How LSD Works

LSD Drug Laws Today

In the United States today, LSD is a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This means that the federal government believes LSD to have high abuse potential, a lack of accepted safe use when taken under medical supervision, and no current medical use. The last criterion is important; LSD is a Schedule I drug, but cocaine is Schedule II due to some medical use (such as local anesthesia). There are higher legal ramifications, in other words, for LSD than for cocaine.

The federal penalty for the first offense of LSD possession is a maximum of one year in prison or a minimum fine of $1,000. Additional offenses can raise the prison time to as much as three years.


The penalties for making or selling LSD are based not only on the number of offenses, but the amount involved. So even if it's the first offense, if the amount is up to 10 grams, the offender can spend five to 40 years in jail and face a fine of $2 million. Higher amounts can result in a life sentence. A 1991 Supreme Court ruling found that when weighing blotter acid, the weight of the paper can be included. Since the actual amount of LSD in the paper is so minute, some people have claimed that this results in unfairly harsh sentences. Regardless of the amount or intent, it's worth remembering this – possession of any amount of LSD is a felony, no matter where you are. Penalties vary on a personal's prior record and individual story.

And who are these LSD users? The 2017 National Household Survey on Drug Use & Health groups LSD users with those who use other hallucinogenic drugs like ecstasy, peyote and PCP. Among their findings:

  • 1.4 million people aged 12 or older were current users of hallucinogens in 2016.
  • For comparison, 11.5 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription drugs (opioids) and 667,000 people used meth.
  • Most users of hallucinogens were in the 18-25 age group.

As in the 1960s, LSD is once again finding traction among younger crowds. After a steady decline in the late '90s and early 2000s, acid consumption jumped 40 percent between 2013 and 2015 in the college-age American population. In some areas, it's a fairly common substance, and in others much harder to obtain [source: Kruzman].

As it stands, acid is still a fringe substance, one with far fewer users than drugs like marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. But, it's now fashionable for recreational users to "microdose" acid. In microdosing, people ingest tiny amounts of the drug to spark creativity and alter their perceptions, without the time commitment or aftereffects of a full-blown trip. Some say it sharpens their mental clarity and provides startling focus. In the 1990s, Albert Hoffman, the LSD pioneer, took microdoses to help his thinking [source: The Verge].

Whether LSD will reemerge has a major force in drug culture remains to be seen. With harsh federal penalties still in place, researchers (particularly in America) will find their studies thwarted, and recreational buyers and sellers will find themselves wary of prosecution.

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More Great Links


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