A teenager who accidentally ingested 10 times the normal recreational dose of LSD. A 26-year-old who overdosed on the same drug, not knowing she was pregnant. A woman who took 550 LSD doses all at once, mistaking it for another drug entirely.
These exceptional and alarming stories of massive LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) overdoses that happened to real people are all detailed in a new study, seeking to understand the medical effects of extremely high dosages of psychedelics in recreational settings.
Why do scientists want to know these things? In recent years, renewed interest in the use of psychedelics for medical treatments has boomed, with numerous researchers looking at what LSD does to the brain, measuring the effects of microdosing, and charting the history of psychedelics in the medical context.
Despite the ongoing promise of some of this research, comparatively little is known about the potentially adverse effects of extremely high doses of drugs like LSD, which of course isn’t something scientists can experimentally test on human patients.
Because of that, the only way to really gauge what happens is to look at medical records of instances involving real-life overdoses, which is the basis of a new paper from Canadian researchers, who gathered information on three separate cases from interviews, health records, case notes, and collateral reports.
In the most remarkable case, a 46-year-old woman called CB, who had a history of using morphine to treat Lyme disease-related pain in her feet, accidentally snorted a 55 mg dose of pure LSD in powder form, thinking it was cocaine.
“This was the equivalent of 550 times the normal recreational dosage of 100 mcg,” the authors, led by first author and psychedelics research specialist Mark Haden from the University of British Columbia, write in their study.
“She realised she had a problem within 15 minutes and called her roommate for help.”
Over the next 12 hours, CB vomited frequently, sitting upright (in her recollection), but mostly “blacked out” during the ordeal. This was followed by another 12-hour period in which she felt “pleasantly high”, but was still infrequently ill.