reality correctly, they are really on a trip.

Is LSD legal, and what are the consequences of using it?

LSD belongs to the substances of the narcotics law in countries like Germany and is prohibited. Only under scientific conditions, it may be possible in individual cases to use LSD in studies and to investigate its effectiveness.

A special case is 1V-LSD, which was easily and legally available via the internet until 2022. The 1V-LSD experience of many users shows that the psychotropic substance has a very similar effect to LSD itself. It is a condensation product made from LSD and valeric acid. The substance 1D-LSD is the successor substance of 1V-LSD and still legally available in our country.

Acute & chronic consequences possible from LSD use?

Below, we will discuss the worst case scenario and describe the so-called horror trip. The classic "side effects" include balance disorders (at high doses), sweating and a drop in blood pressure. Theoretically, it is possible that long-term users develop a kind of tolerance and need larger amounts of LSD for a complete trip. However, this tolerance quickly regresses, according to users. After half a year of abstinence, a significantly smaller dosage is needed for a trip.

It is important to know that LSD is a fairly harmless drug, but it can have severe consequences in people who fall ill. Mindset plays an underestimated role in the effects of LSD. Depressed or anxious people can get into a whirlpool of their illness by using it and, in the worst case, experience a long-term worsening of their symptoms. Flashbacks are also possible, for example, if drugs that affect the central nervous system are taken regularly. A flashback means that without the use of further doses of LSD, a brief trip feeling occurs in everyday life. It cannot be controlled and can therefore be experienced as unpleasant. It is added that people with mental abnormalities in the past (psychoses) risk a flare-up of the symptoms.

Is LSD addictive and what kind of addiction does it create?

Why don't you try an experiment? The next time you visit a pub and see a guest sitting at the table with a beer and a cigarette, ask him one question: What is LSD? He will most likely look at you skeptically and tell you that LSD is a dangerous drug. But is it really? Compared to the toxic effects of nicotine and even alcohol, LSD is one of the most harmless drugs on the market. It is not physically addictive and (used with sense and understanding) can have an enormously positive effect on the body and mind!

Yes, it is possible that you will increase the craving for an LSD trip if you have had several positive experiences. But we experience such addictions every day! We eat gummy bears because they were so delicious last time. We drink coffee because it gives us good vibes and, most importantly, wakefulness. We have sex because it makes us feel free, relaxed and good. Does that make us addicts? Clearly no! The need to have a certain experience or to enjoy an experience is not necessarily an addiction.

There are no studies that prove a physical addictive potential of LSD. Instead, it is considered proven that even prolonged use of LSD does not result in physical dependence. This means that you can stop using LSD overnight without experiencing symptoms such as tremors, bad moods, dizziness, and headaches.

How long does LSD last, and how can the effect be influenced?

LSD works between four and six hours on average, the peak is reached after two hours. Depending on the physical constitution and the amount consumed, however, a duration of effect of up to 12 hours is possible. Various factors have a significant influence on the effectiveness and the experience of the trip:

  • Dosage: How intense the effect of LSD is perceived depends largely on the amount consumed. Today, recreational use averages between 20 and 80 mg; in the 1960s, dosages of up to 300 mg were common.
  • Set and Setting: The mental state of the user and the environment have a significant influence on the experience. A relaxed environment that is perceived as pleasant can serve physical and psychological relaxation. However, if the consumer is in an unpleasant setting, the risk of a horror trip increases.
  • Personal reaction: Depending on the person, there is a different sensitivity to hallucinogens. Some people perceive the effects of LSD as milder, while others are on a trip for hours.

There is currently no known way to abort the effects of the psychedelic drug or to reduce a trip. However, the quality of the experience can be improved by the use of music, audiovisual stimuli, or even familiar people. To avoid anxiety during an LSD trip, some users use benzodiazepines in advance.

Is LSD dangerous, and what are the risks of classical use?

Despite experience, the effect of LSD can not be estimated and predicted. Whether it is the (former) legal highs like 1CP LSD or classic LSD, the effect can be different with each intake. This is also exactly the biggest risk when using the drug. In a comfortable environment and under the protection of familiar people, many users report a pleasant experience. However, it is also always possible to have a horror trip with unpleasant experiences.

What is a horror trip under LSD, and how does it stand out?

One of the worst experiences a person can have under LSD is the so-called horror trip. Mood swings and panic fears may occur due to the various hallucinations. In this situation, affected persons are not able to distinguish between drug and reality. In an unsuitable environment, a horror trip quickly leads to serious dangers, such as suicidal thoughts.

Common and repeatedly reported symptoms are:

  • Feeling of loneliness
  • Derealization and depersonalization
  • Loss of perception
  • Delusions of persecution
  • Fear of death

The dangers for a horror trip can be significantly reduced, for example, by mono-consumption and a professional application supervised by psychologists on a retreat. The mixture of LSD with other drugs or even alcohol is considered one of the three most important triggers for the unpleasant experience.

Why is microdosing LSD all the rage right now?

The thought of a horror trip is anything but pleasant. The fact that LSD is illegal doesn't help the positive feeling either. In fact, a trend is spreading in the U.S. that can exploit the substance's potential without posing any dangers. The talk is about microdosing. Here, LSD is consumed in such small quantities that a clear control of reality is maintained.

If we look at the past, it was considered proven that LSD can have a positive effect on diseases such as depression. The fact that it is no longer prescribed as a drug today is due to the potential side effects of the substance. Microdosing means that maximum doses of 30 µg are used. This low dose is supposed to ensure that the effectiveness of LSD occurs and that there is also a sensory expansion, but not a loss of reality.

LSD recreational use or microdosing - what do users say?

Elon Musk and other well-known Americans have long been using microdoses of psychotropic substances to expand their own minds. In the meantime, the trend is spilling over into Europe and the reports are mostly very positive. Especially the sharpening of concentration and the improved memory are mentioned again and again.

The microdosing of LSD is also becoming more and more interesting for science. The substance fell after the hippie time more and more into oblivion, was used only on parties or for private trips. In the meantime, people remember that LSD was not only known as a dangerous drug, but also as an effective remedy for depression.

For many years now, the first signs of a change in thinking have become noticeable. Thus, it seems to indicate that science is reflecting on the origins of the demonized and stigmatized drug and is finally recognizing its usefulness again.

Especially in psychotherapy, microdosing of LSD could bring a lot of positive effects. The treatment of many illnesses takes place medicinally. For anxiety there are benzodiazepines, for depression antidepressants. This is risky from various points of view. Benzodiazepines, for example, have a high dependence potential, whereas SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) for the treatment of depression often only take effect after six weeks.

The USA and Australia are among the pioneers; various psychedelic substances have already been legalized there and research is being driven forward. It would be desirable if this change in thinking also came to Europe, and thus to Germany. However, when we look at how long cannabis legalization is taking in this country, we at least have our doubts about it.