OPEN Foundation

U. Duthaler

Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Microdoses in Healthy Participants


“Microdoses” of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are used recreationally to enhance mood and cognition. Increasing interest has also been seen in developing LSD into a medication. Therefore, we performed a pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic study using very low doses of LSD. Single doses of LSD base (5, 10, and 20 µg) and placebo were administered in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study in 23 healthy participants. Test days were separated by at least 5 days. Plasma levels of LSD and subjective effects were assessed up to 6 hours after administration. Pharmacokinetic parameters were determined using compartmental modeling. Concentration-subjective effect relationships were described using pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modeling. Mean (95% confidence interval) maximal LSD concentrations were 151 pg/mL (127-181), 279 pg/mL (243-320), and 500 pg/mL (413-607) after 5, 10, and 20 µg LSD administration, respectively. Maximal concentrations were reached after 1.1 hours. The mean elimination half-life was 2.7 hours (1.5-6.2). The 5 µg dose of LSD elicited no significant acute subjective effects. The 10 µg dose of LSD significantly increased ratings of “under the influence” and “good drug effect” compared with placebo. These effects began an average of 1.1 hours after 10 µg LSD administration, peaked at 2.5 hours, and ended at 5.1 hours. The 20 µg dose of LSD significantly increased ratings of “under the influence,” “good drug effects,” and “bad drug effects.” LSD concentrations dose-proportionally increased at doses as low as 5-20 µg and decreased with a half-life of 3 hours. The threshold dose of LSD base for psychotropic effects was 10 µg.

Holze, F., Liechti, M. E., Hutten, N., Mason, N. L., Dolder, P. C., Theunissen, E. L., Duthaler, U., Feilding, A., Ramaekers, J. G., & Kuypers, K. (2021). Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Microdoses in Healthy Participants. Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, 109(3), 658–666.

Link to full text

Acute dose-dependent effects of lysergic acid diethylamide in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in healthy subjects


Growing interest has been seen in using lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in psychiatric research and therapy. However, no modern studies have evaluated subjective and autonomic effects of different and pharmaceutically well-defined doses of LSD. We used a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover design in 16 healthy subjects (eight women, eight men) who underwent six 25 h sessions and received placebo, LSD (25, 50, 100, and 200 µg), and 200 µg LSD 1 h after administration of the serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine-2A (5-HT2A) receptor antagonist ketanserin (40 mg). Test days were separated by at least 10 days. Outcome measures included self-rating scales that evaluated subjective effects, autonomic effects, adverse effects, plasma brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels, and pharmacokinetics up to 24 h. The pharmacokinetic-subjective response relationship was evaluated. LSD showed dose-proportional pharmacokinetics and first-order elimination and dose-dependently induced subjective responses starting at the 25 µg dose. A ceiling effect was observed for good drug effects at 100 µg. The 200 µg dose of LSD induced greater ego dissolution than the 100 µg dose and induced significant anxiety. The average duration of subjective effects increased from 6.7 to 11 h with increasing doses of 25-200 µg. LSD moderately increased blood pressure and heart rate. Ketanserin effectively prevented the response to 200 µg LSD. The LSD dose-response curve showed a ceiling effect for subjective good effects, and ego dissolution and anxiety increased further at a dose above 100 µg. These results may assist with dose finding for future LSD research. The full psychedelic effects of LSD are primarily mediated by serotonin 5-HT2A receptor activation.

Holze, F., Vizeli, P., Ley, L., Müller, F., Dolder, P., Stocker, M., Duthaler, U., Varghese, N., Eckert, A., Borgwardt, S., & Liechti, M. E. (2021). Acute dose-dependent effects of lysergic acid diethylamide in a double-blind placebo-controlled study in healthy subjects. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 46(3), 537–544.

Link to full text

Pharmacokinetics and subjective effects of a novel oral LSD formulation in healthy subjects.



The aim of the present study was to characterize the pharmacokinetics and exposure-subjective response relationship of a novel oral solution of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) that was developed for clinical use in research and patients.


LSD (100 μg) was administered in 27 healthy subjects using a placebo-controlled, double-blind, cross-over design. Plasma levels of LSD, nor-LSD, and 2-oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD (O-H-LSD) and subjective drug effects were assessed up to 11.5 hours.


First-order elimination kinetics were observed for LSD. Geometric mean maximum concentration (Cmax ) values (range) of 1.7 (1.0-2.9) ng/mL were reached at a tmax (range) of 1.7 (1.0-3.4) hours after drug administration. The plasma half-life (t1/2 ) was 3.6 (2.4-7.3) hours. The AUC was 13 (7.1-28) ng·h/mL. No differences in these pharmacokinetic parameters were found between male and female subjects. Plasma O-H-LSD but not nor-LSD (< 0.01 ng/mL) concentrations could be quantified in all subjects. Geometric mean O-H-LSD Cmax values (range) of 0.11 (0.07-0.19) ng/mL were reached at a tmax (range) of 5 (3.2-8) hours. The t1/2 and AUC values of O-H-LSD were 5.2 (2.6-21) hours and 1.7 (0.85-4.3) ng·h/mL, respectively. The subjective effects of LSD lasted (mean ± SD) for 8.5 ± 2.0 hours (range: 5.3-12.8 h), and peak effects were reached 2.5 ± 0.6 hours (range 1.6-4.3 h) after drug administration. EC50 values were 1.0 ± 0.5 ng/mL and 1.9 ± 1.0 ng/mL for “good” and “bad” subjective drug effects, respectively.


The present study characterized the pharmacokinetics of LSD and its main metabolite O-H-LSD. The subjective effects of LSD were closely associated with changes in plasma concentrations over time.

Holze, F., Duthaler, U., Vizeli, P., Müller, F., Borgwardt, S., & Liechti, M. E. (2019). Pharmacokinetics and subjective effects of a novel oral LSD formulation in healthy subjects. British journal of clinical pharmacology., 10.1111/bcp.13918
Link to full text

Cytochrome P450 enzymes contribute to the metabolism of LSD to nor-LSD and 2-oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD: Implications for clinical LSD use


In recent years, experimental research on lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in humans has gained new momentum. In humans, LSD is metabolized rapidly into several metabolites but knowledge of the involved metabolizing enzymes is limited. The aim of the current study was to identify the cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoforms involved in the metabolism of LSD to 6-norlysergic acid diethylamide (nor-LSD) and 2-oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD (O-H-LSD) in vitro, in order to evaluate potential effects of enzyme polymorphisms or prescription drugs on LSD pharmacokinetics. Additionally, interactions of LSD and both metabolites with 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors were assessed. LSD was incubated with human liver microsomes over 4 h and the production of nor-LSD and O-H-LSD was quantified by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. Metabolism was inhibited by the addition of specific CYP inhibitors. Additionally, recombinant CYPs were used to verify the inhibition results obtained with microsomes and induction of metabolism was investigated in human hepatocyte-derived cells. Radioligand binding and calcium mobilization assays were used to determine 5-HT receptor affinities and activities, respectively. Human liver microsomes displayed minor metabolite formation (<1% metabolized) over 4 h. CYP2D6, 2E1, and 3A4 significantly contributed to the formation of nor-LSD, and CYP1A2, 2C9, 2E1, and 3A4 were significantly involved in the formation of O-H-LSD. These findings could be verified using recombinant CYPs. Enzyme induction with rifampicin distinctly increased the formation of both metabolites, whereas treatment with omeprazole only slightly increased formation of nor-LSD. LSD and nor-LSD were pharmacologically active at the 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2B, and 5-HT2C receptors. Nor-LSD mainly differed from the parent compound by having a lower affinity to the 5-HT2C receptor. O-H-LSD displayed substantially weaker affinity and activity at serotonergic receptors in comparison to LSD. To conclude, human liver microsomes converted only small amounts of LSD to nor-LSD and O-H-LSD but several CYPs significantly contributed. Genetic polymorphisms and drug interactions could therefore influence pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of LSD. Nor-LSD likely has hallucinogenic activity similar to LSD, whereas O-H-LSD is inactive. Drug-drug interaction studies in humans are required to further assess the clinical relevance of these findings.

Luethi, D., Hoener, M. C., Krähenbühl, S., Liechti, M. E., & Duthaler, U. (2019). Cytochrome P450 enzymes contribute to the metabolism of LSD to nor-LSD and 2-oxo-3-hydroxy-LSD: Implications for clinical LSD use. Biochemical pharmacology164, 129-138., 10.1016/j.bcp.2019.04.013
Link to full text

27 June - Spiritual & Existential Dimensions in Psychedelic Care: Challenges & Insights