LSD use can cause hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD), although the exact mechanisms around why are poorly understood.

Consult a doctor if you experience HPPD. There are drugs that may reduce or even erase the symptoms.


LSD is a hallucinogen, illegal in all but very tightly controlled scenarios.

It acts on the central nervous system, affecting the brain’s serotonin systems. While not generally addictive, LSD can affect the body in a number of dangerous or frightening ways.

Some users experience “bad trips” which are hallucinatory events that are negative. These may be frightening, overwhelming, and/or very confusing. It is possible that, in these confused states, people may harm themselves or others.

Additionally, according to MedlinePlus, LSD can lead to some of the following effects over time:

  • Heart problems
  • Sleeping problems
  • Mental health problems, including triggering depression or schizophrenia

LSD’s ability to cause flashbacks which are related to general mental health problems, but are different enough from the broad group are worthy of mention. These are signs of the more potentially frustrating problems LSD is known to cause, such as hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder.


Exactly what causes HPPD is poorly understood, but it is strongly linked to the use of hallucinogens. Of the hallucinogens known to cause HPPD, LSD is the drug most commonly associated with the disorder.

This does not mean the condition is extremely common with LSD use; its exact prevalence is unknown. It is not yet known how dose or consistency of abuse affects HPPD’s prevalence. Some people reportedly get the condition after only one or two uses of LSD. 

HPPD comes in two types.

  • Type 1: This type of HPPD manifests in brief, random flashbacks to past memories. These flashbacks are not like PTSD flashbacks. They tend to be mostly visual and not particularly intense. They are, however, distracting and often very frustrating.
  • Type 2: This type of HPPD manifests in a number of visual changes. You may see strange auras, colors, patterns, distortions, movement where there isn’t any, visual static, and more.

LSD use is not the only way to experience HPPD, but it is the most common. If you experience any of the above effects, consult a doctor. There are ways to mitigate some or all of the impacts with appropriate treatment.

Getting an Accurate Diagnosis

It is important to seek help from a health care professional for HPPD. In addition to potentially being distracting, frustrating, or even frightening, a flashback or visual distortion at the wrong time could be dangerous, such as when driving or when having negative consequences at school or work. 

Unfortunately, HPPD is sometimes poorly understood, and some health care professionals may dismiss it or misdiagnose it. At the same time, never self-prescribe or self-treat for HPPD. Its symptoms share at least some similarities with other mental illnesses in which you are not likely qualified to differentiate. If you feel a doctor is ignoring clear symptoms of HPPD, find another doctor or at least bring up the possibility of the disorder. 

Remember that a doctor is meant to help you. Your use of LSD or other drugs will be confidential if you disclose it to a doctor. It is important that they know what has been going into your body if you want an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Treatment for HPPD

Hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder is treated with a variety of drugs, and their exact effectiveness can be difficult for a doctor to predict from patient to patient. The most common medications used to treat HPPD are:

The Most Common Medications Used to Treat HPPD Are:

  • Antidepressants
  • Risperidone
  • Lamotrigine
  • Clonazepam

Exactly how these drugs work for a given HPPD case is not yet fully understood. If you have been prescribed one such drug and your HPPD symptoms do not seem to be improving, or they are getting worse, report it to your doctor immediately.

It’s important that you stop using illicit drugs, not just hallucinogens. In addition to these drugs potentially interfering with drugs used in your treatment, HPPD is not well understood enough that you should risk worsening your condition with such abuse.

HPPD symptoms generally fade or even disappear over time. However, some people experience such symptoms for years. A doctor may not be inclined to prescribe drugs to treat HPPD unless symptoms seem severe or chronic. The exact nature of what is best for you will depend on your own particular needs.

Lifestyle changes may make HPPD symptoms better or worse. It seems that anxiety and depression, which HPPD exacerbates, can also make the hallucinatory symptoms of HPPD stronger. Reducing stress and combating depression have likewise been linked to improved symptoms.

Am I Going to Get HPPD from LSD Use?

As of right now, it is impossible to determine how likely a person is to get HPPD from using LSD. There simply has not been enough research into the matter.

As stated above, it is not even clear why people are getting the condition, beyond it being linked in some way to hallucinogens. 

Stating that LSD is the most common way to get HPPD can be a bit misleading. It is possible that HPPD is a risk of LSD abuse. Notably, it is a risk even with fairly light LSD abuse.

More Research Needed

More research is needed to get more definitive answers into the nature of HPPD, its links to LSD and other drugs, and how to better predict and treat the condition. Certainly of value would be a widescale study into how common the condition is among drug users. 

As things stand, HPPD is a condition that is understood well enough to at least identify and treat, but it is poorly understood so that there are almost certainly patients falling through the cracks through misdiagnosis or whose condition could be further improved with better treatment.

HPPD is not a hopeless condition. While frightening, things can be done for most people to control their symptoms once the disorder is correctly identified.

In the meantime, it is usually not life-threatening, but it can admittedly lower quality of life through frustrating hallucinations and its ability to cause anxiety and depression. You should not drive or operate machinery while suffering from HPPD without first getting express approval from a doctor.

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