What the Yuck: Does acid cause brain damage?
August 19th, 2011
01:34 PM ET

What the Yuck: Does acid cause brain damage?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Is it true that acid causes permanent brain damage? I'm worried because years ago I took it once!

I wouldn't worry. Some past LSD users experience occasional flashbacks - hallucinations or reliving of a "trip" - that last a few minutes and aren't permanent.

Rarely, you can develop frequent distressing flashbacks or visual disturbances called Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. But if you haven't experienced either of these problems yet, you're probably okay.

In the short term, using LSD can lead to psychosis or severe depression, but those conditions happen at the time of use, not years later.

Are you worried because you heard that acid stays in your system forever? Don't believe it; the drug is usually gone the next day.

soundoff (188 Responses)
  1. Jayhawk369

    I did acid and shrooms at different times throughout the college years...........always preferred shrooms – more natural feel – but they were both amazing experiences.

    August 20, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mike

    If you're wonder the damage that acid can do, read or watch about Syd Barrett of early Pink Floyd. LSD pretty much destroyed his music career and eventually his life. Tripping ONE time in life is enough, if you are in the process of soul searching or spirituality searching. Acid is not a party drug.

    August 20, 2011 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rick

      sorry Mike. i've been there, done that (a lot between '73 and '78 and a couple of times for "old times sake" in '85) and it's obvious to me you know not where of you speak. i never reccomend drugs (including alcohol) to anybody but my extensive personal experience possibly has enhanced my life possibly not but there are, a quarter century plus down the line, not a single reason for any regrets about lsd

      August 20, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Far out, man

      August 20, 2011 at 18:08 | Report abuse |
    • Juls

      I have to agree with Rick on this one – been there done that (91 thru 98). No lasting impact here. Graduated college with a 4 year degree and I am now a senior programmer for a fortune 400 company. No depression, nothing.
      I never regret my time in the 90s. I had a blast. Met fantastic people. And... I became who I am today. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

      August 20, 2011 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Just because some didn't get long lasting brain damage, it doesn't mean all people won't, especially if they have a family history of mental illness. If people do have a history or genetic predisposition to mental illness LSD may not be a good idea.

      August 20, 2011 at 19:13 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Syd Barrett was destined to be mentally ill before he ever did any drug. Scientifically indefensible remarks like yours do more than just give drugs a bad name, they give sobriety a bad name.

      August 20, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Syd's contemporaries all pretty much agree that he had underlying problems long before he took drugs. His father passed away when he was 14 and his mother became overprotective of him as a result. All the stresses of fame and fortune combined with the drugs did him in. I'm sure acid was one of the many things that pulled the trigger, but I don't think it was the sole cause.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
    • g.c.kells

      Citing one example that is questionable at best doesn't prove your point. Syd Barret had psychological problems before LSD ever entered into the equation. It would be easier to argue that lsd actually helped his music career and his well being.

      August 21, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
    • ROGER

      sid reached for the secret too soon. one can certainly use too much

      August 21, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      He had mental problems before hand....if you have mental issues you dont need to use psycho actives

      August 23, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  3. 5-HTR

    LSD works almost the opposite way that "Ecstasy" does. They both manipulate serotonin receptor signaling but almost oppositely. Both drugs are dangerous and curiously, repeated use of both drugs leads to profound depression. However, I believe research should continue with both drugs since they can be useful in a controlled setting supervised by a physician to effect receptivity to either emotional input or sensory input. Don't ever ban research on anything. That's just dumb.

    August 20, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Phil

    A lot of people here are talking about how they had acid 300 times like it's something to take lightly. Look, hallucinogens are like any other class of drug, there are many variations. Take stimulants, caffeine and crack are both stimulants are both stimulants, but their effects are wildly different. I've used that point to argue that some hallucinogens are safer than others and shouldn't be treated the same, but most are dangerous and NONE are toys! I've had peyote twice with Native Americans and treasure the experience, but I could clearly tell this was nothing to play around with. Neither is LSD or anything else. If you want to have this experience, respectfully try to find a Native American Church that will allow non-Native Americans, or, if you can, find a tribe in Mexico or South America (that doesn't cater to tourists for a price, that is) and take it their way. But you are talking about your brain here people. Don't take this lightly, and don't just play around with this stuff on your own. Yes, some of the "Horror stories" are just urban myths, but plenty are real, and plenty of people who have worked in mental hospitals can tell you real stories of what can go wrong when people treat LSD and the like as toys or something to experiment on their own with.

    August 20, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • g.c.kells

      Native Americans are no better qualified than anyone else to administer hallucinogens. The fact that you trust them is the only thing that made your experience seem better. In my 20s and 30s I used hallucinogens (acid, mushrooms, and peyote) dozens of times. Having a trusted person that is not on the drug is a good idea, whether they are Native American or not is inconsequential. as for the long term effects, there have been none, other than fond memories.

      August 21, 2011 at 12:41 | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      They don't have to be Native Americans, but someone who is serious about the spiritual value (or medical, if it's therapy), very, very careful, very mindful of the dangers, and well aware of the need to be very sparing with the use of it. These days, that's mostly Native Americans or the few doctors licensed to use such drugs. But I didn't mean to imply that there is something in the DNA of Native Americans that makes them the only people fit to use them, just that in this country they are among the last people left with a cultural tradition that gives them the respect needed to gain the enormous benefits and minimize the many potential dangers.

      August 21, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
  5. rick

    for the record my grammer and spelling were never top notch. has nothing to do with my misspent (in some people's opinions) early adulthood.

    August 20, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. mike

    Well it is said to open your mind, and I can agree with that, (dozens of trips when I was young). A study of LSD trips in Baltimore is showing a increased general well being that last months. It would be good for some people to do, but others that I would call not mentally strong it could be a bad experience. (They should stick to mushrooms).

    August 20, 2011 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Fiery Buddha

    I've read some interesting studies of LSD being used by a trained therapist to cure PTSD. One man's poison is another man's medicine.

    August 20, 2011 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Nah, it's medicine, plain and simple. Don't let the lizard people convince you otherwise.

      August 20, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      That doesn't surprise me, but I'm surprised they use LSD. There are far safer, similar drugs. It's like with many other drugs, a carefully supervised medical dose made in a lab is will have a different effect than when it's made in a bathtub and taken by someone who thinks it's a toy.

      August 20, 2011 at 22:22 | Report abuse |
    • Dripping Design

      Some much ingnorance in regards to LSD its crazy, first off the nonsense about it being physically harmful has essentially been disproven. From a mental/emotional standpoint, it is like any other intense experience in your life, you have to be mentally prepared.

      And some of these postings worried about it being made in a bathtub obviously have not clue about chemistry and probably think it's made from old Foster's beer.....Stop feeding on all the propoganda, maybe it's you who is missing something....

      August 21, 2011 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
  8. cosmicsnoop

    No fair, you have to share the doses with the rest of us!

    August 20, 2011 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. cosmicsnoop

    I literally don't know how many times I tripped. I never had a bad experience and there are no aftereffects for me. It isn't for everyone. Some people are just not mentally strong enough; they are the ones who freak. I totally came at it as a Disney ride. I knew I was tripping, I knew the whole time when things were freaky that I was tripping and I knew approximately the time it would end. Not everyone is mentally stable enough to do that and get lost in the experience, but it is the same with alcohol or any other drug. Those are the people who turn into d!cks when they drink. I haven't dropped acid in 15 years, but I would do it in a heart beat if I could get rid of my wife and kids for a day and find the stuff. Do people even make it anymore?

    August 20, 2011 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lifeisgood

      Let's assume this is made up. But the kids are ALMOST grown and my time is my own.
      So the issue is how long until I have to drive somewhere.
      Yes, LSD is still out there, go hang out in a Phil Lesh concert parking lot.
      But then go get the shrooms. Shorter duration means it fit into modern life.

      August 21, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
  10. Chris

    "Are you worried because you heard that acid stays in your system forever? Don't believe it; the drug is usually gone the next day."

    As a matter of fact, LSD is mostly gone by the time the trip starts. LSD causes a chemical change in your brain, and you "trip" until the change goes away. However, the LSD itself doesn't stick around and actually participate. That's why there isn't a blood test for it.

    August 20, 2011 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. rob2738

    Y'all LSD users need to report to your local police station so you can be prosecuted.

    August 20, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dripping Design

      Ya'll should learn proper english.

      August 21, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  12. Arick

    I guess it does cause brain damage...

    August 20, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. oh please

    I have had............lets say alot ok, alot of acid in my time.

    NEVER EVER have I had a flashback. I think its utter crap.

    August 20, 2011 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. steve19

    People do lots of foolish, risky things and sometimes get away with it. Nothing to be proud of. Unfortunately, many aren't so lucky and suffer the consequences the rest of their lives. Far better to invest your time and money into something that improves your life and the lives of others.

    August 21, 2011 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cat

    I once took LSD and listened The Rolling Stones Album "Dirty Work" while looking at an Amado Pena painting. The Rider of the horse in the Amado Pena painting kept turning his head to look at me.

    August 21, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 900

      That story wins.

      August 21, 2011 at 11:09 | Report abuse |
  16. goneballistic

    Everyone knows that Timothy Leary and all of those Dead Heads were all just very normal, sane folk.

    August 21, 2011 at 02:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. punch


    August 21, 2011 at 02:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rob

      Why don't you just go suck a shot gun.. A** hole

      August 21, 2011 at 11:02 | Report abuse |
    • nightheadfire

      Crazy eyes Bachmann looks like she tripped plenty back in the day. Her expression - the eyes and smile - looks like some of the folks I'd occasionally run into back in the 70s who did too much at one sitting!

      August 21, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • doug

      Yea, Punch, but it's fun! You didn't do it, and you still turned out to be defective.

      August 21, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
    • notstupid

      references? Other than your observation of your friends eyes? hahahhaha god damn dirty hippies hahhahhaha god damn stupid people

      December 12, 2012 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
    • george

      I tripped over 500 times. I went on to law school, graduated with honors and passed the bar exam easily. I've now been practicing for over 20 years. Most of my "hippie, punk friends" are now not only well groomed home owners, but they are doctors, lawyers, engineers and business executives. I'm sure you, Punch, have been much more successful than us losers. Next time you're at a charity event look around to see how many of us are wearing Jerry Garcia ties.

      March 18, 2016 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
  18. 900

    I've tripped in the 80's and 90's – probably about 105 times on LSD, bunch of times on 'shrooms... Did I get flashbacks? Nope. Saw some black spots floating around on occasion, but that was probably floaters in the eye... From acid, I gained an immense amount of introspection – learned to look at things in a different way, and not worry about stuff so much.

    I never had a bad trip – but I have a strong mind. I knew how long it would last, and just went with it and enjoyed it for the 12 hours... That said, I've seen some weak-minded people lose it and cry for 12 hours – those are people who shouldn't use acid – ever.

    I always considered it to be a mood-amplifier – however you feel, multiply that by 10,000 for the next 12 hours.

    Have you ever laughed for 3 hours straight? I and a buddy of mine did – tripped our balls off. Had a great time. We both graduated, both have graduate degrees, and great jobs. We're productive members of society.

    Do we trip now? Nope. Got too old, have responsibilities and families, and can't be completely out of it for 12 hours to trip, then sleep it off for another 18 hours...

    But we do have our memories – and we cherish them.

    If it caused drain bramage, we'd be vegetables for over 20 years by now......

    August 21, 2011 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lifeisgood

      See above post on shrooms and life responsibilities.
      Make a water tea, they peak in 30 minutes and are gone in 3 hours.

      August 21, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse |
    • Pepe Santos


      August 21, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  19. Gabor47

    Syd took not one dose, but several large doses every day for an extended amount of time. The writer of the article has no clue of LSD usage.

    August 21, 2011 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Pepe Santos

    Acid can be good and bad at the same time. Most people I know did it in high school and college. This is inherently dangerous because we were driving around and interacting with general society. It is good though because it gives a "big level perspective" of one's life that was probably not known before. The closest thing I compare it to is flying over my neighborhood for the first time in a jet plane. I saw how really small my existance was within the big picture. That perspective is inportant because it made me aware that I could do so much more. That said, I did it about 10 years ago when I was in my 40's and it was horrible – too much work.

    In summary, make sure you stay out of a car, in a controlled environment, and use it judiciously – it is not a casual thing. I have seen peoiple that treated it as a casual thing and they were fried – and of course SOME PEOPLE HAVE NIGHTMARISH TRIPS so it is a risk.

    August 21, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • doug

      I don't know, when I did it, driving came easy. It didn't have effect on my ability to drive. It caused me to have an infinite amount of patience, such that I could tolerate anything, even Republicans. I doubt the stuff out now could make me tolerate today's Conservative. This breed must be stricken from the earth.

      August 21, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
  21. Raebo

    I did orange sunshine, purple micro dot, MDA blotters, smoked big fatties, and did hot rats of Acapulco gold in the late 60s.
    I went on to own three companies, retired a multi millionaire when I was 49 and still smoke a dobbie before I go to bed every night.
    What screws people up is Meth, booze, and prescription drugs.

    August 21, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Casca

    Good work everybody! Some times you have to cut of the hand to save the arm!

    August 21, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Anon

    I did acid over 400 times in my younger days. I am not a criminal, or a psychopath. I don't have flash backs. I believe it opened my mind to new experience and ways of thinking and was very beneficial in terms of my ability to think outside the box. All hail Timothy Leary!

    August 21, 2011 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • notstupid


      December 12, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  24. Lawrence Brown

    Ask Obama,he is taking it everyday by his actions

    August 21, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. felixelgato

    There is a concern that if schizophrenia runs in the family, LSD might trigger it in you. Otherwise, all that @#$% about flashbacks and chromosone damage is leftover 1960s propaganda. Believe me I should mkgkrfp;d,vjgirprp;dmjdcsdusep;f

    August 21, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ROGER

    the guy is clueless. Art Linkletter came up with the concept of a flashback to excuse the fact that his daughter was suicidal. There is no such thing as a flashback. ha – don't we wish. LSD could be used to cure alcoholism, but it's because of this doctor who doesn't know the first thing about it that perpetuates the fear of a drug that could be beneficial.

    August 21, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Steve

    Couldn't tell you how much acid I've done, I did a lot when I was in high school and in the army, and had loads of fun I havent done any in over 10 years, I'll catch a tracer every now and then (only people who have done acid will know what I am talking about), but that is about it, no flashbacks. My wife is about half my size and she used to do the same amount I would and she has never had any flashbacks either.

    August 21, 2011 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Gabriel

    Ecstasy cures cancer. Some people who haven't done acid don't understand where the mind is if they were told to locate it on on an image of a brain. How odd?

    August 21, 2011 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Naomi

    Atheism damages human mind and secularism damages character. USA is a living proof.

    August 22, 2011 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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  32. Hippies Blow

    Want proof LSD ruins you? Look at the generation that took the most of it. The baby boomers are the most immature, self adsorbed, self righteous bunch of scrotum lickers to ever curse American society. They also happened to drop LSD like it was skittles. Coincidence? I've done acid by the way and it didn't hurt me as far as i can tell. By all means give it a shot but using it like weed or booze is foolish. Trip a couple of times and be done with it. After those first few times all acid will teach you is how to be completely self absorbed.

    March 6, 2013 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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