Keeping Punters Safer: Spotlight on LSD

Our Spotlight On series dives into specific substances and shares important safety information and advice from experienced event staff.

This is the second of three articles, the first focuses on MDMA.

If people at your events may take LSD (Acid), read below for what you need to know to help keep your punters safer.  

LSD quick facts:

  • Also known as acid, LSD is a psychedelic substance usually sold on blotter paper or as a liquid.
  • After dosing, it usually takes between 20 minutes and an hour before someone starts to feel the effects
  • LSD is the second most common substance (after MDMA) brought to KYSNZ volunteers at events for checking.
  • In New Zealand, a dangerous synthetic drug called NBOMeis sometimes sold as LSD. Learn more about LSD here.

LSD effects

  • LSD effects tend to last between 6 and 15 hours - more than most other drugs.
  • Effects include visual or sensory distortions and bring about intense emotions such as euphoria in people who use them.
  • LSD is not physically addictive and poses minimal physical risk to the user.
  • People who take it often feel more socially confident.
  • Less pleasant effects include people feeling anxious, having an elevated heart rate, sweating or paranoia.
  • Experiences are often unique and can vary depending on the individual person, their state of mind and their location at the time. Some users find themselves having a bad trip after experiencing strong visual hallucinations and distortions of time and space.

On the ground views on LSD

Wendy Allison is the Managing Director of KnowYourStuffNZ (KYSNZ). KYSNZ has been present at more than a hundred events in Aotearoa since 2016. They provide factual, non-judgmental info for people who intend to consume drugs and free, legal drug checking services.

“People take LSD for a lot of different reasons, but the most common ones described to us are fun, having interesting adventures, personal insight, and social bonding with friends - a shared experience,” she says.

Glen Hoult from St John says since events had started coming back post-COVID lockdowns, St John had noted a resurgence in LSD use.

Users of LSD at events often present to medical personnel while experiencing a ‘bad trip.’

“[They have] overwhelming feelings of fear and a feeling that they are going crazy or losing their mind,” he says.

“In some instances, people need to be sedated and transported to the hospital for monitoring. If the patron has an underlying mental health condition such as depression or PTSD, LSD can exacerbate these conditions.”  

“When those that wish to consume LSD have access to quality products, there is unlikely to be issues come from this. It’s only when lower quality/badly synthesised LSD or LSD is taken in excessive quantities that we start to see problems,” Hoult says. 

Ways to keep punters safer on LSD

  • Because LSD alters people’s mental states, the biggest risks are less likely to be medical emergencies and more likely to be someone dealing with psychological challenges.
  • People who use LSD may behave unpredictably during their altered state - it can affect their perception of other people and the world around them.
  • Train your staff on how to respond when patrons feel overwhelmed - take them to a safe, quiet, comfortable place with understanding company.
  • Dealers sometimes sell substances purporting to be LSD that are actually NBOMe. NBOMe (25I-nbome, n-bomb, smiles) is a potent group of synthetic hallucinogenic drugs that mimic LSD and have been linked to many deaths overseas. Make sure your drug checking services on site are well advertised to punters. If NBOMe is detected when a punter brings their LSD to drug checking volunteers, consider having one of your performers or MCs provide a warning over the loudspeakers.
  • Some users will behave inappropriately on occasion, take risks or even become quiet, withdrawn, paranoid and afraid.
  • People having difficult experiences with LSD may respond poorly to security guards escalating situations. Be kind!

General safety tips

  • Create low barriers to access that acknowledges the state of mind of people experiencing the ill effects of substances.
  • Provide peer-based welfare services - experienced medical teams.
  • A well-integrated patron welfare plan should include security, medical staff, peer-based patron welfare staff/safe zone staff/drug checking and ensure that the right department or personnel are assigned given the situation/incident. 

The role of medical staff

  • Be available for those who need help.
  • Engage with the patrons.
  • Give accurate drug harm reduction advice, building on what the patron already knows about the substance.
  • Provide assurance that you are there to help, not disparage people from their decisions.
  • If people have an adverse reaction to a substance, provide treatment to reduce harm.
  • Have a drug checking provider at the event like Know Your Stuff NZ,
  • Have a medical provider like St John Event Health Services that hold the NZ Ambulance Standard S8156.
  • Have a safe place for patrons to go when they are seeking help and promote all these things on your social media channels and ticketing outlets.

The role of security staff

  • Be a friendly and reliable presence at events.
  • Learn how to identify people having difficult experiences and direct them to medical or other on-ground support services.
  • Have non-confrontational approaches to interacting with intoxicated people.
  • Monitor the sale of alcohol and ensure intoxicated persons are not served.
  • Appoint consent guardians at your event to monitor consent breaches and support those who experience it.
  • Consider stopping gate confiscations. Those whose drugs are confiscated at the gate will seek them inside the event, creating a market for dealers. Research shows drugs purchased inside an event are more likely to be counterfeit substances that cause harm.

See more harm reduction advice and information at The Level