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What Is LSD

What Is LSD

LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamde) is a highly potent synthetic hallucinogen. It is manufactured from a lysergic acid compound found in ergot, a fungus that grows on grains.1 Because of its high potential for abuse, LSD is currently a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Currently, there is no accepted medical use in the United States.2


Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938 as an employee of the Santoz Laboratories. Hofmann was conducting research on the therapeutic value of the lysergic acid compounds as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant, though no great effects were discovered and his research was discontinued. Hofmann discovered the hallucinogenic effects of LSD in 1943 when he accidentally ingested some of the drug. This discovery renewed interest in the drug as a possible treatment for schizophrenia and as a research tool in studying mental illness.  In 1947, Sandoz marketed LSD under the trade name “Delsid” as a psychiatric panacea, curing everything from schizophrenia and criminal behavior to sexual perversions and alcoholism; they introduced it to the United States prescription drug market a year later.4

From the 1940’s to the mid 1970’s, LSD was extensively researched in the psychiatric community. Psychiatric students were encouraged to use LSD as a teaching tool to help understand schizophrenia. Soon, LSD emerged as a drug of abuse by some in the psychiatric and medical community who shared it with friends. By the 1960’s, casual use of LSD evolved into a subculture that celebrated mysticism and psychedelia and embraced media personalities such as Harvard University instructor Dr. Timothy Leary.

Though casual LSD use spread through the early 1970’s, publicity about the negative effects of LSD, such as “flashbacks” and “bad trips,” as well as prohibitive legislation and the efforts of law enforcement agencies led to a decreased popularity by the mid-seventies. By the early 1980’s, the value of LSD use in psychotherapy was discredited, and scientific study of the drug ended. 

Today’s recreational users of LSD often include people in their late teens and early twenties who are involved in the psychedelic music scene.   In the 1990’s, LSD was among the ranks of “club drugs” that, along with MDMA and ketamine, was found at dance clubs and large underground parties known as raves.  A recent national study suggests LSD use among high school students is declining, and may be at its lowest level in many years.


Courtesy The University of Maryland







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