Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Teens and LSD Abuse: Signs, Risks, and Treatment Options

LSD Abuse in Teens

It’s possible that teens are finding LSD less dangerous because they also find it fun. But abuse can have long lasting consequences.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD or plain “acid,” is a drug that seems custom-made for teenagers. The drug is placed on tiny sheets of paper printed with colorful cartoon characters, making it both visually interesting and portable. It can melt away in the mouth, leaving no pesky wrappers or ashes for nosy parents to find. It also leaves no scent on the breath or stains on the fingers when users take it, so teens might find it easy to sneak their use past school administrators. While they may find it entertaining, teens and LSD do go pair well. Unfortunately, teens who dabble in the use and abuse of LSD could be doing serious damage to their developing brains. Some might even develop addictions as a result of their use.

What is LSD?

LSD is a hallucinogenic drug that is manufactured in illicit laboratories all across the world. At one point, the drug was used in medical research, but much of the drug’s use is now considered illicit and illegal. Since the drug was once part of the medical community, however, researchers know quite a bit about how the drug works, and how people who take the drug might feel while they’re under the influence.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, LSD works by disturbing the function of cells in the brain and spinal cord, amending the production and use of a specific chemical used for sensory perception, muscle control and behavior.

When these systems are amended, LSD and teenage brain responses can cause radically transformed versions of reality, which might include:

  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Ability to “hear” colors or “see” sounds
  • A sensation of slowed time, or the feeling that time is passing quickly
  • A feeling of connectedness with a higher power

In the past, an experience like this was considered part of growing up, and native cultures often provided young men with hallucinogenic drugs to give them a peek into the world of the divine that might be just outside of their normal perception. Young people who study ancient cultures may be tempted to try LSD, teens believe that they’re just tapping into a valuable tradition that could help them transition from youth to adulthood. Unfortunately, teens who take LSD in the modern culture are likely having a very different experience, when compared to the experiences of people who take the drug in a native context.

As an article in the Journal of Drug Issues suggests, youths in native cultures take hallucinogenic drugs under the supervision of their elders, and their experiences are often monitored and explained. Guides like this can keep users from harming themselves while under the influence, and they can provide guidance that might keep an experience from taking a turn to the negative. Modern users rarely take LSD with this kind of help. In fact, modern teens might not ever admit to their elders that they even take drugs. The experiences they have might be much more dangerous as a result.

How Many Teens Abuse LSD?

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, roughly 20 million Americans aged 12  years or older reported to use LSD at least once in their lifetime.  Furthermore, over 740,000 people from the age of 12 to 17 and 4.5 million people from the age of 18 to 25 have used LSD at least once in their lives. A survey conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that more than 8% of high school students in America reported using LSD, and almost 4% of students used LSD in the past year.

Why Teens Use LSD

As is commonly the case, peer pressure or the need for teens to feel “cool” is often the reason a teenager might use LSD.  Very often a teen might be offered a “hit of acid” at a party, and feel the need to try it either to please their friends or perhaps out of curiosity.  In other instances, teens use LSD to feel a release from reality, or escape the pressures of everyday life.  Additionally, LSD has obtained an unfortunate reputation as being the “trippy” drug of choice due to how the drug was sensationalized during the hippy movement.  Some teens might want to emulate that lifestyle, which is why they may use LSD.

Negative Effects of LSD

Since LSD is produced illicitly, it comes with no dosing information or warning documentation. Teen users may have no idea how the drug was produced, and they might not know how much of the drug they should take and how the drug might impact them. Some teens may start off their LSD experimentation by taking in massive doses of the drug, flooding their bodies with all sorts of chemicals and feeling very intense reactions as a result.

The feelings of panic that might bubble up when a user feels overwhelmed might be augmented by the presence of LSD, and in no time at all, users might begin to head down a “bad trip,” in which they experience:

  • Terrifying hallucinations
  • Rapid heart rates
  • A sense of impending doom
  • Persistent fears about the health of others
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion

According to the Nemours Foundation, these experiences can last for 12 hours or more, and there’s no way for users to reduce the amount of time they’re under the influence. Once the drugs have taken hold, the trip will last for a specific period of time, and if it’s a negative experience, teens might simply be forced to endure the issue.

Those who emerge from a terrible experience like this might feel lucky and fortunate, but they might also be plunged back into dysfunction at a later date.

At one moment, the user might feel healthy and happy. At the next moment, that user might be back in a hallucinating state, feeling terror. Experts aren’t quite sure what causes this problem, and they’re similarly unsure of how to help people who deal with flashbacks. It’s a risk that users of this drug just take.

Understanding the Risk: Is LSD Dangerous?

Although experts have been quite vocal about the dangers of LSD and a number of people who have taken the drug discuss their concerns openly, many teens just don’t seem to understand the hazards of this drug, and in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, fewer teens report that abuse of the drug is dangerous. In 2002, 76.2 percent of teens felt that LSD use happening once or twice per week was dangerous. In 2011, that number dropped to 70.4 percent. This seems to suggest that teens are buying into marketing claims about the safety of LSD, and they’re choosing to dabble in this very dangerous drug without recognizing the hazards that lie ahead.

They might take the drug in the context of a dance party, using it to help them better see the flashing lights and feel the pulsating music. They might also know of friends who take the drug recreationally and feel comfortable discussing that fact, and that might also make them feel as though use isn’t risky.

Specific Risks of LSD for Teens

While anyone who takes LSD might be at risk for a negative episode and a catastrophic flashback syndrome, research suggests that teens who take this drug might have some consequences that just aren’t common for adults. As a result, this might be considered a drug that’s horrible for teens to take even once.

Much of the concern centers on the subject of addiction. Traditionally, LSD hasn’t been considered an addictive drug, because it doesn’t cause chemical damage inside the cells of the brain that have been associated with compulsive use. Unlike heroin, which has been linked to such damage, LSD has been considered a relatively safe drug from an addiction perspective. There’s some evidence, however, that suggests that teen LSD addiction syndromes can develop in response to LSD. In one study, in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers found that nearly 24.1 percent of teens who used hallucinogenic drugs like LSD had symptoms consistent with an abuse or dependence syndrome. While researchers might not be sure how many teens use LSD, researchers do know that some teens seem capable of forming very strong attachments to these drugs in a short period of time, and they seem capable of forming very serious addictions as a result. A separate study in the International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research also noted a dependence syndrome in adolescents who abused hallucinogens, and while the syndrome was most pronounced in those who took MDMA, it was part of the spectrum for adolescents who took LSD.

Teens addicted to LSD may find that they need the drug in order to cope with a strong emotion, such as anger or fear.

They may also find it hard to interact with others unless they’re under the influence, as the real world without the presence of drugs strikes them as colorless and boring. Some teens even begin to feel as though they need to take more and more LSD to feel the same amount of sensation. Their bodies become tolerant to the drug, and they might need to take massive doses in order to bring about the changes they crave. Abusing LSD is an intensely dangerous practice, as high doses of drugs have been associated with high levels of damage.

Signs of LSD Use in Teenagers

When talking about teens and LSD, it’s important to identify the signs in order to determine if, in fact, a teen is using.  The most obvious signs are behavioral, but there are some physical signs a teen is abusing LSD.  Here are some common signs to look for when determining if a teen is on LSD:

  • Excessive sweating, feverishness and/or chills
  • Vomiting, nausea and/or lack of appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Incoherent and/or unintelligible speech
  • Odd “loopy” behavior 
  • Panic attacks, paranoia, anxiety
  • Extreme highs and lows in mood
  • Inability to carry a conversation and/or easily distracted
  • Difficulty making choices
  • Unexplained euphoria and/or despondency 

What to Do if You Suspect a Teenager is Using LSD

The first step to take is to learn as much as possible about teens and LSD, such the effects, and treatment.  You should also make every effort to discuss the issue with your teen.  Having a mature, honest conversation with your teen about drug use might not always be possible because they are often reluctant to talk to parents about such matters.  This is when you should consider seeking professional help.  Very often, a teen is more likely to talk to a counselor about their LSD use, which can lead to better outcomes for your teen.

Help for Adolescent Boys With LSD Addiction

There are no specific medications that can be used to treat an LSD addiction, and there are no shots or chemicals that could be injected in order to make the need disappear. Instead, teen boys must learn more about how to use the power of their minds to keep their cravings for LSD at bay.

They learn how to respect their bodies, and they might be less inclined to use drugs in the future. As a teen boy, LSD abuse might also require conventional therapies in which they resolve conflict with their families and learn to express their desires clearly and plainly.

If you think your son would benefit from a program like this, please call. When it comes to LSD abuse, teenagers cannot afford to meddle with this drug, and often assistance is in order. This is the kind of assistance we offer at Muir Wood, and we have counselors available to get the enrollment process started right over the phone.  When you talk with us, you will soon discover why Muir Wood is considered one of the best drug treatment program campuses in the nation. Please call to find out more.

Getting Your Teenage Boy Into Treatment For LSD Use

As an adolescent boy, LSD might be tempting to try out. However, because of the damage it can cause during this highly developmental stage of life, LSD can have devastating results. If you suspect your teenage boy is abusing LSD, please consider getting him treatment.  When you give your child treatment, you are giving him the gift of a happier, more stable life.  Moreover, if there is an issue with LSD, getting him treatment may also help your teenager avoid complications or addictions to other substances down the line in the future.  In many cases, teenagers may turn to LSD as a means of escape from emotional unrest. Treatment can be the healthy substitute for LSD or any other substance, because it helps your child develop coping skills that will ensure them a bright, hopeful life well into adulthood. 

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