The Psychological Effects of LSD
LSD has always been a center of controversy in American society, often times because peoplehave been miseducated about its effects or exposed to media bias. Its physiological effects onthe brain and body have become more and more apparent in the last few decades when research in neuroscience peaked. The psychological effects of LSD have been often difficult to describe and document very well -- they were first discovered on April 16, 1943 by research chemist Albert Hofmann when a small amount of the drug soaked through his fingers during a routine synthesis. He experienced an imaginative dream-like state for a duration of about 2-3 hours. Since then, a great deal of work has been done attempting to document the health effects of LSD.
LSD is very potent: the effective dose is measured in micrograms (ug) -- however, the lethal dose is literally thousands of times that, making the drug essentially non-toxic. There have been only a few cases of possible overdose where people ingested extremely large amounts of the drug (Allen et al., 1978; Griggs et al., 1977).
LSD can be administered a number of ways, the most common: orally through paper, sugar cubes, on a piece of gelatin, or by pill; intravenously; or intramuscularly. A standard dose withnoticeable hallucinogenic effects is about 100-200 ug. The intensity of the trip is proportional to the size of the dose -- it is interesting to note, though, that the duration of the trip seems to stay the same at higher doses (Freedman, 1984). The initial effects begin 20-40 minutes with a sense of euphoria and dizziness. Hallucinations then begin to occur, with the trip peaking for 4-5 hours after about an hour since the drug is taken. LSD is best described as a drug that strikes down barriers. The person who uses LSD is likely to feel detached from his/her ego, and can cross between states of consciousness. The user's perceptions are altered, causing visual and auditory hallucinations. One may notice that the walls of room are "breathing" or that motionless curtains appear to be moving. Senses appear to mix: a user might see music, taste colors, or hear visual stimuli. The LSD experience is often difficult to describe by users -- words lose meaning and are often insufficient in describing the effects of the drug; thoughts may seem unclear. Effects taper off after about 6-8 hours and are usually completely gone after a nights sleep.
The user's mood is likely to change depending on how he/she feels at various stages of the trip. The outcome of the trip is almost always dependent on two primary variables: the set and the setting. The set refers to a user's expectations of the drug's effects and the user's state-of-mind. The setting is the environment in which the drug is taken. If an inexperienced user takes LSD in stressed condition or in a bad mood, a bad experience may occur. By the same token, taking LSD in a chaotic environment like a noisy rock concert could turn into trouble for someone unsure of the drugs effects. When users on LSD become frightened or enter a state of panic,they can usually be relieved or "talked down" by a friend.
The long-term effects of LSD use can be both good and bad. There are cases of people who claim to have had their entire lives turned around, for the better, due to LSD use. On the other hand, some people have been hospitalized by so-called "LSD psychosis." In the late 1960s, several studies indicated possible chromosome breakage due to LSD use. Some people report experiencing "LSD flashbacks" -- brief vivid repetitions of a previous LSD experience.
The effects of LSD are very strong and profound. Many people have claimed to have discovered their inner selves under the influence of LSD. One interesting analogy was made by Professor Jeffrey M. Blum of the University of Buffalo School of Law:
"The problems posed by LSD, for example,...
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