LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a potent hallucinogen—that is, a drug that can alter a person’s perception of reality and vividly distort the senses. LSD was originally derived from “ergot,” a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
The hallucinogenic effect of LSD was first discovered in 1943 by Dr. Albert Hofmann, a Swiss research chemist working at a pharmaceutical company. Early studies exploring potential use of the drug focused on what insight it might offer into certain kinds of mental illness. In the 1950s, intellectuals such as Aldous Huxley experimented with the drug for its alleged ability to induce a state of “cosmic consciousness.”
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LSD was the subject of numerous research studies in the 1950s and early 1960s. These studies included investigating the therapeutic potential of the “psychedelic” experience in treating chronic alcoholism and mental illness, and in helping patients with terminal illnesses to accept death. LSD also captured the attention of the CIA, who tested its potential for use in psychological warfare.
Recreational use of LSD increased in the 1960s as its “mind-expanding” qualities were promoted by influential role models such as Harvard scientist Timothy Leary and novelist Ken Kesey.
What are the long-term effects of using it?
The use of LSD can result in long-term effects for both one-time and regular users of the drug. Possible negative effects are “flashbacks” of the drug experience, as well as prolonged anxiety, depression or psychosis. These reactions usually decrease over time, and end within a few months after LSD was last taken, but may continue for years.
Flashbacks are the spontaneous and unpredictable replay of an aspect of the LSD trip, occurring some time after the initial effects of the drug have worn off. Visual or emotional experiences that were originally seen or felt while under the influence of LSD are re-experienced. Flashbacks usually last only a few seconds or minutes, but may happen over and over again. Only some people who take LSD have flashbacks, but frequent users of the drug are said to be at greater risk. Flashbacks may be triggered by smoking marijuana <see “marijuana” in related links section> or drinking alcohol <see “alcohol” in related links section>, or by emotional stress or fatigue.