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.
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
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.