LSD 101: An Overview

LSD is also known by the nicknames “acid,” “California sunshine,” and “blotter” (among others). It is a powerful man-made hallucinogenic drug. But how did LSD come to be? And how has it affected our culture and medical community, not to mention its users? Below we dive deep into the origins of LSD and its trippy heritage.


LSD was discovered by accident in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. He was then working at Sandoz in Basel, in the pharmaceutical-chemical department. Hofmann was trying to synthesize a stimulant for the central nervous system, but made an entirely new discovery. He studied derivatives of lysergic acid. He had this react with various reactive substances to produce corresponding amides, anhydrides and esters. Diethylamide was one of these derivatives. The lab gave it the code name LSD-25. This is because it was the 25th compound in the series of lysergic acid amides. This newly discovered compound did not seem to have any medicinal applications. This was despite the fact that “clear excitation” was observed during animal experiments. So LSD disappeared into the closet for a number of years. Five years later, additional research was conducted and the compound was resynthesized. Hofmann accidentally absorbed a small amount of it through his fingertips and discovered its powerful psychedelic effects. On this momentous day in 1943, Hofmann was the first person to experience an LSD trip. Since then, April 19 has been known as “Bicycle Day.” How about that? Well, Hofmann first felt the effects of LSD on his bike ride home. Modern psychonauts have adopted the phrase to commemorate Hofmann and his discovery.


LSD has various effects on the body and mind. It possesses the ability to significantly alter your perception of reality. The effects of LSD depend on the dose. You may experience hallucinations and other visual and auditory effects. These include seeing colorful patterns and geometric shapes. Sometimes you simply see the world from a new perspective. Often the drug helps you gain valuable insights into your personal and spiritual life. This is because you think about things differently. A smaller dose of LSD usually makes people happy, euphoric and invigorated. This accumulates into a positive, dream-like experience with possibilities for enlightenment. This is also true of larger doses, although these full trips tend to be more pronounced. A single LSD trip is sometimes enough to change your view of the world, as well as previously preconceived notions. On the other hand, LSD sometimes causes anxiety. Traumatic memories, which are confusing or difficult to cope with, sometimes surface. In addition, the visual and auditory changes present are sometimes downright frightening if you are unprepared or in an uncomfortable setting. This is known as a “foul trip.” These trips are not fatal, but feed off your fear, creating a self-fulfilling cycle. This is exactly why proper research is important before using LSD.


This brings us to the important issue of set and setting. The success of the trip depends not only on how much you use, but also your environment and state of mind. The term “set and setting” was first used in the 1960s by Timothy Leary, a well-known advocate of LSD. The term refers to the important considerations of how you feel, where you are and with whom. The set, or “mindset,” is particularly crucial, as a bad mood or illness can make the LSD experience very unpleasant. Usually LSD magnifies your current mood. Negative feelings are thus exacerbated. LSD is therefore also not a party drug, nor does it help “take your mind off things,” as is sometimes the case with other drugs. An LSD experience is sometimes literally life-changing. Respect LSD and use it only when you are ready. For the setting, it is important to surround yourself with people you trust. These people should preferably include a tripsitter. This is a sober person with a lot of experience with psychedelics. This person will help you on your trip if necessary. For the environment, it is important that you are not near noise or in a large group. Go for a comfortable and familiar environment.


Almost every illegal substance comes with a fair amount of myths, fables and/or pure propaganda. LSD is no different. Not long after its discovery, the substance was banned by the establishment. After this, it was widely demonized (including publicly by U.S. President Nixon). It is not difficult to find falsehoods about LSD. One of the myths about LSD is that users may experience “flashbacks.” This is when they spontaneously trip, sometimes years after using LSD. Flashbacks have been studied for some time, but there is no evidence to confirm their existence. It is now assumed that people, who claim to experience flashbacks, are in fact having a panic attack. Possibly the attack is exacerbated by guilt over past drug use. Another myth is that experiences on LSD are merely illusions and hallucinations, devoid of meaning. Recent studies suggest that LSD does more than just induce a trip. And indeed, positive effects of LSD have been observed. It should be noted, however, that research on the effects of psychedelics is still early. Yet evidence also suggests that psychedelics like LSD can “reprogram” or “reset” the brain. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study[1]. In it, Professor David J. Nutt, a British neuropsychopharmacologist, claims the following: “Possibly the drug reverses the limited thinking that we develop from childhood to adulthood. Possibly this research paves the way for treating psychiatric disorders with LSD or related chemicals. It pulls the brain out of certain thinking patterns we often see in depression and addiction.” So even if the LSD experience isn’t “real,” that doesn’t mean it means nothing. Many people’s lives have been changed by the valuable insights of LSD and so this is evidence to the contrary.


Some think that psychedelics like LSD are used exclusively by counterculture stereotypes, such as hippies. The same is true of other drugs, such as cannabis. They do not believe that these drugs provide benefits to the “normal” community. They demonize these drugs purely out of ignorance. But the impact of LSD and other drugs on our culture is meaningful and that is not going to change.


After the discovery of LSD, the substance quickly attracted the attention of psychiatrists and other medical professionals. And indeed, at the time, LSD was thought to have medicinal benefits for psychological disorders. Some even claimed that LSD was the new wonder drug that would generate peace and happiness on earth if everyone used it. However, this professional excitement surrounding LSD did not last long. The drug quickly fell out of favor among those in power. However, this did not diminish the popularity of LSD, quite the contrary! Fueled by protests against the Vietnam War, a huge counterculture emerged in the US and large parts of the Western world in the 1960s. Public figures, mainly Timothy Leary, clinical psychologist at Harvard University, and the writer Aldous Huxley, were openly supportive of the drug. They praised it for its benefits to the betterment of humanity. LSD may not have brought peace on earth, but it nonetheless became the drug of choice for people seeking spiritual growth and expanded horizons.


Admittedly, in the early years of LSD research, the results did not seem particularly useful. However, studies were scarce. Also, participants were sometimes dosed against their will. They described their bizarre experiences of the trip to researchers, without any hypothesis. Thanks to the later ban on LSD, scientific access became very difficult. This marked the beginning of the long “ice age” within LSD research. The only “research” that was conducted was done by recreational drug advocates, or used as an unethical tactic on unwilling individuals. Today we are seeing a resurgence in serious research into the effects of classic psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin. Science can now observe these drugs, unhindered by the former stigma. The latest research concerns psychedelic substances for psychedelic therapy. Recent research[2] has shown that psychedelics may be useful for obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, depression, and cluster headaches. In addition to LSD and psilocybin, other psychedelics seem promising. Think DMT and mescaline. On the other hand, we are still in the early stages. The effects of LSD vary from person to person, so it may not be suitable for everyone. Clinical trials in this promising field are currently underway.


Microdosing can be performed with a variety of substances. Basically, you use a dose of LSD so small that there are only “subperceptual effects.” These are effects that you do not really feel. At most, you experience a slightly improved state of mind, but you are not intoxicated or high. People who microdose with LSD function normally and continue their daily routine. Recent studies suggest that microdosing may be a useful treatment option for people with depression or people quitting smoking. In professional settings, an increasing number of individuals report that LSD increases creativity, focus, and energy. In one study[3], microdosing has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis. This is the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus. Neuronal growth in the hippocampus has been associated with improvements in cognition and focus, mood and energy levels. In other words, consumption of LSD may have beneficial long-term effects on the brain.


LSD hasn’t just influenced a handful of New Age groups in Laurel Canyon. Far from it. The drug became popular in the 1960s. Since then, it has had a huge impact on art, music and culture in general. The Beatles drew inspiration from LSD. This is evident in songs like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” The band denied that the song is about LSD. Still, it’s hard not to associate the two. That aside, the psychedelic images on their albums are enough to confirm that they were indeed influenced by the cultural impact of LSD. In addition to The Beatles, psychedelics led to a whole new musical genre: psychedelic rock. Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Iron Butterfly and many others influenced entire generations to this day. Psychedelics have also always played a major role in visual art and film. The influence of psychedelics is everywhere. Think “Underground Comix” and the Freak Brothers, but also psychedelic posters of artists like Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Bonnie MacLean. These are just a few examples. Some of the more famous psychedelic films include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Easy Rider and Yellow Submarine. More recent works also exist. Examples include Enter the Void, Requiem for a Dream, Suspiria, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. These psychedelic films were either inspired by psychedelics or get attention in the plot.


LSD is a powerful, often unpredictable, long-acting hallucinogenic drug. If you want to use it, you should take some precautions. It is not a party drug. Nor do you take it to “improve mood.” As mentioned, set and setting play pretty big roles in the experience. You don’t want to be tripping if you’re feeling down or angry. Also, don’t use LSD if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable or if the mood isn’t right. Being around someone you don’t trust can ruin your experience. Stick with people you know and add good vibes to the session. Only if you have experience with psychedelics can you possibly experiment with using LSD in an unfamiliar setting. Think public places, a festival or another location. But in general, it is wise to trip somewhere you feel familiar and comfortable, especially if you are unfamiliar with the substance Start with an appropriate dose. For beginners, this is about 30-70µg. This also maximizes the long-term effects. Take a break of at least a week between trips. This way you don’t build up tolerance. If you don’t take at least 3-4 days off, you will need an increasingly higher dose to achieve the same effect. At some point the effects of LSD will be completely gone. A final note for new trippers: Really consider enlisting the help of a tripsitter. Often, just being there is enough to prevent a bad trip. Your tripsitter stays sober and preferably has experience with the effects of LSD or, even better, psychedelics in general.


Are there any risks or dangers to using LSD? Well, LSD has a good safety profile. This means that there are no adverse side effects from its use. It is also not addictive. If there are any dangers, they come from irresponsible or unsafe use of the substance. LSD alters your perception of reality. So don’t trip if you have to drive or operate heavy machinery. Also, do not drink alcohol or combine LSD with other drugs. Remember that LSD is not for everyone. Are you anxious, depressed or struggling with mental illness? Then skip it. Another problem with LSD is that it is (still) illegal. Buying and possessing it comes with very different risks again, depending on your local laws. Because you can’t obtain LSD legally, you also don’t know what you’re buying unless you can test it (see below). Therefore, there is always the danger that your purchased product is not LSD. Sometimes it is (partially) mixed with other, possibly unsafe substances. Fortunately Zamnesia is happy to help you. Test your LSD with the simple EZ Test LSD. With this test you will find out in no time if your product contains LSD or other indoles. This will give you extra peace of mind. EZ Test LSD and Indoles (23) View