clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

IT'S NOT A HALLUCINATION: LSD MAKING A COMEBACK

In the 1960s, Joe Sullivan remembers a teammate from his neighborhood football team in Queens, N.Y., who took LSD and wound up in a mental institution.

"He was gone and you never saw him again," says Sullivan, who works as a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Atlanta.LSD got a bad reputation as a drug that messed with your mind. "People in the '60s were jumping off roofs, throwing themselves in front of cars," says Sullivan, who credits the drop in LSD use in the '70s to these incidents.

"I'd like to say it was a victory of DEA and law enforcement in general," says Sullivan. "But the truth of the matter is users themselves looked around and saw the horrifying examples."

But like nostalgia for Woodstock and tie-dyed shirts, LSD is back. Use of lysergic acid diethylamide has surged nationwide, especially among suburban, middle- and upper-class white teens and young adults.

Bad trips are rare nowadays because the drug isn't as potent as it was years ago. While a dose of LSD ranged from 150 to 300 micrograms in the '60s, the range today is usually 20 to 80 micro-grams, DEA officials said.

Kids don't think it hurts. And it's cheap - about $3 to $5 a dose - odorless and easy to hide.

"This is the drug your parents can't find," says Terrie Moore, a consultant who works with young drug abusers. "I'm seeing kids who trip during class or just don't go to school. They might take one or two or eight to 10 hits at a time."

Early reports that LSD caused chromosome damage weren't substantiated, said Jerry Fran-ken-heim, a pharmacologist who studies hallucinogens for the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And LSD is not thought to cause brain damage or be addictive, he says.

But that doesn't mean the drug is safe. Strong doses of LSD have been linked to lingering psychosis and flashbacks. "Some people who take LSD are psychotic for months, weeks or for the rest of their lives," he says.

To be sure, LSD is not the drug of choice for most teenagers, who abuse alcohol, marijuana and inhalants far more frequently than hallucinogens.

Scientists at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research have documented dramatic increases in reported use of marijuana and LSD among secondary school students in the 1990s, as well as other hallucinogens, inhalants, stimulants, barbiturates and cocaine and crack.

More than half of the seniors surveyed from 1993 to 1994 thought LSD would be "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get, the highest percentage in 20 years for that drug. Some 2.6 percent of the seniors surveyed said they had used LSD within the past 30 days, 6.9 percent admitted using the drug within the past year, while 10.5 percent said they had taken LSD in their lifetime.

Anthony Otey, director of the Northwest Prevention Resource Center, thinks the national focus on reducing cocaine demand has led to the surge in use of other drugs, including LSD.

Many drug prevention programs that rely on police officers lecturing on the dangers of drug use, although popular with parents and schools, aren't effective in preventing drug use. Moore favors support groups for students that enable them to resist peer pressure to use drugs.

"Maybe we've reached a saturation point," says Otis Lane, who is in charge of student discipline in Gwinnett County schools. "We've provided so much drug awareness, that kids hear, but they don't hear."

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

CROSSROADS

How can society win the war on drugs? Share your views in the Community, Nation, World Forum.