Drugs can cause unthinkable effects to your mind and body. Lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD, is a psychedelic drug that produces psychological effects. The drug was first discovered on a fungus that grew on rye by a Swiss scientist, Dr. Albert Hofmann. His skin came in contact with a tiny amount of the drug and produced the hallucinogenic effects it is known for. So we know that LSD will have you lose sense of reality and possibly see dragons but what does this powerful drug actually do to the user’s brain?
LSD effects many brain receptors such as the dopamine receptors, glutamine receptors, adrenergic receptors, and serotonin receptors. The drug causes the receptors to fire which produces the hallucinogenic effects by attaching to those receptors. LSD gets trapped in the serotonin receptors. This causes the receptor to continuously fire for an extended period of time. Our body responds by moving the serotonin receptors to degrade the chemical but this can take around 8-12 hours, maybe more. This explains why the drug effects the user for such a long period of time.
Researchers studying LSD have found that parts of the brain become overly connected in unique ways where the receptors that react with the LSD are found. This can cause the user to have a heightened senses. For example, users may report hearing colors, seeing sounds, feeling smells, etc. This is an effect unique to psychedelic drugs called synesthesia. There are also many physical effects such as body numbness, increased heart rate, and nausea. Users may also run into risks effects if they experience a “bad trip.” During a bad trip, LSD can cause the user to become paranoid and anxious. Some report flashbacks after feeling so overwhelmed from the bad trip.
Much research has been conducted to try to figure out if the drug would produce any long term effects. The research found that LSD could activate a mental illness in a user with a family history of mental illnesses, especially schizophrenia, and it is highly suggested that those people avoid any psychedelic drugs. Also, although very rare, some users of the drug may develop the hallucinogenic persisting perception disorder (HPPD). HPPD is a disorder in which the user still experiences the effects sometimes up to months or even years later. Although there is a chance that these effects occur, the drug is generally safe long term wise. Some even argue that psychedelic drugs could be used in therapy. When under the effects of LSD, users report strong changes in consciousness otherwise known as ego dissolution in which the user feels a sense of reconnection with themselves and nature. In fact, a study conducted on 20 volunteers on LSD found higher scores of optimism and creativity. Researchers believe that these positive effects could be beneficial for people whom experience death anxiety and life threatening illnesses as studies show a reduction of anxiety and a better quality of life. The use of this drug may produce harmful effects on the user if not used carefully but with safe dosing, safe set and setting, and more research on how LSD effects the brain, the drug could potentially be used as therapy for patients who suffer anxiety.