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How Cost and Availability Influence LSD Use

Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, is a semi-synthetic drug derived from a fungus called ergot and a chemical called diethylamide. LSD stimulates the production of serotonin in the brain by activating serotonin receptors. These receptors are directly responsible for how a people visualize and interpret the world. The release of too much serotonin can cause changes in thought, perceptions and emotions that become hallucinations in the user.1

Traditionally, LSD is a drug people turn to when trying to extend or intensify an experience. Made popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s by people trying to follow in the footsteps of prominent movies stars and musicians. Today, those who use the drug do so to create a better or different experience than they have when taking other drugs. And this desire for a more intense experience is quickly satisfied with easy accessibility on the dark web accompanied by a relatively low price. However, LSD prices can fluctuate widely due to supply and demand, making the need for the drug that develops quickly in the user costly.

LSD Production Problems

The technical, physical, and chemical properties of LSD make the economics of its production and distribution different from most other kinds of drugs. Synthesizing the drug is a complex process that requires a sophisticated laboratory, rare ingredients, and advanced chemistry skills. The finished product provides a very large number of doses per kilogram of LSD.

This combination of high skill and low weight means that the world’s LSD users and distributors can rely on just a few small groups of people to produce the drug. But because so few people are responsible for production, disruption of just one LSD lab can dramatically disrupt worldwide supply. During the 2000 federal prosecution of LSD manufacturer, Leonard Pickard, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) claimed that he had been producing less than a pound of LSD every two weeks.2 The DEA estimated that his arrest and the prevention of that amount of the drug from reaching the market resulted in a 90% drop in LSD availability. When significant events like this disrupt the production of LSD, the price of the drug rises dramatically.

LSD Tolerance, Dependence and Demand

LSD users develop tolerance to the drug quickly, requiring more of the substance to achieve the same or better experiences each time.1 However, its users differ from abusers of other substances in two important ways:

  • First, using LSD does not usually create a physical dependence in a way similar to alcohol or opiates. People who use LSD, even on a regular basis, almost never need it to function normally or to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Second, there are many other drugs which have very similar psychedelic effects. For a natural alternative, LSD users might try magic mushrooms or peyote. These substances grow naturally yet still provide hallucinations. On the more artificial side, ecstasy and other designer drugs with LSD-like properties are widely available and popular among those who go to all-night dance parties.23

Since it is the experience of hallucination an LSD user is seeking rather than a specific chemical, he or she can simply move to another drug that produces a similar experience when the cost of LSD goes up.

Cost of LSD Use

No matter how often or how much of the drug a person uses, the cost of LSD use is physically, high, emotionally and financially high. Although not classically addicting like other drugs of abuse, LSD use causes unwanted and dangerous side effects. Some of these include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Numbness, weakness, and tremors
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychotic episodes, anxiety, paranoia, pain
  • Feelings of dying or going insane.
  • Flash backs
  • Long-term psychotic state and schizophrenia in those at risk for the condition1

Unfortunately, a reduction in LSD use due to supply disruption may not have a very significant effect on the lives of those who abuse the drug. Although a person may not use LSD if cost or availability becomes unfavorable, swapping one substance for another does not produce positive change and may lead to addiction.

Finding Help for LSD Use

If you or someone you know has a problem with LSD or a related substance, we are here for you. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions and help you find treatment. You are not alone. Call us now.

By Patti Richards

1FNP, Kathleen Davis. “LSD: Effects and Hazards.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 22 June 2017.
2Ciaramella, CJ. “How the 'Acid King' Won a Lawsuit Against the US Government.” Vice, Vice, 9 May 2016.
3How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, Feb. 2015.

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