4 min

Drug Myth Busters: LSD

4 min

Some would have you believe the psychedelic experience has no validity. Does LSD merely invoke vivid hallucinations or is there more to the story. What is fact and what is fiction? Zamnesia wants to help you understand all you can.


Information is corrupted in an age where prohibition has reigned supreme globally for as long as anybody alive can really remember. Urban myths and legends or outright lies surround mind-altering substances, their preparation, use and effects. Long-term legitimate scientific enquiry has been hobbled by the legal restrictions put on most drugs. The walls are coming down, but there is still much misconception and misunderstanding.

Wanting to ensure good times, good health and good memories, Zamnesia is going to shake the tree of drug cliches and misinformation and make sure you have the intelligence you need. In an information age get the right information before inhaling, snorting or swallowing anything from our well-stocked head shop or your well connected friends.


There are those, that will have you believe, that the effects of LSD and other psychedelics are merely illusions and have no importance. Even though they may seem profound, psychotropic experiences are simply hallucinations without merit.

This type of hubris is an artifact of the war on drugs mentality, which in the light of contemporary studies proves embarrassingly naive. Recent clinical scientific observations on the effects of LSD show what is going on in a tripping human brain. Using the latest brain mapping techniques new light has been cast on what it means to be under the influence of psychedelics.

Brain activity and connectedness similar to the uncorrupted brain of a child has been observed. Parts of the brain, that may not normally be connected, are participating in the processing of information. This is especially true of the visual cortex. Areas of the brain that are not usually engaged in the processing of vision take part when under the influence of LSD.

Wherever opinion may lay, one thing is sure, LSD and psychedelic drugs in general are part of the human experience and are here to stay. They are becoming culturally more popular and scientifically understood as time progresses. There is an absolute need to create a more sophisticated way of dealing with them other than simple prohibition, if we are to positively move ahead.


In 1938, using lysergic acid derived from ergot, Dr. Albert Hofmann first synthesized LSD. Working as a research chemist for Sandoz, Dr. Hofmann was searching for an analeptic or respitory and circulatory stimulant. LSD-25, Lysergic Acid Dimethylamide, was considered to have no real therapeutic value and was shelved for a number of years.

Albert Hofmann

1943 saw Dr. Hofmann returning to conduct further research when he inadvertently absorbed a small amount. Probably through his skin. The ensuing mild yet simultaneously frightening and exhilarating experience encouraged further investigation. A stronger dose of 0.25mg was taken with water and the first ever LSD trip was taken by a human. Dr. Hofmann extolled the virtues of LSD until his death in 2008.

LSD was a curiosity discussed by psychiatrists until it was brought spectacularly to the public's attention by Dr. Timothy Leary. His Psychedelics Research Project at Harvard University in 1960 was to be the precursor to turn on, tune in, drop out. This cultural revolution swept the world, yet in the end the ugly side of acid was made plain. Still, a whole generation of burnouts believed you could buy enlightenment at three bucks a pop.

By 1970 acid was part of the cultural fabric. Openly discussed, used and abused by artists and musicians, broadcasters and sportspeople. LSD has had a place in many subcultures ever since. The Mancurian Beat of the late eighties and the emerging rave culture of the nineties were fuelled by LSD. Extreme poly-athletes microdose LSD to improve visual acuity and fine motor control. Similarly microdosing is being used as a way to calm mental chatter and improve focus in young professionals wanting inspiration for the "next big thing".


Brain on LSD

Human experimentation has been going on since the 1950s, when it was thought LSD could be used to treat several forms of psychopathic disorders. At about the same time the CIA was experimenting with LSD as a wartime incapacitating drug or killer without weapon. It is only recently with the use of advanced brain scanning technologies, that an actual peek at the changes within the brain can be made in realtime.

A crowdfunded research project conducted by the Beckley Foundation has revealed the brain on acid. The director of the foundation, Amanda Fielding said: "We are finally unveiling the brain mechanisms underlying the potential of LSD, not only to heal, but also to deepen our understanding of consciousness itself."

Under the influence of LSD the brain's hierarchical structure was shown to be reorganized, so that different parts of the brain communicated directly with each other rather than being edited, filtered and prioritized.

Interestingly the parts of the brain that process hearing, attention, movement and vision were seen to be more connected, giving the appearance of a more unified brain. There was a marked decrease in connectivity between the parahippocampus and retrosplenial cortex, which suggests, that these systems are where information is prioritied and are the parts of the brain where the sense of self and ego reside.

These reductions in connectivity correlated to feelings of ego dissolution and altered meaning. The areas of the brain experiencing heightened connectivity may explain the intensely visual nature of the LSD experience and why there are the common experiences of hearing colours and seeing sounds.

The author of the study Professor David J. Nutt enthused "The drug can be seen as reversing the more restricted thinking we develop from infancy to childhood. The study could pave the way for LSD or related chemicals to be used to treat psychiatric disorders and could pull the brain out of thought patterns seen in depression and addiction."


With the singularity on the horizon and the distinct possibility of ecological failure around the corner the nature of the experience may well be irrelevant. Whether simply chemical tomfoolery going on in the brain or the gateway to another state of being will be left for science to discover. Either way LSD does give us a full sensory glimpse of the empathy needed to make the next great leap in human evolution.

Survival of the fittest and a lifestyle obsession whose mantra is more, more, more threatens our species with extinction. The psychedelic experience reveals that the future depends on survival of the friendliest. Mutually beneficial goals achieved through attentive cooperation can bring about the necessary balance with the natural world that humans are yet to master.

When discussing LSD, fundamental questions inevitably arise, that have been asked by humans since the rise of complex communication. What is the self? What is the mind? What is consciousness? So much is speculated yet so little is understood about either. Whatever they may be, introducing LSD into the equation gives experiences that, defy borders and stereotypes, demographics and cultures.

These common themes are the true value of the psychedelic experience. Elation, empathy, respect, joy and beauty reveal to us something shared in the human condition and our unique place in nature. Surely value should be given to insights, that can help us save us from ourselves. Even if they are illusions.


Hallucination and illusion are terms, that imply something isn't real. Stadium and street magicians confuse our senses with trickery to perform illusions. LSD may confuse the senses, but recent studies are hinting, that there is more to LSD than tripping. Scientific research into psychedelics is in its infancy, yet the real positive effects of LSD have already been observed. There is promise, that LSD can be a powerful medicine and a tool for helping us understand brain function. Unshackled by outdated laws further study may well prove shamanism and science to be two sides of the same coin.


Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
With a BSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Health Sciences and a passion for growing plants, Luke Sumpter has worked as a professional journalist and writer at the intersection of cannabis and science for the past 7 years.
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