DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
LSD in the United States

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.


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