We spent our childhood attending seminars and assemblies regarding the negative consequences of drugs, alcohol and sex. It has been drilled into our brain that all drugs are created equal in that they are bad for our health and mind.
However, as we grow older, the line is blurred. Medical marijuana was legalized in a few states, and various studies were released suggesting that certain recreational drugs could be used for good or that they yield different results based off an individual’s genetic makeup or predispositions. LSD, also known as acid, is known for its severe hallucinogenic symptoms, but the long-term and short-term health and psychological effects differ from person to person.
Many would argue that this is due to a lack of consensus in the scientific community. According to a study conducted by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Neuroscience, hallucinogenic substances such as mushrooms, peyote and LSD do not necessarily cause mental health issues and could actually reduce the emergence of mental health issues in those who used it regularly.
On the other hand, other studies have found that those with no pre-existing mental issues have developed psychoses such as schizophrenia or chronic depression after using recreational LSD.
What we do know is that LSD disrupts the chemical balance within our brain.
“LSD activates a specific protein in the brain called the 5-HT2A receptor,” said Dr. M. Foster Olive, associate professor for ASU’s department of psychology. “This protein is normally activated by the neurotransmitter serotonin. However, many hallucinogens like LSD activate this protein much more potently than our brain's own serotonin.”
However, not all brains are created equal. LSD impacts every person's chemical makeup in a different way. Therefore, one person can have a positive "spiritual" experience while another will have a traumatizing hallucination.
“LSD is believed to reduce our sensory filters that normally block out unnecessary sensory information, but also cause the brain to perceive sensations that are not actually present," Olive said.
"Hallucinogens can cause the brain to blend different senses like sound and sight, and make the user seem to hear colors or see sounds. In some users, LSD can evoke spiritual experiences and altered states of consciousness and awareness, as well as other higher order cognitive functions, though it is not quite known how this occurs in the brain on a biological level."
Thus we can conclude there is no definitive set of health or mental effects for the use of LSD. Scientists continue to study the effects of LSD on various organisms, which is to be expected considering that there is no consensus in the scientific community. Although research needs to be completed before this drug is scientifically understood, we can not lump it with other drugs and treat it like any other illegal substance.
LSD is both non-addictive and non-toxic. There has never been a case of a person overdosing on LSD. Additionally, this drug has been found to have positive effects for some organisms. For example, one study found that small doses of LSD increased the web regularity of spiders while other recreational drugs decreased the spiders’ ability to effectively spin a web.
For humans, LSD has been found to cure people of pre-existing ailments. In one instance, LSD was used to cure the PTSD of a surviving Auschwitz victim, allowing him to sleep without nightmares for the first time in 30 years. Additionally, LSD has been used to cure some cases of alcoholism.
The government is right in banning a substance with such unpredictable effects. After all, people hallucinating from LSD have been known to jump out of windows or unknowingly harm those around them. But LSD is in a league of its own, and it ought not be classified as a harmful recreational drug along with drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
It is important not to generalize such a powerful substance, especially when it could have the power to help us in the future.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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