The first time that I took LSD, I accepted three and a half tabs on my tongue from a man dressed up in a monkey suit. Despite the hot summer weather, I raided the winter wardrobe of the house I was partying at because I was surely meant to go outside and explore Narnia. It was a profoundly healing and life-changing experience—even though my travel plans were put in jeopardy when I was still tripping two days later.
I did a lot of things right that night—I took the LSD with friends in a space I was comfortable with. I also did a lot of things wrong—I didn’t prepare or consider the consequences of consuming such a large dose.
Shelby Hartman, Editor-in-Chief of the psychedelic magazine DoubleBlind says we’re currently in a psychedelic renaissance. Denver recently decriminalized psilocybin and Oakland followed by decriminalizing psilocybin and other plant-based psychedelics.
“It strikes me as natural, in a time when the tangible resources of both the planet and the economy feel stretched so thin, that people would be reaching again for a door that might open onto more profound explorations of internal resources like consciousness and meaning,” says writer, performer, and “psychedelic punk” Jason Stoneking.
Times of unrest, coupled with the knowledge gained from legalizing cannabis, seems to cause many to reconsider Reagan-era “Just say no” thinking.
“People are starting to challenge this idea that drugs that were illegal were “bad” or unhealthy. People are getting more critical about why certain drugs are illegal,” says Sheila Vakharia PhD., a researcher at Drug Policy Alliance.
She has a point. Perhaps despite the fellow Federal I scheduling of cannabis, you’ve found that adding the plant to your regimen has drastically improved your life… and now you’re curious about what other psychedelic drugs can do.
Should you choose to use LSD, here is harm reduction-based information on the drug so you can have the most enjoyable time possible.
What is the legal status of LSD?
Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann first created LSD in 1938 from lysergic acid, a chemical from the fungus ergot. Hofmann later discovered the drug’s hallucinogenic properties in 1943. Since 1971 the government lists LSD as a Schedule I drug, just like cannabis. This scheduling means that the DEA says LSD has a high potential for abuse with no known medical benefits.
Such legal restrictions and therefore lack of research, have lead to mass misinformation about LSD. According to Mitchell Gomez, the executive director of DanceSafe, an organization predominantly known for their on-set testing sites at electronic music events, in their work to keep LSD and other psychedelic use as safe as possible, deprogramming inaccurate and outdated knowledge can be trickier than fighting harm caused by the substance itself.
“We teach people how to be safer about their substance use, and maximize the benefits they get from their substance use, and educating the public about how many harms they associate with drug use is actually due to drug prohibition,” Gomez says. “Most of what we do is actually prohibition harm reduction, not drug harm reduction. These are harms that with legal, regulated markets would not be a concern.”
Is LSD dangerous?
Experts agree that LSD is an extremely safe chemical.
“In terms of physiological safety, there are very few things out there in the world that are as physiologically non-problematic as LSD. We don’t have a single documented physiological death from LSD ever,” Gomez says. “That includes people accidentally took upwards of 1000 doses.”
Apparently the urban legend of someone consuming an entire bottle of liquid LSD is real.
Vakharia confirms that based on the research available, a very small portion of hallucinogenic drug users develop a substance use disorder. Of course, due to federal funding restrictions, we need more research. Most negative LSD experiences or injury come from what experts refer to as behavioral risks, as psychedelics can trigger pre-existing mental illness, in particular, according to Gomez, people with a family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Even if you don’t have any mental health concerns, our state of mind while taking LSD can color your experience. “Going through a bad time? Break-up? Maybe you don’t want to use LSD, it tends to bring out the demons,” says LSD user and photographer Pedro.
How much LSD should I take?
While I actually loved being on three and a half tabs of acid for the first time, people usually recommend starting with half a tab.
“Start with half a tab and keep the other tab somewhere you’re not going to lose it. LSD can be disorienting. Wait for two to three hours and if you feel like you need to take more, you always can,” Hartman advises.
Since acid is not regulated, blotter papers may not be equally dispersed on tabs. Even if you can handle a high dose, it’s a good idea to have an idea what you’re in for as LSD lasts longer than other psychedelics such as mushrooms.
“You can expect to be tripping for at least eight hours if you take half a tab or more. Make sure as soon as the substance hits your tongue that you look at a clock, because you’re going to lose perception of time, and I’m telling you, six hours [can] feel like an eternity [that’s] never going to end, so you want to see how many hours you have left,” Hartman says.
Remember that you can always take more, so see how a half tab feels, and consume more as desired.
Where should I take LSD?
The best thing you can do to prevent a bad trip is to cultivate a space in which you feel happy and safe. As psychedelics both magnify the senses and foster community, LSD has found a natural home at music festivals and similar events. However, some users recommend starting smaller for your first time.
“Doing it at an event where you’ve spent a lot of money to be at, like a music festival abroad, is a risk as the first time,” says Marvin, a regular LSD user. “Gardens and parks with your friends are good; I’d recommend at home with lots of good music to listen through to,” he suggests.
In addition to starting slow, share the moment with people you trust. Friend groups often trip together and designate one person as the sober trip-sitter. “Make sure you take it with someone you trust. If it’s your first time, consider taking it with a sitter. Set an intention; treat your body well,” Hartman says.
How do I know what I’m taking is LSD?
A common fear regarding drugs such as LSD, which do not always have the same identifiability as say psilocybin mushroom, is that they are not the drug they claim to be. It’s always a good idea to get your LSD from someone you know and trust. The fear-mongering around LSD may misrepresent the likelihood of what you have is fake, but it’s still worthwhile to do your due diligence. DanceSafe offers drug testing, including LSD, at events across the U.S. and Canada. They do not test for purity, but for identification, or to see if your drug is what it claims to be.
Gomez says some of what people fear their LSD might be hiding is usually not misrepresented, as LSD, only similar in appearance, such as Carfentanilm, an opioid.
“Carfentanil has shown up on blotters but it’s more expensive than acid,” Gomez says. There are also drugs such as 25I-NBOMe which are sold as LSD and, as of 2013 data, caused at least 19 deaths. They also cause a long-lasting trip, but a jittery one, rather than the psychedelic effect of real LSD, which is a tryptamine derivative just like psilocybin (in magic mushrooms) or DMT (in ayahuasca).
You can order a DanceSafe at home testing kit in addition to obtaining your LSD through a tried and tested source.
Does LSD interact with prescription medications?
If you’re one of the one in six Americans who takes prescription drugs, you may have read online forums with conflicting information on how SSRIs and other medications may or may not affect an LSD trip. Unfortunately, in addition to limited federal funding in general, when research is done on drugs like LSD, those with mental health issues are left out of the study. Still, the internet is dotted with users saying that an antidepressant affected their trip.
“We do know that LSD works on serotonin neurotransmitters, so certain kinds of medications that people take are serotonin specific,” Vakharia says. “Given that LSD works on the same neurotransmitters, I would say that there will probably be potential for some interaction there. This is also me purely speculating.” Vakharia says.
There is also the consideration that those experiencing an out of the ordinary trip while on mental health medication may actually be experiencing enhanced underlying conditions the pills treat.
“The claims of SSRIs causing an issue with LSD are not super well documented. I tend to think that a lot of those cases is just exacerbating existing mental illness. I’m personally very skeptical,” Gomez says. As we have so much anecdotal evidence of LSD improving mental well-being, it would be rad if the government allocated funds to get to the bottom of this.
“I think the scheduling of LSD and other drugs have been really unfortunate for people who want to do research and learn more about these substances,” Vakharia says. “It creates these undue barriers for researchers who want to learn more and do this work.”
So in addition to tripping well by reviewing your medical history, mood, setting and snagging a testing kit, stay abreast of your local laws to help more US citie broaden their laws surrounding psychedelics. A reluctance to change with the times not only hinders individuals, but the Universe at large.
“There is great research coming out of Switzerland and different parts of the world so it also puts the US behind. If we make it hard for researchers to do this work, we’re also not at the cutting edge, and I think that’s a shame for everyone,” Vakharia says.
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