Lysergic acid diethylamide, often called LSD or acid, is a hallucinogenic substance that is popular because of its psychedelic effects. LSD gained notoriety for the vivid hallucinations people can experience while on it, where they are able to see and hear things most sober minds wouldn't notice or imagine. It has become one of the most widely used psychedelics for people trying to escape the average world or expand their creativity and imagination. For these reasons, it is common with musicians and artists, and there are more than a few famous acid users.
Many people are aware of the hallucinatory effects, but most don’t know exactly what happens to your body and brain on acid. The truth is the substance has more potential side effects than most people realize.
LSD does not have immediate effects. In fact, most people don't experience symptoms until 30 to 90 minutes after taking a dose. As soon as the acid kicks in, the pupils dilate and body temperature and blood pressure change
LSD users may also lose their appetite and might become tremulous.
One of the main reasons people take LSD is to experience hallucinations. Hallucinations occur because the drug has a similar structure to certain neurotransmitters in the brain. The key neurotransmitter that acid most closely resembles is serotonin.
Serotonin is responsible for several bodily functions, such as controlling sleep and the digestive system. It also helps regulate a person’s emotions, general mood, and some cognitive processes. Serotonin plays an important role in governing perception and understanding the data taken in by the sensory organs.
With its similar structure, LSD is able to bond with the serotonin receptors. It then disrupts the signals sent to these receptors and stops serotonin from interacting with them. It can activate the receptors more often and with larger signals. This disruption often leads to hallucinations or enhanced awareness of sensory information.
Visual hallucinations can manifest in a variety of ways. Stationary objects may appear to move or become fluid, colors may become more vivid, and real world items can look distorted, changing shape or size. It is also possible for people to see things that are not there at all.
A study at Imperial College London suggests extra parts of the brain are used to process visual information, causing users to see things they usually would not. Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, the leader of the study, says:
We observed brain changes under LSD that suggested our volunteers were ‘seeing with their eyes shut’ - albeit they were seeing things from their imagination rather than from the outside world.
LSD users will often experience visual hallucinations of some type, but they are not the only kind of sensory disturbance that can occur. Other hallucinations include auditory (hearing things that are not real), tactile (feeling things that are not there), gustatory (tasting things that don't actually exist), and olfactory (phantom smells).
In all of these cases, users experience things through their senses that are not genuine, or, more accurately, their perception shifts and their sense of reality is distorted as they misinterpret sensory information.
Unfortunately, the hallucinations are not always pleasant. It is possible for those taking acid to hear negative internal voices or feel and taste unpleasant things as certain senses become amplified and the user's perception changes.