Is LSD a Depressant?
LSD is short for lysergic acid diethylamide. It is an illicit hallucinogen that comes as a white powder or clear liquid. Typically taken by mouth, the psychedelic drug can also be injected into a vein or inhaled through the nose.
LSD is a mind-altering drug that changes behavior, mood and a person’s perception of physical reality.
But while LSD can cause effects characteristic of both depressant and stimulant drugs, it is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institutes of Health as a hallucinogen, not as a depressant.
Hallucinations are things that are thought to be real. They can often be seen, heard or felt. In reality, though, the mind is creating them, and they do not exist.
Notably, LSD and other hallucinogens do not have the sedating effects of depressant drugs, such as Xanax, Valium and the “date rape” drug Rohypnol, which is not approved for sale or use in the United States.
This illicit drug has dangerous effects on the mind, including hallucinations and visual distortions, mood swings and altered perceptions of time. LSD produces physical effects that mirror those of other hallucinogens, including dilated pupils, tremors, increased heart rate, high blood pressure and sweating.
LSD can also be taken by mouth. When administered orally, a user can expect to start feeling the effects of LSD within 20 to 30 minutes. These effects usually peak in about two to four hours and can last up to a total of 12 hours.
LSD affects a person both physically and psychologically. These effects can be short- or long-term.
Physical Effects of LSD Include:
- Increased alertness or energy
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Increased blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate
- Clenching of the jaw
- Numbness, weakness and tremors
- Increased sweating
Psychological Effects of LSD Include:
- Altered state of mind
- Altered perception of environment
- Altered perception of psychological well-being
- Changes in personality
- Detachment between one’s self and the outside world
- Anxiety, depression and schizophrenia
The World Health Organization, the American Society for Addiction Medicine, the DEA and the National Institutes of Health, among others use varying systems of classification for drugs. Among these are the stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effects of a drug on the central nervous system.
The symptoms of LSD use are quite different from those of tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics, which include drowsiness and low blood pressure. Based on this criteria, LSD is clearly not a depressant.
A small study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016 showed that the hallucinogen psilocybin used along with psychotherapy may prove effective in treating anxiety and depression.
The study found that a single, moderate dose of psilocybin produced fast-acting, lasting and significant anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in patients dealing with the psychological effects of a cancer diagnosis.
A 2017 article published in The New York Times asserted that other non-scientific reports have claimed the same effects are possible using small doses of LSD, a new and unproven practice called microdosing.
The author of the article warned that the psilocybin study had some significant design flaws, including a possible “carry-over effect” from a control substance called niacin, a vitamin found in greens, meat, poultry and fish, also used in the study.
And, while no definitive association between hallucinogen use and mental illness has been found as of yet, the drug’s Schedule I classification makes current data unreliable. Because LSD has no legitimate medical use and a high potential for abuse, it is difficult for researchers to gain access to larger, more controlled long-term clinical studies.
Additionally, users may be at risk for bad trips or flashbacks, and LSD may trigger a psychotic disorder in those with a genetic risk.
Mixing the two substances can sometimes lead to a state of “wandering.” Wandering causes a user to stray away for a length of time without a clear sense of direction, making the person vulnerable to injury.
Other risks of mixing LSD with other drugs can include seizures and death.
Seeking treatment for LSD addiction can be an intimidating thought, but many rehab facilities cater to the specific needs of their patients. With rehab centers across the United States, The Recovery Village can help you find effective treatment options for your mental health and substance use problems. To learn more about how treatment can help you heal, contact a representative at The Recovery Village today.
Friedman, R.A. (2017, February 13). LSD to Cure Depression? Not So Fast. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/opinion/lsd-to-cure-depression-not-so-fast.html
Griffiths, R.R. (2016, November 30). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675513
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015, February). Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/how-do-hallucinogens-lsd-psilocybin-peyote-dmt-ayahuasca-affect-brain-body
National Institutes of Health. (2017, February 14). Protein structure reveals how LSD affects the brain. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/protein-structure-reveals-how-lsd-affects-brain
Ross, S. et al. (2016, November 30). Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675512
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018, May 5). Substance use – LSD. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000795.htm
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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