Lysergic acid diethlyamide (LSD) more commonly known in our culture as "acid," belongs to a group of illicit drugs classified as hallucinogens. Hallucinogens, when ingested, can cause severe hallucinations that may last anywhere from six to twelve hours depending on purity. Hallucinations are by definition "profound distortions in a person's perceptions of reality." The use of hallucinogens is not a new phenomenon. Psilocybin, peyote, and mescaline (derived from the peyote cactus) have been dated back thousands of years to ancient Indian religious ceremonies. An archeological dig in Mexico uncovered ancient writings, preserved by lava, that indicate the use of hallucinogens as long as four thousand years ago.
Hallucinogens, especially LSD, were prominent in the hippie culture of the 1960 s and 1970 s, but their popularity declined during the 1980 s, giving rise to harder substances such as cocaine. In 1972 it was reported that five percent of the nation, primarily under the age of eighteen, had experimented at least once with LSD. In 1974 that number had leapt to seventeen percent, and by 1979 the numbers were up to twenty-five percent. These numbers dropped steadily as heroine and cocaine gained popularity in the 1980's, but with the 1990's came another rise in the mainstream use of LSD. In 1992 nine percent of high school seniors had tried LSD. By 1996 that number had risen to thirteen percent and in 2000 declined to eleven percent.
Acceptance of the drug has clearly risen as well. In 1991 ninety percent of high school students disapproved of even a single experimentation. By 1996 that number had dropped to eighty percent. As was the case in the sixties and seventies, the primary users were young white men and women, upper to middle class, who typically chose psychotropic substances as opposed to harder drugs.
Although use of LSD was primarily white, young adults, use was also found in a small percentage of young Blacks and Hispanics. Albert Hofmann, a chemist working at the Sandoz Corporation pharmaceutical laboratory in Switzerland, first synthesized LSD in 1938. Hofmann was researching medical uses of lysergic acid, a derivative or ergot (fungus that develops on rye grass). Hofmann developed many lysergic acid compounds, the one that made him famous though was the 25 th called, in German, Lyse rg-S"are-Di " athylamid 25, or LSD-25. Five years after creating LSD-25 Hofmann ingested a small amount, unaware of it's psychotropic effects, and opened up a new world. In his book LSD- My Problem Child Hofmann gives the earliest account of an LSD "trip": "My surroundings...
transformed themselves in more terrifying ways. Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms. They were in continuous motion, animated, as if driven by an inner restlessness... Even worse than these demonic transformations of the outer world were the alterations that I perceived in myself, in my inner being. Every exertion of my will, every attempt to put an end to the disintegration of the outer world and the dissolution of my ego, seemed to be wasted effort. A demon had invaded me, had taken possession of my body, mind, and soul." Hofmann relayed his experience to his superiors, who at first doubted his account, but upon their replication of his experiment all doubts were eliminated.
The effects of LSD vary depending on the concentration of the substance. LSD causes its effects by disrupting the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. LSD acts on certain groups of serotonin receptors designated the 5-HT 2 receptors. It's effects are most prominent in two brain regions: One is the cerebral cortex, an area involved in mood, cognition, and perception; the other is the locus ceruleus, which receives sensory signals from all areas of the body and has been described as the brain's "novelty detector" for important external stimuli.
Though "trips" usually consist of both "ups" and "downs", each individual trip is unique in the fact that it cannot be predicted. Experiences vary depending on amount of ingestion, mood, surroundings, and the users expectations. Users have intensified, and skewed, senses of perception. Colors, sounds, and smells become extreme, and often users will describe seeing movement in their peripheral vision as well as seeing visions that are not there.
Physical side effects have been reported such as: increased blood pressure and heart rate, dizziness, loss of appetite, dry mouth, sweating, nausea, numbness, and tremors. Long-term side effects have been reported, though not positively linked to LSD use. These are psychosis and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. Psychosis is a distortion of reality and an impairment to think rationally and communicate long after the trip has ended. Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder is more commonly known as "flashbacks." These are spontaneous episodes where the subject has re occurrences of the sensory distortions induced by LSD such as; motion on the edges of the vision, bright burst of light, and light trails. LSD is not licensed for any medical use so all that is produced and sold is done so illegally..