Psychedelics, when used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.”

— Stanislav Grof

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
belongs to the family of ergoline compounds. It was first synthesized and extracted by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938 from a fungus called ergot, commonly found as a parasite on grains like rye. While initially exploring the medicinal potential of ergot, Hofmann accidentally ingested trace amounts of LSD and experienced its psychedelic effects, leading to the discovery of its psychedelic properties.

In the 1960s, LSD gained widespread attention due to its association with counterculture movements and influential figures like Harvard professor Timothy Leary. This cultural prominence sparked both interest and controversy, eventually leading to the criminalization of LSD as an illegal drug. It was classified as a Schedule I substance, indicating a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical use. Compared to other psychedelic compounds like psilocybin and MDMA, LSD has received less attention given its turbulent history but also because of the logistical issues in conducting the research. Research teams and subjects often spend 10-12 hours waiting for the drug effects to wear off making for longer days at the lab.

In recent years, we have seen a resurgence of scientific interest in exploring the potential therapeutic utility of LSD. Emerging research suggests that LSD may have potential applications in treating conditions such as alcoholism, depression, and anxiety (ref). For journeyer's looking for a longer psychedelic experience, LSD would be the compound of choice.

How much should I take?

Use the following information as a guideline, not a recommendation. For your first dose, consider beginning with 100 micrograms (ug); a common second or third dose is 150 ug. Those with more experience might take a strong dose of 150 - 400 ug. Current research with LSD commonly uses 100 ug (ref) although the dose can range significantly from study to study. 

How should I take it?

Most commonly, LSD comes blotted onto a piece of paper called a  ‘tab’ which is then placed on the tongue. Tabs typically come in 100 ug or 150 ug doses. There are also LSD tinctures / droppers.

How long does it take to kick in?

30-45 minutes.

When does the peak experience occur?

At or around the 2 hour mark.

How long does it last?

10-12 hours.

How do psychedelics work?

  • When psilocybin is ingested, it is metabolized into psilocin in the body. Psilocin is a potent psychedelic compound that primarily acts by binding to various serotonin receptors, including subtypes 5-HT2A, 5-HT2B, 5-HT2C, and 5-HT1C (ref). The 5-HT2A receptor, in particular, is highly abundant in the cortical regions of the brain and is one of the most prominent serotonin receptors in the cortex. This receptor plays a significant role in modulating cognition, perception, and consciousness.

    The density of 5-HT2A receptors is relatively high in brain regions associated with the default-mode network (DMN). The DMN is a network of brain regions that are most active during introspective and self-referential processes, including mind wandering, daydreaming, and rumination. Studies have shown that psilocybin administration can lead to durable reductions in DMN activity. Acutely, this decrease in DMN activity is often associated with subjective experiences such as decreased ego dissolution, enhanced introspection, and altered perception. The range of longer-term psychological changes includes anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects, relaxed prior beliefs, decreased rumination, and increased perception of unity or interconnectedness (ref).

    It's worth noting that research in this field is ongoing, and our understanding of the complex mechanisms underlying the effects of psilocybin and LSD are still developing.
  • Drug Interactions:
    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed medications for managing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. These medications work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin, thereby increasing its availability in the brain. When used in combination with substances that also affect serotonin levels, such as psilocybin or LSD, there is a theoretical risk of serotonin syndrome.

    Serotonin syndrome is a potentially serious condition that can occur when there is an excess of serotonin in the brain. It can range from mild to severe, with symptoms that include agitation, confusion, rapid heart rate, dilated pupils, muscle rigidity, tremors, fever, and even seizures. While serotonin syndrome is rare, it is good to be aware of when combining substances that affect serotonin levels.

    The combination of psilocybin or LSD with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) presents an even greater risk of serotonin syndrome. MAOIs inhibit the enzyme responsible for breaking down serotonin, resulting in a net increase in serotonin levels. Combining MAOIs with substances that increase serotonin, such as psilocybin or LSD, can potentially lead to a dangerous serotonin overload (ref). Specific risks and interactions can vary depending on individual factors, including the dosage, timing, and individual sensitivity.

    If you are considering using psilocybin or LSD while taking prescribed medications, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or psychiatrist, who can provide personalized guidance based on your specific situation and medical history. They will be able to assess the potential risks, benefits, and interactions, taking into account the specific medications you are taking and your individual circumstances. Always follow the advice and recommendations of healthcare professionals to ensure your safety and well-being. For more information on Medications and Psychedelics click here.

The Experience:

  • It's important to note that there is a wide range of possible psychedelic experiences and so each person will have a unique experience. From experience to experience within the same journeyer, variability also exists.
  • Just prior to the journey, journeyer’s might be feeling both excited and anxious which is all part of the experience. Journeyer’s should take solace in the preparation leading up to this point. They reflect on their intention and remind oneself to focus inwards, choose to trust, let go, be open, and say yes. Confront the light and the dark places. Meet both with trust and assertiveness.
  • Commonly, a LSD experience lasts around 10-12 hours. It often begins within 30-45 minutes post-consumption, peaks around the 2-4 hour mark and diminishes over another 4-6 hours. In the days following the experience there is an ‘afterglow’ in which journeyers report having a greater sense of openness, cognitive flexibility, social connectedness, positive mood, acceptance, peace, and heightened taste, smell, sight, and hearing. The afterglow may last 1-30 days. 
  • Onset: Similar to psilocybin, in the first 30-60 minutes, journeyer’s may notice a general warm glow, a sense of relaxation throughout the body, and a heightening of all senses with a notable shift in vividness of colour and sound. This is often the point where journeyer’s have some desire to get comfortable and lay down if they haven’t done so already. There is often a noticing of a steady stream of thoughts arising, some difficulty focusing, and laughter starting to emerge. As the music plays, you may notice yourself fading, similar to drifting into and out of a dream, into thoughts, the visual field, and music for longer periods of time.
  • Peak: At 100-150 ug of LSD, hours 2-4 are often considered the peak of the trip. This is where having a mantra well versed is helpful if things start to get tough: trust, let go, and be open. Journeyer’s may notice a tension or resistance to transcending the ego or allowing your sense of self to dissolve. Continued resistance may lead to thought loops, heightened anxiety and fear. The key here is to run towards and into the experience. Now, whether or not the journeyer’s experience ego dissolution, this is the point where one ‘drops in’ and becomes fully immersed in the experience. Notions of having a body, time and space have likely been displaced by feelings of tremendous joy or love, intense euphoria, and powerful open and closed-eyed visuals. You may experience an intense set of expanding and contracting images, shapes and patterns with these visuals often becoming the music and the music becoming the visuals. Journeyer's may experience a deeply embodied unity with others and the world. This may be accompanied by a profound recognition about the beauty of the world. Visions and memories of people, places and key life experiences may come up. If there is unprocessed past life events, some of these may appear as well which are often met with understanding, acceptance and empathy.
  • There can be an ineffable mental clarity and novel perspectives gained on personal issues. Journeyers may be shown seemingly objectively true and compelling aspects of reality which are often referred to as the noetic quality of a trip. If you had set an intention, this might be a place where insight may be gained as it arises in this expanded state of consciousness. Pleasant and unpleasant memories and or emotions can also emerge here.
  • Tip: Be curious and open to both the pleasant and unpleasant, the light and the dark. Do not grasp the pleasurable nor resist the difficult. Immerse yourself and go deep into the experience, your intention, mantra and sitter (if you have one) will take care of the rest.

    Remember: Challenging aspects of the journey can reveal valuable insights leading to learning and growth. Consider that it may be happening for an important reason. Trust, be open, and let go. For recommendations on what to do with these insights, refer to the Integration resources.
  • Refer to the mindfulness blog to get more insight on letting go.

Coming Down:

  • During hours 6-10, journeyer’s are often fully immersed in the experience. Journeyer’s may continue to gain clarity on personal issues, experience feelings of euphoria, joy and have boundless laughter. At times, journeyer’s may have an impulse to move their body with the music and notice a change in their proprioception (i.e. the body position in space).
  • Through hours, 10-12, as journeyer’s come down, they may start to notice a fading between normal waking consciousness and the psychedelic experience. Journeyer’s might be experiencing tears of joy, a sense of peace, ease, and love along with mental and physical calm.
  • Eventually, journeyer’s will notice they are back in a normal waking state of consciousness. Journeyer’s may have a desire to gently move about, reorient with their surroundings, hydrate, eat, rest and reflect. Self care practices and having social support will be key here.

Common Side-effects:

  • Acute: gastro-intestinal upset, transient anxiety or fear, reduced decision making ability and movement coordination. Increase in blood pressure and heart rate (ref).

    Consider that psychosomatic symptoms (e.g. tremors and nausea) may be manifestations of anxiety, contain meaning and are not simply drug effects. If you have nausea, think about diving into your stomach as fast as you can. If its persistent, try spitting something out and laying back down. For a tremor, visualize moving in a tunnel from your head down to the tremor and look for memories.
  • After your trip: headache, emotional sensitivity, fatigue, nausea.
    Less common: insomnia, nightmares, vivid dreams, flashbacks, anxiety, depression.

Rare Undesirable Side-effects:

  • During: Serotonin Syndrome (ref)
  • After: Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (ref)

What does all this mean for me?

  • Complete the medical screening to see if psychedelics are right for you. Understand some of the risks involved.
  • Have your LSD tested, consider starting with 100 ug of LSD in the first journey to learn the psychedelic landscape. Increase the dose on subsequent journey’s if desired. A breakthrough dose that leads to a full experience often including ego dissolution is occasioned between 100 - 200 ug of LSD. 
  • Clear your schedule for the day of and 1-2-days after the journey. Do your research, consider getting a trip sitter and get them educated, prep your set, setting and intention. Grab your journal and enjoy the trip. Get ready for the integration process that follows the experience.
  • If you are taking any medications to manage your mental or physical health or have other concerns related to your health, speak to your primary healthcare provider first.