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What Is LSD?

LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is often associated with silly, colorful parties held in the 1960s. People think of the typical LSD user as a member of the Flower Power generation that wanted to shake up the establishment and bring in a whole new order.

While modern teens might not be flocking to parks to hold sit-ins, and they might not be braiding flowers into their flowing manes of hair, they might very well be taking the same drug the hippies used, albeit at a lower dose.

In the 1960s, according to research from Brown University, LSD doses ranged between 100-200 micrograms, while a common LSD dose today is only 20-100 micrograms. That smaller dose shouldn’t indicate that modern teens are safe from LSD’s dangers. In reality, teens who take LSD could have many of the same struggles and setbacks that their parents or grandparents did when they took LSD. In some ways, modern teens face more LSD concerns than prior generations ever did.

Digging Into LSD Manufacturing

As a synthetic drug, LSD is created in a laboratory. Since there are no approved uses for LSD in this country, the laboratories in which the drug is made aren’t regulated. They may not even be real laboratories at all. They could be simple bathrooms manned by people with a little chemical know-how, a few raw materials, and a great deal of time. The drugs these labs produce could be incredibly powerful, very weak, or somewhere in between. It’s impossible for the average buyer to determine strength without running lab tests.

Similarly, without lab tests, it’s difficult for users to know if the drugs they’re buying really contain LSD or something else altogether. Since the drugs don’t have to go through a formal purification step, they could be substitute drugs, polluted drugs, or nothing.

Each dose a teen takes comes with these contamination and substitution risks. These risks are very real, as there are all sorts of new and modern drugs that could do a great deal of harm, including bath salts, cocaine, research chemicals, and methamphetamine. Teens who are exposed to these drugs may be forever altered, even if they never intended to take these drugs in the first place.

LSD-Specific Dangers

Teens buying and selling drugs.Teens who do happen upon a pure dose of LSD aren’t immune to the dangers the drug can cause. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), LSD is one of the most potent mood-altering chemicals out there. Since its discovery in 1938, it’s been altering the minds of people in a number of ways, both large and small.

As a hallucinogenic drug, LSD works to dampen or augment sensory signals in the brain. That means people under the influence of LSD often see things or feel things that they might not experience otherwise. People might feel as though they’re able to see sounds or hear colors. They might feel as though they can hear the thoughts of others. They might feel a benign sense of love for the world around them.

LSD can also cause a “bad trip,” in which users experience:

  • Terrifying visions
  • A feeling of sadness or despair
  • Fears of losing control or going insane
  • Panic

The National Drug Intelligence Center reports that the feelings and experiences of the user can, to some degree, dictate whether or not the trip will be profitable or harmful. People who feel calm when they take LSD tend to be people who enjoy the trip, while people anxious about the experience tend to have an anxious trip.

It’s not an exact science, however. People who go into an LSD experience feeling very calm and serene can still have a terrible trip. If they do, they could feel the results of that trip for a very long time.

LSD has been associated with a flashback syndrome in which the sensations a user experiences during the trip recur, often for no real reason at all. That means teens who take LSD, just once, could commit themselves to a lifetime of sporadic hallucinogenic episodes that are both unpleasant and uncontrollable.

Who Uses LSD?

In the annual Monitoring the Future Study in 2014, 3.7 percent of 12th graders admitted to lifetime exposure to LSD. That makes the drug much more popular than other hallucinogens, including ketamine, PCP, and salvia. When teens reach for hallucinogens, they seem to reach for LSD.

A typical teen recreational user of LSD is a fan of the club or rave scene, according to CESAR. These are teens who spend weekends and evenings stuffed into crowded clubs filled with dancing bodies, flashing lights, and loud music. LSD seems tailor-made for these environments, as the drug’s ability to enhance sensations could make going to a club seem much more fun.

A troubled young woman.

A clubbing teen on LSD may feel as though this particular club at this particular time is somehow unique, unusual, and strange. The lights seem brighter, the colors deeper, and the music more interesting. Their friends may have new attributes they’ve never noticed before, and they may be more willing to connect with strangers, too.

Clubs might also be an ideal place for LSD use simply because many dealers spend time in these environments, hoping to entice teens to buy the substances they’re selling. Teens might not know where to buy LSD in their suburban neighborhoods, but they may know just who to talk to at a club in order to get the drug. They may be pressured to try drugs in these environments, as everyone else seems to be enhancing the party with drugs.

Any teen who heads to parties like this on a regular basis should be at least approached about LSD use. Parents don’t need to be combative or argumentative about the issue. But parents can point out how drug use seems to be part of the teen club culture, and they can ask open-ended questions about drug use, which might allow the teen to open up.

It’s vital for parents to hold this talk in a manner that’s:

  • Loving
  • Supportive
  • Informative
  • Accepting

Teens with a drug problem often feel isolated and overwhelmed, and they may have no idea that there are programs that can help. Parents who encourage these teens to speak openly and honestly may help these teens to prepare for rehab. And in personalized treatment programs, these teens can actually get better.

Understanding LSD Rehab

There’s no miracle drug that can cure a teen’s interest in LSD. Instead, teens use their own brain cells to work through an addiction, and rehab helps them to strengthen key parts of the brain that are associated with reward and control.

A brain touched by drugs can become inherently focused on those drugs, meaning that an addicted teen will come to think of the drug as the ideal solution to any problem. In therapy, counselors remind teens of the myriad solutions they have at their fingertips. Stressed teens can use exercise, not drugs, to release stress. Curious teens can explore the world with art, not drugs. Lonely teens can make friends in book clubs, not via drug use. Once teens understand that a whole new world of opportunities lies in front of them, they may not need to use drugs again.

According to NIDA, there are a number of proven therapeutic options for teenage drug users, and in studies of efficacy, most have been deemed effective within 12-16 weeks. That means teen programs might be shorter than those given to adults. However, some teens do have more extensive issues and more sobriety challenges. Those teens might need to stay in treatment longer, NIDA says.

Teens who need help can get it at Next Generation Village. Here, they’ll have a team working with them that is dedicated to success in recovery. They’ll have academic support. They’ll have persistent solutions. They’ll have what they need. Parents can call the number on this page to find out more.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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