LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is an illicit synthetic cathinone that’s part of the ergolines drug class. The substance is produced in illegal laboratories across the United States, making its ingredients variable and usually unknown to users. Made in crystals, LSD or “acid” is converted into a liquid for distribution. Its colorless and odorless nature also allows the drug to be easily transported and sold. Below is more on what LSD is made of and the risks of abusing it.
How Does LSD Work?
LSD or acid is known for altering the user’s perception (awareness of their surroundings and conditions,) thoughts, and feelings. It can also cause hallucinations, which are sensations and images that seem real even though they aren’t. An LSD high is also referred to as a “trip,” and these can last many hours, with the drug remaining in the bloodstream long after side effects have worn off.
LSD was first synthesized in 1938 and became popular because of its hallucinogenic effects. However, the compound’s impact on the brain is still widely unknown. What’s more, because synthetic cathinones like acid are made in clandestine laboratories with no regulation, the ingredients for LSD can change as well as its effects.
Though there is still much to learn about LSD, what researchers have started with is LSD’s drug class: ergolines. These drugs are used to treat a variety of conditions, including migraine headaches and Parkinson’s disease. This can give us a direction to go in.
According to research, what we do know is that LSD interacts with proteins on the surface of brain cells called serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that helps brain cells communicate. Acid appears to act through a specific receptor called 5-HT2AR.1
Thanks to Dr. Bryan Roth and his team at the University of North Carolina, we now know that serotonin receptors activate 2 major signaling pathways within cells: through G-proteins and through β-arrestins. Ergoline compounds, such as LSD, differ in the way they interact with the receptor. Further research showed that these similar yet distinct compounds can shape the structure of the serotonin receptor to trigger different side effects.1
The team also found that the serotonin receptor closes a “lid” over the LSD molecule, effectively trapping it and preventing it from quickly detaching. This likely is what causes LSD’s long-lasting side effects. This study shed light on the effects of acid on the brain, including how certain substances can activate one pathway inside cells while avoiding others.1
What Is LSD Made Out Of?
Now that we know what LSD does, the remaining question is, what is LSD made of? LSD is made from the ergot fungus on seeds of rye or morning glory. The ergot fungus is the active ingredient in LSD and must be extracted from rye seeds through a chemical process. This process requires chemistry and expertise, which is why LSD is often made in illegal laboratories.
LSD can be made by creating a fungus on rye or morning glory seeds. The fungus is then cultured and must be moved through a production that involves the chemicals anhydrous hydrazine or chloroform. These are considered carcinogens, which are substances that are able to cause cancer in living tissue.
In its pure state, LSD looks like a white crystalline substance that’s odorless. Because the drug is so potent, an effective dose can be nearly invisible to the naked eye, which is why acid is often diluted with other ingredients.
The most common form of LSD is a solution that’s dropped onto dried gelatin sheets, pieces of blotting paper, or sugar cubes, all of which release the drug when they’re ingested orally. Acid may also be sold as a liquid, in a tablet, or in capsules. Because common ingredients in LSD include ergot fungus and chemicals like anhydrous hydrazine and chloroform, we advise against LSD abuse and encourage those who have developed a dependence on the drug to seek out a medically supervised detox to flush it out of their system.
Dangers of LSD Abuse
In addition to the carcinogens, fungus, and other unknown chemicals in LSD, there is no safe dose of the drug. This substance can lead to various adverse effects, including the re-occurrence of bad acid trips or “flashbacks.”
Common side effects of LSD include:
- Confusion and trouble concentrating
- Dilated pupils
- Euphoria and wellbeing
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Flushed skin, sweating, and chills
- Increased body temperature
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Rapid breathing
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
The effects of acid usually kick in within about 30 minutes of use and can last anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. If someone takes a large amount of LSD, an overdose can occur. LSD overdose symptoms may include panic, paranoia, anxiety, risky behavior, and psychosis. It’s also important to know about “bad trips,” which is an acid high marked by disturbing hallucinations that can lead to panic and risky behavior.
Flashbacks of bad acid trips can happen weeks, months, or even years after the drug was last taken. These flashbacks can be disturbing, especially if they’re linked to a frightening experience or recalled hallucination.
Furthermore, while acid is not addictive in the same way that opioids are, long-term abuse can contribute to dependence. The physical dependence on LSD is marked by withdrawals and a physical and emotional attachment to the drug. If you or someone you know has become addicted to LSD or any other substance, our facility offers various inpatient rehab programs in Pennsylvania that can help.
For more information about our substance abuse treatment and detox in PA, call Clearbrook Treatment Centers today at 570-536-9621 or send us your contact information so we can reach out to you.
- National Institutes of Health – Protein structure reveals how LSD affects the brain