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Why is LSD sold on bits of paper?         

“Why is LSD unlike any other drug and sold on bits of paper? Is LSD made in a paper form?”

As you say, unlike other illicit drugs which are sold as pills or capsules or come in a powder, crystal or liquid form – LSD is quite different, with most people associating the substance with small squares of paper, usually called ‘trips’. Other common names for LSD include acid, blotters and tabs.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a hallucinogenic drug, also referred to as a ‘psychedelic’, altering the way individuals perceive or experience things around them.

It became popular in the 1960s among hippies and other counterculture groups due to its ‘mind-expanding’ properties but was then made an illegal drug in many parts of the world. LSD and other psychedelics have experienced a resurgence in popularity, firstly in the 1990s in the rave and dance scene and, more recently, due to increasing interest in ‘psychedelic science’.

LSD is a difficult drug to make and the chemicals needs to manufacture it are hard to find. It’s also a potentially very dangerous process. Once made it is purified and crystallized. This crystal can then be sold by manufacturers by making it into pills or tablets (called ‘microdots’) or dissolving it into water and dropping it onto sugar cubes or gelatin squares. However, it’s unusual to see LSD sold in these ways today, for as already stated, it usually comes sold on paper.

LSD crystal is dissolved into a liquid form and large sheets of blotting paper are then dipped into this solution and left to dry. These sheets, usually printed with popular images and artwork, are perforated into small squares measuring approximately 5mm x 5mm. Each of these is one dose, or one trip, with a single sheet containing up to 900 doses.

So, LSD does not come in a ‘paper form’ – the drug comes as a crystal, liquified and then absorbed onto paper. But why do we see it to continue to be sold in this way?

Firstly, soaking the drug onto paper is a much easier way to store and distribute the substance, with sheets of LSD being able to be sent across the world through the mail with little chance of detection. Secondly, it’s a powerful drug and in a crystal or liquid form there would be a much greater risk of someone inadvertently taking too much. It’s believed that a typical dose of LSD today is anywhere from 10-80 micrograms – an amount roughly equal to one-tenth the mass of a grain of sand. That’s a far smaller dose than was taken in the past but not much is needed to get an effect.

As with any drug, many things can impact on the experience someone has after taking LSD. Most importantly, any psychedelic, taken in exactly the same dose by the same person can cause widely varying experiences from one ‘trip’ to another. It’s important to remember, however, that taking LSD can intensify your thoughts and emotions and, as a result, trigger unpleasant psychological effects. As with any drug, things can and do go wrong …

First published: August 2023

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