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Drugs and Alcohol (young people)

LSD (acid) and magic mushrooms

What is LSD?
LSD is a hallucinogenic drug which means that a person who takes it is likely to experience sensations, sights and sounds that are distorted or not real. LSD is commonly called ‘acid’.  It comes in the form of a liquid (dropped on food or sugar lumps) or small pieces of paper called ‘tabs’ that have pictures on them ( which are swallowed). Strength varies but a low dose (half a regular tab) will usually result in a mild LSD experience and full tab in a full blown trip. 

What are the effects of LSD?
The effects of LSD vary greatly depending on dose level, how the user feels and the situation they are in when they take it. A user might see things around them in a different way; things might look bigger or smaller or colours may look more intense. On LSD, a user might hear things that aren’t really there and lose their sense of time and place.
 
The experience is known as a ‘trip’ and these trips can be good, bad or a mixture of both.  When taking a full tab, a trip can take from 20 minutes to an hour to start and usually lasts about 12 hours. Once it's started you can't stop it and  until you take a tab of acid, you can't tell how strong it is or how it's going to affect you. How the trip goes can be affected by who you are, how you're feeling and how comfortable you are with the people you’re with. Charlie said that taking acid in natural surroundings such as a park and or listening to classical or acoustic music can be very pleasurable.
 
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Charlie compares the organic, swirly visuals she experienced with LSD with the more geometric patterns she saw when taking a chemical called 2CE.

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And this is acid?
 
That was acid, yeah.  I took psychedelics the next weekend and the weekend after that, too – a month of psychedelic use!  This time we took 2C-E, which is a research chemical.  It’s longer-acting than acid and quite different in effect.  Acid gave quite swirly, organic visuals but 2C-E was highly geometric.

The effect it had was quite different, too.  Acid made me feel a bit confused sometimes, and it could be hard to get the right words out, but 2C-E changed the way I was thinking completely!  It felt like I was thinking in metaphors, and conversations had a very real feeling of flow – a physical feeling, flowing like water.

The first week we tried 2C-E it was really, really, nice  The week after, it didn’t work out quite so well and one of the people I took it with had a big freakout like with acid the first tie.  So we didn’t use anything for a while.

 

What are the negative effects of LSD?
If a trip turns bad, the user is stuck with the trip until the effects wear off. As mentioned, this can take up to 12 hours. Both Sam and Charlie had experienced bad trips on LSD. Charlie did acid on the same day she broke up with her ex and was emotionally fragile. She ended up having paranoid delusions and crying for several hours afterwards.
 

Sam dropped acid into his eye and had bad trip that left him very frightened. (Played by actor)

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Age at interview: 28
Sex: Male
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Acids does a lot of that yeah. The thing is acid’s emotional it doesn’t just affect your, all your own visual senses. It affects your emotional senses you know. Skunk’s hallucinogenic, THC is hallucinogenic so you get, you know that’s why you see bright colours and music sounds brilliant because you’re hallucinating. Acid is something else. It not only, it really plays with your emotions like you know and if you’re having a good one, you’re having a good one. If you’re having a bad one you have a really bad one. I’ll come onto that incident later like it, if we’ve got and it scared the life out of me.
 
Which one was that?
 
I was at a party, in fact I helped to organise a, quite a large free party and everything was cool, I was loving it. Taking loads of laughing gas, loads of it, I was selling loads of laughing gas. I was doing loads. I was just doing everything. And then I took some acid. I took too much acid. I asked this guy to stick drops of acid in my eye because I thought it was funny. You know they were selling drops, just putting drops on people’s hands and they were sucking them. I said, ‘No, no, no I know if you can stick vodka in your eye and it gets you pissed, if you stick acid in your eye it’s going to get pissed a lot quicker isn’t it?’ So he put drops in them. He actually put about four in them and that’s a lot of acid. And I was alright for a while and then I started to think people were talking about me and that everyone hated me like. I’d stole somebody’s cider earlier on and it was actually their like land we were using and then I was just like. ‘They’re going to get me now. They’re really upset with me. They’re going to get me. They’re going to get me.’ And so I decided to walk off. And the weird thing was I heard a story before I left that another guy had left and he was tripping and the police had found him naked in a field. And he’d been arrested and gone to the police station. So that was in the back of my mind, the police are going to get me. They’re, whatever I do don’t get naked in the field otherwise I’m going to get arrested. So I’m trying to find, and these are along long lanes in the middle of like countryside. I’m trying to get back and I’m going the wrong way and I’m going the long way and I don’t know where I’m going. I’ve got to get back and this car is behind me. And I’m up against the hedge as far as I can, like proper as far as I can so the car can get past there’s no problem. This car is behind me and it slowly following me. I didn’t know if the car was there but I, it felt like it. And then drove off and then the car was behind me again. And I’ve got no idea how long it took me to walk the four miles to get home but every step of that way there was somebody there trying to get me or be behind me. I just couldn’t take it and I couldn’t go home because everybody at home was going to know there is something wrong with me and I don’t, I want to go asleep. I don’t feel like I can sleep. I just, [sigh] I’ve got. I just need help. 
 
So I went to the place that gives me help. I went to the pub. I went to the pub and I’m in the pub crying at the landlady telling her that I need help. And she’s screaming at me telling me I’m a fucking idiot and I need to go home and go to sleep. And I’m saying, ‘No you have to give me beer because beer will help’. She goes, ‘No you can’t have any fucking beer’. And like she was basically screaming at me and trying to get to get me out of her pub, not in a horrible way just she, she knows that I weren’t right. She didn’t know what I was doing. She knows I weren’t right. She knew I needed help. And I think before that I’d probably been there a couple of times and she’d seen me in particular ways and it was so scary. I said, ‘I’m never going to do acid again.
 
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Charlie describes an acid trip that started as euphoric and happy but ended as a bad trip.

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And the week after I dropped acid for the first time which was a very unwise thing to have done. It was going very well. We went for a walk in a park this was in the evening.
We were very euphoric and happy and chatting. We went on a walk through the park and one of the friends that I was with got paranoid because she saw a car in the car park and she was sort of getting scared that the police were going to come and get her which is fairly common kind of delusion, I guess.  And that paranoia sort of built up between the three of us and we all headed back to my house. But she carried on being anxious and I picked up on that really strongly and started having a bad trip too.

At one point I was in my room looking for something and the others were in the living room.  I heard them talking really loudly about me, in really negative ways, and that didn’t seem right, it seemed unlikely – but it made me feel terrible.  So I went to the living room and hovered outside the door to hear what they were saying and they stopped.  So I went back to my room and they started again, but very loud.  And I realised that to hear them that loudly in my room they would have to be shouting.  That was horrific.  I went to speak to them and they told me that they hadn’t been talking about me.  And then I realised I was just hearing voices, having paranoid delusions.
 
How did you feel afterwards?

Well, I cried for a few hours after that trip.  It was so scary, I was terrified.  But I think those tears, well, I’d just broken up with my ex that day so I think that was coming out too.  It was a stupid idea to take acid right after a breakup!

The next week I was in a much better place, so we did it again. And it was an absolutely wonderful experience this time. We did it during the day. We went to a park, and we spent the entire day in the park sitting looking at nature and we just had a wonderful, wonderful time. We felt happy and euphoric and it was amazing to just sit and look at the grass and ponder the world.  So it was a very different experience and a much, much better one.
 

What are magic mushrooms?
Magic mushrooms (aka ‘Shrooms) are mushrooms that grow in the wild. There are two main types and they’re quite different. The most common form is a species called psilocybe semilanceata or ‘liberty cap’, while the other more potent variety is amanita muscaria or ‘fly agaric’. There are deadly poisonous species of amanitas, so if you don't know what you're doing, you definitely shouldn’t take them. Magic mushrooms are eaten on their own raw or dried, in food or made into a tea.
 
What are the effects of Magic mushrooms?
The effects depend on the number of mushrooms taken. They produce similar hallucinogenic-type effects to LSD but for a shorter time.  They can make people giggle, relax or hallucinate.
 

Ben and a friend tried magic mushrooms once while in Amsterdam.

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Age at interview: 20
Sex: Male
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And once with [name] don’t know if he told you like mushrooms.
 
Ok.
It’s yeah. I don’t know if he told you.
 
He told me about that.
 
Yeah [laugh] That was. Yeah that was just being in Amsterdam and not having much to do so yeah. Yeah that was kind of a bit of an anomaly really.
 
Anomaly ok?
 
Yeah I mean, yeah I don’t really know where that came from but... I mean it was quite fun that day but I don’t really have any desire to do them again really.
 
Just kind of like yeah I just worry, like suddenly kind of not aware of where I am maybe and yeah just kind of. I’ve always been worried about kind of losing stuff like losing my wallet or whatever, phone or whatever.
 
Will this be something you will do again? I mean sort of...
 
I mean...
 
Try?
 
I can’t say I’ll never do it again but I have certainly no like desire I mean maybe yeah if I was like, been drinking quite a lot and maybe like if but I mean I have like, I have like no desire really. I mean I can’t say I’ll never do it again but I, yeah I mean if I, probably only be like very, like occasionally but I mean I could easily like never do it again because I didn’t really. I mean I didn’t really get anything out of it and yeah. 
What are the negative effects of Magic mushrooms?
Taking the wrong type of mushroom is a real risk; some types of mushroom look like magic mushrooms but are poisonous and can cause serious health problems or death. Magic mushrooms can themselves cause stomach problems such as nausea, sickness and diarrhoea.  Like with LSD, trips can be bad. Craig described taking a cocktail of drugs, including magic mushrooms, as the scariest combination he has ever taken. Under its effects he thought that everyone looked like characters from ‘The Simpsons’.

Last reviewed July 2018.
Last updated: January 2015.
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