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

LSD is from the family of ergoline compounds, first synthesized and extracted by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938 from a fungus called ergot, a common parasite found on grains such as rye. Hoffman was looking for medical uses of ergot and by accidentally getting trace amounts on his fingers, led to his first psychedelic experience. In the 1960’s, the Beatles and other high profile musicians were open about the use of LSD along with Harvard professor Timothy Leary, which arguably set in motion a cultural revolution, the ‘war on drugs’ led by the Nixon administration and finally LSD’s scheduling as an illegal drug. LSD is still an illegal Schedule I drug in most countries, and arguably because of its turbulent history, there is less work being done to integrate these into healthcare services and fewer paths being built towards decriminalization and legalization when compared to psilocybin and MDMA. Despite this, there is more emerging research demonstrating LSD’s potential therapeutic utility to treat 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 you ingest LSD, it primarily binds to serotonin receptors, namely, the 5HT2A receptor. This interaction between LSD and the serotonin receptor is thought to result in the psychedelic experience. The 5-HT2A receptor is predominantly a cortical versus subcortical receptor and is one of the most abundant 5-HT receptors in the cortex (ref). Further, 5-HT2A receptor density is relatively high in regions that serve the default-mode network (DMN), a network of brain regions that are most active during mind wandering, mental time travel and rumination (ref). After a session with LSD, similar to psilocybin, studies often report durable reductions in activity in the DMN which coincide with antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects, relaxed prior beliefs, less rumination, and more perceived unity with the world (ref).
  • Drug Interactions: Psilocybin and LSD are drugs that primarily bind to serotonin receptors. Prescribed medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs to manage mental health conditions block the reuptake of serotonin resulting in a net increase of serotonin. Thus, it is theorized that taking psilocybin or LSD while on medications like SSRIs could pose a low risk of Serotonin Syndrome, a condition where too much serotonin causes signs and symptoms that can range from mild (shivering and diarrhea) to severe (muscle rigidity, fever and seizures). The risk of serotonin syndrome may increase if using psilocybin or LSD while taking MAOIs. MAOIs inhibit an enzyme that breaks down serotonin resulting in a net increase in serotonin (ref). For more information on Medications and Psychedelics click here.
  • It's important to note that the data remains unclear if serotonergic agonists such as psilocybin and LSD are either potentiated, intensified, prolonged or blunted with acute or long term use of SSRIs. To mitigate risk and foster an ideal experience, psychedelic journeyer’s are often advised to speak with their primary healthcare provider and decide if tapering from their medications prior to their journey is the right course of action.

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, trust, let go, surrender, and breathe in the experience.
  • 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, through hours 2-4, the peak experience may produce a full experience resulting in profound visual, perceptual and mood changes. Visual hallucinations such as experiencing color as a sensation, seeing geometric patterns and flashes of color are common. Objects often become distorted and appear with visual ‘trails’ that follow moving objects as after-images. Whether or not your eyes are open or closed, visual hallucinations arise as kaleidoscopic plays of shapes and colours. The sense of self may or may not remain intact. There could be reliving of recent or remote events in your life all the way back to childhood. 
  • Journeyer’s often experience intense joy, happiness, love and a sense of unity with themselves, others and the world. LSD often activates vivid memory traces with pronounced emotional undertones. A state of euphoria which can take different forms such as exhilarated elation with unmotivated laughter, deep feelings of peace, exuberant joy, and hedonistic pleasure is a common quality of many journeyer’s experiences (ref).
  • 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.
  • At times, journeyer's may experience a transient period of notable anxiety, paranoia, fear or overwhelm. During the pleasant and challenging aspects of a journey, it's important for journeyer's to remember to trust, let go, be open, breath, and surrender. Challenging aspects of a journey should be met with curiosity, openness and viewed as a path for insights and personal growth. These can be important points in the journey in which a sitter becomes the interface with reality to reassure journeyer safety. If you want to learn how mindfulness can help, click here.

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).
  • 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.