LSD: Physiological effects
Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 4:56 pm
LSD has such powerful Mental effects that people do not always notice its physical effects. However, the drug is a powerful stimulant and, as such, has a dramatic effect on the body. Physiological effects people experience with LSD, starting very soon after taking the drug, include:
• dilated pupils
• changes in body temperature
• goose bumps
• hair standing on end
• profuse sweating
• increased blood sugar
• rapid heart rate
• increased blood pressure
• loss of appetite
• inability to sleep
• dry mouth
• seizures (rare, and only with very high doses)
Harmful side effects
Despite frightening rumors that circulated in the 1960s and 1970s, there is no evidence that taking LSD, even regularly and in high doses, causes damage to the brain, genes, or developing fetuses. Massive overdoses of the drug can, in rare cases, lead to coma, respiratory arrest, overheating of the body, and problems with blood clotting.
Pregnant women should not take LSD because it is known to cause contractions of the uterus. This can bring on a miscarriage.
An LSD trip, especially a bad trip, can make people lose touch with reality to the point that they are a danger to themselves and others. People have been known to have fatal accidents while on LSD because they lost touch with their surroundings. Some people have even purposely harmed themselves or committed suicide during LSD-induced despair. A bad trip can also bring on paranoid thoughts and aggressive tendencies that have led people to harm or even murder others. While these extreme reactions to LSD are rare, they do occur.
Long-term health effects
There are two major long-term risks of taking LSD — flash backs and LSD psychosis.
Flashbacks are known as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, or HPPD. This is a spontaneous re-experiencing of the effects of LSD that occur without taking the drug. Usually, a flashback does not produce the full effects of an LSD trip. The most common experience is visual hallucinations or disturbances, such as seeing motion at the edges of one’s field of vision when nothing has actually moved, or seeing halos around objects or trails behind moving objects. They can occur in people who have been heavy users of LSD or in someone who has taken the drug only once, and they may happen weeks, months, or even years after taking LSD. Most people find flashbacks to be unpleasant and often frightening, particularly because they can mimic the symptoms of serious neurological disorders or brain tumors.
It is not known how common flashbacks are. Estimates of the proportion of LSD users who later experience flashbacks range from 15% to 77%. Flashbacks are more likely to occur in people who regularly took LSD for a long time and in those with other mental health problems. They can also be brought on by taking SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant drugs, alcohol, marijuana, or phenothiazines, which are drugs used to treat psychosis. Other flashback triggers are movement in a darkened area, fatigue, hunger, and anxiety.
A very small number of people who take LSD never seem to fully recover from the experience, especially if they had a bad trip. LSD psychosis causes an individual to continue experiencing symptoms related to LSD use including dramatic mood swings, hallucinations, visual disturbances, or severe depression and anxiety. This disorder is most likely to occur in people who had an unstable mental state before taking the drug, who took the drug for the wrong reasons (e.g., to try to treat themselves or because of peer pressure), or who took the drug in a stressful setting. However, well-adjusted people who took LSD in a safe setting also have been known to develop LSD psychosis after only one dose.
There is considerable controversy among experts as to what causes LSD psychosis. Various theories are that the LSD itself somehow damages the brain (although there are no physical signs of brain damage in people who have taken LSD); that a bad trip (like any traumatic experience) brings out mental illness in people who were already susceptible; and/or that LSD breaks down the barriers between the conscious and unconscious mind at the same time that it blocks people’s normal inhibitions, thus creating a very vulnerable state.
Regardless of the cause of LSD psychosis, people with this condition usually respond to treatments for the mental illnesses their condition resembles. So, if their symptoms resemble psychosis, they generally respond to antipsychotic drugs.
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