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  • Tolerance To LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide) | How LSD Tolerance Develops

    Tolerance To LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide) | How LSD Tolerance Develops

    Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD and acid, is a potent hallucinogenic and psychedelic drug famous for its association with the American counterculture of the 1960s. 

    The drug is likely found in liquid form, usually loaded in blotter paper, gelatin, sugar cubes, or gummy bears.

    Although LSD was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and effectively outlawed in the United States in 1967, recreational LSD use and LSD micro-dosing continue today. 

    Long-term LSD use can lead to tolerance, which means you need more of the drug to achieve the desired effects. LSD tolerance can occur in as little as one week if the drug is taken in steady daily doses.

    What Is LSD Tolerance?

    The exact mechanisms by which LSD impacts the human brain, body, and perceptions are not fully understood. What is known is that the drug interacts with a large number of dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain, notably the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor.

    This receptor is responsible for a wide variety of mental and physical processes, ranging from your mood to sleep performance, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting, and sexual arousal.

    However, artificially stimulating this suite of brain receptors causes the body to rapidly begin to adapt to LSD’s effects. 

    The longer the drug remains in the body, the more the body will turn down the receptors LSD influences, reducing the effect of the drug and creating resistance to future doses.

    How Quickly Does LSD Tolerance Develop?

    Due to its unique properties, LSD tolerance develops very quickly. The drug’s effects begin to decrease between 3-24 hours after an individual’s first dose. And if the drug is taken regularly over the course of several days, complete tolerance will form in as little as one week.

    At this point, LSD will no longer have any significant impact on a person’s mental state if additional doses are taken.

    However, this rapidly-forming tolerance can be lost just as quickly. Experts have found that anyone who goes without LSD or a similar psychedelic drug will likely return to their baseline and lose their tolerance in as little as two weeks.

    LSD Cross-Tolerance

    Tolerance toward LSD may also reduce or block the effects of certain drugs with similar pharmacology, namely mescaline and psilocybin. And tolerance towards these other drugs will, likewise, decrease the effects of LSD.

    Is LSD Addictive?

    While using any Schedule I substance is considered drug abuse, LSD is generally not considered to be addictive and has not been found to trigger cravings or compulsive use, either in animal or human subjects.

    Experts believe that this is because:

    • LSD offers such an intense, long-lasting experience that those who use it recreationally naturally come to limit their frequency of use
    • the human body develops tolerance towards the drug so rapidly that continued abuse is impractical

    However, psychological dependence on LSD can sometimes develop due to a prolonged cycle of recurring LSD abuse. This is known as hallucinogen use disorder, and it can be treated through formal addiction treatment and recovery programs.

    Treatment generally focuses on building positive coping mechanisms and uncovering the reasons why a person feels the need to continue abusing LSD.

    Effects Of LSD

    LSD can cause severe mental and behavioral effects that may vary from person to person. These effects generally begin around 30-40 minutes after LSD is taken orally and peak at around 2-4 hours before fading away at around 12 hours.

    Common side effects of LSD use, collectively known as a trip, can include:

    • visual and auditory hallucinations
    • changes in perception of shapes and colors
    • feelings of dissociation
    • auditory distortions
    • elevated heart rate
    • increased body temperature
    • sweating
    • twitching
    • high blood pressure
    • dilated pupils
    • anxiety and depression
    • severe mood changes
    • flashbacks to the trip that can occur days or even months into the future

    Can You Overdose On LSD?

    LSD is extremely potent and needs to be dosed down to the microgram. High doses of LSD can trigger extreme side effects and changes in mood and mental state, including:

    • psychosis (delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations)
    • nausea
    • loss of appetite
    • insomnia
    • dry mouth
    • overheating
    • tremors
    • seizures
    • loss of consciousness

    While LSD is not known to have ever directly caused a human death through overdose, those under the effects of the drug have been known to put themselves in situations where they have come to physical harm.

    LSD & Mental Health

    Studies have found no connection between LSD and the emergence of serious mental health conditions like schizophrenia. 

    In fact, there is enduring interest in using LSD medically as a treatment in psychiatry, as many experts believe LSD’s effects can aid in the treatment of PTSD, anxiety related to terminal illness, and other conditions.

    To learn about our addiction treatment options, please contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - Drug Fact Sheet: LSD
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) - Hallucinogens DrugFacts
    National Library of Medicine: StatPearls - Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on July 17, 2022
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