How Does LSD Affect the Brain?

How Does LSD Affect the Brain?
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Dr. Joshua Yager is an Atlanta native, board-certified family practice physician who is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of his community.

Table of Contents

What is LSD?

Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, is a powerful psychedelic drug known for its profound effects on consciousness. This substance interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain, leading to significant changes in mood, sensory perception, and thought processes. Users often experience vivid visual hallucinations, along with shifts in how they perceive time and sound, during an LSD experience, which can last up to 12 hours. Beyond the immediate, intense experiences of an “acid trip,” research points to potential lasting negative consequences from LSD use.

How Does LSD Use Harm and Affect the Brain?

The use of LSD profoundly alters perception and cognition, leading to significant changes in how individuals experience the world. According to Time, effects of LSD use can include:

  • Visual distortions
  • Dissolution of the ego
  • Loss of self-identity
  • A heightened sense of connection to the surroundings

LSD induces vivid hallucinations, causing users to see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but are not. It’s common for users to experience synesthesia, a blending of senses where one might “hear” colors or “see” sounds. These hallucinatory experiences are often accompanied by rapid and intense emotional fluctuations, where pleasant sensations can swiftly become unsettling or frightening.

These alterations in perception are due to LSD’s impact on the brain, affecting how visual information is processed and enhancing or altering communication between different brain regions. Even after the effects of the drug have worn off, some changes may persist or manifest unexpectedly. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that some individuals might develop long-term psychological conditions such as persistent psychosis or hallucinogen persisting perception disorder, characterized by ongoing visual disturbances, hallucinations, paranoia, and symptoms of mood disorders.

What are the Short-Term Effects on the Brain?

LSD interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain, impacting various bodily functions from emotions and mood to motor skills and temperature regulation. Research from 2016 indicates that LSD not only alters brain blood flow and electrical activity but also enhances interconnectivity within brain regions.

These changes trigger a range of immediate effects, including:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Swift emotional shifts, oscillating from bliss to distress and paranoia
  • Distorted self-perception
  • Visual, auditory, or sensory hallucinations
  • Experience of synesthesia, where senses merge, such as “seeing” sounds
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rise in body temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feelings of numbness and weakness
  • Muscle tremors

What are the Long-Term Effects on the Brain?

Following the initial experiences of LSD, individuals may face acute anxiety or depression as the drug’s effects wane. A notable phenomenon related to LSD use is flashbacks, where individuals re-experience aspects of LSD trips days or months after last use. Flashbacks are generally short-lived, reversible, and benign, often bringing back visual memories accompanied by pleasant feelings without causing significant distress or impairment.

However, a more severe and lasting condition associated with LSD use is hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). Unlike flashbacks, HPPD presents long-term, potentially irreversible challenges, characterized by continuous, intrusive recurrences of the drug’s effects. Those suffering from HPPD face significant difficulties in daily functioning, requiring ongoing treatment to manage the condition’s persistent symptoms. The exact prevalence of HPPD is still under investigation.

Beyond flashbacks and HPPD, LSD users may be at risk for enduring drug-induced psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia. LSD’s interaction with serotonin receptors, specifically 5-HT2A, mirrors the hallucinogenic experiences of schizophrenia. This similarity is underscored by the effectiveness of antipsychotic medications in blocking LSD’s hallucinogenic effects, suggesting a link between LSD use and schizophrenia. Further research is necessary to fully understand the connection and the long-term implications of LSD on mental health.

LSD Addiction Treatment In Atlanta, GA At West Georgia Wellness Center

At West Georgia Wellness Center, we provide focused residential treatment for LSD addiction in Atlanta, GA. Our program is meticulously developed to address the complex nature of addiction, set in a calm and nurturing environment that’s essential for effective healing and recovery. Our team of skilled professionals delivers a variety of therapeutic approaches, including personalized one-on-one sessions, group therapy, holistic techniques, and involvement of family, all aimed at achieving sustainable recovery and enhancing overall wellbeing.

We understand that the path to recovery is personal and varies from one individual to another, which is why our treatment plans are adaptable to meet the needs of those battling long-standing addiction as well as those confronting recent issues. Our goal at West Georgia Wellness Center is to make a lasting difference in the lives of our clients. We strive to equip them with the tools and confidence needed for a life without dependency on substances. Call us today at 470-347-1264 or fill out our online contact form to embark on your journey to recovery and step into a brighter, substance-free future through our dedicated LSD addiction treatment program.

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