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D-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (or sometimes Lysergide, commonly called "Acid"), chemical formula C20H25N30. LSD is its German language abbreviation, which is also used in English.

It is, in the language of those who reject the terms "psychedelic" or mind-manifesting and "entheogen", one of the most potent "hallucinogenic drugs" known (all more potent ones are LSD derivatives). Dosages of LSD are measured in micrograms, or millionths of a gram. By comparison, dosages of cocaine and heroin are measured in milligrams, or thousandths of a gram. Compared to other "hallucinogenic" substances, LSD is 100 times more potent than psilocybin and psilocin and 4,000 times more potent than mescaline.

The dosage level that will produce a hallucinogenic effect in humans is generally considered to be 25 micrograms. Over the past several years, the potency of LSD obtained during drug law enforcement operations in the United States has ranged between 20 and 80 micrograms per a dose.

History of LSD

Early History: Its Synthesis

LSD was first synthesised by the Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman in the Sandoz laboratories in 1938. It was developed initially as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. However, no extraordinary benefits of the compound were identified and its study was discontinued. The hallucinogenic effects were unknown until 1943, when Dr. Hoffman accidently consumed some LSD.

Interest in the drug was revived in the 1940s when it was thought to be a possible treatment for schizophrenia. Because of LSD's structural relationship to a neurochemical that is present in the brain, and its similarity in effect to certain aspects of psychosis, LSD was used as a research tool in studies of mental illness.

Psychiatric Use

Sandoz Laboratories, the drug's sole producer, began marketing LSD in 1947 under the trade name "Delysid", and it was introduced into the United States a year later. Sandoz marketed LSD as a psychiatric cure-all and hailed it as a cure for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, sexual perversions and alcoholism. In fact, Sandoz, in its LSD-related literature, suggested that psychiatrists take the drug themselves in order to gain an understanding of the subjective experiences of the schizophrenic.

In psychiatry, the use of LSD by students was an accepted practice; it was viewed as a teaching tool in an attempt to understand schizophrenia. From the late 1940s through the mid-1970s, extensive research and testing were conducted on LSD. During a 15-year period beginning in 1950, research on LSD and other "hallucinogens" generated over 1000 scientific papers, several dozen books, and 6 international conferences, and LSD was prescribed as treatment to over 40,000 patients. Scientific study of LSD ceased circa 1980 as research funding declined, and governments became wary of permitting such research fearing that the results of the research might encourage illicit LSD use.

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency claims:

Although initial observations on the benefits of LSD were highly optimistic, empirical data developed subsequently proved less promising... Its use in scientific research has been extensive and its use has been widespread. Although the study of LSD and other hallucinogens increased the awareness of how chemicals could affect the mind, its use in psychotherapy largely has been debunked. It produces no aphrodisiac effects, does not increase creativity, has no lasting positive effect in treating alcoholics or criminals, does not produce a 'model psychosis', and does not generate immediate personality change.

However, drug studies have confirmed that the powerful hallucinogenic effects of this drug can produce profound adverse reactions, such as acute panic reactions, psychotic crises, and flashbacks, especially in users ill-equipped to deal with such trauma.

Dr. Timothy Leary, on the other hand, claimed that using LSD with the right dosage, set (what one brings to the experience) and setting, preferably with the guidance of professionals, could alter behavior in dramatic and beneficial ways. His experiments produced zero murders, zero suicides, zero psychotic breaks, zero bad trips. Later, a judge who expressed dislike for Dr. Leary's books sentenced him to 30 years in prison for possesion of half a marijuana cigarette and research declined.

Drug studies have not confirmed that LSD can cause flashbacks or lasting psychoses, according to a meta-study one can read at See link at bottom of page.

Recreational Use

LSD began to be used recreationally in certain, primarily medical, circles. Some psychiatric and medical professionals, acquainted with LSD in their work, began using it themselves and sharing it with friends and associates. During the early 1960s, this first group of casual LSD users evolved and expanded into a subculture that extolled the mystical and religious symbolism often engendered by the drug's powerful effects, and advocated its use as a method of raising conciousness. The personalities associated with the subculture, gurus such as Dr. Timothy Leary, usually connected to academia, soon attracted a great deal of publicity, generating further interest in LSD.

Breakouts from the medical world into the real world were hastened when intrepid individuals such as Ken Kesey, participated in drug trials and liked what they saw. Tom Wolfe immortalized these early days of LSD's entrance into the real world with the book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, which was written as he traveled around the country in a psychedelic bus with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

The Beatles wrote a song which many assumed referred to LSD, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," although John Lennon is said to have always dismissed the connection as mere coincidence; the song title is reputedly based on how Lennon's son Julian described the subject of a drawing he made (the Lucy of the song is one Lucy O'Donnell).

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the drug culture adopted LSD as the psychedelic drug of choice. However, LSD dramatically decreased in popularity in the mid-1970s. This decline was due to negative publicity centered on side-effects of LSD use, its criminalization and the increasing effectiveness of drug law enforcement efforts, rather than new medical information.

LSD Today

LSD Usage

As a recreational drug, LSD has remained popular among certain segments of society. Traditionally, it has been popular with high school and college students and other young adults. LSD also has been integral to the lifestyle of many individuals who follow certain rock music bands, most notably the Grateful Dead. Older individuals, introduced to the "hallucinogen" in the 1960s, also still use LSD.

LSD made a comeback in the 1990s. However, the current average oral dose consumed by users is 30 to 50 micrograms, a decrease of nearly 90 percent from the 1960 average dose of 250 to 300 micrograms. Lower potency doses probably account for the relatively few LSD-related emergency incidents during the past several years and its present popularity among young people.

Retail-level distribution of LSD often takes place during concerts and all-night raves. Users usually obtain LSD from friends and acquaintances.

Means of Illicit LSD Manufacture

LSD commonly is produced from lysergic acid, which is made from ergotamine tartrate, a substance derived from an ergot fungus on rye, or from lysergic acid amide, a chemical found in morning glory seeds. Although theoretically possible, manufacture of LSD from morning glory seeds is not economically feasible and these seeds never have been found to be a successful starting material for LSD production.

Only a small amount of ergotamine tartrate is required to produce LSD in large batches. For example, 25 kilograms of ergotamine tartrate can produce 5 or 6 kilograms of pure LSD crystal that, under ideal circumstances, could be processed into 100 million dosage units (50 micrograms), more than enough to meet what is believed to be the entire annual U.S. demand for the "hallucinogen". LSD manufacturers need only import a small quantity of the substance and, thus, enjoy the advantages of ease of concealment and transport not available to traffickers of other illegal drugs, primarily marijuana and cocaine.

Manufacturing LSD is time consuming; it takes from 2 to 3 days to produce 1 to 4 ounces of crystal. Consequently, it is believed that LSD usually is not produced in large quantities, but rather in a series of small batches. Production of LSD in small batches also minimizes the loss of precursor chemicals should they become contaminated during the synthesis process.

Forms of LSD

LSD is produced in crystalline form and then mixed with excipients or diluted as a liquid for production in ingestible forms. Often, LSD is sold in tablet form (usually small tablets known as microdots), on sugar cubes, in thin squares of gelatin (commonly referred to as window panes), and most commonly, as blotter paper (sheets of paper soaked in or impregnated with LSD, covered with colorful designs or artwork, and perforated into one-quarter inch square, individual dosage units). LSD is sold under more than 80 street names including acid, blotter, cid, doses, and trips, as well as names that reflect the designs on the sheets of blotter paper. On occasion, authorities have encountered the drug in others forms-- including powder or crystal, liquid, and capsule-- and laced on other substances. More than 200 types of LSD tablets have been encountered since 1969 and more than 350 paper designs have been acquired since 1975. Designs range from simple five-point stars in black and white to exotic artwork in full four-color print. Inexpensiveness (prices range from US $2 to $5 per dosage unit or 'hit'; wholesale lots often sell for as little as $1 or less), ready availability, alleged 'mind-expanding' properties, and intriguing paper designs make LSD especially attractive to junior high school and high school students.

Effects of LSD

LSD use is not without danger, however, especially if repeated or in large doses, can induce "psychotic" states such as egolessness and catatonia. It is also noted for causing "flashbacks," sometimes years after the last use. Again, drug studies do not confirm this widely held belief, according to a meta-study one can read at

Physical reactions to LSD may include dilated pupils, lowered body temperature, nausea, "goose bumps," profuse perspiration, increased blood sugar, and rapid heart rate. During the first hour after ingestion, the user may experience visual changes with extreme changes in mood. The user may also suffer impaired depth and time perception, with distorted perception of the size and shape of objects, movements, color, sound, touch and the user's own body image. Under the influence of LSD, the ability to make sensible judgments and see common dangers is impaired, making the user susceptible to personal injury. The user may also injure others by attempting to drive a car or operating machinery. The effects of higher doses last for 10 to 12 hours. After an LSD "trip," the user may suffer acute anxiety or depression for a variable period. "Flashbacks," which "are" supposedly recurrences of the effects of LSD, may supposedly occur days or even months following the last exposure. Again, drug studies do not confirm this widely held belief, according to a meta-study one can read at

Legal Status

The United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances (adopted in 1971) requires its parties to prohibit LSD. Hence, it is illegal in all parties to the convention, which includes the United States and all of Europe. How strictly drug laws are enforced varies from country to country.

Unlike alcohol prohibition, LSD prohibition does not make an exception for religious use, presumably because of the belief that entheogen-centered religions "are" not "real" religions.

LSD was not illegal in the United States until 1967, when the Federal Government classified it as a Schedule I drug (a drug with strong potential for abuse, and no redeeming medical use.)

In the United States, LSD is classified as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. As a Schedule I drug, LSD allegedly meets the following three criteria: it is deemed to have a high potential for abuse; it has no legitimate medical use in treatment; and, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision. Judging from the behavior of courts in marijuana cases, they will tend to deny that the government has made a mistake in classification regardless of the evidence. This does not, however, prove that the government has made a mistake in classification. Lysergic acid and lysergic acid amide, LSD precursors, are both classified in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Ergotamine tartrate, a precursor to lysergic acid, is regulated under the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act.

LSD in the United States

LSD has been manufactured illegally since the 1960s. A limited number of chemists, probably less than a dozen, are believed to be manufacturing nearly all of the LSD available in the United States. Some of these manufacturers probably have been operating since the 1960s.

LSD manufacturers and traffickers can be separated into two groups. The first group, located in northern California, is composed of chemists (commonly referred to as 'cooks') and traffickers who work together in close association; typically, they are major producers capable of distributing LSD nationwide. The second group is made up of independent producers who, operating on a comparatively limited scale, can be found throughout the country. As a group, independent producers are of less concern to the Drug Enforcement Agency than the northern California group-- inasmuch as their production is intended for local consumption only.

Much of the LSD manufactured in clandestine laboratories is believed to be located in Northern California, and initial distribution sources for the drug are typically located in the San Francisco Bay area. LSD is available in at least retail quantities in virtually every state, with supply increasing in some states.

Related compounds: LSA, psilocybin

External links:


Significant parts of the above article were taken from the DEA website which, like most US government websites, is in the public domain.