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How LSD works

LSD as therapy

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LSD is the strongest psychedelic

LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) is considered one of the most powerful psychedelics due to its potency, duration and effects. Here are some reasons why the effects of LSD are considered the strongest of all known psychedelics:

  1. Potency: LSD is very potent and can have a very powerful effect at doses of just a few micrograms (µg). For example, a typical dose of LSD is around 100-200 µg, while the effects of psilocybin are usually felt at doses of 10-30 mg and DMT at doses of 10-60 mg. This means that LSD is approximately 500 times more powerful than psilocybin and DMT.
  2. Trip duration: LSD trips can last up to 12 hours while psilocybin and DMT usually have a shorter duration. This long effect can make the experience of LSD deeper and more intense than that of other psychedelics.
  3. Effects: LSD is known for its ability to produce very intense and complex visual, mental and emotional effects. These effects can vary greatly from person to person. The most common effects include changes in perception, increased introspection, mystical experiences and strong emotional reactions. These intense effects make LSD a unique and potentially overwhelming experience.

The reason why LSD has a strong effect and a long duration is that LSD fits into the same receptors as DMT and psilocybin, but due to the shape of the molecule it does not come out easily. Furthermore, the liver can break down LSD in a slow manner and these breakdown products are excreted through the urine. This is different from DMT and psilocybin.

LSD session time -How LSD works

LSD acts on receptors in the brain

The effects produced are mainly related to the serotonergic receptors. These 5-HT receptors are distributed in the brain and the binding of LSD to these receptors changes the conduction of stimuli in the brain. LSD has an affinity for these receptors:

  1. 5-HT2A receptor: LSD binds mainly to this receptor, which is involved in regulating perception, cognition, emotion and consciousness. Stimulation of this receptor by LSD can lead to changes in visual perception, intensification of emotions and changes in consciousness. It can also increase activity in the prefrontal cortex, which can lead to changes in thinking and the sense of connection with the environment.
  2. 5-HT1A receptor: LSD can also bind to this receptor, which is involved in regulating anxiety, depression and mood. Stimulation of this receptor can lead to reductions in anxiety and depression, although it is not clear to what extent LSD stimulates this receptor.
  3. Other 5-HT receptors: LSD can also stimulate the 5-HT1D, 5-HT5A and 5-HT6 receptors. Although the exact effects of this stimulation are not yet fully understood, it may be related to the anxiolytic and antidepressant effects of LSD.

More glutamate and BDNF as a result of LSD

In addition to the effects that a person may perceive, chemical messengers in the brain change during the use of psychedelics such as LSD, DMT or psilocybin. Increased stimulation of the 5-HT2a receptor releases more glutamate and BDNF.


Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and plays a crucial role in communication between nerve cells. When more glutamate is released, this can lead to increased synaptic plasticity and the formation of new synapses between nerve cells. This in turn can lead to improved cognitive functions, such as learning, memory and information processing. However, a glutamate deficiency is rare and is usually only measured in neurological or psychiatric disorders.


BDNF is a neurotrophin that promotes the growth and survival of nerve cells. It is often considered an important factor in neuroplasticity and can help strengthen synapses between nerve cells. When more BDNF is released in the brain, it can lead to improved cognitive functions and the brain's ability to process and learn new information. BDNF is also associated with protecting neurons from degeneration and promoting neurogenesis, or the growth of new nerve cells.

psilocybin and 5htp receptor -The effect of LSD

Overall, the release of glutamate and BDNF in the brain can lead to improved cognitive functions and the brain's ability to adapt to new environments and situations. For example, this could be beneficial in the treatment of conditions such as depression, where reduced synaptic plasticity and BDNF levels have been observed.

The image below shows the mechanism by which psychedelics influence neurochemistry and neurotransmission. BDNF plays a significant role in treating depression, especially in men, but also in women. More BDNF and glutamate could theoretically provide relief from symptoms in some neurodegenerative disorders such as MS and Parkinson's.

The LSD experience

The experience someone has on LSD depends on the person using it, the circumstances and, most importantly, the dosage. A very low dose of LSD will cause little or no change, while a dose of 200 micrograms can give a full trip. The higher the dosage, the greater the effects will be and therefore also the trip level.

More information: Psychedelics and trip levels

LSD session as therapy

Are you curious about how we use LSD sessions as therapy? Then go through one of the pages below.