An LSD withdrawal and detox program can help patients cope with psychological symptoms like anxiety, paranoia and suicidal ideation as they withdraw from the drug.
LSD belongs to a class of drugs called hallucinogens. Hallucinogens cause people to become out of touch with their surroundings and with their own thoughts and emotions.
Unlike other common drugs of abuse, such as heroin, LSD is not physically addictive so it is not typically associated with physical withdrawal symptoms. Despite this, LSD users can build a tolerance, meaning they need larger and larger quantities of the drug to achieve their desired high. This can make LSD use problematic and potentially dangerous for people who use it repeatedly. They may experience withdrawal symptoms that require a detox or counseling program to overcome.
Physical & Psychological LSD Withdrawal Symptoms
As mentioned, LSD isn’t considered physically addictive. Though it’s a powerful drug with very serious mental and physical effects, the body doesn’t become dependent upon its presence. When a person abuses LSD, they may develop a psychological dependence on it, so most withdrawal symptoms are mental or emotional in nature.
When a person is withdrawing from LSD, they are not likely to experience physical pain, sweating, nausea and vomiting as a person might with other drugs. Instead, a person may have unpredictable emotions or a strong desire to take more LSD in order to achieve the same pleasurable effects.
The common symptoms of LSD withdrawal, particularly in people who have repeatedly taken high doses of the drug, include:
- Anxiety: People may feel a general sense of anxiety. When they’re withdrawing from LSD, their anxiety may also be focused on their use of the drug and its potential impact on their brain or health.
- Lack of concentration: When someone stops LSD use, it can be difficult to concentrate. It can take several weeks for a normal level of attention to be regained.
- Confusion: One of the most common signs of LSD withdrawal is a sense of confusion. It can be difficult to separate real life from hallucinations, and it can take several days for cognitive function to return to normal.
- Depersonalization: This word refers to the altered sense of reality LSD users often experience while taking the drug. It can also occur after they’ve taken their last dose of the drug. It can be difficult for the person to distinguish between reality and the experience of a trip, so depersonalization can be part of that transition as someone stops using the drug.
- Flashbacks: Flashbacks are episodes where someone who previously used LSD starts to experience things they did during their trips, including the emotions and hallucinations involved.
These are just a few of the things that may occur when someone experiences LSD withdrawal, especially if they recently used the drug and immediately entered a detox or treatment program afterward. These psychological withdrawal symptoms often go away after a period of days or weeks. A person can theoretically withdraw from LSD cold turkey, but due to the potential of emotional and mental disturbances, it is often best to seek professional help to manage the resulting effects.
Also, many people wonder if it’s possible to die from LSD withdrawal. The answer is generally no, as there aren’t physical withdrawal symptoms. However, death could occur inadvertently as the result of side effects like psychosis or suicidal thoughts, which could change the behavior of the user.
LSD Effects & Withdrawal Timeline
In general, the LSD timeline for withdrawal as well as overall usage can look something like this:
- Within about 10 minutes of ingesting the drug, the user may start to feel some effects, such as a sense of euphoria.
- Around 45 to 90 minutes after consuming LSD, the person may start to experience physical symptoms. These can include a rapid heart rate, nausea and vomiting.
- Around an hour after ingesting LSD, visual hallucinations begin. Many people say they see colorful dots and pixelated visuals at this point.
- Around 90 minutes after taking the drug, these effects intensify.
- The peak of hallucinations is around three hours after taking LSD.
- The user will often start to experience reality again after about five hours, and the LSD effects should be fading after about 10 hours.
- After around 16 hours, the drug effects should be entirely gone.
- After this point, flashbacks and other emotional disturbances can occur for days, weeks, months or even years.
In fact, a condition called ‘hallucinogen persisting perception disorder’ (HPPD) can cause someone to suffer from visual disturbances and a recurrence of hallucinations for a year or more after LSD use is discontinued. A person may also suffer from persistent psychosis and mood disturbances for an extended period after withdrawing from LSD.
How Long Does LSD Withdrawal Typically Last?
There is no set time for LSD withdrawal, nor are there specific LSD withdrawal medication options. Many people, particularly first-time or infrequent users, may experience no withdrawal symptoms at all. During the withdrawal experience from LSD, some people may have symptoms similar to schizophrenia, such as paranoia or bizarre behaviors. Everyone’s brain is different, which is why there are so many different experiences with the LSD use and withdrawal from it.
Some specific factors affect LSD withdrawal, including:
This is important because it can determine not only how psychologically dependent a person may be on the drug, but also the level of tolerance they have built.
How often the person was taking the drug is also relevant, as is the amount they were taking.
It’s also important to consider someone’s state of mind at the time. Are they currently in the middle of a trip and moving into a detox period, or has it been a few days since the last exposure?
Withdrawal Remedies & Medications
With many addictive drugs, there are medications that can be given to someone during the detox and withdrawal periods. The medication helps ease symptoms and allows the body to cope with physical discomfort. This is not the case with LSD withdrawal because this drug is not physically addictive.
There aren’t specific LSD withdrawal medication options. If someone is under medical supervision during withdrawal, however, they might be given antidepressants or other medications that can help alleviate psychological symptoms. By taking drugs to help with their mental state, a person can start to normalize and begin moving toward recovery.
Medications for LSD withdrawal can be particularly important if the person is experiencing rare symptoms like psychosis or suicidal thoughts. These symptoms are most prevalent among very frequent and heavy users of LSD. One study found that the clonazepam was effective for treating symptoms of HPPD among people withdrawing from LSD.
Finding an Accredited Detox Facility
Often, people will find that they’ve become frustrated with their life as a result of their LSD use. They feel like LSD has taken over their life and become their sole focus. Many people will start to feel as if they can’t function socially without LSD, and they always crave the experience they get from using it. They may also feel like they’re moving toward feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, depression or even paranoia as the result of long-term and frequent use. For these reasons, they may decide medical detox and treatment for LSD are the right options for them. At a medical detox center, a team of highly trained professionals shows patients how to detox from LSD safely.
The LSD detox protocol should be highly individualized, as the effects of the drug are unique for everyone. A detox center can help patients cope with the withdrawal symptoms they’re experiencing from their LSD use. Many patients will enter an LSD detox center while they’re still feeling the effects of the drug, so the medical team will work to stabilize the person mentally and physically.
For people experiencing a bad trip or persistent effects of LSD abuse, detox could include the administration of an anxiety medication to alleviate feelings like terror and panic. There may also be the need to administer antipsychotic tranquilizers during a medical detox, but this is only in very serious situations where a person could potentially harm themselves or others.
Once the initial effects of LSD withdrawal are dealt with and symptoms are effectively managed, the patient would transition to treatment programs to help them stop using LSD altogether. This can include cognitive behavioral therapy and a combination of individual and group therapy. Through these, the patient will learn about various coping mechanisms that can help in social situations and everyday life.
Medical Detox vs. At-Home Detox
Many people wonder whether they should undergo a medical detox or an at-home detox. With LSD, this may depend on the individual. For someone who uses LSD very occasionally, they may be able to do a home detox. However, there are often underlying mental issues or other addictions that occur with LSD, which is why a medical detox program might be the best option.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What are hallucinogens?” April 2019. Accessed June 19, 2020.
Kraehenmann, Rainer; et al. “LSD increases primary process thinking v[…]receptor activation.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, November 8, 2017. Accessed June 19, 2020.
Lerner, Arturo; et al. “Clonazepam treatment of lysergic acid di[…]th anxiety features.” International Clinical Pharmacology, April 2003. Accessed June 19, 2020.
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