Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD or “acid,” is a hallucinogenic drug that changes the way that you perceive the world around you after you take it. People who take LSD recreationally describe the effects as a “trip,” and the drug is famous for producing trips that last a long time.
Currently, LSD is a Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical uses. However, medical researchers believe that it could be beneficial for treating certain conditions. Understanding how the drug works, including why it lasts so long, could help scientists figure out safe ways for patients to take it, strengthening the case for rescheduling the drug for medicinal uses.
The research is still in its early stages, and for the time being, LSD remains illegal. However, according to The News & Observer, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine believe they have discovered why LSD trips last so long.
LSD works by latching onto certain cells in the brain called serotonin receptors. The research demonstrated that when this occurs, a part of the receptor folds over on top of the LSD molecule. This holds the molecule in place similarly to the way that a lid on a jar keeps the contents in containment.
Eventually, the brain cell pulls in the receptor and the LSD molecule along with it. Processes within the cell break down the drug molecule, bringing the acid trip to an end.
Scientists discovered how LSD binds to brain cells by taking X-ray crystallography images of the molecules attached to the receptors. They accomplished this by essentially freezing the molecules in place while attached to the receptor so that imaging could take place.