Are acid flashbacks real?

Are acid flashbacks real?

Are acid (LSD) trip flashbacks real? Do some people see sudden visual hallucinations and unexpected visual distortion and other effects of acid kicking in long after, days, months or even years after doing LSD? What is HPPD? Let’s see if it’s true or a myth…

What is an acid/LSD flashback?

A flashback can refer to any situation where a person starts to re-experience the effects of a psychedelic drug trip, most commonly acid, much longer, even months, after the drug has worn off the system. Such kind of a flashbacks may appear just for once, or may be frequently occurring.

Although the effects observed during a flashback may vary from person to person, it is more common to see the visual hallucinations reappear than auditory disturbances and sounds out of nowhere.

How does a psychedelic trip flashback feel like?

Considering the fact that major part of the flashback occurs in the visual form, the person first of all notices visual distortions appearing at anything he sees from his eyes. The most surprising part about it is that it may appear at any particular time of the day. Yes, it may be days or months after your last LSD intake, but it can all come back for some time without a warning, at any point of the day. The following may be the signs that an acid flashback has occurred:

  • halos around objects
  • trails or ‘tracers’ behind objects in motion
  • difficulty in distinguishing between colors
  • Changing hues in vision
  • grainy texture in air or sky (called visual snow)
Differences in normal vision and LSD flashback

What causes an acid flashback?

It is just a myth that flashbacks are induced by the LSD molecules which get stored inside the body fat and get released into the bloodstream later, ie, even months after the last significant LSD intoxication. However, no medically or clinically found cause for the phenomenon exists yet. Hence the entire accountability as the legend goes lies with excessive and frequent drug use, even though some people report getting such visuals even after taking the LSD dose just for the first time.

What is HPPD?

Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is the clinical term given to continual sensory disturbances that are reminiscent of those generated by use of hallucinogenic substances. The probability of developing HPPD after consuming a hallucinogen are unknown. But most of the visual re-experiences that occur to people have been found out to be similar as to when they had intoxicated themselves with any particular psychedelic or hallucinogen such as LSD or MDMA. Researchers from UC Berkeley found that HPPD like symptoms occurred in 4.1% of participants in a web based survey of hallucinogen users.

Are LSD/Acid flashbacks something to worry?

Experiencing minor flashbacks after a few days from hallucinogenic drug usage is common, however their prevalence and their recurrence, and permanence distinguishes HPPD from a flashback. Frequently occurring flashbacks taking place very long time after previous LSD intake, and their permanence can be given as a sign of HPPD.

Although acid flashbacks themselves do not pose any psychological threat, however the visuals of HPPD can accompany other mental issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, de-personalization disorder, and depression. Although it has not been proven, some claim that problems like anxiety can cause the visuals to become more prominent and vice versa. One possible cause of increased anxiety and depression is the person reacting negatively to the visual disturbances.

Harold finally has an LSD flashback from his sixties college days… (Courtesy: CartoonStock)

What can be done to reduce or stop acid flashbacks?

At present, there has been no medically found treatment for flashbacks occurring due to hallucinogenic or psychedelic drug use. However the treatments available just curb the symptoms without attacking the issue at it’s root cause. Clonazepam, Diazepam, and Alprazolam have been prescribed by some doctors to reduce the associated distress.

Those with HPPD are often advised to completely stop drug use, and keep low on sleep deprivation and stress so as to further not trigger any psychological anomalies that might associate with HPPD. Meditation and yoga have also proved effective.

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