People have been taking LSD (acid) for decades, but experts still don’t know too much about the drug or how it affects the brain. As with other forms of substance abuse, the question of whether acid kills brain cells (also known as permafried) is a major cause for concern. So, while acid gets up to all sorts of things in the brain, does it fry your brain?
Acid is a street name for the drug LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). LSD is a psychedelic drug that’s known to produce side effects like intensified thoughts, emotions, and sensory perception. During an LSD high or what many people refer to as an acid trip, psychological and physical side effects ranging from hallucinations to heart palpitations may occur.
Like many psychedelic drugs, acid is a synthetic drug that’s designed for recreational use. People take it in high doses to experience auditory and visual hallucinations, among other effects. Acid is produced from a substance found in ergot, which is a fungus that grows on rye (grain).
As a synthetic drug, LSD also contains other man-made chemicals to boost the hallucinogenic and psychedelic effects of the drug. In fact, drugs that are often sold as LSD are actually other chemicals like NBOMe or drugs from a class called new psychoactive substances. These can be quite dangerous, as they often contain various unknown ingredients and vary in purity and doses.
In its pure state, acid is a white, odorless, crystalline-like substance. It’s potent enough that only a small dose is needed to produce a high or an acid trip. For this reason, LSD is often mixed with other additives or diluted with other materials to bulk up the product and make it easier to sell. LSD is usually sold in solutions that are dried onto gelatin sheets, pieces of blotting paper sprayed with the drug, sugar cubes, tablets, or capsules.
Acid burnout or permafried is a non-medical term that refers to permanent brain damage caused by doing too much acid (LSD). Supposed permafried symptoms are described as reduced cognition. People who are apparently “permafried” are described to be as mentally “far gone” because of their drug use.
Because the term has circulated for so long, many people wonder whether it’s possible to have a “permafried” brain after long-term use. However, due to a lack of substantial evidence, there’s no way to prove whether permafried is true or that acid fries your brain.
But while there is a lack of proof that acid fries your brain – for now – it does have plenty of other very-real side effects. The most common long-term side effects from acid abuse are usually psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD).
Psychosis refers to a mental state that disrupts your thoughts and perceptions. It commonly occurs in people with schizophrenia. Psychosis basically makes it hard to differentiate reality from fiction. Psychosis can cause a person to see, hear, or believe things that aren’t real. Although the stories of people who were never the same after taking LSD aren’t exactly true, what is true is that long-term acid abuse can increase one’s risk of psychosis, especially in people with existing mental illnesses or a family history of them.
Flashbacks are also common long-term effects of acid. HPPD is a rare yet real condition that causes symptoms like repeated flashbacks, during which the individual experiences the sensations or effects from past acid trips. Sometimes flashbacks are pleasant, but other times, not so much.
When someone experiences flashbacks of bad acid trips, the visual disturbances can be unsettling and interfere with daily activities. In most cases, LSD flashbacks happen once or twice, usually within a few days after the last use, but can show up weeks, months, and even years later.
Flashbacks repeatedly happen with HPPD, but other specifics about the condition aren’t well-known. Considering that most drug users are hesitant to share their drug habits with their doctors, more on HPPD is yet to be discovered. People with a family history of or currently have conditions like anxiety, schizophrenia, tinnitus, concentration issues like ADHD, and eye floaters are at higher risk of experiencing HPPD.
Although there’s no evidence to suggest that acid kills brain cells or fries the brain, considering the various side effects of other drugs on the body, who’s to say that LSD brain damage isn’t real? At the end of the day, LSD is a potent drug that can have adverse, long-lasting effects on one’s physical and mental health.
LSD overdose and other adverse reactions like disturbing hallucinations and mood swings may also occur as a result of a bad acid trip. What’s more, first-time users have no way of knowing whether they’ll react poorly to the drug, and in using it, they risk experiencing problems like psychosis and HPPD.
Furthermore, drugs, if not addictive physically, are addictive emotionally. While acid isn’t addictive in the same way that opioids are, it’s still possible to develop an emotional attachment to the drug, in which people may feel the need to use it to feel good or “normal.” Physical dependence is also a possible cause of long-term LSD abuse alongside the other problems we mentioned.
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