STUDY: Why Acid Trips Last So Long; LSD Might Fix Your Brain

The drug, and microdosing it, may have therapeutic potential after all.

A paper published this week in Cell, which contains the findings of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, suggests that lysergic acid diethylamide a/k/a LSD, a/k/a acid, a/k/a Lucille, a/k/a Lucy in the Sky, etc... may indeed contain elements that offer therapeutic and medicinal benefits. The researchers were also able to determine just why an acid trip can sometimes last for what seemingly feels like forever.

“Once LSD gets in the receptor, you can think of it as a hole in the ground,” study co-author Bryan Roth told Wired. “LSD jumps into it and then pulls a lid down over the top. . . Basically, from the structure we could tell that once LSD gets in there it can’t get out. That’s why it lasts so long.” 

And the entire time the LSD is underneath this “lid,” it is stimulating said receptor to produce all kinds of seemingly cerebral, out-of-this-world vibes, which translate to any felt or experienced trip.

To extrapolate this information, Roth and co-author Daniel Wacker isolated a manufactured brain receptor cell in its crystalline form, and then repeatedly blasted the frozen receptor with X-Rays produced by the Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source, in order to generate a 3-D image of what was actually happening between the LSD and the brain receptor––the first image to ever be captured showing the psychedelic drug bound to a brain receptor.

"It is potentially very dangerous. But it could have potential medicinal uses, some of which were reported in the medical literature decades ago."

“My lab has been trying to do this since the early 1990s,” Roth explained to Scientific American. “I remember Dan Wacker [sic] showing the image. It was basically a moment of silence. I started to fight back tears of gratitude that we had finally gotten it.”

Roth and Wacker’s study suggests too that, microdosing isn’t just an excuse for people to pop minuscule amounts of the drug.

“What we show in the paper is that LSD becomes a hundred times to a thousand times more potent [after a few hours],” Roth said to Scientific American. “It begins to explain not only why standard recreational doses have this profound effect, but also why microdoses (about 10 micrograms of LSD) might have an effect.”

Most microdosers seek elevated productivity and creativity. Others are hoping to treat symptoms related to anxiety, or depression.

"People have reported that they tend to live slightly healthier—they exercise more, eat better, meditate more frequently—as they microdose," psychedelic researcher Dr. James Fadiman previously told KINDLAND. "It’s like resetting your dials to that mid-point.”

Roth also admitted to Independent that in his youth, he was an amateur Dead Head.

“When I was younger, and The Grateful Dead was still around, I would occasionally go to Grateful Dead concerts. . . A lot of people took LSD and similar drugs during concerts, and it would be interesting to be in the parking lot hearing people wondering when their LSD experience was going to end.”

Acid trips can sometimes last for more than 18 hours, which is partly why popping a hit of blotter or dosing liquid acid from a vial is so dangerous when done irresponsibly, and why any panic or paranoia may not even begin to set in, until long after a user embarks on any vision quests, or mental reset-type experience. For contrast, a DMT-trip might last less than 10 minutes. 

“It is potentially very dangerous. But it could have potential medicinal uses, some of which were reported in the medical literature decades ago,” he said to the U.K. publication.

To be certain, reports of LSD-assisted anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment regimens regularly make rounds in the media cycle. Other psychedelics such as MDMA and psilocybin are also commonly lauded as showing similar effects for people suffering from mental disorders. 

But looking forward, Roth is hopeful to learn more about LSD.

“We can begin to determine whether the psychedelic experience is part and parcel of all the potential therapeutic effects,” Roth told Wired. “It may or may not be, but the structure basically gives us the potential to design drugs that may have the beneficial actions without the deleterious effects.”