The Damage LSD Does / Documentary Video

Excerpts from "The Mind-Benders: Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and the Hallucinogens". This film explores the history of hallucinogenic drugs, and specifically the effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Combining graphics that suggest a hallucinogenic experience, snippets of interviews with users (who explain their reasons for taking the drug) and doctors, and taped sessions of research with volunteers, the film delves into the destructive uses of the drug.

Chemist Albert Hofmann, working at the Sandoz Corporation pharmaceutical laboratory in Switzerland, first synthesized LSD in 1938. He was conducting research on possible medical applications of various lysergic acid compounds derived from ergot, a fungus that develops on rye grass. Searching for compounds with therapeutic value, Hofmann created more than two dozen ergot-derived synthetic molecules.


LSD is sold on the street in tablets, capsules, and occasionally in liquid form. It is an odorless and colorless substance with a slightly bitter taste that is usually ingested orally. It is often added to absorbent paper, such as blotter paper, and divided into small decorated squares, with each square representing one dose.


LSD is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs, which include heroin and MDMA, have a high potential for abuse and serve no legitimate medical purpose. Its two precursors lysergic acid and lysergic acid amide are both in Schedule III of the CSA. The LSD precursors ergotamine and ergonovine are List I chemicals.


Acid, blotter acid, window pane, dots, mellow yellow


The short-term effects of LSD are unpredictable. They depend on the amount of the drug taken; the user's personality, mood, and expectations; and the surroundings in which the drug is used. Usually, the user feels the first effects of the drug within 30 to 90 minutes of ingestion. These experiences last for extended periods of time and typically begin to clear after about 12 hours. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors. Sensations may seem to "cross over" for the user, giving the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. If taken in a large enough dose, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations.


LSD users often have flashbacks, during which certain aspects of their LSD experience recur even though they have stopped taking the drug. In addition, LSD users may develop long-lasting psychoses, such as schizophrenia or severe depression. LSD is not considered an addictive drug - that is, it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine do. However, LSD users may develop tolerance to the drug, meaning that they must consume progressively larger doses of the drug in order to continue to experience the hallucinogenic effects that they seek.


LSD trafficking and abuse have decreased sharply since 2000, and a resurgence does not appear likely in the near term. National-level data regarding LSD availability (such as LSD seizures and LSD-related arrests) show a sharp decrease since 2000. LSD seizures, for example, decreased 100 percent from 2000 through 2005, and LSD-related arrests decreased 84.9 percent from 2000 through 2004 (see 2006 National Drug Threat Assessment Appendix B, Table 4 and Table 5). Demand for LSD also has decreased sharply since 2000, as reflected in national-level prevalence studies. In fact, Monitoring the Future (MTF) and National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data show that rates of past year use for LSD have decreased significantly for nearly every sampled age group (see 2006 National Drug Threat Assessment Appendix B, Table 1 and Table 2). Production of the drug also appears to be limited--with no reported laboratory seizures in 2004--and controlled by a relatively small number of experienced chemists. Moreover, LSD distribution appears to be very limited in most areas of the country. As such, resurgence in widespread LSD distribution is unlikely in the near term.


LSD is abused by teenagers and young adults in connection with raves, nightclubs and concert settings.

Approximately 1.9% of eighth graders, 2.5% of tenth graders, and 3.5% of twelfth graders surveyed as part of the 2005 Monitoring the Future study reported lifetime use of LSD. Approximately 44% of eighth graders, 60.8% of tenth graders, and 69.9% of twelfth graders surveyed in 2005 reported that taking LSD regularly was a "great risk." Additional survey results indicate that 5.6% of college students and 13.4% of young adults reported lifetime use of LSD.

Producer: National Archives and Records Administration. Creative Commons license: Public Domain.



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