Can You Overdose on LSD? What Happens If You Take Too Much Acid
The fear of an overdose is one of the most powerful reasons people avoid using certain drugs and medications, especially illegal recreational drugs.
One of the main reasons that drugs become illegal or highly controlled in the first place is that the risks of using that drug outweigh any potential benefits from using them. That includes having a potentially high risk of overdose or a high risk of developing a psychological dependence or an addiction.
But LSD is a little different. There are a lot of rumors that you can’t overdose on LSD, which can lead people to the false conclusion that LSD is 100% safe to use.
The truth is a little more complicated than that, so let’s take a closer look at what LSD does, whether LSD overdoses are possible, and the risks and side effects of LSD use.
What Is An Overdose
Technically an overdose happens when you take so much of a particular drug or medication that it becomes toxic or harmful. You might also have been considered to have overdosed if you take more of a medication than intended, even if it doesn’t rise to be a toxic amount of the drug, especially if you took the additional medication intentionally or with the intent to cause harm to yourself.
A couple of things need to be unpacked there, especially about LSD overdose and whether you can overdose on LSD.
We’ll discuss whether an LSD overdose is possible in a moment. However, let’s first tease out what an overdose is and how that can apply to a drug that isn’t being used therapeutically. Or in other words, let’s talk about what overdose means in this context.
LSD studies use the drug experimentally to treat various mental health disorders. They use much smaller doses than people typically use when using LSD recreationally. In that sense, the recreational doses might be seen as an overdose in and of themselves.
On the other hand, it’s very hard to reach truly toxic levels of LSD, so far as we know. There aren’t many documented cases to work with, but in at least 3 cases where people took what most experts would consider an overdose, they didn’t experience ongoing negative physical side effects.
In all 3 cases, there was at least one potential benefit from the large dose of LSD that led to increased interest in studying LSD’s potential for therapeutic uses.
So, the toxic definition might not be the best one to work with.
What, then, about the potential negative side effects of LSD, like anxiety and paranoia? In some cases, those are more situational and associated with larger doses, but could a ‘bad trip’ count as an overdose?
This last definition is the one people most commonly mean when they talk about an LSD overdose, a bad trip, or getting high on LSD and having negative emotions and side effects resulting from those feelings. Reactions to a bad trip can be serious and sometimes have long-lasting effects.
Is LSD Overdose Possible?
So, one of the consistent questions about LSD is if you can overdose on LSD at all. And the truth is, we don’t know for sure, at least not in the sense of toxicity.
There are a lot of ways that LSD can be a problem, including that if you get LSD that isn’t pure or that has been mixed with other drugs, there is a higher risk of toxicity, but even relatively high doses of LSD don’t seem to cause classic overdose symptoms.
That doesn’t mean the risk of a traditional toxic overdose is 0. It just means that overdoses of that nature are extremely rare, and we don’t have much documentation of them happening.
Difference Between Toxicity And Overly Severe Side Effects
One of the key differences here is that there is a difference between having a bad experience and having a toxic reaction.
This isn’t to minimize the potential risk of a bad trip. Having a bad trip can have serious consequences and can be very distressing. Some people go to the hospital for a bad trip, though in most cases, they only need a safe place to calm down and wait for the drug to leave their system.
Toxicity, on the other hand, causes damage. A toxic overdose will have some effect on your body, whether it’s just stressing organs a little or a potentially fatal outcome.
LSD generally doesn’t have that kind of toxic effect. But there is one exception to that.
LSD is thought to act on the body’s serotonin system and has been known to cause serotonin syndrome, which is potentially fatal in some cases, especially when combined with other drugs or medications that also interact with the serotonin in your body, like SSRIs.
What Are The Side Effects Of LSD Use
There is a wide range of side effects of LSD use, and understanding them is important for understanding the risks associated with using LSD.
Here are some of the most common side effects of LSD:
- Feelings and emotions that change rapidly
- Different emotions than you would normally expect with certain stimuli
- Crossover between sensations (tasting color, smelling sounds, etc.)
- Panic attacks
- Unusual behavior
- Altered senses
- Altered sense of self
- Altered sense of time
- Altered sense of space
- Intense feelings
What Happens In Your Brain And Body When You Use LSD
Even though LSD was studied for several decades in the mid-19th century, like many drugs that interact directly with your brain and neurochemistry, we have theories about how and why it works, but we don’t know for sure.
For instance, the fact that LSD can cause serotonin syndrome, along with some of the common side effects, makes it clear that it interacts with the serotonin system, and it’s thought that the LSD molecules in your body bond with serotonin receptors.
However, what we don’t know is if that is the only method of action, meaning if that is the only thing LSD does in your brain and body, or if there are other ways LSD also impacts the normal function of your body.
At the same time, it’s not entirely clear why LSD is different from other drugs and medications that also impact the serotonin system.
There is a lot we still need to learn to understand how LSD works fully, and some of that information needs to come from science about other drugs and the brain itself, as well as studies on LSD specifically.
Can You Overdose On LSD And Cause Damage To Either Brain Or Body?
Serotonin Syndrome is usually the most serious possible consequence of using LSD regarding the physical side effects on your brain and body. Serotonin syndrome can also be fatal, and it’s important to ensure you aren’t mixing chemicals that work on the serotonin system when taking LSD.
Outside of that risk, it’s hard to say if there are any risks of LSD on your body and brain. One of the problems is just a lack of information, it’s difficult to study illegal drugs, and it can be difficult even to collect information and case studies from people who use LSD and other recreational drugs illegally.
That said, LSD seems to have a lower risk of causing permanent physical damage than other recreational drugs. That doesn’t mean, however, that using LSD is safe or risk-free.
Risks Of Using LSD
There are a lot of potential risks when you use LSD, including the potential to have a bad trip, since there is no way to predict your reaction to LSD until you take the drug.
In addition to the risk of having a bad trip, there can also be a risk of flashbacks, both flashbacks to past trauma while you are taking the drug, and LSD flashbacks, where you get the side effects and symptoms of taking LSD sometime in the future, without taking the drug, and often without warning.
Another significant and common risk that comes with taking LSD is that the drug can cause serious changes in your behavior and can lower your inhibitions or make you believe and behave in strange ways.
Abnormal behavior may be risky, dangerous, or more likely to draw attention to the fact that you are using an illegal drug, leading to drug charges.
Want To Stop Using LSD But Need Help?
If you’re ready to stop using LSD but aren’t sure how to get started or even why you started using LSD in the first place, Epiphany Wellness can help. Contact us to learn more about our programs and why Epiphany Wellness might be the best place you can be right now.
- Overdose: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Accessed January 5, 2023. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007287.htm
- Fuentes JJ, Fonseca F, Elices M, Farré M, Torrens M. Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry: A Systematic Review of Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trials. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2020;10. Accessed January 5, 2023. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00943
- Haden M, Woods B. LSD Overdoses: Three Case Reports. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2020;81(1):115-118.
- LSD Toxicity: Practice Essentials, Background, Pathophysiology and Etiology. Published online October 7, 2022. Accessed January 5, 2023. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1011615-overview