LSD: A Psychedelic Hyperdimension
LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide-25, is one of the most potent mind-altering chemicals known to man. The discovery of LSD is attributed to Dr. Albert Hofmann, a German scientist. Initial testing of the chemical in 1938 did not lead to any striking new finding, and research was discontinued. Five years later, on April 16, 1943, Hofmann re-synthesized the compound to do further research. To his surprise, he discovered the psychoactive hallucinogenic properties of the drug, apparently by absorbing a small amount through his fingertips. Lysergic acid diethylamide is LSD rather than LAD because the German word for acid is saeure.
The drug LSD can be administered a number of ways. The most popular method has been orally through paper, sugar cubes, on a piece of gelatin, or by pill. It can also be administrated intravenously or intramuscularly; however, the effects are the same as if taken orally with a slightly quicker onset. The average dose of LSD used by humans is approximately 1-2 micrograms/kg (about 100-200 micrograms). The intensity of the experience is proportional to the size of the dose; however, it is interesting to note that the duration of the trip seems to stay the same at higher doses. A psychedelic dose of around 500 micrograms is likely to produce a total, but temporary, breakdown of the usual ways of perceiving self and world. The effects of the drug begin within one hour and generally last 8-12 hours. At about 3-5 hours into the trip, the user experiences what is generally known as the peak.
The effects include intense visual and auditory hallucinations, euphoria, depersonalization, and possible relieving of repressed memories. Also, one perceives an increased stimulus from environment, changes in shape and color, and temporal distortions. The user may also find it extremely difficult to express his or her thoughts using language. In essence, the dimensions one perceives during the acid experience transcend words. Also, LSD stimulates centers of the sympathetic nervous system in the midbrain, which results in pupillary dilation, increase in body temperature, and rise in blood-sugar level. Parasympathetic effects include salivation, lachyrmation, hypotension, and brachycardia. Low doses stimulate respiration, but larger doses depress it.
LSD is absorbed easily and completely through the gastrointestinal tract. Studies on rats injected with LSD show that the drug disappeared, down to a small trace, very rapidly from the bloodstream and was distributed throughout the organism. The concentration of injected LSD in various organs attains maximum values at 10 to 15 minutes, and then falls off again swiftly. The small intestine, in which the concentration attains the maximum within two hours, constitutes an exception. Only 1 to 10 percent of the elimination product exists as unaltered LSD; the remainder is made up of various transformation products. As the psychic effects of LSD persist even after it can no longer be detected in the organism, researchers postulate the LSD is not active as such, but that it rather triggers certain biochemical, neurophysiological, and psychic mechanisms that provoke the inebriated condition and continue in the absence of the active principle.
Researchers have attempted to identify the mechanism of LSD through three different approaches: comparing the effects of LSD with the behavioral interactions already identified with neurotransmitters, chemically determining which neurotransmitters and receptors LSD interacts with, and identifying regions of the brain that could be responsible for the wide variety of effects induced by the drug. Initial research found that LSD structurally resembled serotonin (5-hydroxytrypamine). The evidence indicates that many of the effects of LSD are through serotonin mediated pathways. Subsequent research revealed that LSD not only has affinities for 5-HT receptors, but also for receptors of histamine, Ach, dopamine, and the catecholines: epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Two areas of the brainstem that are thought to be involved in LSD’s pathway are the Locus Coeruleus (LC) and the Raphe Nuclei (RN). The LC is a small cluster of norepinephrine containing neurons in the pons beneath the 4th ventricle. While norepinephrine activity throughout the brain is mainly mediated by the LC, the majority of serotonergic neurons are located in the Raphe Nuclei. The RN is located in the middle of the brainstem from the midbrain to the medulla. Both the LC and the RN have axons which extend to a number of sites including the cerebellum, thalamus, hypothalamus, cerebral cortex, and hippocampus. LSD shuts down the firing of the serotonin neurons in the Raphe Nuclei. When ingested into the human body, LSD acts as a 5-HT (serotonin) autoreceptor inhibitor, thus it is a 5-HT agonist. LSD increases the level of active 5-HT molecules by disaffecting their autoreceptors. While LSD does cause a decrease in the autoreceptive firing of RN, this appears to be an effect and not the cause of the psychedelic phenomena.
Hyper-responsiveness to sensory stimuli of all modalities is just what one observes in humans under the influence of psycheldic drugs. LSD has been found to enhance the reactivity of the LC to sensory stimulations. Electrical stimulation of the LC in rats results in hyper-responsive reactions to stimuli (visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) The inhibition of 5-HT in the RN and release of norepinephrine from LC neurons results in a flood of information form the sensory system reaching the brain.
LSD poses zero physical addiction potential. Tolerance is acquired rapidly, within three days, and dissipates equally rapidly without withdrawal, craving, or symptoms of addiction. Cross-tolerance can and is developed between other indole hallucinogens such as DMT and Psilocybin. The most common adverse reaction is a temporary episode of panic, the “bad trip.” Symptoms include frightening illusions/ hallucinations, overwhelming anxiety, aggression, depression, and fearfulness to the point of paranoid delusions. Talking the user down is the best remedy for such reactions. Also, the mental effects of LSD can be rapidly reversed by the intramuscular administration of 50 mg of chlorpromazine. Prolonged reactions may require hospitalization, and are often referred to as “LSD psychosis.” However, many of these so-called LSD psychoses could be other illnesses that were triggered by the stress of a traumatic psychedelic drug experience and are not necessary the cause of the drug itself.
Concerning the drug’s purity on the black market, an LA county analysis of street drugs (1984) reports that LSD is most likely 96% pure or blank paper. Countless drug myths have been spread which tell the dangers of speed and strychnine cutting with LSD. The “speedy” quality of LSD is due the pharmacological actions of LSD itself, and not necessarily due to decomposition or impurities. LSD typically causes adrenergic effects such as sweating, nervousness, jaw grinding and insomnia which are easily confused with the side effects of amphetamine. Also, studies indicate that strychnine is neither used in the synthesis, produced by the synthesis, or a possible contaminant of the synthesis.
Other myths and scare tactics perpetrated mainly by the DEA’s consistent policy of disinfomation, as well as the public’s ignorance, are justifiably untrue. A scientific study in 1972 titled “LSD and Genetic Damage”, which reviewed 68 studies and case reports, concluded that pure LSD ingested in moderate doses does not damage chromosomes, does not cause detectable genetic damage, and is not a carcinogen in man. Lethal doses of LSD are conservatively several tens of thousands of times as much as a normal dose, making it (in the toxic sense) one of the safest drugs known.
LSD is a very potent drug, but is physically quite safe and non-toxic. The dangers are purely psychological in nature. The experience while on acid may release latent psychosis or provoke depression, leading to irrational behavior. The so-called LSD psychosis has been linked to forms of schizophrenia, and thus to some physiological disorders; therefore, it appears to be dependent on the user, and not on the drug. On the contrary, the drug offers a great potential for spiritual contact, self-exploration, and conscious expansion of the mind. LSD dissolves boundaries which form the construct of our reality. These boundaries are erected as a result of socially inherent and egocentric views of the universe around us. For one to be able to see beyond the social man-made distinctions imposed upon us in our everyday physical existence, and to question the nature of one’s own mind, is, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest vision imaginable to human comprehension.