Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How LSD Changes Your Perception

I am currently enrolled in another online class and I have to read a book on LSD for it. After reading quite a bit of it, it is safe to say that while under the influence of LSD, it affects the brain and a person's perception more than any other illicit drug. If someone takes LSD quite regularly, it is even possible to have LSD flashbacks while you are completely sober. LSD-25, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a common well known hallucinogen first discovered in 1938. It is found in a fungus called ergot that grows on rye and other grains. Side affects include distortion of sensory perception, hallucinations and illusions, and alterations of thinking and self-awareness. It also has physical symptoms such as dilated pupils, increased heart rate and blood pressure, blurring of vision, and sweating, among others. In any case, it will affect your mind's perception of the world around you. If that perception is positive or enjoyable, it is said that you had a "good trip"- a term coined by the CIA in the 1950's. However, it is also possible for your perception of the world to be dark and very nightmarish- termed as having a bad trip.
So, what affect do hallucinogens have on the brain? Scientists have dedicated years of research to this question, and there still is not one concrete answer. One important detail that has been figured out is the effect on serotonin levels that hallucinogens have. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating moods, appetite, sexuality, sleep, and sensory perception. LSD causes an increase in the level of brain serotonin, but they inhibit rapid firing of neurons containing serotonin. This is a negative feedback system in which as the serotonin level rises, the activity of serotonergic neurons decreases.
These drugs act initially on the serotonin system, which sends into motion a pattern of complex action potentials and activity. LSD also affects the way that the retinas process information and conduct that information to the brain. As little as 0.25 micrograms of LSD per 2.2 pounds of body weight can produce these effects!

The following video shows soldiers who were given LSD. In the 1950's, the CIA believed that LSD could be used as a "truth serum" and wanted to give it to POW's and other enemies. They tested it out on their own first, as well as many other unwilling participants:

A common housewife describes her perceptions while on LSD:


  1. While I have studied drug addictions and aim for a career within addictions and mental health I had never heard about the CIA experimenting on their own soldiers without them even knowing! It goes to show you exactly why there are so many ethical guidelines now, because there were not ANY back then.

  2. I was glad that you posted on LSD. I had considered doing so myself, or thought somebody might. It was interesting (and maybe a bit bothersome) to find that tests were done on someone carrying a weapon, or put in any situation in which they could harm themselves. No matter what the drug, even something as commonplace as caffeine, can have an affect on someone - and putting them in harm's way does not (as referenced by another student that posted) seem to meet any ethical guidelines.
    That being said, I am intrigued with the idea of LSD. As we've learned in this class perception is involved in everything that we do. To take a chemical that can alter our senses, which are involved in all that we do, seems like an idiotic idea. However, so many chemicals in everyday life can alter our senses. Caffeine is one of the most common chemicals consumed everyday, some people can't function without it. It can turn a cranky person into an alert, able, and otherwise content person. So I don't entirely disagree with the idea of experimenting with chemicals that can alter one's state if done safely, willingly, and not habitual. Some of the best musicians, most talented artists, and brightest writers/philosophers admit to consuming LSD. If a person could have insight into their own mind on another level, or feel at one with the universe this seems a far better use of chemicals than alcohol and nicotine. If anyone has watched the movie Limitless, it is another interesting idea - a pill that makes you and your brain more effective. I admit to believing that something like this exists. I've heard that it is a myth that we only use a small percentage of our brains. Regardless, many drugs are available that make people more attentive or able. Caffeine makes people alert, amphetamines make people attentive/alert/sometimes even making people less inhibited - and alchol, well...one can go on and on about its various effects on different people. There are even medications for anxiety. So I have to believe that there is a pill that combines many of these effects into one and allows a person to be a better version of him or herself, if not better than enhanced - or as the title put it, Limitless. Thank you for your post and informing me of how LSD works and the videos that show trials on it!