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Drugs Psychedelia

LSD Harm Reduction Guide

By on April 9, 2017

Introduction

The “S” in “LSD” comes from “Säure”, which means acid in German (Lyserg-säure-diäthylamid).

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, also known as LSD or Acid, is a serotonergic psychedelic which is part of the ergoline family. LSD is a Lysergamide, meaning it is one of the many amides of Lysergic Acid.

LSD is commonly grouped with other classical serotonergic psychedelics such as Psilocybin (found in Magic Mushrooms) & Dimethyltryptamine (found in many natural sources, such as Psychotria viridis, used in Ayahuasca). The reason that LSD is commonly seen as a similar compound to Psilocybin & Dimethyltryptamine is because all three of these compounds have a very similar molecular structure to 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, also known as serotonin). In fact, LSD helped scientists identify that serotonin plays a large role in mental health & function. This was due to LSD inducing profound mental effects, in research. When researchers recognized how similar LSD’s molecular structure was to serotonin, they were lead to believe that serotonin’s behavior could play a role in mental illnesses & cognitive function.

LSD as a drug, is popular for it’s favorable physical safety profile, almost non-existent addiction potential (self-regulatory due to rapid tolerance onset) and of course its mind-blowing effects regarding the alteration of conscious perception. LSD is known as a partial agonist, this means that it only produces a partial functional response from the receptors that it binds to. In comparison to full agonists such as MDMA or Methamphetamine, LSD releases much smaller quantities of our natural serotonin (since it is able to essentially act as serotonin), which drastically reduces the risk of depleting serotonin in the brain (depletion can lead to neurotoxic effects). At this point in time, there is absolutely no evidence of any neurotoxic effects induced by LSD, there is also no reason to believe that it would be neurotoxic.

When it comes to the potential dangers of LSD, as far as research currently shows, they are relatively straightforward. Each of the following aspects should be considered when attempting to use LSD responsibly:

Use Frequency

LSD is a relatively benign substance as far as research has shown, with regards to usual drug concerns like neurotoxicity. So, in contrast to a drug like MDMA, it is far less harmful. At this point in time, there are no concrete methods for determining a safe use frequency for LSD. However, this is how I think about this aspect of LSD usage. LSD tolerance builds up extremely quickly, this is due primarily to the downregulation of 5-HT2A receptors. Tolerance is hypothesized to last around ~14 days, give or take. I feel that working with tolerance is the best way to keep the LSD physically safe. So from a physical safety perspective, I would not recommend sustaining a long-term habit which relates to the use of LSD more frequently than once every two weeks. Short-term habits relating to LSD use which are more frequent than biweekly may still be physically safe, but this use frequency is not recommended. The main reason that I recommend at least 2 weeks between use is due to the possibility that LSD (and other serotonergic psychedelics) could be cardiotoxic when abused. Cardiotoxicity should never be a concern if LSD is used sparingly. Personally, I would recommend 2-4 weeks between LSD use. However, it isn’t really that big of a deal if a person deviates from those numbers occasionally. Here is an LSD tolerance calculator that I put together.

Drug Interactions

Please refer to the following chart to see the full drug interaction profile of LSD. To sum it up, Alcohol/Benzodiazepines/SSRIs will dampen the effects of LSD. Tramadol & Lithium are unsafe to combine with LSD. Combining LSD with Cocaine/Amphetamines/Stimulants is potentially unsafe. It is hypothesized that combining LSD with MDMA can increase the neurotoxic effects of the MDMA. As a general rule, I tend to avoid most drug combinations, since the research is extremely scarce on most illicit drug interactions. However, Cannabis is another relatively benign substance that greatly potentiates the intensity of LSD. LSD & Cannabis have great synergy, however caution is strongly advised with this combination as things can become unexpectedly overwhelming quite quickly. For this reason, if trying the combination for the first time, I would recommend reserving the Cannabis for after the LSD peak, which will breathe some life back into the experience. Once you are comfortable with Cannabis after the peak, it may become desirable to try it during the peak, or prior (I feel that smoking prior to peak is a bit of a waste). LSD also synergises well with Psilocybin/DMT/Ketamine/Nitrous Oxide.

Drug Purity

This is undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of LSD use to maintain. Due to the illegal nature of LSD, consumers are forced to acquire LSD through unregulated black markets. Compounds other than LSD are commonly sold to consumers as LSD (some of which can prove lethal upon ingestion). This means that the safest way to know that what you have is LSD, is to send a sample of whatever you have in your possession to a laboratory such as Energy Control. It is also an option to use a Ehrlich Reagent, but it is important to understand that the Ehrlich Reagent will return positive for any indole (LSD, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, 5-MeO-DIPT, Psilocybin, Psilocin, AMT etc). Quantitative analysis using a service like Energy Control is the best option, here.

Mindset

The mindset that we enter an LSD experience with is arguably the most important aspect of LSD use aside from making sure that your LSD is actually LSD. When under the influence of LSD, a person’s mindset becomes amplified to the highest degree imaginable. This means that it is vital to make sure that you are in a comfortable/relaxed place mentally, before embarking on any psychedelic trip. What I mean by this is that you should not take LSD if there is a lot of pressure on you to be doing something else at the same time, or if you are experiencing circumstances which require you to be responsible for a bunch things at once. LSD can make it very difficult to stay focused on our sober obligations, so try to get everything that you need to do out of the way before ingesting LSD (for example going to the toilet, setting up a tent, getting the campfire ready to be lit, making sure your belongings are in a safe place, basic things like this). It is also just as important to avoid using LSD if you are feeling uncomfortable, tired, depressed, suicidal or uncertain about whether or not you want to take the LSD. When taking LSD, you should commit yourself to the experience & allow yourself to flow freely & peacefully with it. If things get really weird, keep reminding yourself that you are on LSD & that it will only last a matter of hours. Don’t try to close yourself off from the experience, as this can induce an uncomfortable experience. Being on LSD is an excuse for things to be weird, just go with the flow & try to keep calm at all times. If you find yourself convinced that reality is broken, remember that it never will be, try to accept everything that you experience & you will avoid being “caught up” in things. It is best to leave personal belongings in a safe place while under the influence of psychedelics, as it can be easy to misplace possessions while tripping, this also allows you to concern yourself with fewer things.

Setting

Setting refers to the environment as well as the circumstances present in the environment at the time of your experience. For experienced users, this aspect becomes less crucial to ensuring that a trip does not head south. However, if you are not experienced & extremely comfortable with the psychedelic headspace, it is paramount to ensure that your environment is conducive to producing feel-good emotions. Regardless of experience level or comfort with psychedelics, it is always better to be in a nice environment whilst under the influence of LSD & other psychedelics. In the same way that the psychedelic experience amplifies our mindsets, they also amplify our perception of & sensitivity to our environments. It is generally best to avoid crowded areas or places that have a lot of untrusted or unknown people. From my perspective, the most wonderful places to experience psychedelics would be natural environments such as beaches/forests/rivers/conservation areas, preferably with a few close & trustworthy friends. These types of areas are good because they allow us to have a lot of control over our immediate surroundings, while simultaneously allowing us to marvel at the incomprehensible beauty of nature. Areas that contain a large number of people are much more difficult to keep under control, since we need to rely on all other individuals to keep their own composure, which is a tedious task. Psychedelics are hypothesized to increase our predictive entropy, this means that we make more assumptions about the potential possibilities which explain what we observe. This causes us to make more incorrect assumptions about what we are observing than usual, so don’t take your thoughts too seriously while under the influence of psychedelics, the plus side to this is that we potentially also make more correct assumptions, that we usually wouldn’t notice.

Timing

It is important to reserve LSD use for times where you are free from sober expectations and obligations for at least 12 hours, preferably 18 hours. Please do not drive while under the influence of psychedelics. I find that it is best to consume LSD between 10AM-3PM. LSD makes it difficult to fall asleep due to stimulating our adrenaline receptors, so it is best to plan your ingestion to allow for at least 12 hours before you intend to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation can be dangerous, so make sure you get enough sleep!

Dosage

If it is a person’s first time using LSD, I would never personally recommend taking any more than 100 ug. I feel that 100 ug is a great dose for first timers with a healthy & confident mindset, in a good environment. If a person is not confident in themselves, I would suggest between 50-100 ug. From my perspective, doses between threshold (~20 ug) to 50 ug can be rather underwhelming & occasionally slightly uncomfortable. What I mean by this is that, in my opinion, doses between 20-50 ug can induce the feeling of “coming up”, without ever really “getting there”. These low doses can be pleasant for those already familiar with psychedelics, but for newcomers I feel that doses between 20-50 ug have the potential to be off-putting. My reasoning for this is that a first-timer may feel that they are “coming up”, but because they don’t know where they are going, they can become slightly distressed because the same feeling can continue to persist throughout the experience. This is why I feel that a good starting dose for most people is ~75-100 ug, with a minimum starting dose of ~50 ug.

It is important to note that the scaling of the experience vs the dose, is not linear. So the difference between 100 ug & 200 ug can feel like a LOT more than twice the intensity. I wouldn’t ever recommend stepping up doses by any more than an additional 100 ug at a time.

Thanks a lot for reading! If there is anything that you feel I should edit in this article, please join the discussion here.

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