7 Common LSD Myths & Misconceptions Debunked

Dan Simms Last Updated: October 15, 2021

Since its creation in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been a source of intrigue, mystery, and myth.

Many of these myths were invented for the sole purpose of dissuading people from ever trying it. Suggestions that LSD is addictive or causes users to go insane or commit suicide aren’t based on fact.

In an effort to spread the most truthful and valuable information possible, this article aims to expose some of the most common myths about LSD.

What Is LSD?

LSD is a semi-synthetic psychedelic drug that was first synthesized in Switzerland in 1938. It has a long and troubled history, especially in the United States.

This compound is credited as a major driver behind the 1960s counterculture and was even used by the CIA in a mind-control research program called MK-Ultra.

LSD is currently illegal throughout America and is listed as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Recently, LSD possession has been decriminalized in some areas throughout the United States, including Washington, D.C., and Oregon. It remains illegal in most countries, with some rare exceptions.

Why Is LSD Such a Controversial Topic?

LSD was initially believed to have many medical benefits, and research on its effects and potential uses abounded. Unfortunately, prohibition in the United States began in the mid-to-late 1960s.

Sidney Gottlieb, a researcher with the CIA, procured large amounts of LSD in the early 60s and began large-scale testing on human subjects. These experiments aimed to determine if mind control was possible, as the government feared that the Soviet Union and Japan were using psychedelics to brainwash American prisoners of war.

What ensued from this testing was a fear that the drug would fall into the wrong hands, as well as the hippie counterculture movement, which was fundamentally anti-establishment and anti-government.

In response, the CIA released propaganda that demonized LSD and its users.

Since this turn of events, LSD has remained controversial and taboo. The

Within the last couple of years, has research started to open up again, and the taboo of this misunderstood psychedelic is starting to see some reversal.

Related: What is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy?

7 Common Myths & Misconceptions Surrounding LSD

Whether rumors about the drug and its effects on people started as propaganda or were promulgated by anti-drug campaigns and individuals, countless myths remain in circulation about LSD.

Below are some of the most common myths surrounding LSD and the truth about each rumor.

LSD Myth #1: You Can’t End a Bad Trip

Among the scariest anti-LSD propaganda is the idea of a “bad trip,” which is a very unpleasant and sometimes horrifying experience after taking LSD. The truth about bad trips is that they’re always possible, even for experienced LSD users, and they’re largely unavoidable.

However, users experiencing bad trips can do several things to cut the trip short and end the potentially traumatic experience.

Two of the most crucial things to do in preparation for your trip are to put yourself in a comfortable and familiar setting and have a good trip sitter present.

A familiar atmosphere will help prevent anxiety or negative thoughts during your trip, and a trip sitter can talk you down, anchor you to reality, and make sure you’re not having a real emergency.

Research shows that these two things alone can often help avoid bad trips [1] and potentially even turn them into a positive experience.

Relaxing music is another good way to reduce tension and stress during your trip and maintain a positive experience.

Even if the above strategies don’t work, users can take a “trip killer,” which is an additional drug taken to end a psychedelic experience early. Common trip killers include benzodiazepines like lorazepam and diazepam, antipsychotic medications, and antidepressants like trazodone.

LSD Myth #2: LSD Gets Stored In Your Body & Can Be Released Years Later

The concept of a flash-back involves the idea that LSD is stored in fat cells or cerebrospinal fluid and can be released randomly later on. Some people believe cracking your back causes a sudden release of LSD into the system — causing a hallucinogenic episode.

This is fundamentally untrue. Research suggests that these types of flashbacks don’t occur [2].

LSD’s elimination half-life is just over 3.5 hours [3], which means virtually all of the substance will have broken down or exited your body about 24 hours after ingestion. More importantly, LSD is not fat-soluble, so it cannot be stored in fat cells or your spinal cord.

With that being said, “flashbacks” are possible a long time after an LSD trip, but they aren’t how most uneducated people picture them. You won’t hallucinate or have intense anxiety as you recall your psychedelic experience. Instead, you may vividly remember your state of mind during your trip, realizations you had while tripping, or feelings and emotions the LSD elicited.

Additionally there’s a condition known as hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD), which involves psychoactive effects of a drug that remains long after the drug has been eliminated from the body. This condition is exceedingly rare but can happen to predisposed people.

LSD Myth #3: LSD Will Make You Go Crazy

People often tell stories of LSD users who lost their minds.

While it’s true that people predisposed or diagnosed with psychological disorders like Schizophrenia can be “triggered” by psychedelics [4] — there is no evidence that LSD will make otherwise healthy people “go crazy.”

LSD is considered low-risk for most people.

LSD Myth #4: LSD Causes Brain Damage

One myth that is believed to be attributed to anti-drug propaganda from the 1960s and 1970s is that LSD causes brain damage and lasting changes to the user’s personality. Some stories include some users becoming seemingly different people after LSD, as well as large-scale brain damage in frequent users.

None of these claims have ever been substantiated. Some LSD users do report feeling different or existing in an altered state of mind — usually in a positive way — following an LSD trip [5].

However, there is plenty of research to suggest that the effects of LSD, while profound, are entirely transient [6]. Other studies have found that no lasting changes to personality or brain chemistry exist after use [5].

LSD Myth #5: LSD Is a Natural Drug

Some people, including many LSD users and advocates, insist that LSD is a natural drug. LSD doesn’t exist in nature. It’s considered semi-synthetic, as it’s derived from ergotamine, a natural alkaloid.

This means LSD must be synthesized in a lab. It can be made from synthetic materials or natural ergot alkaloids — but must be made in a lab either way.

LSD Myth #6: LSD is the Most Powerful Psychedelic

LSD is sometimes demonized because of its potency, with anti-drug individuals claiming it’s the most powerful and, therefore, the most dangerous psychedelic.

LSD is exceptionally potent compared to other psychedelics, providing a significant psychoactive experience in doses of 50-150 micrograms — well under 1 milligram.

For comparison, other psychedelics like psilocybin and mescaline are typically psychoactive in quantities of several milligrams. Many psychedelics must be taken in volumes hundreds of times that of LSD for a comparable psychoactive experience.

However, while LSD is close to being the most potent psychedelic, other lysergamide derivatives — like lysergic acid 2,4-dimethylazetidide (LSZ) — are stronger.

Additionally, N,N-dimethyltryptamine, and 5-MeO-DMT (DMT) are less psychoactive in equal doses but produces a much more intense psychedelic experience than LSD if taken in more significant volumes.

There are also other substances, such as DOX compounds and NBOMes that are psychedelic in doses well below 1 mg as well.

LSD Myth #7: LSD Can “Save the World”

While most of the myths about LSD come from anti-drug campaigns and propaganda, the idea that LSD can “save the world” and transform all humans into loving, caring, and altruistic beings comes from LSD proponents.

This idea is false and potentially dangerous, as some people believe that dumping LSD into a public water supply can change humanity for the better.

LSD can have a profoundly positive effect on users, sometimes changing negative or addictive tendencies, improving one’s outlook on life, and enhancing the perceived connection to the world and the people around them.

However, LSD can be detrimental for some people who have mental disorders or a family history of psychological issues. Additionally, LSD can affect the way users think in a negative way as well. Going into an LSD experience with positive intentions and expectations plays a significant role in how the user reacts during and after the trip [7]. Simply dosing people unknowingly isn’t going to make them think less selfishly or become less egotistical.

Key Takeaways: LSD Myths & Facts

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been a source of confusion and rumors since it was illegalized in the 1960s. The compound was demonized by the CIA and other government bodies in response to the anti-government hippie movement that supported psychedelic use. It was also banned and painted in a negative light in an effort to maintain control of a substance the CIA believed could be used for mind control.

Unfortunately, misinformation and myths have spread throughout the drug-using and anti-drug communities. Honest and transparent information is crucial for a better understanding of LSD and other psychedelics and dispelling the common myths and rumors mentioned above.

While LSD is not the solution to humankind’s largest problems, it’s considered a low-risk substance and has provided countless users with a positively profound psychedelic experience.

References Cited

  1. Fuentes, J. J., Fonseca, F., Elices, M., Farré, M., & Torrens, M. (2020). Therapeutic use of LSD in psychiatry: a systematic review of randomized controlled clinical trials. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 943.
  2. Gasser, P., Holstein, D., Michel, Y., Doblin, R., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Passie, T., & Brenneisen, R. (2014). Safety and efficacy of lysergic acid diethylamide-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 202(7), 513.
  3. Dolder, P. C., Schmid, Y., Steuer, A. E., Kraemer, T., Rentsch, K. M., Hammann, F., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of lysergic acid diethylamide in healthy subjects. Clinical pharmacokinetics, 56(10), 1219-1230.
  4. Vardy, M. M., & Kay, S. R. (1983). LSD psychosis or LSD-induced Schizophrenia?: A multimethod inquiry. Archives of General Psychiatry, 40(8), 877-883.
  5. Schmid, Y., & Liechti, M. E. (2018). Long-lasting subjective effects of LSD in normal subjects. Psychopharmacology, 235(2), 535-545.
  6. Liechti, M. E. (2017). Modern clinical research on LSD. Neuropsychopharmacology, 42(11), 2114-2127.
  7. Haijen, E. C., Kaelen, M., Roseman, L., Timmermann, C., Kettner, H., Russ, S., … & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2018). Predicting responses to psychedelics: a prospective study. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 897.