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In collaboration with The Beckley Foundation.
Lysergic acid diethylamide is a psychedelic drug that was first synthesized in 1938 by Albert Hofmann. LSD literally takes you in a ‘trip’ to the deepest parts of human consciousness. People can have a spiritual-experience, time perception is altered, music feels like heaven, all sensations are heightened. However, bad thoughts can also turn to be extremely disturbing, read more below on harm reduction to avoid this!
The Beckley Foundation is a pioneer institution conducting cutting-edge research on the therapeutic potential of this psychedelic. Their scientists also believe LSD is a master key to unravel the inner workings of consciousness.
Set and setting
Plan your trip carefully and make adequate preparations to enhance your experience and avoid a 'bad trip'.
Try to have a trip-sitter (ideally someone sober, had previous psychedelic experience and has read this guide!) or let a friend know when and where you will take it.
Although LSD doesn’t cause dependence or addiction, don't take a higher dosage than recommended. Save your trips for special and meaningful occasions.
Here are the most common effects, not everyone necessarily experiences all of them every time they consume the drug and other effects not listed might be felt. The likelihood of experiencing negative effects is far greater at high doses.
The effects are (from positive to negative):
- Euphoria 1
- Positive mood
- Loss of the sense of self
- Distortions and hallucinations (visual, even with closed eyes; tactile, olfactory and auditory)
- Changes in consciousness
- Spiritual or mystical experiences (entheogenic)
- Unexpected emotions
- Synaesthesia-like experiences
- Visual hallucinations
- Time travelling/time distortions
- Psychosis-like symptoms
- Unpleasant feeling
- Paranoid delusions
Dose and onset
How? How Much? When? For how Long?
As with any drug, the correct dose for you depends on factors such as weight, gender, metabolism, whether you have taken the drug recently or not, amongst many others.
How you take it matters...
LSD is always taken orally and it is only injected for research purposes. It is commonly dissolved in blotting paper that can be broken down into tabs. other, less common, ways of taking this psychedelic are consuming it in the form of liquid LSD and gelatin
You should place the tab under your tongue for around 10 minutes, after that, you can safely swallow the tab.
If you are going to try LSD for your first time or you are using a new source, we encourage you to take a low dose to avoid a bad trip.
- Low: 25–100 µg (people report feeling some effects with as little as 20 µg)
- Medium (common): 65–175 µg
- High: 175–250 µg
- Heavy: 250+ µg
When do the effects kick in?
The START time below is when you will usually begin to feel the effects of LSD from the time when you first take it. DURATION is roughly the length of time you will experience the effects, after which the effects will start to wind down and you might start to feel the calm-down/comedown effects.
- Start: 30–90 min
- Peak: 2–3 hours
- Duration: 9–14 hours
This depends heavily on the person and her/his state. Factors such as heart rate and blood pressure or the presence of other drugs in the blood affect the time the drug will take to have an effect. A higher heart rate and blood pressure than normal would make the effects to kick in faster. This can also vary with how much you have taken: the higher the dose you take, the longer the trip will last.
How often can I take it?
Psychedelics are powerful substances and individuals can often find themselves overwhelmed by the new experiences they have gone through. After their first LSD experience, it is not uncommon for individuals to feel like they never need to take LSD or any other psychedelic again. Think carefully to see if this applies to you.
If you are intending on taking it again, for first time users, it is recommended that individuals wait at least three months before taking another dose to try and integrate what they have learnt into their everyday lifestyle. For more experienced users, the three month resting time is also recommended, however, the individual may feel like they can dose sooner after one month. Due to the powerful nature of the experience, it is advised not to take LSD or other psychedelics more frequently than this.
LSD tolerance rapidly builds within the first few hours of consumption. After just two hours, re-dosing will have little to no effect on the experience. This tolerance can last for up to two weeks before it wears off completely. It is therefore advised to avoid re-dosing entirely.
Furthermore, there is a cross tolerance between LSD and Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms). Taking LSD on Day 1 will mean taking Psilocybin on Day 2 will have little to no effect on you. The same also applies vice versa. Two weeks must be given for the cross-tolerance to completely fade.
As a rule, it is better not to mix different drugs, as the interactions can be unique (and unpredictable) for each person. This is especially important for first-time users of LSD, as mixing drugs could result in a negative experience.
For example, combining LSD with cannabis can go either way because cannabis has unexpectedly strong and somewhat unpredictable synergy with psychedelics.
Most classic psychedelics (except for DMT) induce cross-tolerance. This means that if you take mushrooms one day, and LSD the next, the effects of LSD will be reduced. After about 3 days the effects will be very small or non-existent. Therefore we recommend that you take prolonged breaks between trips.
Please read our ME sections for more general information about recreational drugs.
Written by Dr Anna Ermakova, researcher at The Beckley Foundation.
There are certain precautions you should take before doing LSD. The advice below helps you to be physically and mentally prepared before doing it. Furthermore, we want you to be safe, and just in case you have a bad experience or some of the unwanted side effects associated with DRUG, we have also provided information on how to take care of yourself when you are in full swing. Finally, there are those uncomfortable or undesirable effects after the high have worn out, we will provide you with some practical tips on how to have a better calm down and help you to reduce the harm done to your body and brain.
Head over to our ME sections if you would like to know more about harm reduction.
Every feeling is enhanced with LSD, this is why you want to plan your trip carefully.
- Always test your LSD. Other hallucinogens can be sometimes sold as LSD, many of these other drugs have a smaller safety window (i.e. the ratio of the typical lethal dose to the effective dose)
- Don't try LSD if you are in a bad state and feel a bit down. You shouldn't take any drug when you are feeling low, but taking psychedelics is probably the worst idea. You can easily fall into a very unpleasant rabbit hole.
- Try to have a trip-sitter look after you during your trip. Ideally, this would be someone who remains sober, has had previous experience with psychedelic drugs, and has read this guide! Or, let someone you trust know when and where you are planning to take it.
- Always take it with other people and, whenever it is possible, with familiar and kind faces. Experienced users might start trying it out on their own, often to seek artistic or intellectual inspiration.
- Set and setting, i.e. the place you choose to take LSD, is extremely important. It should be a familiar and safe place. Avoid places that may trigger negative feelings for you or unsecure and unsafe locations with a lot of people. If possible, prepare the site beforehand with a friend you trust.
- Prepare a music list. Check our section: What should I listen to? below.
- Gather any items you want to experiment with during your trip (books, videos, pen and paper etc.)
- Don't carry valuables while tripping as it's easier to become disoriented and forgetful. Stay hydrated: bring a bottle of water and some light snacks.
Generally, the LSD experience can be divided into different stages:
- Initial effects (come-up)
Slight visual changes, sense of intoxication, uncontrollable need to laugh, euphoria, anxiety
- The peak and plateau
Increase of visuals, time distortion, synaesthesia, loss of the sense of self, spiritual-experience, suggestibility
- The come-down
Gradual decrease of physical and psychological effects, insomnia
The LSD experience, even when positive, can often be emotionally and physically draining. Many people like to have a free day after taking LSD, not to recover from the hangover, but so they can reflect on the experience as it helps you to gain an even greater insight from the trip. Know yourself!
You might feel an afterglow for some hours or days or you might feel a bit off. People vary a lot on their feelings and mood after the trip. If you avoid a bad trip and get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and eat a sensible amount of food, you should wake up in your usual state.
You might still feel that the world looks a bit weird after the trip, so avoid driving, cycling or doing any risky activities. Wait around 24 hours before doing anything that requires your full attention and physical coordination.
Just as how LSD can heighten positive feelings, it can also enhance negative feelings. They can be very overwhelming and unpleasant. LSD has also been shown to strongly increase psychotic-like symptoms 1.
Even though a bad trip can be absolutely terrifying at the time, it could lead to beneficial long-term consequences when processed and integrated properly 2. In a survey about challenging experiences after taking psilocybin mushrooms, 39% of users who had them said that the experience was among the top 5 challenging experiences of their lifetime. Despite having those difficulties, 84% reported having benefited from the experience and 76% reported increased well-being afterwards.
LSD can be very dangerous to people with pre-existing psychotic illnesses or those who are highly at risk for developing psychosis. Research shows that LSD makes existing psychotic symptoms worse and can trigger the onset of the full-blown psychotic episode 3.
A bad trip can occur when taking a low or medium dose, but the chances increase with higher doses. Both beginners and experienced users can suffer a bad trip, so always take the appropriate preventions.
During a bad trip, you might feel 4:
- Unwanted thoughts, emotions and memories
- Frightening perceptions
- Distressing awareness of physiological processes
- Feelings about evil forces/existential crisis
Each person may find their way of escaping a bad trip: listening to a particular song, talking to a certain person, or looking at a pleasant painting. We personally recommend lying down in a place without disturbances, close your eyes and breathe deeply until you feel better.
Check out this video: Bad Trips - How to Use Biofeedback to Work with the Fear
Helping out a friend
If you are taking care of your friends, keep in mind the following:
- Be patient, listen to and observe them
- Empathise and express understanding of their fears
- Don't try to guide them. Instead, listen to them and talk them through their experience without imposing your own ideas of what ‘should’ be
- Find a more peaceful spot
- Tell them that their bad feelings will pass. It can happen and many people before have suffered it
A great guide is MAPS' Manual: How to Work with Difficult Psychedelic Experiences
LSD increases connectivity between different brain areas and consequently decreases the independence of different brain networks. Consciousness is pushed towards a more unconstrained, chaotic state. This is thought to be responsible for psychosis-like symptoms and altered perception in the short term. However, the same ‘loosening’ of brain networks results in more flexible patterns of thinking, which may improve well-being in the longer term.
Accidental overdoses are very rare because LSD has a very high safety window (the ratio of the typical lethal dose to the effective dose). There isn’t an exact lethal amount, since it depends on many variables such as the person and context. Estimates of lethal doses of LSD are higher than 10 mg (10,000 µg) administered orally, more than 100 times a normal moderate dose of LSD (100 µg).
Seek immediate medical attention if:
- The person collapses
- Breathing is irregular and/or shallow
- The person is too warm
- There is blood in his/her vomit
Do not doubt to call a paramedic if you see or feel any of these symptoms. You will not get into trouble.
Understand the trip
In this section The Beckley Foundation and Drugsand.me provide you with a lot of neuroscientific information. Let us know what else you want to know about!
A discovery the recent Beckley/Imperial studies have revealed is the shift in the overall connectivity of the brain. The connectivity within the networks decreases and the connectivity between the networks increases. The whole brain becomes more integrated, allowing new functional connections to be formed between brain areas which which normally do not ‘speak to each other’.
LSD enhances your emotional response to music (5, 6), increasing wonder, transcendence, power and tenderness of it. LSD and music work together to change how your neurons talk to each other, that correlate with the long lasting change in personality, such as increased openness and optimism 7.
LSD intensifies the quality and significance of melodies and lyrics and affects the perception of the basic musical features such as pitch, tempo and timbre. LSD and music together increase the flow of personal memories, allowing the vivid experience of ‘visions of the past' 5. This research by Mendel Kaelen, undertaken as part of the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme is the first to shed light on how the brain processes music under LSD, and provide a basis for understanding the therapeutic effects of music.
What should I listen to?
The powerful influence that music has on your trip can enhance it or make it really bad, this is why you should pick carefully the music you listen to while on LSD. There isn't a standardized playlist suitable for everyone. Follow this advice and adapt it to your taste and the experience you are looking for!
Below we provide examples of the tracks used by the scientists in the Beckley/Imperial research programme working on incorporating music to psychedelic therapy
- Before it kicks in you might want to listen to reassuring and calming music with melodic strings and clear melody line.
- For the onset you might want more emotionally evocative music
- For the peak you will surely enjoy a mixture of music with different rhythms and emotional intensities.
- Here are some other recommendations.
Have a look at the playlist of another research team doing research on psychedelics: John Hopkins’ playlist
Do want to discover why it is called psychedelic rock?
Research from the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme has focused on understanding how brain processes music under LSD.
The first discovery was the influence of music in the activity of the parahippocampal cortex. This region lies on the inferior part of the brain and runs approximately from your ears to the back part where the area involved in vision is. It is involved in emotion, memory and ego/self functions.
The parahippocampal cortex is part of the Default Mode Network. Psychedelics decrease PHC is highly connected with the Default Mode Network (DMN), which exerts top-down control over the PHC. Psychedelics decrease this DMN control, resulting in altered consciousness.
LSD and music allows the PHC to interact more freely with the visual system. The input of memories to the visual system – a ‘flip’ in the normal direction of information flow – may underlie the reported visions. Consequently, there is an increase in mental imagery of autobiographical nature.
Music also increases the chaotic brain activity when on LSD, leading to sustained improvements in well-being and life satisfaction and an increase in openness after several weeks 7
There is much more to investigate here, and analyses are underway to understand neurophysiological processing of distinct acoustic features (such as pitch, tempo and timbre) in music under LSD, as well the relationship to increased music-evoked emotion. The results are coming soon!
Default Mode Network
Normally (without psychedelics) the brain functions in a very organized manner, with brain areas forming distinct networks doing their separate tasks. There are also higher order networks, one of which is the Default Mode Network.
The DMN is very important for the conscious experience. It is involved in such crucial functions as the introspection, autobiographical memory retrieval and maintaining the sense of self. The DMN includes 2 key ‘hub’ areas (areas that are highly interconnected with other brain regions): the Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC).
Hyperactivity of the DMN has been associated with several mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. Psychedelics disrupt the connectivity within this network (aka network integrity), and the degree of this disruption is mirrored in the experience of ego-dissolution, a loss of sense of self. Another piece of evidence, from the Beckley/Imperial results, underlining the importance of this network for maintaining the sense of self, is the fact that the degree of neural synchrony within the Posterior Cingulate Cortex correlates with the ratings of ego-dissolution. Other areas involved in memory and perception show also a decreased connectivity. This correlates with individuals’ ratings of “ego-dissolution” and “altered meaning”.
In short, psychedelics reduce DMN’s activity and integrity, which results in reduction of its repressive grip over the rest of the brain, allowing a more flexible state of consciousness.
Mental time travel refers to the ability to think about future or past, to recollect aspects of past autobiographical episodes or imagine future experiences. LSD seems to tune you with the present and it enhances any stimuli in your environment. This is why the context where you decide to take LSD is extremely important to ensure you have a good trip and avoid a bad experience.
Again, the disintegration of the Default Mode Network dictates your ability to think (travel) about the past or future on LSD. The stronger the disintegration of this network, the fewer thoughts you will have about your past. The inability of thinking about your own past can explain the experience of ego-dissolution, or a loss of the sense of self when you are on 'acid' 8.
Personal memories are an integral part of ‘narrative self’- a personal story that unfolds throughout one’s lifetime, involving past memories, perceived present and imagined future. So, in a sense, if you are forced to ‘stay in the present’ then your ego-boundaries dissolve and it becomes possible to experience oneness or unity with the world – something that successful meditators achieve after years of practice.
Suggestibility is the susceptibility or response to suggestion. LSD strongly enhances suggestibility. This means that the realism or vividness of suggested situations or scenarios is stronger when you are under LSD.
Why does this matter to you? Again, this is another reason of the importance of prior expectations (set) and environment (setting) in determining the nature of your experience. You may want to hide or avoid any object or place that arises any negative feeling or memory. Similarly, you probably want to have around things that already calm you down or bring you good vibes in a normal state.
Timothy Leary described it as a ‘period of increased reactivity to stimuli, both from within and without, there is an increase in suggestibility’ 9, 10.
Ego-dissolution is the loss of the sense of 'self' and the feeling of belongingness to the world.
LSD increases connectivity between different brain areas and consequently decreases the independence of different brain networks. This results in the blurring of the borders between the self and environment. In other words, there is a loss of integrity/stability of brain networks. This is observed even at a cellular level, this means that neurons that are normally active at the same time lose this synchronisation. At the same time, there is an increased connectivity between brain networks. A clear example happens in the 'visual network' 12
The areas in the brain in charge of the sense of self, switching between tasks (salience network link?) and attention/information access are in the regions of the brain which show the highest increase of activity and connectivity on LSD 11, 12. The chaotic and interconnected activity of our brain on LSD resembles the subjective feeling towards the world.
A visual hallucination is the vivid perception of an external visual stimulus that does not exist. Trippers usually see a distortion of what they are seeing. Fractals (repeated patterns) are a common form of distortion.
The first ever study on the effects of LSD on the human brain by The Beckley Foundation explained how people hallucinating with their eyes closed report to see. The connectivity of the brain region involved in vision increases its activity while on LSD, resulting in an increased connectivity and influence of this region with others 12. Moreover, it was observed that the visual region of the brain behaves and shows a pattern of activity as if it was receiving external visual information - ‘seeing with the eyes shut’ 13.
Synaesthesia is a psychological experience in which two or more senses that are normally experienced separately are constantly and spontaneously felt together. For example, the word 'Friday' makes the person to see the colour red. The painter Kandinsky is a famous example of a synaesthete (person with these experiences in their daily life).
LSD triggers synaesthesia-like experiences. This means that even if you are not a synaesthete you may experience a similar sensation. However, the experience is different as there is no consistency and specificity in the pairing of stimulus-sensation. This means that you might suddenly taste the sweetness of the word 'love' once, but not ever again and you might feel afterwards how another unrelated word tastes sweet as well. (Ref. Terhune, 2016) In the contrary, a synaesthete constantly tastes sweet when he/she hears the word 'love' and only this word would trigger the sensation of sweetness (besides actual sweet food/drink).
Don't be afraid when you see a noise and enjoy the mind-blowing experience!
If you avoid a bad trip, some particular positive feelings seem to be enhanced the most.
To investigate the effects of LSD on language, done as part of the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme, a team asked participants to name the pictures immediately after seeing them. Although the reaction times were the same as on placebo, study volunteers made more mistakes in naming the pictures. For example, when shown the picture of a bus, they were more likely to call it a ‘truck’ or a ‘car’. The mistakes were from the similar semantic category as the correct answer, but not exactly right. This research explains how LSD affects semantic networks and the way the brain draws connections between different words or concepts. "The effects of LSD on language can result in a cascade of associations that allow quicker access to far way concepts stored in the mind," said Family.
Psychedelics help to notice associations people wouldn't normally pay attention to, or help form new connections – this has implications for enhancing creativity. Ref Family et al., 2016
Pro-social effects of LSD
Under the effects of LSD people report a feeling of belongingness to the environment, as well as a connection with those who are with them. LSD changes the way you read people’s expressions and feelings. Consequently, these are internalised differently and your reaction in social context differs from your sober state.
To measure the social behavioural changes on LSD, a group of people were given LSD while they undertook a series of tasks. The scientists aimed to test some traits that influence our social behaviour such as empathy, prosociality, emotional response to faces and subjective mood. These were assessed twice per individual during the ‘trip’ since it lasts for several hours 16.
Dependence and abuse?
LSD doesn’t cause dependence or addiction, and no physical withdrawal symptoms have been described 17. Scientific literature has also reported subtle or nonsignificant changes in the personality, attitudes, and creativity of people that have repeatedly tried this psychedelic 18.
Tolerance develops quickly for LSD compared to other recreational drugs. Moreover,there is cross-tolerance between LSD and all the other psychedelics (except for DMT) 19. This can be problematic as the user needs to take higher doses to achieve the same effect.
Our personal advice is not to increase your doses far from what we advise and save your trips for special and meaningful occasions. Leave at least a couple of weeks between the trips.
Research by The Beckley Foundation has shown that psilocybin and LSD increase openness (imagination, aesthetic appreciation, non-conformity, creativity) and optimism weeks after the psychedelic experience. Psychedelics are thought to be an 'existential shock' therapy and can certainly lead to a change in behaviour and outlook. After 2 weeks of the experience, the positive effects continue, whereas the psychosis-like effects don't.
This a good reason to put thought into the mindset and setting of your first trip, as it can prove to be a more meaningful experience.
LSD disrupts the Default Mode Network or similarly, it increases the randomness in the connections between different brain regions.
The more chaotic the brain activity during the experience, the more you openness will increase after the experience. Importantly, music has shown to help increasing the randomness – thereby, boosting openness 6.
Many people rate the experience as one of the most meaningful of their life, and this experience can catalyse many positive changes, such as quitting smoking 20, 21.
Recent studies have found that psychedelic use was associated with lower rate of mental health problems 22, 23, 24. Of course, we deem that to be due to correlation and not causation as there are many other factors involved.
Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPPD) and flashbacks
Scientists still don't agree if Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPPD) and flashbacks are the same or different things; we need more research! HPPD is a legitimate disorder featuring in DSM-V, but nevertheless, this condition still remains poorly defined and studied. We still do not know how many people suffer from it, and what makes people vulnerable or optimal ways to treat it, as was recently summarised here.
Both result in a re-experiencing of one or more of the psychedelic effects time after trying this drug (months or years). The main difference between HPPD and flashbacks is that the former is a distressing medical condition, while the latter can be experienced as either positive or negative. People with HPPD experience visualizations that are frequent, and impinge upon their daily lives. Flashbacks are meant to be intermittent, infrequent experiences, whereas HPPD are described as more persistent states. However often both terms are used interchangeably.
As you might understand if you decide to try this drug, this can be very disturbing in your everyday life. Visual effects seem to be more prominent (geometrical hallucinations, flashes or intensification of colour, movements, afterimages, trails and haloes).
If you think you have HPPD/flashbacks, don't hesitate to look for medical help 4.
- UK: Illegal. Class A drug.
- Germany: Illegal.
- France: Illegal
- Netherlands: llegal. To possess, distribute, and produce without a license. Personal consumption is legal.
- Spain: Illegal. To possess, distribute, and produce without a license. Personal consumption is legal.
- Russia: Illegal. To possess, distribute, and produce without a license.
- USA: Illegal to manufacture, buy, possess or distribute without a DEA license. Schedule I drug.
- Canada: Illegal to possess, distribute, and produce without a license. Schedule III drug.
- Mexico: Illegal. Personal possession of up to 15 µg is decriminalised.
- Hong Kong: Illegal. Schedule 1. To manufacture, buy, possess, distribute or consume. Can only be used legally by health professionals and for university research purposes.
- Singapore: Illegal To possess, consume, import, export and use.
- Israel: Illegal. To possess, manufacture, sell, distribute and use.
- South Africa: Illegal. To manufacture, possess, consume, import, export and use.
- New Zealand: Illegal to manufacture, sale and use. Class A drug.
- Australia: Illegal to manufacture, possess, use and supply.