No, LSD doesn’t stay in your spinal cord forever. Out of all the myths about LSD out there, this one may be the strangest. Never has there ever been a drug that stays in your body forever. Chemicals that stick around for a long time, like cannabinoids, are fat soluble. Anything water soluble, like most drugs including LSD, leaves the body very quickly.
Though I wouldn’t try it, you could literally be tripping your head off one day and pass a drug test with flying colors the next, as long as you didn’t smoke any weed. LSD has a half-life of around three to four hours. That means from when you’re peaking it takes around three hours for you to metabolize half of that. Drug metabolism varies from substance to substance; a substance with a short half-life may stick around in your body for a while, depending on the nature of its metabolites. If the metabolite is fat-soluble, it will take longer to be completely eliminated. In the case of LSD, all of its metabolites are water-soluble, added to the fact that its active dose is very small, on the order of micrograms or millionths of a gram.
The spinal cord myth must have started with the appearance of flashbacks. Flashbacks are described as fleeting hallucinations and sensations reminiscent of the trip, and are reported to happen sporadically for years after the trip. It’s hard to gather good evidence about how many LSD-users suffer from these flashbacks, but they may just be another Drug War myth. I know some people that have tripped upwards of 200 times and they’ve never had a flashback.
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, or HPPD, is another story. HPPD is real, and it’s not just a fleeting experience. HPPD is a fairly serious condition that can be triggered by tripping on a psychedelic. It lasts for a long time and it either goes away or people get used to it. Anti-anxiety drugs are shown to help, but they don’t cure the condition, they just treat the associated anxiety. Tolcapone and levocarb are drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease and show promising results for treating HPPD. Given the mechanism of those drugs, specialists theorize that HPPD is brought on by an anomaly in a chemical process in the brain that affects sensory gating.
Given the number of people that use psychedelic drugs, HPPD is very rare. A friend of mine who has tripped a lot (and I mean a lot; sheets and sheets of acid) said hallucinogens just open your mind to the reality that our perception of the world isn’t as fine-tuned as we think it is; many neuroscientists have reached the same conclusion.
Given the fact that spinal fluid is separated from the rest of our body’s fluids through the blood-brain barrier, Drug War myth-makers must have connected the dots between flashbacks and HPPD to conclude that LSD stays in your spinal cord forever. It was a vain attempt at getting people fear that one hit of acid will stop them from ever passing a drug test, but have no fear, LSD is here to stay. Or rather, it isn’t.
(Photo c/o scienceblogs.com)