Why does LSD produce its famous ‘bad trips’?



What goes on chemically/biologically that the brain produces these profound ‘negative’ experiences in people? ~And also afterwards when people then experience flashbacks as a result…..

In: Biology

Not a biologist or an often lsd user but I read somewhere it all depends on your mental state there is a chemical (might be serotonin not sure) in lsd and that will boost what ever mood you are in if you’re super happy you’ll have a really good and fun high but on the other spectrum of you’re super sad you’ll have a really bad and sad high. Hopefully this explains it. I could be wrong I read the article a while back

Set and setting. Mindset going into the trip and during and the setting In which you take it have the biggest impact. The difficulty is that sometimes the setting is uncontrolled or can get intense as a trip can last 10-12+ hours. Plus sometimes ya just take a little too much

Bad trips can also happen when you can’t just let go but instead you fight with the mental effects. Than it spirals into a panic and fear of loosing control.

Here is a few quotes I copied from an article https://science. howstuffworks.com/lsd4.htm

“Supposedly people have leapt from buildings or overpasses while tripping or have drowned because they thought that they could walk on water. Then, there are the people who consume acid and then think that they’ve personally transformed into a sandwich…and someone is trying to eat them. In fact, many of the things we’ve been told about LSD’s effects, are myths or exaggerations created to frighten impressionable teenagers.”

“It’s not really clear what causes a bad trip, especially since each trip can be very different depending on the person. LSD users sometimes say that it’s due to the “set and setting.” This means that if you are already in a bad mood, or you trip in a highly structured environment that requires you to think logically (such as school), you could have a bad trip. This may include losing sight of the illusory aspect of tripping, which results in fear and paranoia, and a feeling of dying of being in hell. The loss of control is frightening, and it seems like the trip will never end.”

“Researchers aren’t 100 percent sure what LSD does in the central nervous system, or exactly how it causes those hallucinogenic effects. This is in part because there have never been scientific research studies on how LSD affects the brain. It’s believed that LSD works similarly to serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating moods, appetite, muscle control, sexuality, sleep and sensory perception. LSD seems to alter the way the brain’s serotonin’s receptors work. It may inhibit neurotransmission, stimulate it, or both. It also affects the way that the retinas process information and conduct that information to the brain.”

Hopefully this explains it better then my previous comment obviously if you want to read the whole article from the little bit I read it is quite informative.

People don’t experience flashbacks as a result of a “bad trip”. There is a very rare disorder called HPPD that can be caused by using drugs such as lsd. this disorder is the reason some people think lsd causes flashbacks because it causes people to have distorted vision like they do during an lsd trip.

As far as LSD causing bad trips it comes down to set and setting like others have said. If the person has prepared a room or safe space for themselves to trip, they have been in a good place mentally for the weeks leading up to the trip, and they have an experienced person there with them it would be extremely hard to have a bad trip. That is barring outside factors such as taking other drugs, running into cops or relatives, or doing something stupid like driving.

Two more things that can cause bad trips are unknown dosage and mental illness. if a person knows the dose they’re taking and what to expect from that dose(this is VERY rare because people buy from unreliable sources) they are more likely to have a good trip. Even if a person has done the things listed above if they have an underlying condition, are at risk for mental illness, or are currently taking any medication they should not take lsd.

“Bad trips” aren’t really a biochemical thing per se. (And you don’t necessarily get flashbacks as a result.)

LSD is a serotonin mimic. It binds to certain serotonin receptors in the brain, but doesn’t act quite like real serotonin, so odd things happen. One of those odd things is that a part of the brain that acts kind of like a traffic cop keeping different areas of the brain from interacting much (the “default network”) seems to let a lot more signals through. So various parts of the brain that don’t usually interact much start to “talk” to each other.

One of the effects that might be a result of this is that LSD tends to amplify small thoughts or emotions that the user has, but might normally not even be very aware of. This quite often leads to some useful insights.

But it also means that if you get an unwanted feeling, such as anxiety, paranoia, or outright fear, things can spiral out of control. You get a small twinge of fear, for example. It can be triggered by something minor. But the feeling gets amplified, and your awareness that you are becoming afraid makes you even more afraid. That is what engineers call a “positive feedback loop”, and it’s usually a bad thing. Unless quelled, your fear can spiral out of control and you can experience a major panic attack, or even in severe cases a psychotic break. You are having a “bad trip”.

Having had a bad trip doesn’t cause flashbacks per se. But it can lead to a minor case of PTSD. Flashbacks are more a phenomenon related to [HPPD](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucinogen_persisting_perception_disorder), which is not really associated with bad trips. You can get HPPD after nothing but great trips.