The Chemistry of Lsd

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We know of LSD as an illegal drug which used for recreational purposes. It is known to produce psychedelic effects similar to intoxication. However it is interesting to note that the drug was initially developed to be used as a therapeutic agent. It showed great promise in psychiatric treatments until large scale misuse created political furor and lead to the drug being banned.


LSD is short for Lysergsure-diethylamid which was synthesized from Lysergic acid. Lysergic acid was the central compound in an alkaloid extracted from the Ergot fungus which produced strong psychedelic effects. Dr. Albert Hoffman, a Swiss researcher succeeded in developing the drug (1938) and studying it extensively.The drug was expected to help victims of extreme emotional distress and help treat schizophrenia.Outlined below are some of his initial observations and conclusions

* Was initially expected to act as a respiratory and circulatory stimulant
* Initial animal studies showed that animals became restless under its effects
* While re-synthesizing the drug, Hoffman reported dizziness and inability to continue
* Other symptoms he reported were restlessness, a pleasant "dream like" intoxicated state and an overactive imagination


LSD is a semi synthetic drug. The diethylamide is the synthetic component and Lysergic acid is the natural component. Diethylamide and other amides are used in drugs because of their ability to bond with molecules in the body, primarily proteins. In the case of LSD, diethylamide allows LSD to bond with certain molecules in the brain, helping the body to process the drug. LSD's hallucinogenic effects come from lysergic acid.

The brain has different receptors for serotonin, which play a part in regulating functions such as our mood and how we interpret what our senses tell us. A dose of LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, blocks a specific serotonin receptor,and throws our senses into a jumble. As a result, images we would never normally perceive become vivid and fool our brains into thinking they are real.


* LSD is a fragile molecule which is sensitive to air and light. Stability can be ensured if it is stored as a solid salt, dissolved in water or stored away from air and light
* The half life of LSD in the human body was found to be three hours.
* LSD is a strong fluorescent in its pure form
* Pure LSD can produce threshold effects at as low a concentration as 25 micrograms ( a micro gram is one millionth of a gram)
* The lethal dosage of LSD can range from 200micro gram/kg of body mass to 1 milligram/kg of body mass. This depends a lot on the health of the subject

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