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Does LSD make your brain bleed?
Q: I heard that LSD can cause blood to drip down from the base of your skull where your spine meets your skull, because when you take LSD, your spine will move upward, releasing chemicals or something that causes you to trip. So if you do LSD a lot, you will get this blood drip in the back of your head (internally).

Have you ever heard anything about this? I did LSD twice, and I got headaches (this was before I heard the above) but also my back hurt and my ears like I had been on an airplane.

A: We have never seen any evidence to suggest that LSD causes the spine to move upwards (or in any direction). Likewise, though a common rumor, there are no studies or case reports which suggest that LSD causes the brain to bleed or hemorrhage.

LSD can cause distortions in how one perceives body sensations, including pain. The headaches, backache and earache that you experienced may have been muscle tension, overexertion, or emotionally-induced pain. LSD can also produce analgesic (painkilling) effects that make some people susceptible to injury during its acute effects.

We can only speculate on why this myth persists, and examine what connection it may have to actual physiological effects.

  1. Around 8% of the U.S. population has tried LSD at least once in their life.[1] If LSD use caused the brain to bleed, it would be a major health disaster, and there would be many more reported cases of LSD-related strokes and other cerebral-vascular accidents (CVAs).

  2. Since the word "acid" in other contexts refers to a corrosive material, the idea that "acid makes holes in your brain" or "makes your brain bleed" may be a form of twisted logic derived from the common slang term for LSD, "acid". LSD is not a corrosive material.

  3. At higher doses, LSD can induce strong or unusual body sensations that the mind may exaggerate and interpret as dangerous. While a headache in normal circumstances wouldn't prompt people to think that their brains were bleeding, the same headache while under the effects of LSD might seem to take on greater significance. The mind can latch on to a fear and assume the worse ("my brain is bleeding").

  4. In prevention literature, LSD is sometimes lumped together with other illicit drugs like methamphetamine that have more potent effects on the cardiovascular system. Example:

    The "Letter Drugs," which can be easily obtained at all night underage dance parties called "Raves," as well as at any mall in America, are killing our children. Respiratory arrest, dehydration and brain hemorrhage are common side effects of these drugs.

    [Excerpted from the Pennsylvania Attorney General website][2] [As of April 2009, the text of this pamphlet has changed slightly to use "Club Drugs" instead of "Letter Drugs".]

    Exaggerated claims of health risk and danger from recreational drug use are common. Complete nonsense is commonly mixed in with accurate information in prohibitionist literature. "Brain hemorrhage" is not a "common side effect" of any recreational drug use. If it were, people wouldn't use that drug.

  5. Drugs such as tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceuticals used to treat migraines have been linked to increased risk of brain hemorrhage. Even certain types of headaches that occur during and after sex are also linked to brain hemorrhage. This does not mean that smoking a cigarette, drinking beer, or having sex causes your brain to bleed. Yet, as an example of the difficulty of researching the brain, the risk of hemorrhage associated with daily use of aspirin continues to be debated, despite the fact that it is a highly researched subject.

  6. LSD does not cause the brain to bleed, but it may affect blood flow to the brain: It is structurally similar to drugs like ergotamine, which are used to control vasoconstriction and dilation related to migraine. (Note: ergotamine can have life-threatening adverse effects if not taken as prescribed.) LSD has even been studied as a possible drug to treat migraines.

  7. Effects of LSD can include temporarily increased heart rate and blood pressure. Increased heart rate and blood pressure may increase the risk of brain injury in people with a history of stroke, aneurysm, or brain hemorrhage. However, there is no documented correlation between LSD use and increased risk of stroke, aneurysm, or brain hemorrhage.

  8. In one case reported in Clinical Toxicology in 1975, mild generalized bleeding [not specifically brain or intracranial] was described in the case of a massive LSD overdose, where eight people were admitted to the hospital after snorting a white powder believed to be cocaine that was actually LSD. All patients survived. (Klock et al., 1975)[3]

In sum: LSD can induce intense psychological effects. These effects can include an acute awareness of the body's vulnerabilities and mortality. It is quite possible that fears about LSD use (because of its illegality) have become conflated with these strong psychological effects to produce the enduring rumor, "LSD makes your brain bleed." Research does not support the rumor.

hope this helps


References & Related links:

  1. SAMHSA National Household Survey

    Selected National Drug Abuse Indicators [US DOJ]

    Trends in use of LSD for survey participants over 12. (Note: the National Household Survey does not include the military, prisoners, or the homeless)

  2. Amphetamine, not MDMA, is associated with intracranial hemorrhage

    Galloway G, Shulgin AT, Kornfeld H, Frederick SL

    J Accid Emerg Med, 1995; 12(3):231-2.

  3. Coma, Hyperthermia, and Bleeding Associated with Massive LSD Overdose, A Report of Eight Cases

    Klock JC, Boerner U, Becker CE

    Clinical Toxicology, 1975; 8(2):191-203.

NIDA InfoFax on LSD

The National Institute on Drug Abuse does not mention brain hemorrhage as an effect of LSD

What is a stroke? What is a hemorrhage?

From the American Heart Association Website

Mention of somatic pain in related psychedelic (psilocybin)

Les effets somatiques de la Psilocybine [Abstract in English]

Asked By : Stephanie
Answered By : Sophie
Published Date : 11 / 13 / 2002
Last Edited Date : 4 / 4 / 2009
Question ID : 3022

Categories: [ Myths ] [ LSD ] [ Effects ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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