Signs and Symptoms of LSD Abuse

While LSD can be a dangerous drug, and one that is mostly abused by young people, it may be an advantage that the signs are LSD abuse are so distinctive, as this makes them easier for parents or loved ones to detect this type of drug abuse.

LSD soaked paper

LSD is sold in pills, capsules or in liquid form. The liquid is soaked into specially prepared blotting paper that is often imprinted with cartoon characters and perforated. Each tiny square is one dose of LSD. The blotting paper is held in the user’s mouth until all the drug has been absorbed.

Within an hour or so of consuming this drug, a person’s perceptions and sense of reality begin to change. This may frighten a person who is going through it for the first time or someone who is emotionally unstable. But to a person who knows what is coming, this is considered a desirable change.

LSD creates a sensory perception that is interpreted as an expansion of consciousness or a religious experience that transcends the normal boundaries of awareness and existence.

A person using LSD may feel relaxed and more sociable. Going through the experience of using LSD is called a “trip.”

On the other hand, “bad trips” are quite possible, meaning that the person becomes frightened and panicky. But if the person panics, there is no escape from the altered universe he finds himself in.

Shifted perceptions can include:

  • Distortions of time, depth, space, size and shape
  • Hallucinations of things that are not there or that stationary items are moving—in most cases, the person is aware of the unreality of these effects but in those situations where this is not true, injury or death can occur
  • Altered perceptions of speed
  • A blended sensory experience, in other words, “hearing” colors or “seeing” music
  • Intensified senses of sound, touch or sight—visual hallucinations may range from color intensification or flashes of light to moving geometric or other patterns that can be seen with eyes open or shut
  • The sensation that a person has left his or her body or that their body has changed shape

A person going through an LSD trip usually feels that he or she is gaining some special understanding or insight that was not available while sober. An effort to understand life better or continue these insights may drive a person to repeat the experience.

Physical signs of LSD use can be:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Salivation or dry mouth
  • Tingling fingers or toes
  • Weakness
  • Negative effects including emotional distress, anxiety, depression, disorientation or paranoia
  • Dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate and convulsions
  • Sweating or chills
  • Blurred vision
  • Inability to perform complex tasks like driving or operating machinery

An LSD trip may last as long as twelve hours. The person on an LSD trip may experience increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. They may not feel tired and may not want to eat.

Because of the emotional responses evoked by LSD, a person who is tripping may not be particularly concerned about concealing the artificial mellowness and relaxation that often occurs. If a child or young adult is home when they are using LSD, it may be possible for parents to observe some of these signs as there may be no effective attempt to hide them.

Emergency and Addiction Treatment

Most of the people abusing LSD are young, under 21 years of age. In the US, nearly 2,000 went to treatment in 2009 as they could not control their LSD consumption. LSD is not known to have physically addictive properties but it can become psychologically addictive so that some people feel compelled to take hundreds of LSD trips.

Each LSD trip is highly unpredictable, as a trip can turn bad at any time, even if the person has successfully survived many trips before. Then again, a batch of LSD can be contaminated with some other drug and have a different effect than usual. A person can suffer severe panic attacks, fear that death is imminent, or fear they are going insane. These signs of LSD use can and do often wind a person up in an emergency room.

When a trip goes bad, the person can suffer from delusions, paranoia, rapid mood swings and a fear that he or she is disintegrating into nothing and that there is no reality. This severe disorientation has led to violence, accidents leading to death or homicides or suicide.

A person who has used LSD may also experience “flashbacks” where they suddenly re-experience the signs of LSD use for no reason and without warning.

Narconon Provides Help for Those Who Have Taken LSD

The Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation program offers the person who has taken LSD a unique route to recovery. One of the early steps of recovery is the Narconon New Life Detoxification, one phase in the overall drug rehab program at a Narconon center. This detox uses a low-heat sauna, generous nutritional supplementation and moderate daily exercise to flush out old, stored drug toxins that may be lodged in the fatty tissues of people’s bodies. It is not unusual at all to experience the feelings one had when taking drugs years before, as the drug residues are flushed out. This includes LSD, for those who have used this drug. Flushing out these residues helps improve the chances that one’s thinking will be clearer and that there may be fewer or no flashbacks in the future.

Find out how the Narconon program helps addicted people find lasting sobriety


Clinical Review by Claire Pinelli, LADC, CCS, ICAADC, MCAP