WHAT IS LSD?
LSD is one of the most potent, mood-changing chemicals. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in the ergot fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
It is produced in crystal form in laboratories, mainly in the United States. These crystals are converted to a liquid for distribution. It is odorless, colorless, and has a slightly bitter taste.
Known as “acid” and by many other names, LSD is sold on the street in small tablets (“microdots”), capsules or gelatin squares (“window panes”). It is sometimes added to absorbent paper, which is then divided into small squares decorated with designs or cartoon characters (“loony toons”). Occasionally it is sold in liquid form.
LSD users call an LSD experience a “trip,” typically lasting twelve hours or so. When things go wrong, which often happens, it is called a “bad trip,” another name for a living hell.
PHARMACOLOGY OF LSD
When ingested into the human body, LSD acts as a 5-HT (serotonin) receptor activator, while also dramatically increasing serotonin levels in the brain by deactivating systems that regulate serotonin levels.
Of the 15 different serotonin receptors in the brain, LSD mostly prefers the 2A subtype (5-HT2A). The 5-HT2A receptor is involved in cognitive processes in the prefrontal cortex. This is an important point, for this is where many of LSD’s benefits come from: its involvement in the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is thought to be active in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. It also plays a key role in a human’s ability to process information from all other brain systems, and make goal-directed decisions as a result.
Recently, researchers at The Beckley Foundation began to investigate the specific effects of LSD on the brain. The research is led by a group of neuroscientists at the Imperial College London. They raised money for the research through a crowd-funded campaign.
Beckley’s latest study involved giving 20 volunteers a small dose of LSD and then using MRI and MEG imaging to show how it affects brain processes.
The researchers believe LSD may reduce blood flow to the control centers of the brain and thus dampening their activity, which ultimately enhances brain connectivity. It’s thought that this increase in brain connectivity, or ‘entropy’, gives rise to the creative and unique thought patterns associated with the psychedelic experience.