Acid is interesting because it is so mysterious. It conjures up pictures of our parents when they were our age rebelling against “the man”. Drug circles, tie-dye, Jefferson Airplane, and free love orgies. Actually that is kinda gross when put in the context of our parents. I digress.
Since most of us haven't done acid, this particular drug is shrouded in a lot of urban lore. Some of the myths I hear about acid are pretty funny and highly pervasive. Let's tune in and work our way out of the purple haze to establish some facts, or at the very least, some interesting factoids.
So lysergic acid diethylamide-25 (LSD) is naturally found in ergot fungus toxins, which grow on rye and other grains. Back in the old days there were huge outbreaks of ergot poisoning where whole townships would unwittingly trip out, commonly referred to as “St. Anthony's Fire.” These outbreaks were less “Summer of Love” and more “freak out and kill people cause we are trippin' and our limbs are falling off”. Mass hysteria and gangrene outbreaks were common, and it has been hypothesized that ergotism was the cause of the Salem Witch Trials.
A Swiss chemist named Dr. Albert Hoffman was studying the ergot fungus toxins when he first synthesized LSD. On April 16, 1943 he took an accidental dose of the stuff and started feeling “dizzy.” On April 19, 1943 he took an intentional dose and experienced the world's first acid trip. Lore holds that he started feeling weirded out so he rode his bicycle home. April 19 has become known as Bicycle Day to commemorate this occasion.
So then acid ‘hits' the counter-culture scene thanks to people like Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley, who claimed that LSD could be used to transform the human mind and ultimately revolutionize society. I recommend Googling the 8-level model of human consciousness to explore these ideas, and get a good laugh.
The government started a top-secret study in the 1950s dubbed MK-ULTRA to explore the potential of using acid for mind-control. These tests are shrouded in accusations of psychological torture, with some of the subjects going crazy or committing suicide. The studies showed that acid isn't good for mind control because it is so unpredictable.
Acid is a Schedule 1 drug here in the US and basically everywhere else. This means it is illegal but curiously, still widely available. The average dose is 50-150 micrograms, costs about $3 to $10 a hit and is usually ingested via blotter paper or is dropped onto sugar cubes, which are then eaten. It can also be absorbed through the skin, so if you are ever around a blotter sheet, don't touch it with your bare hands unless you want to fry for the next couple of weeks.
An interesting tidbit is that the annual US consumption of acid totals only 11 pounds. But, each pound contains 9 million hits. So we're talking 99 million hits of LSD taken in the US every year. It seems to be in a fairly concentrated group of people, since only 3% of people report having done acid in the last month.
Let's talk about some acid mythology. A common one is that if you take more than 7 hits of acid in your lifetime you are legally insane. There are no such laws on the books and as far as I can tell, this is a big fat lie.
I have also heard people say that if you get busted selling acid you can get convicted of manslaughter. My research shows that this one came about because some people convicted of selling acid do longer sentences than those convicted of manslaughter.
Another pretty common idea is that if you take acid you go schizophrenic. While it is true that some people who take strong hallucinogens do go crazy, the overwhelming evidence shows that these are people whose mental and emotional stability was already pretty precarious.
This brings me to a very important point regarding hallucinogens. They should really be avoided by people who aren't in a good head space. If you just broke up with your number one, failed out of school, or whatever, best to save the frying for another time. Trips can be unpredictable, and you are more likely to have a bad one if you are already unstable.
Speaking of bad trips, the deal with flashbacks is as follows. Any type of intense emotional experience will produce flashbacks, people who have really good or really bad emotional experiences while on acid will get acid flashbacks. Not everyone will, and the acid isn't stored in your body anywhere.
So acid is pretty crazy stuff (not necessarily crazy-making though), and it's fun to learn about, and uh, it's pretty vintage. But before you “turn on, tune in, and drop out” make sure you get your learnin' on so you know what you're getting yourself into. Peace.