The guy who actually invented LSD, Albert Hoffman, would go on to report that the world’s first ever acid trip was pretty much the ultimate bad trip. Like any determined drug user, though, he didn’t let that rough start stop him — or anyone else. Now we live in a world where microdosing LSD is being seriously considered as an effective treatment for everything from depression to addiction. But what does the average first timer remember about their formative foray into tripping balls?
Iman, 39, New York City
Over the past three years I’ve been doing a lot of research on nootropics for focus, energy and endurance. One day I came across an article that said LSD in small doses could be used as a nootropic. It piqued my interest so I asked my friend, who’s a super hippy-dippy type of dude, for some acid. He takes me to the projects and we meet a guy in a hallway, and he gives me three pieces of paper. I’m like, “What’s this?” He’s like, “This is it.” I’m like, “This is it what? This is three pieces of Mickey Mouse paper. I’m black. You gotta break it down for me.”
He explains that this is a tab, they dropped the liquid on the paper, etc. My friend says to me, “Listen, it’s gonna take about 30 to 40 minutes, so if nothing happens, don’t freak out about it. Just don’t take the second one.”
I took the first one and after 30 minutes nothing happened — I’m expecting the wall to move and all these things you see in the movies, so I thought, “I paid for it, I might as well take the second one.”
After about 30 more minutes, everything picks up. My body temperature rises, and as my homeboy and I were smoking some weed, I looked at him and said, “Hey man, you got some weird vibe going on right now … I gotta leave.” He was like, “Yeah, it’s on!” But before I left, he prepared me: He said, you can’t be around anybody in a bad mood, and you don’t wanna be in a space where you don’t feel safe.
Remember in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves took the pill? His breathing is getting heavy and there’s that feeling where the silver goo goes down his throat and takes him to this whole other place? That didn’t happen to me, but as soon as I laid down on my bed, the light above me turned purple. The room was breathing as I was breathing. I really wasn’t too nervous — I’d been in the military and I learned to have good control of my mind. As I’m lying there and listening to music, the experience was like living in HD, if that makes sense. Sound was more crisp; color was brighter — colors were coming toward me. Instead of me looking at color, color was jumping into my eyes. Then I smoked some weed, and it charged back up again.
So I walk to Central Park, and I just stare at one tree. It felt like I was there for an hour but it might’ve been five minutes. I picked one leaf and I literally watched it grow: The veins, the colors, I watched it move. I had my earbuds in and the music was just flowing through me. As I kept walking around by the West Side Highway I did my best to stay away from people, but I could still notice that you feel everything in everybody. So in New York City, a city of millions, I decided I’d get on the subway. Very bad idea! When I got on the train I felt everyone’s emotions — anxiety, anger, stress — and this was five o’clock rush hour. I immediately got off at the next train stop and avoided a panic attack and freakout.
Then I remembered that my friend had told me you can see a person’s aura — he told me it’s either gonna be gold or gray. At the time I was like, “Dude, come on now.” But at this point, I said to myself, “Okay, let me see.” So I met up with a friend of mine, and he had a golden glow around him. Really good dude: Stand-up guy, loves his wife, pays his taxes. Later in the day I hooked back up with my homeboy that gave me the LSD and he was gray. It made me say, “Whoa, I gotta get away from you, or maybe you’re in a bad mood.”
What happens is, LSD shuts down the filters we have. It shuts down those things that the brain says isn’t really important. So if you’re not an empathetic person, you feel empathy. If you have no fear, you end up having some fear. It cuts down a couple of things. But what I loved the most was how music and color and art combined to make the experience blissful. If you’re looking at the sky, we know that the earth is moving very slowly but we don’t feel it; on LSD, you do. That’s how wicked it is. Some people say, “I could never take that,” and it’s because they have zero control over their mind. So I feel like if you’re a person who can have control over your mind, then it can be beneficial to you if you microdose. Some people do it just to get high out of their mind and forget things, but I feel like if you use it in a pure manner, in a manner of mental reset, wanting to connect with your higher self, I feel it’s a great drug for that.
That’s the reason I like LSD. I call it a staycation: Whenever I’m super stressed out I go, “Looks like it’s time for a staycation.” And for about six to eight hours, I’m outta here! I’m still here physically, but mentally I’m nowhere near here. I’m not around.
Joshua, 26, Portland
Back in high school, a few friends and I knew a guy who had a family cabin out in the forest — it was one of those A-frames that nowadays you see on Instagram with a hashtag like #glamping. We went there to spend the night and brought some 40s, some weed and some acid. It was the first time for all of us to try LSD, and I think we were all a little nervous.
We get there at night, start drinking, start smoking and we each take a hit. I don’t think anybody knew how much to take, I only did a little myself. Then as we’re sitting at the table playing cards, nothing much was happening. Soon enough, at one point I look up from my cards, and suddenly, my friends looked like rats. It was like they were rat people, and I was playing cards with a bunch of rat people. I was like, “Aww shit. I gotta get the fuck outta here. This is crazy.” I didn’t say anything to them — I didn’t even wanna look at them. I just walked outside.
As I walked to the door, I grabbed the first thing I saw — my friend’s phone. As I sat on the deck, I scrolled through his music and all he had on his phone was shitty electronic music. But it calmed me down! It took an hour, but the fresh air and the quiet brought me back. I was ready to go back in — they were back into their normal selves and were still playing cards.
I was the only one who was seeing shit, and that’s pretty much all I saw. The walls didn’t move or anything like that — I wasn’t tripping my ass off. But I think the moral of the story is that music and drugs go together like salt and pepper. Even music I hate calmed me down when I needed it to.
Paul, 46, Sacramento
It was a summer night in high school and my friend and I were dumb and bored. Earlier in the day we saw a guy we knew from school who was like, “You guys wanna buy a sugar cube?” We’re like, “Sure! What does it do?” We had no idea how many hits of acid to take or anything, and with the sugar cube you can put multiple hits on it. We started really strong — I think we took two or three hits, because when I took it after that I thought, “This isn’t as harsh.”
We’re sitting in my room, and once it really started kicking in, we were sitting at my desk and said, “Let’s draw pictures!” We created all these stories. Then we watched the 3D version of Nightmare on Elm Street — without glasses. And it totally worked! I’m dead serious. It wasn’t scary at all, I remember laughing a lot. I think we were on such a positive trip that it was more funny than scary. All this time, my dad’s in his bedroom, just assuming I’m having a sleepover.
Then around midnight we remembered that a girl from school was having a party. We said, “Let’s walk over there!” When we got to her house, the Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want” had just come out, and MTV was playing the video on repeat at midnight for some reason. We were both huge fans, and I remember we watched that for as long as we could. It seemed like the perfect video for dropping acid to. But by the time we’d gotten there, the party was kind of done — a lot of people had passed out, yet my friend and I were just like, this is sweet! We were frying balls and having a good time.
On the walk back home, it was so quiet. We were walking along a golf course, and it always seemed like a half hour went by but we’d walked like half of a hole. When we got back to my house, we decided to do that thing where you mix cornstarch and water, then you can squeeze it into a ball, and it melts. We did that for probably an hour. The last two to three hours is tough, where you’re done and all you wanna do is sleep, but you’re just lying there. I think we finally went to bed at 5 or 6.
The next day we looked at our stories and drawings and were like, “This makes no sense. At all. It’s not even words!”
On later acid trips I realized that LSD definitely tapped into some stuff in my head that allowed me to be more appreciative of my surroundings. I realized that I don’t live in a tiny narrow view of the world, and there’s a whole lot of stuff in this world that you can’t figure out — and that that’s okay. It definitely freaked me out for sure, but the hallucinations always fascinated me. The fact that a chemical reaction in your brain is creating these things that aren’t really happening: I appreciated that. It wasn’t just like, “Cool dude … I’m trippin’.”