LSD Statistics: How Many People Use LSD?

🤿 Take a deep dive into the statistics of LSD use, safety, and legal policy data in 3, 2, 1…

By Dr. Susana De Los Santos Last Updated: July 30, 2023
Last Updated: July 30, 2023

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has been deeply misunderstood for decades yet remains one of the most prevalent psychedelics in the world.

Quick LSD Stats:

  1. LSD is the third most widely used illegal drug in America, with nearly 8% of the population believed to have tried LSD in their lifetime.
  2. Of all 1,252,500 illicit drug-related emergency department visits in 2011, 0.38% (4,819) were related to LSD.
  3. From 1960 to the end of 2022, over 5,488 studies have been published that involve LSD.
  4. LSD use is decriminalized in 23 countries but remains illegal in the rest of the world.

Let’s dive into this data in more detail.

Defining LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)

LSD is a classical lysergamide psychedelic first synthesized by Albert Hoffman in 1938 [1]. The original name for this compound is LSD-25, but most people call it LSD, acid, California sunshine, Lucy, and mellow yellow.

This psychedelic compound is clear, odorless, and water-soluble. It’s often synthesized from the ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea); however, lysergic acid amide (LSA) — a closely-related psychedelic found in morning glory and Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds — can also serve as a precursor to synthesize LSD.

Initially, chemists produce LSD in crystalline form, which is then used to make small pills known as “microdots” or thin squares of gelatin (LSD gel tabs). LSD can also be diluted with water or alcohol and sold in liquid form [2].

Most commonly, however, liquid LSD is infused in blotter paper — a highly absorbent paper used to soak up liquid LSD, which can then be divided into individual squares, also called tabs.

Why Do People Take LSD?

Users commonly take LSD for social, spiritual, or recreational purposes.

LSD produces visual and auditory distortions, feelings of euphoria, connectedness, and weightlessness. It can bring about bursts of insights useful for problem-solving, inspiration, and creativity

In his book, The Psychedelics Explorer’s Guide, Dr. James Fadiman shares some insights about a survey he conducted on students’ psychedelic drug use; 108 American students age 17 to 28 years responded to the survey [3].

In the questionnaire, students could choose from a list of ten reasons they’d taken psychedelic substances (including psilocybin, LSD, Salvia divinorum, and MDMA, among others). This is what the survey responses revealed:

The three most common reasons students took psychedelics were fun, self-healing, and problem-solving. The least common reasons were curiosity, sexual enhancement, and social pressure.

However, there are also some interesting results when looking at the data responses by gender.

Interestingly, female students were more likely to take a substance for self-healing. The graph above shows men take a substance significantly more often out of curiosity, to undergo a spiritual experience or a mystical experience, and to appreciate music better. In fact, male students were more likely to have taken psychedelics for all reasons except self-healing [3].

In the clinical field, LSD has also been used for non-FDA-approved indications like depressive disorders, neurosis, compulsive sexual deviation addiction, psychoneurotic disorders, and borderline personality disorders [1].

Nowadays, renowned scientists are conducting clinical trials to unravel the therapeutic potential of LSD for anxiety disorders, cluster headaches, and major depressive disorder (more on this later).

Related: What Does LSD Feel Like?

What’s the Most Common Dose of LSD?

Acid is arguably the most potent hallucinogenic compound in the world, as its active threshold dose is a minuscule 20 to 50 μg (micrograms) [4, 5].

The moderate effect in most subjects is produced at 1 to 3 micrograms/kg body weight. The onset of effects usually begins within 30 to 60 minutes after taking the drug [1].

The most common dose for LSD is about 80 micrograms. However, the amount of LSD per tab can vary greatly, ranging between 50 to 250 μg per tab, depending on the manufacturer.

Unfortunately, one can never be sure how much LSD is in a tab. Testing for LSD using reagent kits is the safest way to be sure a tab contains LSD and nothing else, but no test can tell how much LSD is in a tab [6].

With LSD, the dose is everything. If you’re planning an LSD trip, we recommend checking out our LSD dosage calculator here.

How Many People Use LSD Globally?

What do the numbers say about LSD use around the world? This section will review the most current and relevant statistical information about LSD usage trends worldwide.

How Many People Use LSD In the United States?

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), LSD is the third most widely used illegal drug in America, following cannabis and cocaine.

The same survey revealed that over 2.4 million US citizens — approximately 1% of the US population — reported using LSD within the previous 12 months.

Another survey suggests that about 10% of users (0.1% of the population) in the United States use LSD on an ongoing basis (more than once per year).

Moreover, researchers at the University of Cincinnati analyzed the NSDUH data from 2015 to 2018. They reported a remarkable 56.4% relative increase in past-year LSD usage during these three years (see graph below) [7].

The authors found significant increases in LSD use among adults older than 25, with individuals who were 35−49 years old representing the most significant increase (223.1% relative increase).

The study also showed a substantial increase in past-year LSD use (70.2%) among individuals with a college degree or more.

What’s more, a study by B. Killion et. al. analyzed the NSDUH’s data from 2002 to 2018. The authors found that LSD use had increased by 200% during these 12 years [8].

LSD Usage In High-School Students

Broad studies on the use of LSD among high school students have confirmed that just under 7% of students have used some psychedelic drug at least once, which includes LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and several other drugs.

Similarly, the Monitoring the Future Survey provides valuable insights into the proportion of high school students who use illegal drugs, including LSD. Here’s what the data from 1991 to 2020 says.

Lifetime LSD use among high-school students was highest in the 90s, with 13.6% of 12th graders stating they had used the drug at least once. In 2021, this number decreased significantly; 4.9%, 2.5%, and 1.2% of 12th, 10th, and 8th graders reported using LSD at least once [9].

The downward trendline remains when looking at the annual and past 30-day prevalence of LSD use rates across the years.

If we put aside the data from 2000 and earlier, it’s only until 2015-2020 that we see another significant increase in the past 30-day LSD use prevalence, peaking in 2019. In that year, an average of 0.9% of high school students reported using LSD in the last 30 days. These results match the perceived availability of LSD to high school students. 

Over the past ten years, an average of 26% of 12th graders have stated that access to LSD was “easy” or “fairly easy.” This average significantly decreased from 54% of 12th graders who perceived the drug as easy to obtain in 1995.

Furthermore, we can see a clear downward trend in the past 30-day LSD use during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, with an average of 1% of high school students reporting they had used LSD in the previous month in 2020 and just 0.36% saying the same in 2021 [9].

Regardless of ethnicity, male students are more likely to use hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD.

CDC’s data from 2017 reveals that 8.2% of male student respondents with a Hispanic background stated they had used hallucinogenic drugs one or more times during their life, followed by 7.9% of male students with a white, non-Hispanic background and 6.4% of white, non-Hispanic females [10].

The ethnic group with the lowest hallucinogenic drug prevalence is Black, non-Hispanic females (1.4%) [10].

How Many People Use LSD In Europe?

Below are some statistics regarding LSD usage in Europe. Most surveys mentioned below were taken in England.

The European Drug Report of 2022 confirmed that approximately 1% of young adults (between the ages of 15 and 34) had used LSD at least once in 2021. Exceptions from this average LSD use include Austria (3.4% in 2020), Ireland (2.4% in 2019), Finland (2.0% in 2018), Czechia (1.8% in 2020), Estonia (1.7% in 2018, 16–34) and Latvia (1.4% in 2020) [11].

Throughout Europe, the highest rate of lifetime LSD usage was in England and Wales, with 4.8% of the survey respondents reporting having used LSD at some point.

How Many People Use LSD In Canada?

The most recent surveys in Canada regarding LSD use are quite dated; reports are available from 1989, 1994, and 2004. In 1989, approximately 4.1% of all Canadians reported LSD use at least once in their lifetimes; this is relatively low compared to 5.9% and 13.2% in 1994 and 2004, respectively [12].

According to the same survey, past-year LSD use rates also rose, but not significantly; in 1989, 0.4% of the adult population tried LSD in the previous 12 months, 1.1% in 1998, and 1.3% in 2004 [12].

LSD Use In Canadian Youth

The most recent country-wide data — from 1998 — shows that about 5% of 15-year-old females and 8% of males of the same age have tried LSD at least once.

Surveys completed between 1994 and 2004 suggest that LSD usage by youths in Canada has increased by about 13%.

More recent studies in Ontario in 2019 show that about 2% of high school students reported LSD use within 12 months of the presented survey. This same study reported that as high as 3.2% of all high school students in Ontario had used LSD at some point in their lives.

How Dangerous is LSD?

In a population study of 135,095 persons in the United States, no significant associations between the use of psychedelics such as LSD and serious mental health problems, treatment, or suicidal ideation were found [13].

LSD Toxicity

According to a study published in 1993, the estimated lethal dose (LD50) of LSD in humans is 100 mg, calculated according to reported LD50 in mouse and rat studies. This fatal dose ingested is equivalent to 1000 times the usual street dose of 100 mcg, making a deadly overdose difficult to reach [15].

When compared to other illicit substances, LSD has a higher LD50 than methamphetamine, cocaine, Bufo alvarius bufotoxin, and fentanyl. However, LSD has a lower LD50 than ketamine, psilocybin, and THC.

The chart below lists common illicit substances. Remember, the lower the number, the more dangerous a drug is.

Currently, there is no evidence that LSD can cause organ damage or neuropsychological deficits, even at very high doses [1].

Nevertheless, recent media reports have blamed “LSD toxicity” for five cases of sudden death. However, when closely examined, two of these fatalities were associated with the ingestion of massive overdoses; two were individuals with psychological agitation after taking standard doses of LSD who were hogtied by police, after which they suffered fatal cardiovascular collapse [15, 16].

The last case involved extreme hyperthermia leading to death likely caused by a drug substituted for LSD with strong effects on central nervous system temperature regulation (e.g., 25i-NBOMe) [15].

LSD Side Effects

The LSD experience is highly subjective and unpredictable, hence the importance of following the responsible use of psychedelics guidelines, which emphasizes the importance of set and setting.

When on LSD, behavioral and emotional dangers are very noticeable. Severe anxiety, paranoia, and panic attacks often occur at high doses. Other users have reported feelings of depression, despair, and disappointment. This negative spectrum of effects is colloquially called a “bad trip.” One individual can experience both the positive and negative spectrum of effects at different times of use.

LSD use can lead to hypothermia, tachycardia with palpitation, elevated blood pressure, and hyperglycemia [1].

One of the more disturbing side effects of LSD is the flashback. Flashbacks can be induced by stress or fatigue and by using other drugs. A flashback of a “bad trip” can often occur without warning, even if the individual is not currently under the effects of LSD.

The dependence on LSD, therefore, is not from physical effects or cravings but psychological dependence or need. Patients want to keep re-experiencing the same good trips.

As a classic hallucinogen, LSD does not typically create compulsive drug-seeking behavior like most other drugs, but it can still be dangerous in non-clinical settings [1].

However, some evidence suggests acid and other hallucinogens can cause long-term psychosis and hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD) [14].

According to the National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits by SAMHSA, a total of 2.5 million drug misuse or abuse ED visits occurred during 2011. Of 1,252,500 visits, 50.9% involved illicit drugs.

Cocaine and marijuana were the most commonly involved drugs, with 505,224 ED visits (40.3%) and 455,668 ED visits (36.4%), respectively. In that year, only 4,819 (0.38%) visits were related to LSD use.

The same report shows the upward trend in emergency department visits related to LSD use from 2004 to 2011.

LSD-Related Deaths In the United Kingdom

There is limited data available for LSD-related deaths in the UK. Only statistics for England and Wales are available, and these two countries reported five total deaths related to LSD from 1993 through 2014.

It’s important to note that these instances are likely not directly from LSD consumption but from unsafe trip conditions.

How Much Research Is There for LSD?

PubMed lists 5,692 studies that include the term “lysergic acid diethylamide” or “LSD” in the abstract from 1950 until the present day. Nearly half of this research (2,458) took place between the years of 1963 and 1975.

LSD Research by Decade:

  • 1960s — 1364 studies, making up 24% of all scientific articles involving LSD
  • 1970s — 1768 studies, making up 31% of all scientific articles involving LSD
  • 1980s — 662 studies, making up 12% of all scientific articles involving LSD
  • 1990s — 332 studies, making up 6% of all scientific articles involving LSD
  • 2000s — 315 studies, making up 6% of all scientific articles involving LSD
  • 2010s — 496 studies, making up 9% of all scientific articles involving LSD
  • 2020s — 500 studies, making up 9% of all scientific articles involving LSD

LSD was made illegal in the United States in 1968 and shortly thereafter around the world. Research continued to publish for a few years based on the work done during this golden age of psychedelic research. From 1980 until 2015, only 1,585 studies were published — most of which were review articles focused on past research.

We’re now in a new age of psychedelic research. In the past three years (2020–2023), there have been 482 studies published on LSD and its derivatives, making up almost 10% of all research available on LSD to date.

LSD Clinical Trials Statistics

In the 60s, LSD was the most researched psychedelic. There were plenty of clinical trials examining the effects of LSD on mood disorders, alcohol dependence, and other conditions such as schizophrenia and autism. Unfortunately, some of these studies lacked informed consent and control groups, which means they do not meet quality standards [5].

In the last two years, there have been 19 clinical trials involving LSD, four of which are phase II studies. The trials with LSD not only focus on mental health disorders but also serve the purpose of better understanding how our brains work [5].

As of July 2021, 530 patients had been enrolled in the 19 clinical trials investigating LSD for the treatment of anxiety, LSD for the treatment of depression, and LSD as a treatment for cluster headaches.

Related: Making Sense of Psychedelic Research

Who Are the Prominent Researchers Examining LSD?

Throughout the years, there have been hundreds of research papers published on LSD.

Names that have stood out over the years in terms of the sheer volume of papers published include Dr. Roiland Griffiths, Amanda Fielding, Dr. David Nutt, Dr. Carhart-Harris, Dr. Peter Gasser, and Dr. David E. Nichols.

Dr. Roland Griffiths

Dr. Griffiths is a professor of behavioral biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His work is diverse but largely focuses on the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, including, but not limited to, LSD.

Notable Publications:

Amanda Feilding

Born in England on January 30, 1943, Amanda Feilding co-founded the Beckley Foundation — a UK-based body of experts promoting scientific investigations into psychoactive substances and consciousness.

Through the Beckley Foundation, Amanda has led and participated in many studies involving LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, and ayahuasca.

Notable Publications:

Dr. Peter Gasser

Born in 1960, Peter Gasser is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has studied the effects of LSD on the human psyche for over 15 years. In the 90s, Dr. Gasser had a license from the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health to research LSD and MDMA. 

Today, he’s one of the few authorized psychiatrists in the world who can legally prescribe psychedelic-assisted therapy for his patients. His most recent contributions involve research on the effects of LSD on anxiety.

Notable Publications:

Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris

Head of the Imperial College of London’s Center for Psychedelic Research, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris is a psychologist and neuroscientist that has designed and led several clinical studies involving functional brain imaging and psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, and DMT.

 Notable Publications:

Dr. David Nutt

Dr. Nutt is a neuropsychopharmacologist and professor at Imperial College London — one of the leading research groups in the field of psychedelics. His work focuses on the therapeutic role of psychedelics such as LSD. He’s published over 400 scientific articles on the subject of psychedelics.

Notable Publications:

Dr. David E. Nichols

Dr. Nichols is an American chemist, professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Purdue University, and one of the founders of the Heffter Institute. He’s been a prolific publisher in psychedelic pharmacology and chemistry.

Nichols’ work has spanned many classes of psychoactive drugs, including amphetamines, phenethylamines, psilocybin, and the lysergamide family as a whole (of which LSD is a prominent member).

Notable Publications:

Where is LSD Studied the Most?

  1. The Beckley Foundation — this group of experts carries out in-depth scientific research of psychoactive substances —including psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD — and uses their evidence-based information for global drug policy reformation.
  2. MindMed — this biotech company is also funding research into the effects of microdosing LSD and its impact on creativity and focus, intending to develop a new treatment for the symptoms of ADHD. In April 2020, MindMed filed a patent in the US (preserving worldwide rights) for a neutralizer technology intended to shorten or eliminate the effects of an LSD trip during a therapy session [17].
  3. Dr. Leichti Laboratory — Dr. Leichti’s research group conducts pharmacological research on psychedelic substances, including LSD and MDMA.
  4. Centre for Psychedelic Research (CPR) at the Imperial College of London — This research center has two main purposes; to investigate the potential of psychedelics in treating mental health disorders and to examine the basis of human consciousness using the most modern imaging techniques available. One of the first studies conducted by the Psychedelic Research Group at ICL before the establishment of the CPR was a study on the effects of LSD on brain activity using brain imaging techniques [17].

LSD is a Schedule I drug in the United States. According to this Schedule, meaning it offers no medical benefit and has a high potential for abuse. Its precursors, lysergic acid and lysergic acid amide are Schedule III drugs. It is illegal to administer, manufacture, buy, possess, process, or distribute LSD without a license from the DEA [1].

The possession of LSD was made illegal in the US in 1968, but research continued until the late 1980s [17].

Currently, LSD is decriminalized in 23 countries around the world (including Mexico and Portugal) — that makes up about 11% of countries on Earth.

Related: Why is LSD Illegal?

While there is not much current data available for LSD-related national US arrests, the DEA reported that the number of federal LSD-related arrests, investigations, and seizures has dramatically decreased since 2000.

The number of LSD-related investigations initiated by the DEA also decreased during the same period.

This data is similar to the number of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) LSD-related investigations, which decreased from 25 in 2001 to 11 in 2002 to 6 in 2003.

A special report from the US Department of Justice offers information about the number of drug offenders incarcerated in 2012 by drug involved.

According to this report, over half (54%) of individuals incarcerated for drug offenses in the federal prison system had used some form of cocaine (powder or crack) as their primary drug. The second-largest group of drug offenders was those who primarily used methamphetamine (24%), followed by marijuana (12%) and heroin (6%) users.

Only 3% of drug offenders were convicted of crimes related to other drugs, such as LSD, certain prescription drugs, or MDMA.


1. What Are the Short-Term Effects of LSD?

The effects of LSD vary greatly depending on the dose. Microdoses (around 20 mcg), which are generally taken on a consistent basis to enhance productivity, are vastly different from a full dose that can cause a powerful, psychoactive experience.

Larger doses of LSD (over 50 mcg) can lead to significant changes in sensory perception, time perception, and personal understanding of the universe.

The effects of LSD last anywhere from 6 to 10 hours before wearing off completely.

2. What Are the Long-Term Effects of LSD?

LSD only remains active for a few hours but can leave an “afterglow” effect for about a week after the experience. Users often report an increased sense of well-being and mental clarity during this period.

The long-term implications of LSD (for better or for worse) haven’t been well studied, so there’s no concrete data available here. However, LSD has been widely popular since the 1960s, and there are millions of people alive today who have taken it. There’s little indication that LSD has any noticeable impact on physical or mental health long term.

The biggest long-term concern with LSD is the development of a condition called hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD, for short). This condition is rare but can result in lasting visual and auditory hallucinations following the intake of a psychedelic. These hallucinations can last days, weeks, or even years after taking LSD.

3. Is LSD a Controlled Substance?

Yes, LSD is listed as a Schedule I drug in the United States and many other countries around the world.

This status suggests there are no accepted medical uses for the substances and that they have a high potential for causing harm to the user or society at large.

Of course, this is outdated, and there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that LSD — and many other Schedule I drugs — have therapeutic value when used responsibly and in cooperation with a trained therapist.

Also see: How Does Drug Scheduling Work in the US?

4. How is LSD Administered?

LSD is generally taken in the form of a blotter square, which is a small piece of absorbent paper that has been painted or soaked in liquid LSD and allowed to dry. LSD blotters are held under the tongue for a few minutes to allow it to absorb through the microcapillaries lining the bottom of the mouth.

Alternatively, LSD can also be used in the form of gel tabs, capsules, or in liquid form. Research labs and hospitals can also choose to administer LSD intravenously.

5. What is a Microdose of LSD?

A microdose refers to the intake of a psychoactive substance at sub-perceptual doses — meaning doses that are too small to exert any noticeable changes in cognition.

Microdoses usually consist of about 10% of the normal psychoactive dose. For LSD, the psychoactive dose is about 100-200 mcg — so a microdose can range from 10 to 20 mcg.

The best way to microdose LSD is to cut a standard blotter tab into nine equal squares. A standard 100 mcg blotter should produce nine microdose squares containing roughly 10 mcg each. 

6. Can You Overdose On LSD?

The lethal dose of LSD is over a thousand times as much as a standard dose — so fatal overdoses are extremely rare.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take too much LSD.

Overdosing on LSD — taking more than is beneficial — can lead to very uncomfortable side effects such as paranoia, a sense of impending doom, anxiety, nausea, and occasionally seizures.

These effects can last for several hours and may require medical assistance to ensure physical safety. Trip killers such as benzodiazepines are often employed in hospitals to block the effects of LSD and stop the trip in its tracks.


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