How LSD Works

LSD Drug Laws Today

Guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones arrives at Aylesbury Crown Court
John Minihan/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones arrives at Aylesbury Crown Court, where he faced charges of possession of LSD and cocaine, Jan. 12, 1977.

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. There are few federal arrests for LSD, however -- they number less than 2 percent of all DEA arrests.

And who are these LSD users? According to the 2007 National Household Survey on Drug Use & Health, about 9 percent of people in the United States over the age of 12 have used LSD at least once in their lifetimes.

This is the profile of the average LSD user:

  • He is a white male between the ages of 18 and 22 who usually first tried the drug between the ages of 15 and 19.
  • He's most likely to live in the Western United States, come from a fairly affluent family and have educated parents.
  • He's only used LSD a few times but is also likely to use ­alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.

As the age groups in the survey increased, LSD use generally declined, meaning that LSD users have a "short career." There was a slight increase in the use of LSD among high school seniors in the early 1990s, but it has generally remained between 8 and 10 percent since the survey began in 1975.

For more articles on drugs, from the CIA's LSD experiments to the Salem witch trials, try the links on the next page.

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