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LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a hallucinogenic drug prohibited internationally under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, which requires its state parties to adopt legislation against its production and distribution, except for limited scientific and medical purposes. Little is known about how LSD causes its effects. The drug came to be associated with hippies and the countercultural movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and was banned after reports, many of which were later found to be false, of people engaging in dangerous behavior due to delusions caused by the drug.


Although LSD can distort one's perceptions, this does not necessarily mean that the person does not realize that what his senses perceive are hallucinations. For example, if a person knew that a locked room had been left completely empty, and then were to return in an LSD-induced altered state and find an apple in that room, he might suspect that the apple was not really there, and that it was the result of a hallucination. On the other hand, if he were to encounter the apple in a place, such as a grocery store, where it could plausibly actually be, then there could be some uncertainty over whether it was really there.

Since the severity of the hallucinations tends to increase as dosage is increased, and one can generalize about what experiences a given dosage of a drug is likely to cause based on information learned from past experiences, there is much information that one can take into account in judging whether a perceived phenomenon is real or not. For example, a low dose of LSD would be less likely to cause such extreme distortions as perceiving nonexistent objects to be present. Also, some hallucinations are more common than others; for example, it is known that some people under the influence of LSD tend to see trails when objects move. A person who has used LSD many times and often seen those trails is likely to realize, based on past experience, that they are drug-induced.

Then again, LSD can also distort one's normal reasoning abilities. An LSD-influenced person may believe that he has come up with an insightful and important idea, and then after the drug's effects have subsided, re-examine the idea, find flaws in his prior thinking, and come to believe that it was not a particularly insightful or important idea after all. Likewise, sometimes a person who has taken LSD can become panicked by fears resulting from uncertainty as to what is real. The effects vary from person to person and from situation to situation. Whether on drugs or not, some people are more prone to extreme emotional reactions to certain situations than others, and people have differing degrees of ability to use reason and creativity to cope with challenging circumstances. A psychologically resourceful person would tend to be able to better handle stress, whether that stress resulted from drug-induced phenomena or not.

There are some people who have long-lasting reactions to LSD. For example, particularly in cases involving high dosages, a person can become psychotic and lose the ability, for months or longer, to function in society. A small minority of people, after using LSD a few times, find that hallucinations persist for the rest of their lives. These are typically mild hallucinations, such as trails, but some of these people have reported finding them bothersome.

Legal status

LSD was once available as a prescription drug, and there is some evidence that it can be useful in treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Libertarians would argue that LSD should be legalized so that each person can make his own decision about the costs and benefits. For example, a bedridden terminally ill person may feel that the risks of long-lasting effects are not a major concern.