As far as hallucinogens go, LSD sets the standard in terms of the types of effects hallucinogens produce. Also known as lysergic acid, LSD induces altered states of consciousness and out-of-this-world experiences through hallucinations. While not known to be addictive, LSD can nonetheless disrupt a person’s ability to function in daily life. As the most powerful hallucinogen on the market, signs of LSD use are generally easy to spot.
LSD’s powerful, mind-altering effects tend to attract teenagers and young adults, especially within nightclub environments. According to the University of Wisconsin, LSD effects can vary depending mood, personality, user expectations and immediate surroundings. Signs of LSD use can take any number of forms depending on dosage amount used as well as on how long a person has been using the drug.
LSD Effects on Brain Chemistry
Signs of LSD use stem from the drug’s ability to interfere serotonin production in the brain. According to Humboldt State University, serotonin acts a primary neurotransmitter chemical responsible for regulating:
- Sleep cycles
These functions make up the brain’s serotonin system, an intricate network of processes that enable a person to interact with his or her environment. In terms of chemical make-up, LSD shares a similar chemical structure with serotonin, which accounts for the brain’s ready acceptance of the drug’s effects. When ingested, LSD increases serotonin production and availability throughout the brain.
LSD exerts its greatest effects on visual perceptions creating “highs” where users may see:
- A blending of colors
- Enhanced color schemes
- Light enhancements in terms of seeing trails behind moving objects
- Combined sensory experiences, as in seeing sounds or tasting colors
- Distortions of space, such as seeing a normal-sized room as the size of an auditorium
Signs of LSD use can result from these effects as well as from the residual effects of the drug.
Signs of LSD Use
Physical Signs of LSD Use
As one of the primary neurotransmitters, LSD’s initial effects on serotonin activity have a ripple effect throughout the body’s central nervous. In general, neurotransmitters act as the body’s chemical messengers, relaying information from area to another.
Consequently, signs of LSD use can develop in any area of the body where serotonin has an impact. According to the University of Maryland, physical signs of LSD use may take the form of:
- Increase in heart rate
- Increase in blood pressure
- Profuse sweating
- Dilated pupils
- Impaired coordination
- Increase in body temperature
- Loss of appetite
Psychological Signs of LSD Use
Mental and emotional state during time of use greatly influences the type of “high” users experience. For this reason, effects brought on by LSD (and most all hallucinogen drugs) can be unpredictable to say the least.
Psychological signs of LSD use result from the drug’s effects on serotonin, which not only affects cognitive functions but also emotion-based or limbic system functions. A single drug experience can bring on a medley of emotional displays depending on the intensity of the “high.”
Psychological signs of LSD use include:
- Poor judgment and decision-making abilities
- Anxiety attacks
- Distorted sense of time and space
- Highly emotional and/or empathetic
- Elated emotional display
- Memory loss
- Loss of motivation
- Inability to concentrate
Short-Term Effects & Aftereffects
LSD exists in capsule and tablet form, though many recreational users ingest it in blotter paper form that’s been soaked in diluted LSD. According to the University of Hawaii, the drug takes effect within 30 to 45 minutes with a “high” lasting anywhere from six to eight hours.
During this time, elevated serotonin levels flow the brain and central nervous system. Once the drug’s effects start to wear off, changes in serotonin levels bring on certain drastic signs of LSD use that can be hard to miss:
- Psychotic-like behaviors
- Feelings of extreme anxiety
- Depression symptoms
- Panic attacks
As with most all hallucinogens, LSD “highs” typically correspond with a person’s mood state during time of use. This means someone who takes the drug while angry or sad will likely experience what’s known as a “bad trip.”
Unlike the spiritual-like, transcendent experiences commonly associated with LSD, “bad trips” can be horrifying, producing disturbing images and sensations. Signs of LSD use brought on by “bad trips” may take the form of:
- Feelings of rage
- Violent behavior displays
- Psychotic breaks
- Incoherent speech patterns making it impossible to communicate with others
- Feeling as if the body is disintegrating
- Rapid fluctuations in mood
Drastic Mood Shifts
Overall, noticeable signs of LSD use show up in a person’s emotional state more so than in the body, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Panic responses brought on by the drug may result from feelings of disorientation as LSD causes distortions in a person’s sense of time and space.
In the case of “bad trips,” feelings of losing one’s mind often occur and can be overwhelming. As serotonin levels rise and fall, these effects on the brain’s limbic system can incite drastic shifts in mood state causing a person to go from happy to sad to angry to contemplative within a matter of minutes.
With frequent LSD use, the residual effects of the drug can persist for days or even years afterwards. Residual signs of LSD use appear as flashbacks of previous drug “trips.”
Flashback episodes can stem from both bad and good “trips” and develop at any time. The feelings experienced during the prior “trip” also come to the surface. Under these conditions, a person can have a flashback at any given time along with the emotional and physical sensations that accompanied it.
Serotonin System Disturbances
LSD’s effects on the brain’s serotonin system can have grave repercussions for people susceptible to mental health problems. According to Brown University Health Education, hallucinatory effects can trigger symptoms of depression, mania and even schizophrenia.
People already struggling with these conditions may well see a worsening of symptoms from LSD use. Ultimately, signs of LSD use pose a threat to the brain’s delicate chemistry regardless of a person’s mental health status.
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