If you are involved in drug culture you might be familiar with the idea that lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also commonly known simply as acid, stays around in your spinal fluid long after you have taken it.
According to some theories, this can result in vivid flashbacks and even ‘perma-tripping’, where your perception is permanently altered by the LSD in your spine.
But how true is this? As a symbol of the counterculture and a target of the longstanding international War on Drugs, LSD is surrounded by mythology and urban legends. It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction – it is true, for example, that the CIA used LSD as part of a ‘mind control programme’ known as Project MK-Ultra. So does LSD stay in your spine or is metabolised reasonably quickly?
The Effects of LSD
First synthesised in 1938, LSD is a very powerful hallucinogen. Despite many studies, it is still not fully understood exactly how LSD works but it is believed that the characteristic hallucinogenic effects are largely due to interaction with the serotonin receptors in the brain. Commonly known as the ‘feel good’ hormone, serotonin is also associated with a range of functions including regulating mood, behaviour, senses and thoughts.
LSD effects on the body and brain can vary widely from individual to individual. They can also be difficult to describe as the experience can be open to personal interpretation.
Some commonly reported and observed effects of LSD can include the following:
Effects on Perception
- Visual hallucinations or visual effects. Colours may be more vivid, shapes may be distorted and things may appear to move. The user may become hyper-focused on small details.
- A heightened or distorted sense of touch.
- Changes in mood, that can range from euphoria and bliss to extreme confusion and fear.
- Changes in thought. The user may experience time differently and have unusual thoughts or insights.
While the effects of LSD are mostly mental (commonly referred to as a trip), using the drug can have short-term physical impacts, including:
- Reduced appetite
- Dry mouth
How Long Does Acid Last?
Just as the experience of the trip can vary extensively, the duration of LSD effects can also be unpredictable. Typically though, they will start within 20 to 90 minutes of using the drug and could last between 6-15 hours or even longer. Most trips will not last longer than 12 hours, although there may be after-effects like a lingering sense of happiness or anxiety. It can also take up to 24 hours for your body to return to its regular state if you experience physical effects.
The length of the trip and any lingering after-effects can be influenced by a number of factors including the strength and size of the dose taken, sex, age, body mass index (BMI) and the individual’s metabolism.
How LSD is Metabolised by the Body
LSD is usually taken orally in the form of a blot on paper or, less commonly, a pill, a watery solution or a gelatine square known as a pane. It passes into the bloodstream and then into the brain and other organs, where it has its characteristic effects. LSD metabolism – the processing of the drug – is largely done by the liver, which breaks it down into different chemicals.
Because LSD is so strong it is only taken in tiny doses – typically between 65 and 200 micrograms (µg), although doses can be lighter or heavier than that. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram.
This can make it difficult to detect and can only be detected in urine using specialist tests. Most routine urine tests will not pick up LSD but there are some special techniques such as liquid-liquid extraction and ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectroscopy (UHPLC-MS/MS) that can.
LSD can be detected in blood but only for a limited time. In one study, researchers were able to detect LSD for up to 16 hours in people who had taken 200 micrograms of the drug. In people who had a lower dose of 100 micrograms, they could only detect it for up to 8 hours. LSD may also be detectable in hair for longer, but this does not mean that it is active in your system as markers stay present as your hair grows. This can be useful for drug tests for some substances but again, as LSD is taken in very small amounts, hair tests can be unreliable for its detection.
Does Acid Stay in Your Spine?
So does LSD stay in the spine and body? There is no scientific evidence that it does. While the tiny amounts involved in a regular dose of LSD make it difficult to detect, the best indications are that acid only stays in the system for a number of hours rather than days, weeks or even years.
The belief probably comes from the long-held idea of ‘flashbacks’, which are themselves difficult to prove or quantify. It is not generally accepted by scientists that flashbacks – if they do exist – are a result of drugs being stored in the spinal column or elsewhere in the body.
Potential Long-Term Effects of LSD in Your System
While the storage of LSD in the spine or elsewhere in the system appears to be a myth, there may be other long-term effects of LSD use. These tend to be more psychological than physical. One study found that a single dose of LSD in healthy volunteers was “subjectively considered a personally meaningful experience that had long-lasting subjective positive effects”.
For others, however, the effects can be negative and very serious. Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), is a condition involving perceptual changes lasting weeks or months following the use of a drug like LSD. Using acid and other hallucinogens can be detrimental to mental health, potentially triggering a mental health episode or exacerbating an existing condition.
If you feel you have a problem or are worried about someone else, it is important to seek substance abuse treatment and/or advice on your physical and mental health as soon as possible. Phone today on 0151 268 6992 or fill out our contact form.
Posted on Friday, June 9th, 2023 at 3:25 pm in Latest News.