How long does LSD stay in your system?

Here, we take a closer look at LSD, what it is, how long LSD stays in your system, and the long-term effects of using LSD.

What happens in the body when you take drugs?

When a person consumes drugs, they are broken down by the liver, and a proportion of the drugs and their metabolites are released into the bloodstream.

These substances can then be detected using a variety of drug testing methods including via sweat, urine, saliva, hair and nails.

In the case of hair and nail drug testing, some of the drug and its metabolites travel to the blood vessels in the hair follicles and nail beds.

Substances then become trapped in the medulla (hair shaft) and the nail fibres and stay there as the hair and nails grow. This makes it possible to detect whether someone has consumed drugs, using hair and/or nail testing.

What is LSD?

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known by the street names Acid, Tabs, Blotter, and Paper Mushrooms, is a powerful hallucinogenic drug.

LSD has long been popular among recreational drug users and partygoers and is commonly sold as a small piece of square paper, often with a picture on it. However, it is also sold as a liquid form or small pellets (micro dots).

It is most commonly swallowed, but some people also squirt liquid LSD onto their tongue. Others add it to food and drink products.

In Ireland, LSD is a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This means that the import, export, production, possession, sale, or supply of LSD is illegal in Ireland.

What does LSD do to you?

Drugs can affect people in different ways so it is important to remember that not everyone will have the same experience while using the same substances. Drugs can also affect individuals differently when taken at a different time.

LSD is a very powerful psychedelic drug which can have different effects depending on the person taking it, how much LSD they have taken, their mood when taking it, and frequency of usage.

When a person consumes LSD, it enters the system and binds to brain cell receptors. This alters the way the brain responds to events and emotions, causing the user to experience a distorted perception of colours, objects, and sounds. This is commonly referred to as ‘tripping’.

The effects of LSD can vary significantly, and LSD trips can last for hours. A person taking LSD will not know what sort of trip they are going to experience before they have taken the drug, and it can be difficult to control symptoms once the trip has begun.

Some LSD users feel euphoric, giggly, and excited while others become panicked, frightened, confused and/or suspicious.

LSD can also cause feelings of anxiety or depression to become worse and can even put people at increased risk of harming themselves, depending on their mood when taking it.

How long does LSD stay in your system?

When a person uses LSD, a proportion of the drug and metabolites are released into the bloodstream, with a small amount being excreted by the body.

How long LSD stays in your system and how quickly someone might feel the effects depends on several factors. This includes the metabolism and weight of the individual; how much LSD was consumed and how often it is used.

LSD can take anything from 20 minutes to two hours to take effect, and the effects can last for several hours.

It is important to remember that it can take days for a person to feel normal again after taking LSD.

Is LSD addictive?

LSD is not generally considered to be addictive. However, people who use LSD regularly are more likely to develop a tolerance towards it.

Over time, repeated LSD use means that individuals require larger doses to achieve the same desired effect.

As high doses of LSD are consumed, it is more likely that an individual will experience longer ‘trips’ and hallucinations.

How long does it take for LSD to show up in a drug test?

Even after the side effects of LSD have worn off and the ‘trip’ has ended, LSD use can still be detected by a drug test, depending on the type of test you take.

The rate at which head hair grows means that head hair testing can detect LSD up to 12 months after it has been consumed, depending on the length of hair available.

Nail drug testing can be used to provide an overview of up to 12 months for drug use (six months for fingernails and 12 months for toenails).

What factors affect how long LSD stays in your system?

The length of time that LSD remains in a person’s system depends on several factors including:

  • The amount of LSD consumed
  • Frequency of consumption
  • The individual’s BMI (body mass index), metabolism and weight
  • The method of consumption (e.g. swallowed, squirted onto the tongue or mixed into food/drinks)

What are the long-term effects of LSD use?

Although the effects of LSD can wear off within 15 hours, depending on how much was consumed, regular LSD use over a prolonged period has been linked to long-term psychological problems, including:

  • Worsening mental health in people who have a history of mental health problems
  • Triggering of mental health problems in people who have not suffered with their mental health before
  • Flashbacks or ongoing visual distortions. These are sometimes referred to as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

Because an LSD trip can sometimes be frightening or disturbing, there is also an increased risk of self-harm among people who use LSD regularly. This is especially true if a person is feeling depressed or is in a bad mood before taking the drug.

What are the signs of LSD addiction?

While LSD is classed as a non-addictive drug, individuals can become tolerant to the substance over time, requiring higher doses to experience the desired effects.

Symptoms of this can vary from person-to-person. However, there are a few common signs you can look out for if you suspect someone you know is developing an LSD tolerance. These include:

  • Regular use of LSD, especially on a weekly or day-to-day basis
  • Being unable to stop taking LSD, even though it is affecting their life
  • Spending an increasing amount of time and money obtaining and using LSD
  • Being secretive or defensive about their LSD use
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities like family, relationships, and work
  • Behavioural changes such as mood swings and aggression

If you are concerned about a friend or family member who is using LSD, there are many helpful resources available online for both individuals struggling with substance misuse and their loved ones.

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Marie Law AlphaBiolabs

Marie Law

Head of Toxicology at AlphaBiolabs

A highly-skilled and respected scientist with over 13 years’ experience in the field of forensics, Marie joined AlphaBiolabs in 2022 and oversees the company’s growing toxicology team.

As Head of Toxicology, Marie’s day-to-day responsibilities include maintaining the highest quality testing standards for toxicology and further enhancing AlphaBiolabs’ drug and alcohol testing services for members of the public, the legal sector, and the workplace sector.

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