No psychedelic holds the kind of cultural capital that LSD does. Most everyone has some conception of what LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is. The visual hallucinations and day-long psychedelic trips it produces, alongside its prominent position in the 60’s counterculture movement, are lodged deep into the shared imagination.
But much less talked about is what it feels like after an LSD trip. If all you know about LSD is what will happen while you’re actively tripping, you’re missing the last half of the story: the LSD comedown, otherwise known as the way you’ll feel following your trip. While the comedown is likely to only last a couple of hours, the after-effects of LSD can be felt for weeks following your trip. And perhaps the most important part of any LSD trip happens well after the psychedelic effects have worn off: integration. Integration is the process of figuring out how to best use what you learned during your experience in your day-to-day life.
So, before you set out on your journey, be sure to check out our guide on what to do once you get back home. Learn from Sara Gael, a harms reduction officer with Zendo Project, about what can come up during a comedown. We’ll also share some best practices for integrating those experiences.
What’s the LSD Comedown Like?
Just like your Acid trip, the comedown is going to be different for everyone. However, there are a few common ways your LSD comedown will go over. During the comedown, you will continue to feel the effects of LSD (visual distortions, etc.) however they may be much less vivid as the experience winds to a close. You will begin to feel more present and your ability to focus on tasks will return.
Fatigue is common as the active effects of the trip begin to fade. LSD trips can last all day, and it can be hard to rest while on a psychedelic journey. That’s not to mention that sleeping is nearly impossible while you’re still high.
A dip in your mood is common during the LSD comedown as well, explains Gael. In addition to Zendo Project, Gael is a therapist with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) clinical trials in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. An LSD trip can be deeply profound and emotional, coming out of that state may lead to lowered moods.
“[LSD] comedowns can sometimes be challenging as we may feel less connected to some of the clarity and awareness that LSD and other psychedelics may bring about,” Gael tells DoubleBlind. This isn’t always the case, though, says Gael. Your comedown will be “greatly informed and influenced by the actual psychedelic experience itself.” So, generally speaking, less challenging trips mean easier comedowns and vice versa.
“Sometimes, the experience of coming down can include more positive emotions such as feelings of lightness or peace, or a sense of a weight being lifted.” And, as with the LSD trip itself, set and setting can play a big role in how you feel while coming down.
The After Effects of LSD
While your LSD trip is liable to be a bold experience filled with shifting emotions and visual hallucinations the after-effects are much gentler. Many psychonauts will go through an ‘afterglow’ period following their trip. The LSD comedown typically lasts a week or two following your trip. During this time, you may experience elevated mood and energy levels. You may feel more compassionate, and less affected by things that would normally cause you stress.
These soothing afterglow effects are part of the reason why microdosing LSD has become popular. As microdosing evangelists tell it, taking small amounts of LSD every few days may give you all the afterglow benefits without the full day acid trip. Further, the afterglow isn’t exclusive to LSD. Most psychedelic trips are followed up by an afterglow. Mushrooms and ayahuasca also offer a similar afterglow experience.
HPPD from Acid
The positive effects of the LSD afterglow are what you’re most likely to experience post-trip. But that doesn’t mean negative side effects can’t arise, too. The after-effect people are often most concerned about when taking LSD is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder or HPPD. Sometimes referred to as acid flashbacks, HPPD is a little understood and rare outcome of psychedelic use.
Essentially, sufferers of HPPD may experience visual distortions at random, long after their last dosage of LSD. These visual distortions are similar to the hallucinations you might see while actively tripping. Objects may shift in size or appear smeared or fuzzy, unexpected flashes of color and trails of light may appear. They can appear randomly at any time following a trip, and even after considerable time has passed since your last psychedelic experience. And while HPPD can be uncomfortable for those who suffer from it, it’s not a common outcome of LSD use.
Just how uncommon? Although current research on HPPD is limited, the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit organization that advocates for a harm reduction approach to drug policy, offers some guidance. A person’s risk of developing long-term side effects after taking LSD may depend largely on whether or not they have pre-existing mental health concerns. “Long-term physical effects directly attributed to the pharmacology of LSD are rare, and research suggests they may also be due to latent psychological disorders,” they write in their factsheet on LSD.
What to Expect the First Day After Acid
No two people—and no two trips—are the same. How you feel the first day after acid depends on a number of factors, including what you’ve eaten, how much sleep you’ve had, and whether or not you’ve mixed substances. The quality of the LSD you’ve taken can also influence how you feel the next day; the illicit nature of the substance means that it’s difficult to tell what you’ve actually taken. Nevertheless, there are several common side effects that occur the day after LSD.
Fatigue is one of the most common side effects the first day after taking acid. An LSD trip is an intensive experience. Between the amount of energy it demands, and the lack of sleep you’re likely to experience, the day after is going to be a little groggy. Rest and recovery are very important as you come back into your daily life and exit the LSD comedown period.
The exact state of your mood following an LSD trip will vary from person to person. it’s common to experience some low points. This can range from mild anxiety or sadness to depressive episodes. Keep in mind that your mood is associated with your energy levels. Once you get some rest (and enter that afterglow phase) your mood is likely to swing back up. However, if you continue to experience depression or other low mood symptoms for more than a day or two following your LSD trip speak to a mental health professional.
Confusion About Your Experience
LSD trips aren’t always easy to navigate. Following any psychedelic adventure, you may experience what Gael calls the “contrast between the expanded state experience and our regular, day-to-day reality.” This contrast can be confusing, jarring, and difficult to navigate, and is one of the key reasons why integration—taking the time to process the LSD experience after it’s over—is so important.
Changes In Your Outlook
Alongside the confusion (or maybe, part of what is confusing) will be a possible change in outlook. Psychedelic experiences can temporarily or permanently alter the way you think or perceive things in your life. You may have heard this effect referred to as expanded consciousness or something similar.
“LSD and other psychedelics can cause an experience of expansion, where new insights and awareness are gained,” says Gael. She likens psychedelic expansion to the way many other life events might change your outlook. “Just as with the birth of a baby, the passing of the seasons, or the growth of many things in nature, expansion, and contraction are normal parts of the human experience.”
You may have noticed Gael also mentions contraction can happen as well. While we often credit LSD and psychedelics for opening us up to new perceptions and ideas, they can also narrow your focus. Perhaps this means letting go of anxieties you had previously focused on or helping you home in on the aspects of your life that are truly important.
Recovery During An Acid Comedown
All acid trips are different. As the Drug Policy Alliance writes, “Because set and setting vary so widely from person to person, and even from experience to experience, each LSD experience can produce vastly different outcomes–from frightening to deeply meaningful and positive life-changing experiences (though some parts may still be overwhelming or psychologically jarring).”
As such, it is important to yourself time to recover after an LSD experience. Gael recommends planning for “a day of rest” after your trip. Try to keep your schedule clear, and make sure you don’t have anything too taxing to do on your recovery day. Instead of running errands or heading back to work she suggests doing something more relaxing and a little zen. “Spending time in nature, journaling, or reading can be helpful ways to spend your day.”
Integrating During the LSD Comedown
Some may say that the real journey begins after the LSD trip ends—how do you make sense of the experience after its over? Everyone experiments with LSD for different reasons. Yet, taking time to reflect on your psychedelic journey can help you process and integrate any learnings that the experience provides.
“Integration involves a period of time after a journey where someone is working to take the lessons and teaching they may have received from the experience and apply them to their everyday life,” explains Gael.
Oftentimes, solo activities such as journaling, artistic creation, and meditation are recommended as cornerstones of a strong integration practice. However, this doesn’t mean you need to do integration alone (or that your specific integration can’t look different). Connecting with loved ones and your community are also helpful in integrating an LSD experience. And sometimes you may need to reach out to an expert for help, says Gael.
“If you are struggling to integrate a psychedelic experience, a good resource for finding professional therapists who can assist you in integrating your journey is the integration practitioner resource found at psychedelic.support.”
It’s also important not to force things to move to quickly. Take the time you need to fully integrate your psychedelic experiences, and try not to make any big life changes too soon.
“It can be tempting to make big decisions after a psychedelic journey,” says Gael. “It is advisable to not make big life decisions in the days and weeks directly after an experience. It is best to take some time to integrate before making major life decisions.”