LSD: Mental effects
Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 4:55 pm
LSD is very similar in its chemical composition to serotonin, a chemical found in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which means it is responsible for some of the communication that goes on between brain cells. Serotonin is known to be responsible for behavioral, perceptual, and regulatory systems in the brain, including mood, hunger, body temperature, sex drive, muscle control, and sensory perception. It also helps control mood, thinking, and the identification of new experiences.
It is believed that LSD works by stimulating the effects of serotonin in the brain. This would help explain why all of the senses are usually enhanced or distorted (synesthesia) in people taking LSD and why the drug has a profound effect on mood, thinking, and some basic bodily functions such as temperature control and muscle movement.
Early Mental effects
LSD produces profound Mental effects that increase with higher doses. Starting about 30 to 90 minutes after taking LSD, depending on the dose, a user will start to notice the following Mental effects:
• Distortion and intensification of all the senses, especially vision. The shapes of objects may appear to blend together or melt, and colors may appear brighter or changed. Depth perception might also become distorted, and objects might have halos or leave trails when they move.
• Distortions in time and space, in which time seems to flow more slowly and the sense of the shape or position of the body is altered.
• Synesthesia, or the blending or crossing over of senses, so that people might feel they can see sounds or hear colors.
• A feeling that everything is very real and familiar.
• A strong sense of connection with other people (empathy) or connectedness to the universe.
• A sense of heightened understanding.
• Impaired judgment, which can make everyday tasks like driving a car dangerous.
• A feeling of being rooted to the spot, even when moving.
• Intensification of and rapid changes in mood.
• The turning inward of attention, often with the sense of being a passive observer of oneself.
• Uncontrolled laughing or a sense of inner tension relieved by laughing or crying.
• Euphoria, a feeling of well-being or elation.
• A sense of being out of the body.
Late Mental effects
Starting about one to two hours after taking the drug and usually continuing for eight to 12 hours (depending on the dose) LSD produces the following effects:
• Vivid hallucinations, or the sensing of things that are not there. Hallucinations produced by LSD are usually visual and are often related to what is really there. So, a person on LSD might see the furniture moving around the room or see people appear unrecognizably different.
• Extreme emotional instability, to the point of feeling intense fear and panic one second, despair another, and pure joy the next. Some people who have taken LSD say they feel like they are experiencing several intense emotions at once.
• Difficulty communicating, especially with people who are not also on LSD.
• Difficulty concentrating.
• Difficulty distinguishing reality from illusion.
• A heightened sense of clarity combined with a reduced ability to control what is being experienced.
As the effects of LSD start to wear off, a period called “coming down,” occurs. Many people experience some anxiety, depression, and/or fatigue during this time. Unlike what occurs after use of many other drugs, including marijuana and alcohol, people tend to remember their LSD experience.
Negative Mental effects
Many people find LSD to be a positive experience, one that makes them feel more connected to the people they get high with as well as with the universe as a whole. When an LSD trip goes badly, however, it can be a very distressing experience. In fact, a bad trip can be so traumatic for some people that they never fully recover. Someone experiencing a bad trip on LSD often feels:
• extreme anxiety or panic
• fear of losing control, going insane, or dying
• fear that their sense of self is fragmenting or disintegrating
• vivid and sudden thoughts and memories of previous traumatic experiences
• perception of rapid aging in oneself or in others
• desire to commit suicide (which, in a few rare cases, has actually been successfully carried out)
• extreme confusion
Factors affecting Mental effects
It is impossible to predict who will have a positive experience with LSD and who will have a negative one. The same person might enjoy an LSD experience one day and have a devastatingly bad trip another day. Early studies with LSD revealed, however, that a number of factors play a crucial role in how an LSD trip is experienced. These include:
• The setting in which the drug is taken. A comfortable, safe setting in which the user is surrounded by supportive, trusted people increases the chances that an LSD trip will be positive.
• Dose. The higher the dose, the more intense the experience and the greater the risk that it will be too much for the drug taker to handle.
• Personality of the drug taker. People who can easily relax and let go are more likely to experience LSD positively than are people who are uncomfortable when they lose control of a situation.
• Mood of drug taker. LSD tends to intensify the mood a person was in before taking the drug.
• Expectations of drug taker. To a certain degree, the LSD experience will mimic what the drug taker expects it to be.
• Reason for taking the drug. People who take the drug of their own accord are more likely to have a positive experience than those who take it for self-therapy or because of peer pressure.
• Mental health of the drug taker. People with a history of mental health problems are more likely to have bad trips, although negative experiences also occur in people with no such history.
Tolerance to LSD builds up very quickly. After three or four doses are taken over a short period of time, the drug stops having an effect. It only takes a few days off the drug for it to start working again, however. Interestingly, tolerance to LSD also leads to tolerance of other hallucinogenic drugs, even ones that are not chemically related to LSD.