Science Has Finally Discovered Why LSD Trips Last So Long

Prepare to have your mind blown.

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LSD, a.k.a. Acid, is a singular psychedelic drug. Unlike just about any other substance that takes the brain for a magic carpet ride through another universe, LSD can take a long time to wear off. Nearly a day, as any exhausted psychonaut who’s tried it will be glad to tell you. 

Intrepid scientists have finally figured out why acid takes so long to stop draping everything around the tripper in rainbows and leprechauns, reports Wired, and what they’ve learned could lead to legitimate medical uses for the drug:

…A new paper out today in Cell finally reveals the secret of the LSD Trip Gone Far Too Long: The drug binds to receptors in your brain in a fascinating way, essentially locking into position to guarantee a good, long burn. And that could have big implications for harnessing LSD as a therapeutic drug.

Now, your body will clear LSD from your bloodstream in a matter of hours. But not your brain. Specifically, not the serotonin receptors that LSD binds to in the claustrum region of the brain. “Once LSD gets in the receptor, you can think of it as a hole in the ground. LSD jumps into it and then pulls a lid down over the top,” says study co-author Bryan Roth, a pharmacologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. “Basically, from the structure we could tell that once LSD gets in there it can’t get out. That’s why it lasts so long.” We’re talking 12, 18, maybe 24 hours, by the way…

Essentially, then, LSD dials the brain into alternate reality mode and then rips the knob off. Wired reports that even small amounts of the drug called microdoses—which have been growing in popularity among the human drones innovating in Silicon Valley 24/7 because they enhance productivity—behave in a similar way.  

That said, it’s good to caution that LSD is still illegal in the United States and any therapeutic use is still pretty far in the future. The good news is researchers are trying, and they are definitely learning good stuff from the experiments they’ve been allowed to do. 

So if you’re planning a mind vacation anytime soon, understand you really need to set aside plenty of time, because LSD is the kind of friend who wants to hang around awhile.