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LSD in the United States (DEA document)


Official version of this document

Administrator's Message

In the early 1960's, d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) emerged as a drug of abuse within a small group of individuals who were attracted to the drug's alleged mystical properties. Spurred by the initial reports of the drug's hallucinatory powers, during the late 1960's and early 1970's, LSD became the psychedelic drug of choice among certain enclaves in the drug-abusing population. Since then, use of this powerful hallucinogen has been a persistent problem among some high school and college students and other young adults.

However, recent investigative intelligence and indicator data point to an increase in the trafficking and abuse of LSD in many areas of the United States. More than half of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) field divisions report increased availability of LSD within their respective jurisdictions, and the remaining field divisions report that LSD is readily available. In addition, the popularity of LSD is increasing in many areas across the United States, particularly among young people. For example, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, the number of Americans 12 years of age or older who reported having used LSD at least once increased by more than 60 percent over the past decade. Also, according to the Monitoring the Future Survey, use of LSD among high school seniors has increased to the highest level since at least 1985. Moreover, this survey reveals that, since 1991, the percentage of high school students who associate a great risk with use of a number of illegal drugs, including LSD, has been declining significantly. There is a growing population of young people who erroneously believe that this powerful hallucinogen is "safe."

LSD is manufactured illegally within the United States, primarily in northern California, and is trafficked domestically as well as internationally by small, close-knit criminal organizations that successfully have evaded drug law enforcement authorities for many years. DEA is committed to dismantling the highest level LSD trafficking organizations. DEA's San Francisco Field Division, in cooperation with the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley Police Departments, has taken the lead in this effort.

Executive Summary

The availability of d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) has increased in the United States in the last 2 to 3 years; the hallucinogen is available in at least retail quantities in virtually every State. The sources of supply for most of the LSD available in the United States are believed to be centered in northern California.

At the wholesale production and trafficking levels, LSD remains tightly controlled by relatively small, fraternal California-based organizations that have evaded drug law enforcement operations successfully for over two decades. Mid-level distribution networks generally are comprised of individuals who have known each other through long years of association and common interests.

Over the past several years, an increasing number of individuals have attempted to manufacture LSD. Many of these individuals are not associated with the traditional northern California groups that are believed to have produced most of the LSD available in the United States since the late 1960's.

Compared with methamphetamine, PCP, and other domestically manufactured illicit drugs, few LSD laboratories have been located or seized. Six clandestine LSD synthesis laboratories have been confiscated by DEA since 1981; however, there have been no seizures since 1987. This is due primarily to the shifting of law enforcement resources to target and dismantle the escalating number of cocaine trafficking and distribution organizations established during the crack epidemic that began during the mid-1980's and continues into the present.

Public and private mail systems appear to be the primary means used for the transportation and distribution of wholesale and retail quantities of LSD.

LSD is relatively inexpensive with an average street dosage unit or "hit" costing approximately $5 and often as little as $1 or $2. Retail-level doses are available primarily in paper form; microdot tablets and gelatin squares also have been encountered.

Current LSD potency ranges from 20 to 80 micrograms per dosage unit. This potency is considerably below levels reported during the 1960's and early 1970's, when potency ranged from 100 to 200 micrograms (or higher) per dosage unit.

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse for 1993 estimated that 13.2 million Americans 12 years of age or older have used LSD at least once in their lifetime compared to 8.1 million in 1985.

According to the 1993 Monitoring the Future Study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, lifetime, past-year, and past-month use of LSD among seniors in the class of 1993 increased to the highest level since 1985. Moreover, the survey revealed that LSD use has increased significantly in every frequency category except daily use at every grade level.

Reporting from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) indicates that the number of LSD-related hospital emergencies remains low compared to other major illegal drugs of abuse. This low number most likely is due to the fewer adverse reactions generated by the low-potency LSD that has been produced since the late 1970's. As a result, the DAWN figures do not reflect the increases in LSD use measured by other indicators such as the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the Monitoring the Future Survey.

LSD: The Drug

Background D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD01) is the most potent hallucinogenic substance known to man. Dosages of LSD are measured in micrograms, or millionths of a gram. By comparison, dosages of cocaine and heroin are measured in milligrams, or thousandths of a gram. Compared to other hallucinogenic substances, LSD is 100 times more potent than psilocybin and psilocin and 4,000 times more potent than mescaline.02

The dosage level that will produce an hallucinogenic effect in humans generally is considered to be 25 micrograms. Over the past several years, the potency of LSD obtained during drug law enforcement operations has ranged between 20 and 80 micrograms per dosage unit. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recognizes 50 micrograms as the standard dosage unit equivalency.

LSD is classified as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. As a Schedule I drug, LSD meets the following three criteria: it is deemed to have a high potential for abuse; it has no legitimate medical use in treatment; and, there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision.

LSD was synthesized in 1938 by a chemist working for Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. It was developed initially as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. However, no extraordinary benefits of the compound were identified and its study was discontinued.03 In the 1940's, interest in the drug was revived when it was thought to be a possible treatment for schizophrenia. Because of LSD's structural relationship to a chemical that is present in the brain and its similarity in effect to certain aspects of psychosis, LSD was used as a research tool in studies of mental illness.

Sandoz Laboratories, the drug's sole producer, began marketing LSD in 1947 under the trade name "Delysid" and it was introduced into the United States a year later.04 Sandoz marketed LSD as a psychiatric cure-all and "hailed it as a cure for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, 'sexual perversions,' and alcoholism."05 In fact, Sandoz, in its LSD-related literature, suggested that psychiatrists take the drug themselves in order to "gain an understanding of the subjective experiences of the schizophrenic."06

In psychiatry, the use of LSD by students was an accepted practice; it was viewed as a teaching tool in an attempt to understand schizophrenia. From the late 1940's through the mid-1970's, extensive research and testing were conducted on LSD. During a 15-year period beginning in 1950, research on LSD and other hallucinogens generated over 1,000 scientific papers, several dozen books, and 6 international conferences, and LSD was prescribed as treatment to over 40,000 patients.07 Although initial observations on the benefits of LSD were highly optimistic, empirical data developed subsequently proved much less promising.

As enthusiasm for the untested assumptions became tempered by the findings of actual experiments-and as less scrupulous professionals in the industry relaxed supervision and control of experiments-LSD emerged as a drug of abuse in certain, primarily medical, circles. Some psychiatric and medical professionals, acquainted with LSD in their work, began using it themselves and sharing it with friends and associates.08

During the early 1960's, this first group of casual LSD users evolved and expanded into a subculture that extolled the mystical and pseudo-religious symbolism often engendered by the drug's powerful effects. The personalities associated with the subculture, usually connected to academia, and the propaganda they circulated soon attracted a great deal of publicity, generating further interest in LSD.09

During the late 1960's and early 1970's, the drug culture adopted LSD as the "psychedelic" drug of choice. The infatuation with LSD lasted for a number of years until considerable negative publicity emerged on "bad trips"- psychotic psychological traumas associated with the LSD high-and "flashbacks," uncontrollable recurring experiences. As a result of these revelations and effective drug law enforcement efforts, LSD dramatically decreased in popularity in the mid-1970's. Scientific study of LSD ceased circa 1980 as research funding declined.

As a casual drug of abuse, LSD has remained popular among certain segments of society. Traditionally, it has been popular with high school and college students and other young adults. LSD also has been integral to the lifestyle of many individuals who follow certain rock music bands, most notably the Grateful Dead. Older individuals, introduced to the hallucinogen in the 1960's, also still use LSD.

LSD most often is found in the form of small paper squares or, on occasion, in tablets. On occasion, authorities have encountered the drug in others forms-including powder or crystal, liquid, gelatin square, and capsule-and laced on sugar cubes and other substances. LSD is sold under more than 80 street names including acid, blotter, cid, doses, and trips, as well as names that reflect the designs on sheets of paper (see Appendix 1). More than 200 types of LSD tablets have been encountered since 1969 and more than 350 paper designs have been acquired since 1975. Designs range from simple five-point stars in black and white to exotic artwork in full four-color print. Inexpensiveness (prices range from $2 to $5 per dosage unit or "hit,"; wholesale lots often sell for as little as $1 or less), ready availability, alleged "mind-expanding" properties, and intriguing paper designs make LSD especially attractive to junior high school and high school students.

LSD has been available-at first legally, then on the illicit market-for over 40 years. Its use in scientific research has been extensive and its use has been widespread. Although the study of LSD and other hallucinogens increased the awareness of how chemicals could affect the mind, its use in psychotherapy largely has been debunked. It produces no aphrodisiac effects, does not increase creativity, has no lasting positive effect in treating alcoholics or criminals, does not produce a "model psychosis," and does not generate immediate personality change.10

However, drug studies have confirmed that the powerful hallucinogenic effects of this drug can produce profound adverse reactions, such as acute panic reactions, psychotic crises, and flashbacks, especially in users ill-equipped to deal with such trauma.

LSD Manufacture

Illegal LSD Production

LSD has been manufactured illegally since the 1960's. A limited number of chemists, probably less than a dozen, are believed to be manufacturing nearly all of the LSD available in the United States. Some of these manufacturers probably have been operating since the 1960's.

LSD manufacturers and traffickers can be separated into two groups. The first, located in northern California, is composed of chemists (commonly referred to as "cooks") and traffickers who work together in close association; typically, they are major producers capable of distributing LSD nationwide. The second group is made up of independent producers who, operating on a comparatively limited scale, can be found throughout the country. As a group, independent producers pose much less of a threat than the northern California group inasmuch as their production is intended for local consumption only.

Drug law enforcement officials have surmised that LSD chemists and top echelon traffickers form an insider's fraternity of sorts. They successfully have remained at large because there are so few of them. Their exclusivity is not surprising given that LSD synthesis is a difficult process to master. Although cooks need not be formally trained chemists, they must adhere to precise and complex production procedures. In instances where the cook is not a chemist, the production recipe most likely was passed on by personal instruction from a formally trained chemist. Further supporting the premise that most LSD manufacture is the work of a small fraternity of chemists, virtually all the LSD seized during the 1980's was of consistently high purity and sold in relatively uniform dosages of 20 to 80 micrograms.

LSD commonly is produced from lysergic acid, which is made from ergotamine tartrate, a substance derived from an ergot fungus on rye, or from lysergic acid amide, a chemical found in morning glory seeds. Although theoretically possible, manufacture of LSD from morning glory seeds is not economically feasible and these seeds never have been found to be a successful starting material for LSD production. Lysergic acid and lysergic acid amide are both classified in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Ergotamine tartrate is regulated under the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act.

Ergotamine tartrate is not readily available in the United States, and its purchase by other than established pharmaceutical firms is suspect. Therefore, ergotamine tartrate used in clandestine LSD laboratories is believed to be acquired from sources located abroad, most likely Europe, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Africa.11 The difficulty in acquiring ergotamine tartrate may limit the number of independent LSD manufacturers. By contrast, illicit manufacture of methamphetamine and phencyclidine is comparatively more prevelant in the United States because, in part, precursor chemicals can be procured easily.

Only a small amount of ergotamine tartrate is required to produce LSD in large batches. For example, 25 kilograms of ergotamine tartrate can produce 5 or 6 kilograms of pure LSD crystal that, under ideal circumstances, could be processed into 100 million dosage units, more than enough to meet what is believed to be the entire annual U.S. demand for the hallucinogen. LSD manufacturers need only import a small quantity of the substance and, thus, enjoy the advantages of ease of concealment and transport not available to traffickers of other illegal drugs, primarily marijuana and cocaine.

Cooking LSD is time consuming; it takes from 2 to 3 days to produce 1 to 4 ounces of crystal. Consequently, it is believed that LSD usually is not produced in large quantities, but rather in a series of small batches. Production of LSD in small batches also minimizes the loss of precursor chemicals should they become contaminated during the synthesis process.

LSD crystal produced clandestinely can be as much as 95- to 100-percent pure. At this purity-and assuming optimum conditions during dilution and application to paper-1 gram of crystal could produce 20,000 dosage units of LSD. However, analysis of LSD crystal seized in California over the past 3 years revealed an average purity of only 62 percent. Moreover, LSD degrades quickly when exposed to heat, light, and air and is most susceptible to degradation during the application process and once it is in paper form. As a result, under less than optimal, real-life conditions, actual yields are significantly below the theoretically possible yield: 1 gram of LSD crystal genarally yields 10,000 dosage units of LSD, or approximately 10 million dosage units per kilogram.

Over the past 30 years, the traditional dilution factor for manufacturing LSD has been 10,000 doses per 1 gram of crystal. Therefore, dosage units yielded from high-purity (95- to 100-percent pure) LSD crystal would contain 100 micrograms. However, dosages currently seen contain closer to 50 micrograms. This discrepancy stems in part from production impurities: during the sythesis process, manufacturers generally fail to perform a final "clean-up" step to remove by-products, thereby lowering the crystal's purity. Further, though average purity of tested LSD crystal samples is, as noted, 62 percent, the average potency of doses analyzed is approximately 50 micrograms rather than 62 micrograms, as would be expected. The diminished potency can be attributed to distributors who, when applying the crystal to paper, often "cheat" by diluting 1 gram of crystal to produce up to 15,000 or more dosage units.

Pure, high-potency LSD is a clear or white, odorless crystalline material that is soluble in water. It is mixed with binding agents, such as spray-dried skim milk, for producing tablets or is dissolved and diluted in a solvent for application onto paper or other materials. Variations in the manufacturing process or the presence of precursors or by-products can cause LSD to range in color from clear or white, in its purest form, to tan or even black, indicating poor quality or degradation. To mask product difficiencies, distributors often apply LSD to off-white, tan, or yellow paper to disguise discoloration.

At the highest levels of the traffic, where LSD crystal is purchased in gram or multigram quantities from wholesale sources of supply, it rarely is diluted with adulterants, a common practice with cocaine, heroin, and other illicit drugs. However, to prepare the crystal for production in retail dosage units, it must be diluted with binding agents or dissolved and diluted in liquids. The dilution of LSD crystal typically follows a standard, predetermined recipe to ensure uniformity of the final product. Excessive dilution yields less potent dosage units that soon become unmarketable.

LSD crystal usually is converted into tablet form ("microdots" that are 3/32 inch or smaller in diameter), thin squares of gelatin ("window panes"), or applied to sheets of prepared paper (blotter paper-initially used as a medium-has been replaced by a variety of paper types). LSD most frequently is encountered in paper form, still commonly referred to as blotter paper or blotter acid. It consists of sheets of paper soaked in or otherwise impregnated with LSD. Often these sheets are covered with colorful designs or artwork and are usually perforated into one-quarter inch square, individual dosage units.

LSD Trafficking

Evolution of Illicit LSD Trafficking

Throughout the history of LSD trafficking, supplies have mirrored the demand for the drug. The illicit drug market has never experienced a serious shortage or glut of LSD and the overall supply of the drug has remained relatively constant since 1980. Over the years, investigations throughout the country have established that LSD sources of supply are located primarily in northern California's San Francisco Bay area.

Initially, LSD was supplied by small groups that obtained limited quantities of ergotamine tartrate on the commercial market. By the end of the 1960's, a single group-securing significant amounts of ergotamine tartrate from Mexican and Costa Rican sources-emerged as the principal supplier of LSD in the United States. With the immobilization of this group in the early 1970's, another organization took over as the principal source of supply, purchasing virtually all of its ergotamine tartrate through front companies from legitimate domestic suppliers. The neutralization of this organization wiped out the large-scale production and distribution of LSD within the United States. Immediately following this drug law enforcement effort, the number of LSD dosage unit removals from the illicit drug market decreased dramatically.

By 1976, however, another organization, centered in the San Francisco Bay area, had assumed the primary role in the production and distribution of LSD. The organization operated at least one clandestine laboratory in northern California and was believed to have managed virtually the entire LSD market through its control over the illicit importation of ergotamine tartrate and through its franchising of LSD production rights. Ergotamine tartrate was secured, indirectly, from legitimate European chemical firms: the firms supplied the precursor to European criminal organizations that, in turn, smuggled it through American middlemen to the San Francisco organization. (Since 1976, there have been no known significant diversions of ergotamine tartrate from legitimate sources in the United States.)

During the late 1970's, virtually all LSD tablets analyzed by DEA's Special Testing and Research Laboratory exhibited the same chemical composition and a roughly proportional presence of diluents. The finding suggests a possibility that a single organization manufactured the raw granulated material used in LSD tablet presses nationwide. More probably, however, the analyses indicate that LSD crystal cooks merely have passed on a single recipe for producing the tablets.

Due to the variety of shapes and sizes seen among seized tablets, it would seem that sizable amounts of the LSD crystal were distributed to specific tablet press operators. Press operators changed tablet punches and metal dies partly as a security measure and partly due to extreme wear on the non-case-hardened steel dies.

The San Francisco organization also shipped LSD in liquid form to individual conversion operations located in areas in the United States where LSD demand was greatest and to foreign, primarily English-speaking, nations. The LSD liquid was applied to paper either by using syringes to dispense LSD onto individual paper squares or by immersing sheets of paper squares in a less concentrated LSD liquid solution.

Paper emerged as the most popular means of distributing LSD. Paper distribution does not entail use of expensive pill presses. Also, pill press operations require a higher level of skill and security than paper application operations. The paper squares and sheets are easy to conceal and transport. Unique designs can be applied to the paper to make the drug more appealing to young users and to serve as brand identification. The paper designs also can be changed regularly to stimulate demand. Unlike the administration of other drugs, particularly the injection of heroin, the method of LSD ingestion (oral) is unobtrusive. In addition, the paper dosages are not readily associated by users with drugs or medicine, allowing the sellers to portray it as "natural" or unlike other drugs. Moreover, the "noncommercial social philosophy of the environment surrounding LSD use and sales makes it difficult for young people to view LSD as a dangerous drug."12

In contrast to the trafficking of other drugs, in which profit is the sole motivating factor, LSD trafficking has assumed an ideological or crusading aspect. The influence of-and probable distribution by-certain psychedelic generation gurus has created a secretiveness and marketing mystique unique to LSD, particularly at the higher echelons of the traffic. Their belief in the beneficent properties of LSD has been, over the years, as strong a motivating factor in the production and distribution of the drug as the profits to be made from its sale.

Large amounts of LSD have been seized by drug law enforcement authorities during the last several years, and numerous distributors have been arrested and convicted. Those at the upper echelon, however, continue to evade the law. These individuals appear to run an efficient and profitable operation that is difficult to penetrate.

Current Trafficking and Distribution

DEA reporting indicates that LSD is available in at least retail quantities in virtually every State in the United States and that availability is increasing in a number of States. More than half of all DEA field divisions report increased availability of LSD within their respective jurisdictions, and the remaining field divisions report that LSD is readily available. Northern California appears to be the source of supply for most of the LSD available in the United States.

At the wholesale production and trafficking level, LSD is controlled tightly by California-based organizations that have operated with relative impunity for almost 20 years. Reporting also indicates that an increasing number of individuals or groups nationwide are manufacturing and distributing LSD, or attempting to do so, on a limited basis.

LSD traffickers sometimes supply or "front" consignments of LSD to distributors who have established an acceptable level of reliability; the traffickers are reimbursed once the LSD has been sold. For the most part, however, payment for consignments of LSD is made in advance by wire through Western Union or by postal money orders. Upon receipt of payment, LSD is shipped to the distributor. At the retail level, LSD is sold strictly on a cash-and-carry basis. Money laundering is not conducted on a sophisticated level, except by LSD traffickers with international connections.

Investigative intelligence reveals that major trafficking organizations are attempting to boost LSD sales through the extension of credit, especially to mid-level distributors and occasionally to low-level sellers. This suggests that competition at the highest levels of the traffic is increasing, possibly due to an increase in the number of LSD crystal manufacturers.

LSD traffickers have adapted their tactics to circumvent the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. For instance, an investigation in California revealed that one trafficker was unwilling to conduct transactions in excess of 9 grams of LSD crystal because the threshold of 10 grams triggers the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

LSD usually is transported in two ways from the San Francisco Bay area. First, overnight delivery services, including express mail, Federal Express, and DHL, are used extensively to transport large amounts of LSD throughout the United States. Second, LSD is shipped to major distributors in cities that host concerts of the "Grateful Dead" band. The concerts are used as a forum for large-scale LSD distribution, as well as low-level or retail sales. In addition, intelligence reveals that major transactions also are consummated at these events. Local police agencies have consistently reported that LSD use and arrests rise significantly prior to the concerts and persist for a period after the band leaves town.

Traditionally, retail-level LSD distribution networks in the United States have been comprised of individuals who have known each other through long association and common interests. This has facilitated not only hand-to-hand sales of the drug, but a proliferation of mail order sales.

Distribution of LSD usually occurs in one of three ways. First, an individual attends a rock concert, meets a source of supply, and exchanges telephone numbers. Typically, these purchases are for retail quantities of up to 100 doses. Second, individuals, who decide to continue distributing, call the source for additional amounts. Usually, the source has either continued on the concert tour or has returned home, which frequently is in northern California. If the source intends to stay on the tour-making subsequent communication difficult-the telephone number of an associate is provided for future orders. After the initial purchase, almost all transactions are made via the public and private mail systems. (Payments to a source of supply usually are made through legitimate money wiring services.) Third, some distributors travel directly to California to meet sources of supply.

The mail system is the primary means used to ship wholesale quantities of LSD to distributors located nationwide. Reporting indicates that shipment methods used to transport both large and small quantities of LSD are often similar. LSD frequently is concealed in greeting cards, in cassette tapes, or in articles of clothing that are mailed to a post office box established by the recipient. This post office box usually is listed under a fictitious name or business. Normally, no return address is provided on the package or envelope.


LSD is sold in several forms, including crystal, liquid, tablets, gelatin, or applied to sheets of paper or sugar cubes. At the highest levels of the traffic, LSD is sold in crystal form. LSD in liquid form is destined for transfer to a paper medium, and commonly is associated with mid-level distribution. At the retail level, the vast majority of dosage units are in the paper form, although tablets can be purchased in several areas.

LSD, when diluted and applied to paper, begins to degrade quickly, necessitating a high rate of product turnover. As a result, "stash" houses containing large quantities of the drug, common in the traffic of cocaine and marijuana, seldom are encountered by drug law enforcement authorities.

LSD liquid and crystal generally are sold in plastic film canisters or, occasionally, in small, opaque plastic bottles to prevent oxidation, which turns the LSD darker than the preferred white or off-white color.

LSD in crystal or liquid form is applied to sheets of paper by traffickers who operate clandestine conversion laboratories located in the San Francisco Bay area or by distributors in mobile conversion laboratories. These conversion laboratories can be erected quickly and efficiently almost anywhere, usually in hotel or motel rooms in cities where rock concerts are scheduled or in recreational vehicles that follow certain rock bands on their concert tours, most notably the Grateful Dead Band.13

Sheets of paper usually are prepared with colorful designs or artwork of many different characters or images. The designs often are applied commercially by printing companies using off-set lithography, screen printing, or silk screening. Photocopiers also can be used to reproduce distinctive designs onto sheets effectively. Otherwise, the designs can be applied by rubber stamps or hand-drawn.

The sheets are perforated to create small squares which represent a single dosage unit or "hit," isolating one design per dosage unit or several designs per sheet. Some LSD paper samples contain only one elaborate design per sheet. Major traffickers use methods developed in the printing industry to perforate the paper sheets. However, smaller operations may employ cruder methods, such as razor blades, pizza cutters, or sewing tools (e.g., the "Dritz" pattern marking wheel). The sheets then are ready for the application of liquid LSD.

The printed sheets are dipped into shallow pans containing LSD crystal dissolved in methanol, ethanol, or other solvent (water can be used; however, its slower evaporation rate increases the likelihood of degradation) and then are laid out or hung up to dry. The printing inks generally are insoluble in the solvents to ensure that the image does not run. Because this production procedure is inexact, the potency of LSD can vary from sheet to sheet and even from square to square.

The LSD application process is performed in this order to minimize loss of product. If the LSD is applied to the sheets prior to adding the designs, the bloated sheets of paper could jam printing or photocopying machines, wasting the valuable drug-soaked paper. In addition, there is a certain amount of waste inherent in commercial printing or photocopying operations.

Once the paper sheets are printed, perforated, and impregnated with LSD, they are ready for distribution. The traffickers often communicate with local contacts to establish distribution outlets for the drug.


LSD is relatively inexpensive. The average price is approximately $5 per retail dosage unit and less than $1 per dosage unit in wholesale lots of 1,000 or more. When compared with marijuana, which sells for $40 to $450 per ounce, LSD is perceived by many drug users as a bargain, especially considering the duration of its effects, which, in higher doses, can persist for up to 12 hours. Although LSD prices have fluctuated nationally during the past several years, overall prices remain relatively low.

The low cost of LSD has given rise to incidents where the drug is misrepresented as another illicit drug of abuse. While a small amount of liquid LSD will yield a certain number of individual dosage units for sale at from $1 to $10 each, the same amount of liquid can be applied to other substances and sold at significantly higher prices. For example, LSD can be applied to gourmet mushrooms to create ersatz psilocybin mushrooms that sell for $30 to $350 per ounce. It also can be applied to tablets and sold as 3,4 methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) for $8 to $25 per dosage unit. This versatility allows the distributor to offer a variety of drugs for sale and provides him with the potential for increased profits.


LSD potency or strength is measured in micrograms. In the 1960's and early 1970's, LSD potency generally ranged from 100 to 200 micrograms per dosage unit or higher. Analysis of exhibits during the late 1970's indicated an average potency in the 30- to 50-microgram range. From the mid-1980's to the present, LSD potency has remained considerably below levels reported during the 1960's and early 1970's and generally has been in the range of 20 to 80 micrograms per dosage unit. As a result of this comparatively low dosage level, many users perceive LSD as "safe," thus enhancing the drug's attractiveness.

The production of lower potency LSD was a conscious marketing ploy passed down from an older generation of producers for two primary reasons. First, producing lower potency doses meant that the same volume of LSD liquid or crystal could be diluted into a larger number of dosage units, thereby boosting profits significantly. Second, lower potency doses yield fewer adverse reactions on the scale of those seen during the 1960's and early 1970's.

Lower potency doses probably have accounted for the relatively few LSD-related emergency room incidents noted during the past several years. However, there are several reasons why these incidents still occur. For example, users who seek a more intense hallucinogenic experience merely consume multiple dosage units at once. In addition, novices who are unaware that the effects of LSD may take up to 1 hour to develop are tempted to ingest additional dosage units and unwittingly increase the size of the dosage consumed.

LSD Use and Effects


LSD is ingested orally. A microdot tablet or square of the perforated LSD paper is placed in the user's mouth, chewed or swallowed, and the chemical is absorbed from the individual's gastrointestinal system. Paper squares are the preferred medium because their small size makes them easy to conceal and ingest. Also, because LSD is not injected or smoked, paraphernalia are not required.

The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse data for LSD are limited to estimates of lifetime use, defined as the use of LSD at least once in a person's lifetime. During 1993, 13.2 million Americans, 12 years of age and older, reported having used LSD at least once compared to 8.1 million in 1985, an increase of more than 60 percent. In addition to the steady increase in LSD use since 1990, the data reveal two significant expansions in the number of lifetime users of LSD; one expansion occurred from 1985 to 1988 and the other from 1990 to 1991.

According to the 1994 Monitoring the Future Study, lifetime, past-year, and past-month use of LSD among seniors in the class of 1994 increased to the highest level since at least 1985. Moreover, the survey revealed that LSD use has increased in every category (except daily use) at every grade level. In addition, the proportions of students associating great risk with the use of LSD and other drugs have been declining significantly.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) indicates that the number of LSD-related hospital emergencies remains low compared to those related to cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, phencyclidine, and other major illicit drugs of abuse. For example, over the past 5 years, the number of LSD-related hospital emergencies has not exceeded 3,900 in any given year while the number of cocaine-related hospital emergencies has approached 125,000 per year during that same time frame. The low number of LSD-related hospital emergencies most likely is due to the fewer adverse reactions generated by the low-potency LSD that has been produced since the late 1970's. As a result, the DAWN figures do not reflect the increases in LSD use measured by other indicators such as the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the Monitoring the Future Survey.

DAWN data also reveal that the majority of LSD abusers are in their late teens and early twenties and usually are white males. This general profile of LSD users has been a common characteristic associated with the drug since it became popular as a substance of abuse and, for the most part, has been unchanged since at least 1989. In 1993, LSD-related emergency room episodes ranked fourth among youths aged 6 to 19, after alcohol in combination with other drugs, marijuana, and cocaine.


LSD generates a wide variety of effects, the intensity of which are related to the size of the dose ingested, the mental state of the user, and the setting in which it is used. Although the minimum dose required to induce effects is considered to be 25 micrograms, a dose of as little as 10 micrograms can relax inhibitions and produce mild euphoria.14 As the dosage is increased, the effects become more pronounced and more prolonged. The LSD high is uncontrollable once the drug has been ingested because there is no antidote.15

LSD is absorbed easily from the gastrointestinal tract, and rapidly reaches a high concentration in the blood. It is circulated throughout the body and, subsequently, to the brain. LSD is metabolized in the liver and is excreted in the urine in about 24 hours.

Several factors provide LSD with a virtually inherent governor to its regular use, meaning that the drug will never become as frequently abused as other drugs, most notably, crack cocaine. First, the duration of the effects, which may persist for up to 12 hours or more, ensures that the user will not need to purchase the drug on a rapidly recurring basis. Second, tolerance to the drug develops rapidly if used daily, rendering its repeated ingestion useless, and cannot be overcome by ingestion of increased dosages.16 Third, the uncertain and mixed effects, especially adverse reactions, lead to erratic instances of LSD use. Finally, the extremely powerful and intense hallucinations often prompt users to abstain from LSD ingestion as they require periods of reorientation.

Physical Effects

LSD use can produce a number of physical changes: mydriasis (prolonged dilation of the pupil of the eye), raised body temperature, rapid heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, increased blood sugar, salivation, tingling in fingers and toes, weakness, tremors, palpitations, facial flushing, chills, gooseflesh, profuse perspiration, nausea, dizziness, inappropriate speech, blurred vision, and intense anxiety.17 Death caused by the direct effect of LSD on the body is virtually impossible. However, death related to LSD abuse has occurred as a result of the panic reactions, hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia experienced by users.

LSD distorts electrical messages sent to and from various parts of the brain, primarily those pertaining to visual information. Messages from any of the senses can be perceived as merged together, creating a sensation known as "synesthesia." This most commonly is represented as "hearing colors" or "seeing sounds."

LSD also affects moods and emotions and suppresses memory centers and other higher cerebral functions, such as judgment, reason, behavior control, and self-awareness.18 The combination and intensity of these factors create the profound mental effects most closely associated with LSD.

Mental Effects

The mental effects most commonly associated with LSD use, particularly at high doses, are visual images or hallucinations, often involving simulated philosophical or religious connotations. It is this artificial imagery which has been advocated erroneously as providing true psychological insight and benefit.

The cause of most LSD-related problems is the intense visual illusions triggered that seem real and become overpowering, prompting the user to want to withdraw from the drug state immediately.19 Initially, at lower dosage levels, the visual images are intensified in color or flashes of light are seen. The visual images progress to brightly colored geometric designs and become distorted. At higher dosages, images appear as distortions of reality or as completely new visual images and can be seen with the eyes open or closed.

Hallucinations also take other forms: thoughts become dreamlike or free-flowing, perception of time can become slowed or distorted, and out-of-body experiences may occur or the perception that one's body has merged with another person or object.20

Emotional responses to the vivid hallucinations can be wide-ranging, from euphoria and contentment to disturbing feelings of confusion, fear, and despair. Moods can change profoundly in a short period of time, from excitability to tranquility.21

The consequences of LSD use can be deleterious, not merely benign as is commonly perceived. Powerful hallucinations can lead to acute panic reactions when the mental effects cannot be controlled and when the user wishes to end the drug-induced state. While these panic reactions more often than not are resolved successfully over time, prolonged anxiety and psychotic reactions have been reported.22 The mental effects can cause psychotic crises and compound existing psychiatric problems.23


Flashbacks are one of the most dangerous side effects of LSD use. They are recurrences of images or effects that were experienced during a previous LSD administration and they can vary in frequency and duration. Flashbacks can occur spontaneously or they can be spurred by the use of other drugs (particularly marijuana or hashish), emotional stress, fatigue, or movement from a light to a dark environment. These flashbacks can last from a few seconds to several hours. Ironically, some experienced LSD users do not consider flashbacks to be an adverse consequence of LSD use and actually enjoy the renewed perceptions or images as a "free trip."24

DEA Field Division Assessments


Area of Responsibility: The Atlanta Field Division is responsible for DEA Resident Offices (RO's) located in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Summary: The Atlanta Field Division reports that LSD is readily available in most areas of the division and is popular among high school and college age students who use it primarily as a recreational drug. This user group is receptive to the intriguing designs on the paper and the low cost per dosage unit.

Investigative intelligence indicates that the majority of the LSD transported into the division is supplied by sources located in northern California and Oregon.

A DEA-sponsored enforcement project designed to gather intelligence on LSD trafficking and use revealed a slight increase in availability of LSD throughout the Atlanta Field Division during periods surrounding the concerts by the Grateful Dead Band. For example, in 1994, the Raleigh RO reported a seizure of 3,000 dosage units of LSD from an individual whose source of supply followed the band from the San Francisco area. This appears to be the normal circumstance surrounding almost all LSD-related incidents in the division.

The Memphis RO reported the culmination of an LSD investigation in late 1993 that successfully curtailed the supply of LSD in western Tennessee. Since then, however, availability of LSD has been restored, especially in the high schools.

Although reportedly available in tablet, liquid, and crystal forms, the most widely encountered form of LSD in the division is paper that sells for approximately $5 per dosage unit. Some recently encountered paper designs include the Music Television characters "Beavis and Butthead," "Birdhead," "Felix the Cat," and a sun face, in addition to plain white paper.


Area of Responsibility: The Boston Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Summary: Within the Boston Field Division, LSD is available in quantities ranging from individual dosage units to multihundred lots. The majority of the LSD encountered is in paper form and is transported into the division via express mail services. Source areas are reported to be in California and New York City.

Several high schools in Vermont are experiencing a surge of LSD use. LSD also is popular among college students, especially in the Burlington area, which is home to a half dozen universities.

Drug law enforcement authorities in Maine report that LSD is emerging as a popular drug among students, although it is not generally available in large quantities. Nonetheless, some distributors appear to have developed significant sources for the drug.

LSD prices range from $1.75 to $5 per dosage unit wholesale and from $3 to $7 at the retail level. Potency levels consistently range from 30 to 50 micrograms. Brand names for LSD encountered in the division include "Rainbow" and "Superman." Paper designs include plain yellow or white paper with or without black stars.


Area of Responsibility: The Chicago Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Summary: LSD is available in all areas of the Chicago Field Division and can be obtained in paper or microdot forms in quantities up to 10,000 dosage units. Intelligence indicates that LSD is not manufactured locally, but is shipped from the West Coast, particularly the San Francisco area. The postal service and other parcel delivery services are used for the shipment of LSD consignments into the division.

LSD has increased in availability in Illinois in recent years. Several forms of LSD have been encountered: microdots (obtained from persons following the Grateful Dead Band tour on the East Coast), paper, and tablet or liquid forms with the brand names "Felix the Cat" and "Beavis and Butthead" and with orange or black sun designs. DuPage and Lake Counties and the North Shore of Chicago have experienced a sharp increase in LSD use by high school students. Surveys in these areas indicate that LSD ranks third, along with cocaine, in order of preference after alcohol and marijuana.

Drug law enforcement agencies in Indiana report a slight increase in LSD trafficking and abuse in that state after a period of relative stability over the past 5 years.

Price per dosage unit ranges from $2 in Hammond, Milwaukee, and Springfield, to $8 in Fargo, but generally dosage units sell for $5 each.


Area of Responsibility: The Dallas Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Amarillo, Fort Worth, Lubbock, Midland, and Tyler, Texas, as well as the State of Oklahoma.

Summary: Investigative intelligence and population surveys indicate that LSD is popular among white high school and college students and probably is the third most frequently abused drug by youth following marijuana and inhalants.

LSD continues to gain popularity with youths throughout the region. The drug is brought into the division from California and Houston in multithousand dosage unit lots. Although LSD is most readily available near local colleges, reports of LSD sales to high school and junior high school students are not uncommon.

While LSD has been reported as selling for from $5 to $10 per dosage unit in east Texas, it is most commonly available in the $1 to $10 range throughout the division.

LSD is rising in popularity in Lubbock, Texas, and Oklahoma and is available in 100 dosage unit quantities at $3.25 per dosage unit. At the retail level, dosage units of LSD sell for $4 to $8 each.


Area of Responsibility: The Denver Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Summary: LSD is readily available in many areas of the division. Sources for LSD in Colorado are located in Boulder and usually have ties to the San Francisco area. California commonly is cited as a source area for LSD available in other areas of the division.

Drug law enforcement officials in Aspen, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction, Colorado, report an increase in LSD availability. The Glenwood Springs RO reports a sharp increase in LSD availability in western Colorado and that it rapidly is becoming a serious abuse problem among teenagers.

Intelligence from local drug law enforcement agencies reveals that LSD is transported into Colorado by individual distributors in sheets of 100 to 500 dosage units. Adults reportedly are selling significant quantities to juveniles who, in turn, sell it to their peers in individual dosage units. More sophisticated distributors usually sell quantities of from 5 to 100 dosage units per transaction.

LSD in microdot form has been seized in Palmer Lake, Colorado. The potency of the microdots was determined to be very low, suggesting that the origin of the drugs was a rudimentary LSD conversion laboratory and distributed by a low-level distribution group.

Drug law enforcement authorities in New Mexico report that LSD is available around the University of New Mexico campus and that the drug is shipped to Albuquerque from the San Francisco area. The State Crime Laboratory in Las Cruces reports a continuing increase in LSD exhibits submitted for analysis. Laboratory analysis reveals potencies to be approximately 60 micrograms per dosage unit.

A number of drug distribution groups in the Salt Lake City area are believed to be affiliated with the counter-culture groups and LSD trafficking organizations in the San Francisco area.

LSD frequently is sold in the form of paper, tablets, and window panes. The Pueblo, Colorado, Police Department has encountered sugar cubes laced with LSD. Prices for LSD in the Denver Field Division range from $0.65 to $3 per dosage unit in wholesale quantities and from $3 to $5 per dosage unit at the retail level. Potencies consistently range from 40 to 60 micrograms per dosage unit. Designs on paper popular in the Denver metropolitan area include "Loony Toons" and "Elvis." LSD encountered in Albuquerque has been sold under brand names such as "Strawberry" and "Ying Yang." Other designs seen in the division include pig going to market, concentric circles, yellow paper with black sun, and the elephant god.


Area of Responsibility: The Detroit Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.

Summary: LSD distribution and use are rising in Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio, primarily among white teenagers who perceive the drug as relatively safe to use. Investigative intelligence has identified northern California as the source area for the majority of the LSD distributed throughout the division.

Investigation has revealed that the paper LSD available in the city was being sent via mail services from Arizona and California. The Saginaw RO reports that LSD popularity is rising among high school students in Alpena, Flint, and southwest Saginaw County. The source-believed to be in Lansing-either obtains the drug from a local LSD laboratory or from sources in California. Both paper and microdot tablet forms are available in quantities ranging from 100 to 3,000 dosage units, with wholesale prices of $1 per dosage unit. Single dosage unit prices range between $2.50 in Saginaw to $7 in outlying areas.

The Michigan State Police recently has reported that LSD is applied to gourmet mushrooms and sold as psilocybin mushrooms to naive customers. Apparently, these incidents have been isolated to the Michigan State University campus.

The Columbus RO reports that LSD is available in multithousand dosage unit quantities. Investigations have indicated that LSD is obtained from sources located in Florida. The Cincinnati RO reports that LSD is readily available in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky and is used primarily by teenagers who pay $4 per dosage unit. At higher distribution levels, LSD paper is sold in 100 page books containing 100 dosage units per page, with each page costing approximately $225. The Toledo RO reports that LSD is shipped into the area via mail services from sources in California and is readily available. Primary users are high school and college students.

Surveys in Louisville indicate that LSD has replaced cocaine as the third most abused drug among teenagers and young adults after alcohol and marijuana. However, the Lexington RO reports that LSD is only sporadically available.

Paper is the most dominant form of LSD available at the retail level and typically costs from $1.50 to $7 per dosage unit.


Area of Responsibility: The Houston Field Division is responsible for DEA District Offices (DO's) and RO's located in Alpine, Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Eagle Pass, El Paso, Galveston, Laredo, McAllen, and San Antonio, Texas.

Summary: LSD is the drug of choice for many middle and upper-middle class white youths and is readily available in many high schools and nightclubs throughout the division. In addition, the cities reporting ready availability contain large populations of students attending the many colleges and universities, particularly Austin.

In Houston, although wholesale quantities are limited, retail amounts of the drug can be obtained easily. Some of the LSD sold in the Houston area is contained on heavy bond paper with designs that appear to have been photocopied. Reports also indicate that LSD in both paper and gelatin forms is available.

Investigative reporting reveals that a large-scale LSD distribution group is operating in the Austin area with connections to San Antonio. LSD trafficking and abuse appear to be on the rise in Beaumont with the traffic originating from San Francisco sources of supply and transshipped through Houston.

Single dosage units of LSD cost from $2 to $10 each at the retail level while quantities of 1,000, referred to as "books," are sold for $800 to $1,100 each. Potencies consistently have remained around 50 micrograms per dosage unit.

Los Angeles

Area of Responsibility: The Los Angeles Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Riverside, Santa Ana, and Santa Barbara, California, in addition to Hawaii, Nevada, and Guam.

Summary: LSD and other hallucinogens, particularly MDMA, are popular with students from middle school to college age. Los Angeles serves as an LSD source city for other areas of the country. For example, an individual from Portland, Oregon, was arrested recently at Los Angeles International Airport after purchasing LSD and methamphetamine from traffickers in Los Angeles.

In Las Vegas, LSD is readily available, with sheets of 100 dosage units selling for as low as $100. LSD is available in smaller quantities in Reno at $4 to $5 per dosage unit. Intelligence indicates that the LSD in Reno is of poor quality and is brought into the area by a small group of distributors. LSD trafficking is not a major drug law enforcement concern in the Reno/Sparks area or in the Tahoe Basin.

LSD and MDMA are encountered periodically in Honolulu, but usually are distributed in relatively small quantities. The price for individual dosage units of LSD ranges from $3.50 to $6 in Hawaii.


Area of Responsibility: The Miami Field Division is responsible for DEA DO's and RO's located in Florida, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Country Offices located in The Bahamas, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Summary: LSD is brought into the Miami Division via express mail services from sources located in California. For example, DEA Orlando special agents arrested an individual at the Orlando International Airport after he took delivery of 5,000 dosage units of LSD that had been shipped by plane from San Francisco. On a previous occasion, this individual had paid the supplier $2,500 for 3,000 dosage units.

LSD is readily available in the Gainesville and Tampa areas, particularly at large dance gatherings called "raves." The Orlando and Jacksonville RO's report an increase in LSD distribution and availability in central and northern Florida. Sources of supply in California and Oregon allegedly are exporting multithousand dosage unit quantities into the area.

On June 23, 1993, the DEA Orlando Task Force and Orange County Sheriff's Office seized 46 sheets of LSD containing 46,920 dosage units and arrested the head of the organization that was distributing almost 50,000 dosage units per month in central Florida.

LSD prices in Miami range from $1 to $3 per dosage unit. The drug is slightly more expensive in the northern part of Florida, where dosage units containing 50 to 60 micrograms of LSD sell for $3 to $5 each.


Area of Responsibility: The Newark Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Atlantic City and Camden, New Jersey.

Summary: LSD is available on a limited basis throughout the Newark Division, although the availability of retail quantities has increased slightly in several northern counties. Young adults and high school students have been and continue to be the predominant users of the drug and many are involved in distribution as well.

Clandestine laboratories located in California are believed to be the primary sources for LSD available in New Jersey, with drug consignments transshipped through nearby drug source areas that traditionally have supplied New Jersey with other major drugs of abuse. New York City is reported as a source city for LSD available in northern New Jersey and investigations in the southern areas of the state reveal that sources for the drug are located in the Philadelphia area. Ocean County, in the eastern part of the State, consistently reports the ready availability of LSD in a number of beach communities where LSD has been popular for many years.

LSD prices in New Jersey range from $1.50 to $5 per dosage unit in wholesale quantities and from $3 to $10 per dosage unit at the retail level.

New Orleans

Area of Responsibility: The New Orleans Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Summary: The New Orleans Field Division reports that LSD is readily available at the retail level. Distributors obtain wholesale quantities from sources in California, often in crystal form to be applied to paper locally. Allegedly, LSD has replaced MDMA as the drug of choice among high school and college students and among nightclub habitues. According to a local police laboratory, the size and frequency of LSD exhibits submitted for analysis are increasing. The price per dosage unit of LSD ranges from $1.50 to $5 in the New Orleans area.

Investigative intelligence indicates that a trafficker in Baton Rouge has access to vials of liquid LSD. Each vial contains enough liquid LSD to produce approximately 3,500 dosage units when applied to paper. The vials allegedly cost $2,000 each. Reports also indicate that small vials of liquid LSD are sold for $85 and can produce from 120 to 150 dosage units each. At the retail level, LSD is readily available in Baton Rouge. Distributors, often in their late teens, obtain quantities of up to 100 dosage units from acquaintances in Houston or in major cities in California. They commonly purchase "sheets" of 100 dosage units. Prices in Baton Rouge range from $2.50 to $5 per dosage unit.

An LSD source of supply located in San Francisco who was shipping multithousand dosage unit quantities to distributors in the Jackson, Mississippi, area was convicted and incarcerated recently. His removal from the illicit drug market has curbed the availability of LSD in the area. The Gulfport Post of Duty reports that most of the LSD available on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is transported into the area from New Orleans in sheets of 100 dosage units that sell for approximately $100 each.

The Mobile RO reports that LSD availability is sporadic, which is reflected in higher prices in that area than in other parts of the division. Prices in Mobile range from $6 to $10 per dosage unit.

New York

Area of Responsibility: The New York Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Albany, Buffalo, Long Island, Rochester, and Syracuse, New York.

Summary: Both paper and microdot forms of LSD are available in New York City. The availability of LSD in suburban and semi-rural areas of upstate New York is increasing as are arrests for distribution. Potency ranges from 40 to 80 micrograms per dosage unit. Prices at the retail level range from $3 to $7 per dosage unit, while wholesale quantities average approximately $0.50 each when purchased in multithousand lots.

The availability of hallucinogens-such as LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin mushrooms- has increased recently in the Albany and Buffalo areas. LSD in paper form is becoming more available and its popularity is rising among certain groups. An investigation in Buffalo resulted in the arrest of an individual from Oregon who had sold 10,000 dosage units of paper bearing a "Red Lips" design to an undercover officer. In another case, 5,000 dosage units of LSD were mailed from Portland, Oregon, to an undercover officer in Buffalo; the cost of the shipment was $2,500. During the biannual Grateful Dead concerts, "sham" LSD often is sold on the streets.

The Syracuse RO reports that the availability of LSD has been steady, with arrests occurring regularly. Both plain white paper and paper with designs are available in Syracuse. Prices range from $3 to $10 per dosage unit.


Area of Responsibility: The Philadelphia Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Summary: LSD is distributed in Philadelphia in multihundred dosage unit lots. Occasionally, drug law enforcement authorities seize multithousand dosage unit quantities. LSD is popular throughout the division, particularly in suburban areas and college campuses, and dosage units generally sell for $3 to $5.

LSD availability in the Lehigh Valley area has increased recently, with prices ranging from $3 to $6 per dosage unit. In Cumberland County and the Hershey area, LSD has become a major drug of abuse and is believed to originate from sources located in California.

The Pittsburgh RO reports that minimal amounts of LSD are available; however, the cost per dosage unit is quite low, ranging from $0.65 to $1.25 each.


Area of Responsibility: The Phoenix Field Division is responsible for a DEA DO in Tucson and RO's located in Nogales, Sierra Vista, and Yuma, Arizona.

Summary: In the Phoenix Field Division, State and local drug law enforcement authorities consistently encounter retail-level quantities of LSD; however, large numbers of dosage units are seized only occasionally. The hallucinogen is reported as being readily available. LSD is popular with high school and college students throughout the division.

Paper designs seized in the Phoenix Division include the "Woodstock" bird character, the "Ziggy" character, pyramids with eyes, the fleur-de-lis, and an insect and animal motif. Paper with a peace sign design became highly sought after once it had been identified as highly potent. Laboratory analysis confirmed that this type of paper contained a higher concentration of LSD than other exhibits.

Prices for LSD in the Phoenix Division have decreased since 1989 when dosage units cost from $3 to $5 each. The price has dropped to $1 to $4 per dosage unit since that time.

San Diego

Area of Responsibility: The San Diego Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Calexico, Carlsbad, and San Ysidro, California.

Summary: Reports from local police departments indicate that LSD is becoming increasingly available in junior and senior high schools. Although sources of supply are believed to be located in the San Francisco area, specific distribution organizations have not been identified. Nonetheless, in December 1993, the San Francisco Field Division Task Force 3, in cooperation with the San Diego Narcotics Unit, arrested an individual after he delivered 20,000 dosage units of paper LSD with a yellow sunshine face design to a San Diego Police Department informant. Also in December, agents in the Carlsbad RO culminated a 6-month investigation with the arrest of two LSD distributors and the seizure of 7,000 dosage units and drug-related ledgers.

San Francisco

Area of Responsibility: The San Francisco Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Fresno, Monterey, Sacramento, and San Jose, California.

Summary: LSD-in gram quantities of crystal or liquid forms and in paper form-is available throughout the San Francisco Bay area and northern California. Its popularity is highest among high school or junior high school and university students.

Investigative intelligence indicates that the majority of the LSD distributed throughout the United States originates from sources located in the San Francisco Field Division, primarily in Marin and Sonoma Counties and the city of Berkeley. No LSD manufacturing laboratory has been seized recently by drug law enforcement authorities. However, it is suspected that the majority of the LSD-related activity occurs at simple conversion laboratories, where the liquid LSD is applied to various types of paper.

San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district is the primary distribution center for wholesale and street-level retail quantities of the drug. The Telegraph Avenue area of Berkeley is a secondary distribution site. LSD and heroin have been encountered in combination in these two locations.

In December 1993, DEA special agents arrested a multigram LSD distributor in Golden Gate Park, near Haight Street, with approximately 20,000 dosage units of LSD in paper form. The subject had been arrested on two previous occasions in the same location for LSD distribution violations.

The arrests of LSD traffickers in the San Francisco area have had little impact on the availability of LSD at the lower levels of the traffic. However, distributors require more time to obtain larger quantities of the drug.

It has been reported that heroin addicts sell LSD or act as runners for larger LSD distribution operations in order to help support their habits.

LSD exhibits in paper form seized in the San Francisco Division consistently contain approximately 50 micrograms each. Seizures of gram quantities of LSD crystal typically have a purity of approximately 60 percent.


Area of Responsibility: The Seattle Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Summary: The availability of LSD in the Seattle Division is limited. However, drug law enforcement reports indicate that Oregon is considered a major source area for LSD. In addition, drug law enforcement authorities in Montana, where LSD availability and use have increased slightly, cite sources for LSD in Boulder, Colorado, who have ties to the San Francisco area. The drug usually is sold in quantities no larger than 100 dosage unit sheets for $40 to $50 per sheet. Individual dosage units sell for $1 to $5 each. The crystal form of LSD, when available, costs from $3,000 to $3,200 per gram.

St. Louis

Area of Responsibility: The St. Louis Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Summary: LSD is reported by drug law enforcement agencies to be available throughout the division on a limited basis. In St. Louis, LSD appears to be gaining in popularity among white high school seniors and recent graduates in the more affluent areas.

Drug law enforcement authorities in Iowa report that LSD distribution has increased lately, with the paper form available in quantities of up to 1,000 dosage units.

The Sioux Falls RO also reports increased availability of LSD in South Dakota. Prices are high at $7 to $10 per dosage unit with purity averaging 40 micrograms.

LSD in paper form is sparsely available in Nebraska, according to reports from the Omaha RO, although prices are relatively low at $2 to $4 per dosage unit or less for large quantities.

LSD in paper form is available in Kansas City. Prices range from $5 to $8 per dosage unit with price reductions given for purchases of 100 dosage unit lots.

The St. Louis Division reports increased distribution of LSD among high school students and recent graduates.

The paper form of LSD is most prevalent with potency in the 40 to 50 microgram range; however, the potencies of recent undercover purchases have been as low as 21 micrograms. Papers with the "Beavis and Butthead," "Felix the Cat," and "Stars and Stripes" designs have been seized recently in St. Louis.


Area of Responsibility: The Washington Field Division is responsible for DEA RO's located in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Summary: Drug law enforcement authorities report that LSD is readily available in many areas of the Washington Division, primarily in major cities and universities. Prices range from $2 to $5 per dosage unit at the retail level and from $90 to $350 for a sheet of 100 dosage units. Paper designs encountered in the division include "Felix the Cat" and "Orange Sunshine."

LSD-Related Street Terminology


The NATIONAL HOUSEHOLD SURVEY ON DRUG ABUSE, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a series of national surveys to measure the prevalence and frequency of drug use among the U.S. household population aged 12 and over. The survey samples the civilian non-institutionalized population living in households, college dormitories, and military installations and, therefore, does not include some segments of the U.S. population that may contain a substantial proportion of drug users, such as transients and those who are incarcerated. The SAMHSA publishes survey results on an annual basis.

The MONITORING THE FUTURE STUDY is a series of nationwide surveys of drug use frequency and related attitudes among high school seniors in the United States. The survey, previously called The High School Senior Survey, is conducted annually by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and funded by research grants from the SAMHSA. In addition to high school seniors, the study includes the recently added national surveys of 8th- and 10th-grade students. For the 1992 survey, approximately 50,000 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students across the country were questioned.

The DRUG ABUSE WARNING NETWORK (DAWN) is a large-scale data collection system implemented in 1972 and designed to be an indicator of the severity, scope, and nature of the nation's substance abuse problem. The purpose of DAWN is to provide data on the incidence of drug abuse related episodes from participating hospital emergency rooms located in 21 U.S. metropolitan areas. DAWN is managed by the SAMHSA.


01) LSD is the abbreviation of the German term for lysergic acid diethylamide (Lysergsäure-diäthylamid). LSD also has been cited in the literature as LSD-25, an abbreviation for the twenty-fifth compound in a series of lysergic acid derivatives. The official United States Adopted Name (USAN) for this drug, established by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia and the USAN Council, is Lysergide.

02) Robert O'Brien, et al., The Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse, Second Edition, 1992, Facts On File and Greenspring Inc., p. 170; Goodman and Gilman, The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, 8th Edition, Pergamon Press, 1990, p. 556; Oakley Ray and Charles Ksir, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior, 1990, Times Mirror/Mosbey College Publishing, pp. 298, 301; Darryl S. Inaba and William E. Cohen, Uppers, Downers, All Arounders, 1989, Cinemed Inc., Biomed Arts Associates Inc., p. 139; Robert F. Ulrich and Bernard M. Patten, "The Rise, Decline, and Fall of LSD," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 34, 4, Summer 1991, p. 563.

03) Leigh A. Henderson, "About LSD," in LSD: Still With Us After All These Years, Leigh A. Henderson and William J. Glass, eds., 1994, Lexington Books, p. 39; Ulrich and Patten, p. 565.

04) Ulrich and Patten, p. 566.

05) Henderson and Glass, "Introduction," in LSD: Still With Us After All These Years, Leigh A. Henderson and William J. Glass eds., 1994, Lexington Books, p. 3; Leigh A. Henderson, "About LSD," p. 40.

06) Ulrich and Patten, p. 566.

07) Henderson and Glass, "Introduction," p. 3; Goodman and Gilman, p. 554.8 Joseph L. Zentner, "The Recreational Use of LSD-25 and Drug Prohibition," Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, Vol. 8 (No. 4), Oct.-Dec. 1976, p. 301.

08) Joseph L. Zenter, "The Recreational Use of LSD-25 and Drug Prohibition," Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, Vol. (No. 4), Oct.-Dec. 1976, p. 301.

09) Henderson and Glass, "Introduction," p. 4; Goodman and Gilman, p. 554; Daniel X. Freedman, "A Psychiatrist Looks at LSD," Federal Probation, June 1968, pp. 20, 22.

10) Henderson, "About LSD," pp. 39, 42, and 49; Leigh A. Henderson, "Adverse Reactions to LSD," in LSD: Still With Us After All These Years, Leigh A. Henderson and William J. Glass eds., 1994, Lexington Books, pp. 74-75; Ray and Ksir, pp. 296, 301, 305-306; Goodman and Gilman, p. 556; O'Brien, pp. 171, 242; Henry David Abraham and Andrew M. Aldridge, "Adverse consequences of lysergic acid diethylamide," Addiction, October 1993, 88, pp. 1332, 1327; Joseph L. Zentner, p. 300.

11) Although it is available commercially in other countries, ergotamine is listed in the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and in the Model Regulations to Control Chemical Precursors and Chemical Substances, Machines, and Materials, approved by the Organization of American States.

12) William J. Glass, Leigh A. Henderson, Cynthia Favret, "Summary and Implications," in LSD: Still With Us After All These Years, Leigh A. Henderson and William J. Glass eds., Lexington Books, 1994, p. 134.

13) Cynthia Favret, "An LSD Distribution Network," in LSD: Still With Us After All These Years, Leigh A. Henderson and William J. Glass eds., Lexington Books, 1994, p. 109.

14) Henderson, "About LSD," pp. 44, 50; Goodman and Gilman, p. 554.

15) Ronald B. Mack, "Aquarius Redux-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide," NCMJ, June 1985, p. 344; Freedman, p. 17.

16) Cross-tolerance has been shown between LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. (Ray & Ksir, pp. 301-02.)

17) Henderson, "About LSD," pp. 44-45; O'Brien, pp. 171-72; Goodman and Gilman, pp. 554-56; Inaba and Cohen, pp. 138-39; Ray and Ksir, p. 302.

18) Inaba and Cohen, p. 138; Ray and Ksir, p. 303; Goodman and Gilman, p. 557.

19) Henderson and Glass, "Introduction," p. 2; O'Brien, p. 171.

20) Henderson, "About LSD," pp. 45-46; O'Brien, pp. 114, 170; Ray and Ksir, p. 302; Goodman and Gilman, p. 556.

21) Henderson and Glass, "Introduction," p. 2; Goodman and Gilman, p. 556.

22) O'Brien, p. 172; Goodman and Gilman, p. 556.

23) Henderson, "Adverse Reactions to LSD," p. 64.

24) Henderson, "Adverse Reactions to LSD," pp. 60-61; Ray and Ksir, p. 305; Goodman and Gilman, p. 556.

25) "Street Terms: Drugs and the Drug Trade," Drugs & Crime Data, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, pp. 1-32; and Robert O'Brien, et al., The Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse, Second Edition, 1992, Facts on File and Greenspring, Inc., pp. 173, 358.