Acid is another name for lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), a hallucinogenic substance that temporarily alters a person’s mental state. A person’s experience while using acid is called a trip. During a trip, their thoughts, mood, senses, and perception of reality may change.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classify acid as a Schedule 1 drug, which denotes that it has no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse. It is illegal to possess or use acid in the United States.

In some cases, a person taking acid may have a good trip, which is one that leads to intense feelings of pleasure, enlightenment, happiness, or connection with others. At other times, they may have a bad trip that causes feelings of terror, anxiety, and panic.

There is no way to predict how a trip will go or how long it will last. However, there are a few stages to a trip that tend to be similar each time.

Keep reading to learn more about what acid feels like, as well as the risks and side effects.

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A person may experience sensory changes when taking acid.

An acid trip begins 20–90 minutes after taking the drug. Once the trip starts, it may last 10–12 hours. Its duration may depend on the drug’s purity, the dose, and the person.

Acid trips are different for each person and each time the same person uses acid. Therefore, there is no single description of how an acid trip feels. However, experts know that the effects of acid can cause some or all of the following:

  • Visual distortions: Some people may see colors that are unnaturally bright. They may see swirling patterns or bright halos. Small objects may appear larger, or vice versa. Inanimate objects may appear to move.
  • Sensory changes: A person may think that they are “seeing” tastes or “smelling” colors.
  • Hallucinations: A person may see, hear, feel, taste, or smell things that are not really there. It can be difficult for a person to know what is a hallucination and what is reality. These hallucinations may be enjoyable and relaxing, but they can also produce negative feelings.
  • Mood changes: A person may feel intense feelings of connection to and affection for other people or things. Conversely, they may become fearful, paranoid, or angry at others. These feelings may shift rapidly, causing intense mood swings.
  • Physical changes: People may have an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and profuse sweating. There is also often a total absence of hunger for the trip’s duration.

The comedown occurs when the peak of the acid trip has worn off. At this time, a person may not be having hallucinations and mood changes, but they still do not feel completely “normal” again.

Due to the sweating, increased heart rate, and lack of eating and drinking during the trip, people tend to be dehydrated and physically exhausted in the comedown.

During the trip and the comedown, people should not drive or go to work. They should drink plenty of fluids, eat if possible, and, ideally, lie down and rest. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs as the body and mind recover is also advisable.

Some people experience an “afterglow” effect after the comedown. They may feel a bit lighter and happier than normal, even though they are no longer having hallucinations or mood changes.

This feeling of elevated mood can last several weeks, according to some research. It is for this reason that researchers have begun to study the use of psychedelics such as LSD as treatments for depression.

However, not everyone experiences an afterglow, and there is no guarantee that it will happen, even if a person has a good trip.

The first time that a person uses acid, they may not know what to expect. For some, this is exciting, while for others, this can cause fear or anxiety.

A person’s natural emotions may play a role in how their trip feels. People who are already dealing with fear or stress may find that a trip amplifies these issues. People who are excited and relaxed may feel more pleasure during a trip.

However, there is no way to predict with certainty how a trip will go.

A bad trip is when a person has a negative experience while on acid.

They may have hallucinations that cause anxiety, terror, thoughts of suicide, or fear of death. They may see disturbing images that cause mental distress. Some trips may cause a person to become paranoid about other people or things, and they might even become aggressive.

People who have a family or personal history of mental health conditions, including schizophrenia and psychosis, should not take acid. Some evidence suggests that people with these genetic tendencies may be more likely to have a bad trip and experience long-term negative effects, such as flashbacks.

Some trips begin positively but later turn into a bad trip. Therefore, it is helpful to have a trusted companion who can stay with a person until their trip is completely over.

Acid is illegal in the U.S., so a person who has it in their possession can face arrest, fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record.

In addition, its illegal status means that the authorities do not regulate it for safety or potency. A person may not be sure of the dose that they are getting.

The acid could also contain other drugs or hallucinogens without the user being aware of it, and it could even have contaminants that may be harmful. The drug could also be stronger or weaker than a person is expecting.

During an acid trip, a person may be completely unaware of what is really happening around them. They may have a severely altered sense of reality and may, as a result, harm themselves or others. For instance, a person may not know that they are walking out into a busy street or leaning dangerously out of a second story window.

Studies show that acid is not physically addictive. Therefore, a person will not experience physical withdrawal symptoms if they use it and then stop taking it.

However, people can build a tolerance to acid. The more a person uses it, the less it affects them. They may need to use more of the drug to get the same “high,” and this can be dangerous.

As acid is so powerful, it takes only a small amount to produce effects. In fact, just 20 micrograms can produce hallucinations. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram.

A person should not use acid when they are alone. Ideally, a trusted friend who is not using drugs or alcohol should stay with them to provide reassurance and ensure that they do not inadvertently hurt themselves or others.

Acid belongs to the “psychedelics” group of recreational drugs. It causes reality to alter through sensory changes and hallucinations, among other effects.

Although a good trip can cause intense pleasure, a bad trip can be traumatizing and terrifying. There is no way to know whether a person will have a good or bad trip when they use acid, even if they have used it previously.

Unlike some other drugs, acid itself does not cause physical harm to the body. However, a trip can be psychologically damaging, especially for people who are prone to mental health conditions. People may also injure themselves or others accidentally while on a trip.

If a person needs help with acid use, they can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).