Why We Should Be Concerned About Increasing LSD Use

Night party
Photo by Maurício Mascaro/Pexels.com

Recent reports suggest LSD use is on the rise, particularly among adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. The findings are more than concerning, as LSD can disconnect people from reality every time they get high. Sometimes, LSD trips can be so harmful that users will experience flashbacks from them months or even years later.

What Is LSD?

LSD blotter
Image Courtesy of DEA.gov

LSD is a potent hallucinogen drug that has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. “LSD” stands for lysergic acid diethylamide. LSD is a synthetic drug created in a lab in the 1960s. Because LSD is illegal and can only be obtained illicitly from the clandestine drug labs that produce it, it is often difficult to spot unless one knows what to look for. LSD usually appears in the form of saturated absorbent paper (also called blotter paper), which is then divided into small, decorated squares, with each square representing one dose of LSD. LSD can also appear in tablets (called “micro dots”), in saturated sugar cubes, or in liquid form.

The Effects of LSD Use

LSD’s effects vary depending on how much of it a user consumes. Typically, users can expect to experience:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • An increase in blood pressure
  • Sweating and a loss of appetite
  • Sleepiness, dry mouth, and tremors
Girl high on LSD

Those are the effects that are easily noticeable by an outside observer or a medical professional tending to someone high on LSD. However, LSD also has powerful psychological effects on users that aren’t outwardly apparent. For example, within an hour of ingesting LSD, users may experience extreme visual and mood changes. They may suffer impaired depth and time perception and severe distortions in perceiving objects, movements, sounds, colors, and tactile sensations.

While under the influence of LSD, one loses the ability to make sound judgments, making them more susceptible to injury. Users may suffer acute anxiety and depression after being high on LSD. Some users may experience Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, a condition that involves the user experiencing recurrences of certain aspects of the drug experience, also known as flashbacks. These can occur months or even years after one uses LSD.

One of the most common questions involving LSD is, “Can someone overdose on LSD?” While uncommon, overdoses can occur, and they generally involve longer, more intense “trips” and episodes of psychosis. In rare instances, deaths have been reported in connection to LSD overdoses.

Flashbacks and Other Long-Term Harm Caused by LSD Experimentation

The immediate effects of LSD use are not the only side effects of the drug that users have to worry about. LSD usage is associated with flashbacks and recurring trips, episodes in which the user experiences certain aspects of an LSD trip months or even years after they last used LSD.

Man in a restroom experiencing flashbacks

Long-term use of LSD also puts users at risk for LSD-related psychosis, which can manifest in the form of schizophrenia, depression, and even a loss of some degree of connection with reality and one’s surroundings and environment. Users who consume large quantities of the drug over time are at particularly high risk of suffering LSD-related psychosis.

The Scope of LSD Use Today

A 2022 research paper produced by the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health found that over 5.5 million U.S. adults are current LSD users. The percentage of U.S. adults who use the drug has increased from 0.9% in 2002 to 4% in 2019, indicating the drug’s popularity and prevalence more than quadrupled in less than 20 years.

The paper reported that much of the increase in LSD use has occurred in more recent years, particularly since 2015 and especially among adults in the millennial age bracket (late 20s, 30s, and early 40s). According to the study, LSD use has increased at the same time that perceptions of risk regarding LSD have gone down, meaning today’s Americans do not perceive LSD to be as dangerous as previous generations may have.

The senior author of the study said that a growing culture of acceptance around LSD may explain why its use has more than quadrupled in the last two decades. “Our finding of an upward trend in 12-month LSD use, overall and by age, matches our finding of a downward trend in perception of LSD as risky,” said Deborah Hasin, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and senior author. “Factors such as changes in risk perception, in the specific types of drugs available and in expectations of beneficial effects of ‘microdosing’ may all have led to increased use of certain hallucinogens in recent years.”

“Our results highlight such use as a growing public health concern and suggest that the increasing risk of potentially unsupervised hallucinogen use warrants preventive strategies.”

The authors of that study, including Dr. Hasin, expressed concern about an increase in LSD experimentation among the broader public. “In light of popular media reports of a forthcoming ‘psychedelic revolution’ with commercialization and marketing that may further reduce the public perception of any risk, researchers, clinicians, and policymakers should increase their attention to the rising rates of unsupervised hallucinogen use among the general public,” said Hasin. “Our results highlight such use as a growing public health concern and suggest that the increasing risk of potentially unsupervised hallucinogen use warrants preventive strategies.” Truly, the public needs to become better informed about the risks connected to LSD use, lest they be swept up in the LSD microdosing fad.

Addiction Treatment and Breaking Free from Hallucinogens for Good

Multiple studies have put forth various warnings about a steady rise in LSD use among Americans, especially millennials and younger Americans. A 2020 paper in the Scientific American drew the connection between spikes in LSD use and the difficulties of that year, suggesting young people were seeking LSD as a form of chemical escapism. That paper reported a 50% spike in LSD use from 2015 through 2018, and it predicted a much greater spike would occur during the pandemic and in the years that followed. Now, in 2024, with data showing LSD use has increased by more than 400% since 2002, it’s clear that the predictions were correct. Young Americans are increasingly turning to LSD to escape the challenges of reality.

However, LSD holds no tools to escape from the challenges of life, just like no mind-altering drug does. LSD, just as with other mind-altering substances, ends up causing more harm in users than the perceived and momentary “benefits” they initially believe they’re getting from the drug.

People who use LSD must be brought down off of the drug. They have to be shown healthier ways of addressing life’s challenges. They need to be taught better coping strategies that produce real and positive changes in their lives. If you know someone who is using LSD and who cannot stop on their own, please help them find and enter a qualified treatment center as soon as possible.


  • DOJ. “LSD Fast Facts.” Department of Justice, 2003. justice.gov
  • DEA. “LSD.” Drug Enforcement Administration, 2020. dea.gov
  • CMSPH. “New Study Estimates Over 5.5 Million U.S. Adults Use Hallucinogens.” Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, 2022. publichealth.columbia.edu
  • SA. “Americans Increase LSD Use—and a Bleak Outlook for the World May Be to Blame.” Scientific American, 2020. scientificamerican.com


Editorial Staff