Is LSD dangerous? If so, why

How dangerous is LSD?

At the beginning of the week, a 21-year-old seriously injured two men with a knife in Vienna. He is said to have been on LSD, a total of 147 trips were secured during the operation in his apartment - seven patrol cars from the Vienna-Brigittenau city police command, three Wega sector cars and a crew from the police dog unit moved up to the official act.

According to the police, the suspect was "extremely aggressive", and both he and the two victims were associated with the drug milieu. But how widespread is the illegal drug LSD and how aggressive is it?

Between tobacco and medicine

LSD, the full name of which is lysergic acid diethylamide, is one of the ten most widely used drugs worldwide, shows the Global Drug Survey (GDS). 17.5 percent of those surveyed stated that they had consumed LSD in the past twelve months. It ranks right after tobacco and above prescription drugs. However, the GDS is aimed specifically at people who have tried drugs, so the result is not representative, but an indicator of trends in use.

In Austria, LSD is in the niche: "It has been around for a long time and will be for a long time, but it is only ensured from time to time," says a spokesman for the Federal Criminal Police Office. The extent would be small to negligible, LSD a "side effect". Data from the Ministry of Health show: In surveys in 2008 and 2015, between one and two percent of the respondents stated that they had consumed LSD once in their life, data from addiction counseling facilities match this.

According to the Ministry of Health, cannabis would be more widespread in this country, which around a quarter of all Austrians between the ages of 15 and 64 have consumed at least once in their life. And: In 2017, 84 percent of the 20,500 people treated for illegal drugs were in therapy for opioids.

Worldwide, LSD is the drug with the best "price-performance ratio": the trip costs around 16 euros on a global average, according to GDS. One percent of users sought medical help after using the drug, but 65 percent of them were hospitalized - a high number compared to other substances.

Several hours of horror trip

The day that its discoverer Albert Hofmann first tested LSD on himself in 1943 went down in the history of pop culture. You can read in notes how he fell into a frenzy on the way home on his bike: "Now I gradually began to enjoy the unheard-of play of colors and shapes, colorful, fantastic shapes invaded me, changing kaleidoscopically," he wrote. But he also reports dizziness, anxiety, visual disturbances, paralysis and the urge to laugh and how his neighbor became a vicious witch. From today's perspective, his dose was many times too high.

Unlike MDMA and Speed, LSD didn't get progressively stronger over the years. That is not in the interests of the consumer, says Rainer Schmid, he is the scientific director of the drug advice center Check it !. The drug is highly potent, a millionth of a gram is enough for an hour-long trip.

Still, a single dose can be too strong for some users. This is not fatal, "but then you have a very long and extremely intense trip that doesn't necessarily have to be positive," says Schmid - depending on the dose, the effect can last up to five or six hours. LSD is not a party drug, even if it is used every now and then in techno clubs. Rather, it would be consumed by people who deal intensively with the effects of drugs. Schmid calls them "psychonauts".

However, it is not typical that LSD makes people aggressive: "Hallucinogenic drugs are consumed hedonistically," says Schmid, but horror trips can still cause panic. The setting and the psyche of the user are decisive for the drug experience - mind-altering drugs are sometimes triggers for psychotic episodes. Schmid: "A trip can be threatening. Because a lot of what lies dormant in us is threatening, that is suppressed. And when the control is gone, it comes up." (Gabriele Scherndl, August 10, 2019)

The authors of the Global Drug Survey give drug users tips on how to safely use intoxicating substances:

  • The greatest risk lies in using several drugs at the same time - without knowing how long each substance will work.
  • The experts advise trying any intoxicant first before experimenting with the drug.
  • At least 90 to 120 minutes should pass before another dose is taken.
  • Do not mix or combine illegal drugs with alcohol.
  • Do not use drugs alone. Others should know what you have taken.
  • At least one person in the group should not be intoxicated.
  • Those who feel uncomfortable should articulate this and ask for help.
  • Only take drugs in a safe and familiar place.
  • The first dose should be no more than a quarter of what is considered a low dose. A maximum of a quarter of a pill should also be swallowed.
  • Do not drive, bathe or handle dangerous objects while intoxicated.
  • Be aware that drugs do not always have the desired effect, but can also trigger "bad trips". (gueb)

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