one of the most powerful psychoactive drugs ever discovered.
An active dose can be as little as 30 micrograms, or about one one-millionth of an ounce.
Still, a little LSD can go a
long way–and can cause major
changes in the way users think and feel.
Its common name is “acid,” short for its chemical name, lysergic acid diethylamide. It’s sometimes sold in tiny tablets
(called “microdot“) or gelatin chips (“windowpane“), but more often today it’s soaked
onto small squares of paper, known as “blotter.”
Other hallucinogenic drugs are
similar to LSD, including psilocybin
mushrooms, and mescaline, which comes from the peyote
There’s an alphabet soup of other
chemicals in the group, too, including DMT,
MDA, and MDMA (or “ecstasy”).
Known as hallucinogenic
amphetamines, the drugs are
similar to both hallucinogens and speed.
So how do they work? Good
Because even though researchers
have been looking for answers for years, the brain is pretty complex–maybe a million times
more complex than the fastest computer.
And that makes it tough to trace what, exactly, microscopic amounts of
hallucinogens do when they start doing their thing.
Still, we do
know that some–like LSD–produce their main effects by temporarily
“shorting-out” the way the brain
works and processes sensory input.
tip the balance of brain chemicals that relay thoughts and feelings from one cell
Effects vary from one drug to another; so
does the length of time that drug effects last. An acid “trip”
lasts about 8-10 hours, ecstasy wears off a little faster.
One problem common to hallucinogens
is that their effects are often so strange and disorienting that
users can panic, fearing they’ll never come down. Luckily,
so lucky. Some users don’t come down on schedule and, sometimes,
they have to be hospitalized.
anything, PCP, and its chemical cousin, ketamine
K“), are even weirder.
like LSD, but they also have depressant
and anesthetic drug effects–which means they slow
the body down and block sensitivity to pain.
Because of their wide range of
effects, both can be really risky.
Unlike LSD, users can physically
overdose on both PCP and ketamine. And because
they’re anesthetics, users can seriously injure
themselves and not know it.
Something both PCP and LSD–and
most other hallucinogens–have in common are flashbacks,
or recurrences of a scary drug trip.
Flashbacks don’t always happen, but when they do, they’re most often triggered
by fatigue or other drug effects. Flashbacks are
frightening because of their sudden onset and their
That causes more panic, and that
makes things even worse.