Inside the Effects of a Massive LSD Overdose

A new study reveals surprising findings

LSD
What happens when you take a massive dose of LSD? A new study explored its effects.
Erik Fenderson/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / February 23, 2020 3:58 pm

Is macrodosing the new microdosing? Probably not. At Vice, Troy Farah explores the effects of overdosing on LSD on the human body, beginning with an alarming anecdote. Farah describes a 2000 party in which a number of attendees took LSD. “A decimal place error caused them to take about 10 times more of the drug than they thought they were getting,” Farah writes — which made for an unexpected 12 hours for all those affected.

Farah describes one of the people who took far more LSD than they’d been expected — around 1,100 micrograms. By comparison, this article on microdosing describes someone taking 10 micrograms; a “moderate” dose of LSD, according to this guide, is around 75 to 100 micrograms. What does 10 times that look like in practice?

She lay on the floor in the fetal position tightly clenching her arms. Her friends thought she was having a seizure and called an ambulance, although no one was sure if she was actually seizing, lost consciousness or was just lost in the overwhelming experience.

The next day in the hospital, she discovered something: “her bipolar illness, which had caused daily manic episodes, seemed to be cured.” And, if the ensuing years are any indication, the effects of the massive dose have lasted.

This is one of several cases described in “LSD Overdoses: Three Case Reports,” a new report by Mark Haden and Birgitta Woods that was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The report’s conclusions?

There appear to be unpredictable, positive sequelae that ranged from improvements in mental illness symptoms to reduction in physical pain and morphine withdrawal symptoms. Also, an LSD overdose while in early pregnancy did not appear to cause harm to the fetus.

These findings are probably not what anyone was expecting — but they are helpful for better understanding how the human mind operates, and what might help bring us closer to addressing certain mental health issues.

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