How Long Do Psychedelics Last?

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Psychedelics (serotonergic hallucinogens), such as psilocybin and LSD, are powerful psychoactive (“mind-altering”) substances that alter perception and mood and affect numerous cognitive processes.
Serotonergic hallucinogens can either be man-made (synthetic) or completely natural. And they primarily work by exerting an agonist (activating) action on brain serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) 2A receptors. This in turn leads to altered and enhanced energy levels, thought processes, and sensory perceptions. And often profound spiritual experiences are provided. While certain psychedelics—such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, and mescaline—come from shamanic traditions, many are now used recreationally and in therapeutic settings.
How long do psychedelics last? How long a specific psychedelic lasts depends on several factors, including your body weight, age, dosage, tolerance, frequency of usage, genetic makeup, liver health, metabolic rate, and stomach pH. The shortest acting psychedelic is DMT, and the most prolonged acting drug is LSD. This means that the effect of psychedelics can last anywhere from a mere 30 minutes to over 12 hours.
It is also important to note that the duration of the noticeable effects of a drug is not the same as the duration in which the substance is detectable in your system.
In this article, we will focus on MDMA, ketamine, and 5 classic psychedelics: psilocybin, LSD, 2C-B, DMT and mescaline. We will also go over the different phases of a substance’s duration as well as the factors that can alter the duration and intensity.

How long do drugs last?

The duration of a drug can be subdivided into several stages:
  • Duration
    A drug’s duration refers to the entire length of time it takes for its effects to completely wear off into sobriety, starting from the moment the substance is first administered and ending when the offset phase is over.
  • Onset phase:
    The onset phase is the amount of time it takes until the effects and first changes in perception become noticeable.
  • Come up phase
    The come up phase is the period between the onset phase (i.e., the first detectable effects) and the peak (i.e., the point of highest intensity.) This is colloquially known as "coming up."
  • Peak phase
    Peak action is the time frame when the drug’s effect is as strong and intense as it can be.
  • Offset/comedown phase
    The offset phase refers to the amount of time between the ending of the peak and the shifting into a sober state. This is colloquially referred to as "coming down."
  • After-effects/afterglow/hangover
    The after-effects are the residual effects that remain after the offset phase is over. This is colloquially called a "hangover" or an "afterglow", depending on the substance and dose. In some instances it can last several days to even weeks.
  • Half-life
    A drug’s half-life is used to estimate how long it takes for a drug to be removed from your body. It refers to the amount of time it takes before the substance’s concentration is reduced by 50%. In other words, after one half-life, the concentration of the drug in the body is half of the starting dose.
A substance’s range, intensity, and duration depend on a number of factors, including:
  • Method of administration: The way a substance is ingested greatly impacts its potency, duration, and effects. Many substances are more effective or even completely inactive when consumed in a particular way. For example, with oral administration, the onset phase typically ranges anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, depending on the drug in question. Whereas other methods of ingestion, such as smoking or injection, can take as little as seconds to minutes to take effect.
    Determining an optimal method of administration is highly dependent on the substance, its desired duration and potency, and your personal comfort level.
  • Dose: The size of a dose greatly impacts a substance’s potency, duration, and effects. A dose can range from a microdose to an overdose, with several levels in between.
    Paying attention to the amount being consumed is extremely important to avoid dangerous and fatal experiences.
  • Tolerance: Repeated use of a substance increases your tolerance to it which in turn lowers your reaction to it. And while increasing the dosage may initially re-amplify the drug's effects, eventually, this will also accelerate tolerance.
    Another thing to note is that certain drugs cause cross-tolerance, which means that by developing a tolerance to a specific substance, you also become more tolerant to other drugs. This often happens between drugs with similar functions or effects, like hallucinogens, for example.
  • Frequency of usage: How often you redose greatly impacts a substance’s potency, duration, and effects. But while it can prolong the positive effects, it can also worsen the negative effects and lead to a harsher offset phase.
    Furthermore, redosing too soon or too much can cause a stacking effect, causing a stronger than expected reaction to the drug.
  • Digestion: Drugs that are ingested orally must be absorbed through the lining of the stomach or the small intestine. Consequently, the presence of food in the digestive tract can reduce the absorption, delay the onset, and lessen the effects of the substance.
    However, it is good not to take drugs on an empty stomach either. Having a small, healthy snack or meal 4 to 6 hours beforehand is recommendable.
  • Metabolic rate: Your rate of metabolism influences the duration and intensity of a substance. For example, when you have a higher metabolic rate, the onset phase will be faster and you will notice a substance’s effects more quickly, but the duration of the effects may also be shorter.
    Your metabolic rate depends on a variety of different factors, including your body weight and muscle-to-fat ratio, your gender, your age, etc.
  • Other factors that play a role: genetic makeup, liver health, stomach pH, etc.

The Duration of The Classic Psychedelics, MDMA, and Ketamine

As mentioned earlier, serotonergic hallucinogens (psychedelics) exert their effects primarily by an agonist (or partial agonist) action on brain serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) 2A receptors. And while other drugs, such as cannabinoids, ketamine, and MDMA have also been swept into the catchall category “psychedelics”, they in fact have a different mechanism of action.
However, although ketamine and MDMA are not technically psychedelics, both have psychoactive effects that can induce states of consciousness similar to those of psychedelics. Therefore, these two substances will also be discussed in this article.
In this article we will focus on:
  • 5 classic psychedelics psilocybin (and psilocin), LSD, 2-CB, DMT, and mescaline
  • The dissociative ketamine
  • The entactogen MDMA
Each drug is different in how long it lasts and how long it remains in your system.

1. Psilocybin (and psilocin)

Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is a psychedelic compound found in specific varieties of mushrooms, collectively known as psilocybin mushrooms. Other popular names are “magic mushrooms” and “shrooms”.
Together with psilocin (4-hydroxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine) it forms the two main active components of magic mushrooms. But although psilocybin receives most of the credit, psilocin is actually the molecule that is responsible for producing the typical psychoactive effects. Psilocybin is a prodrug, meaning that it is a biologically inactive compound that can be metabolized in the body to produce a drug, in this case, psilocin.
Psilocin itself is present in the mushroom, but in smaller amounts. And while it is psychoactive, it is not stable, meaning that it quickly loses potency. Psilocybin, on the other hand, is not psychoactive but stable. And when psilocybin is ingested, it is rapidly metabolized and converted into the pharmacologically active psilocin in the body.
This in turn leads to the typical changes in perception, cognition, and mood.

How Long Does Psilocybin Last? (Swallowed)

  • Total duration: 2-8 hours
  • Onset: The body breaks psilocybin down into psilocin within 15 to 40 minutes and you will generally begin feeling the effects during this time frame. However, it can sometimes take from 90 minutes to 2 hours before it starts kicking in, especially if you have eaten a large meal beforehand. It is, therefore, better not to redose until at least 2,5 hours have passed.
  • Come up: 30 - 50 minutes
  • Peak: Peak effect is usually reached within the first one hour and a half and can last anywhere between 2 to 6 hours.
  • Offset: 2 - 4 hours
  • After-effects: After-effects may be noticed the following 24 hours.
  • Half-life: Psilocybin has an elimination half-life of 160 minutes whereas psilocin has an elimination half-life of 50 minutes.
  • Detectable in system: The body usually metabolizes and removes psilocybin mushroom’s psychoactive components within 24 hours. This means that it can be detected in urine and blood tests for up to 24 hours. In hair follicle tests psilocybin will show up for about 90 days.
Factors that play a role:
The duration can vary and depends on several factors, including the dose size, the method of administration, the genus of the mushroom, and whether it is fresh or dried.
  • Dose size
    A typical dose of psilocybin ranges from 10 to 50 milligrams (mg). If you eat the mushrooms fresh, a dose is around 20 to 30 grams (g). And if you use dried mushroom powder, a dose is approximately 1 to 2.5 g.
  • The mushroom itself
    How strong the mushrooms are, depends on a few things, including the species, where it was grown, how it has been handled, and whether you eat it dried or fresh. Magic mushrooms are about ten times stronger when you eat them dried compared to eating them fresh.
  • Method of administration
    You can ingest psilocybin in several different ways. For example, you can brew the mushrooms into a mushroom tea, which is supposed to be tastier, gentler on the stomach, and absorbed faster. To mask the bitter taste, you can also eat it with food, crush it up into a powder and sprinkle it on food and liquids, or pack it into gelatin capsules to create mushroom pills.

2. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a semi-synthetic compound that is part synthetic and part natural. It is made up of a combination of a synthetic chemical called diethylamide and a natural compound called lysergic acid, which is derived from the fungus ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
For more information on how long LSD lasts and how to store it, please click here.

How Long Does LSD Last? (Sublingually administered)

  • Total duration: 8 - 15 hours (typically 12 hours)
  • Onset: 10 - 20 minutes
  • come up: 45 - 90 minutes
  • Peak: The effects of LSD are the most substantial three to five hours after administration.
  • Offset: 3 - 5 hours
  • After-effects: After-effects may be noticed the following 48 hours, with an** **afterglow effect of 6 - 12 hours being the most common.
  • Half-life: 3.6 hours
  • Detectable in system: While LSD gets broken down quickly by the body, during this process it metabolizes to 2-Oxo-3-hydroxy LSD (O-H-LSD), which has a much longer half-life (up to 12 hours). Research has shown that it can be detected in urine at 16 to 43 times higher concentrations than LSD and can be found in your urine for up to a week after usage. LSD is also detectable in your hair follicles for 90 days.
Why does LSD last so long?
After several decades of research, scientists have managed to map LSD’s physical structure, revealing why it has such prolonged effects on the brain.
As a serotonergic hallucinogen, part of LSD’s effect is due to its latching onto and subsequent stimulation of the serotonin receptors in the brain. However, a 2017 study shows that the LSD molecule’s unique shape allows it to not only fit perfectly within serotonin receptors but that it also causes the serotonin receptor to slightly fold over it like a lid. This means that once the molecule is in, it cannot easily get out again and instead is locked inside the receptor for an extended period. Of course, that lid will move around, and some LSD molecules will escape which in turn makes the effects wear off.
A trip only ends when all of the molecules pop off the receptors and disassemble in the body. And the longer LSD is exposed to the receptor, the more potent it becomes. This explains why the compound’s effects last so long and why it is so potent even though the dose sizes are quite small.
Furthermore, it also explains LSD’s slow offset phase. Even though it is cleared from your bloodstream and spinal fluid in a matter of hours, the compound is still tucked into your brain. In fact, it can take up to 24 hours before your body returns to normal between the trip and the comedown. And during this time, glowy alterations may continue to modify your visual field at a barely-perceptible, residual level.
Factors that play a role:
The duration can vary and depends on several factors, including the dose size, if and how much you have eaten, and the method of administration.
  • Dose size
    LSD doses are quite small. A typical dose ranges between 75 and 150 micrograms (µg), and for a first time, it is recommended to not use more than 100 µg.
  • Redosing:
    Most LSD trips last 8 to 12 hours, but this varies significantly and can be extended by redosing. This is usually done right after the peak. And while redosing does not recreate the peak, it does extend the post-peak experience by 2 to 4 hours.
  • Method of administration
    LSD is most commonly ingested orally, and it is recommended to take it sublingually (under the tongue) as this eliminates any concern around having food in the stomach that might slow down the absorption process. Another reason to keep it under your tongue instead of immediately swallowing it is to taste and test the acid. Or more accurately, hopefully not taste it. LSD should not leave any taste in your mouth nor any sense of numbness. If you taste something metallic or bitter, there is a good chance that it is not LSD and that you are instead dealing with an LSD imitation, which may still be psychedelic, but can also present a risk of toxicity. (source)

3. 2C-B

2C-B (4-Bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine) is a synthetic psychedelic that is generally considered to be somewhat gentler and more manageable than LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. It is the most popular member of the 2C-x family, a group of psychedelic phenethylamines that are closely related to the classical psychedelic mescaline.

How Long Does 2C-B Last? (Swallowed)

  • Total duration: 5 - 12 hours
  • Onset: 30 - 60 minutes
  • come up: 15 - 40 minutes
  • Peak: Peak effect is usually reached within the first 1 hour and lasts 2 to 4 hours.
  • Offset: 1 - 2 hours
  • After-effects: After-effects may be noticed the following 2 to 12 hours.
  • Half-life: 2.48 - 3.20 hours
  • Detectable in system: 2C-B cannot be detected in either standard or extended drug tests. While it could potentially trigger a false positive for amphetamines, this is unlikely given the small doses involved. (source)
Factors that play a role:
The duration can vary and depends on several factors, including the dose size and the purity of the 2C-B, whether or not you have eaten, and the method of administration.
  • Dose size and purity
    The dose size is an important factor, as a difference of just 2 mg can disproportionately affect the experience. An average dose is between 12 to 25 mg, and it is recommended to start with no more than 8 mg if this is your first time. Tablets typically contain 5 to 15 mg of the substance, but this can vary widely.
  • Method of administration
    2C-B is most commonly ingested in pill form. In this case, the onset phase ranges between 5 and 15 minutes. When 2C-B is insufflated the onset takes between 1 to 10 minutes and the effects are more abrupt and intense, but last significantly less time. Please note that 2C-B is considered one of the most painful drugs to insufflate, with users reporting intense nasal burning. (source)

4. DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine)

DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is another serotonergic hallucinogen that works similarly to LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. DMT is found in many plants and animals and although it can also be made synthetically, it is primarily derived from the ayahuasca vine (banisteriopsis caapi), a plant native to the jungles of South America.
Due to its short (but powerful) nature, DMT was often called "the business trip" during the 1960s as it allows one to access the full depth of a psychedelic experience in a considerably short time. And due to this intense psychedelic experience, it is now also commonly referred to as the “spirit molecule.”

How Long Does DMT Last? (Smoked)

  • Total duration: 30 minutes
  • Onset: almost instantly
  • Come up: very short
  • Peak: Peak effect is usually reached within 3 to 5 minutes and lasts a couple of minutes
  • offset: 30 to 45 minutes
  • After-effects: Light afterglow effects may last for several days.
  • Half-life: 15 minutes
  • Detectable in system: The human body metabolizes DMT extremely quickly and the typical blood or urine analysis that is run on the most common hallucinogens generally only find trace amounts shortly after use. Hair follicle tests can show the presence of DMT for around 90 days.
Factors that play a role:
The duration can vary and mainly depends on the dose size and the method of administration.
  • Dose size
    A standard DMT dose is around 20 to 35 mg, but even small doses of less than 20 mg can instantly produce visual hallucinations and auditory distortions.
  • Method of administration
    Synthetic DMT is typically found in the form of crystalline, white powder which can be smoked, vaporized, injected, or snorted. Smoking is the most common method, but with each of these options, the effects are felt almost immediately. If you take the natural form of DMT, the plants are often drunk after having been boiled and brewed. DMT is quickly broken down by monoamine oxidase in the digestive tract, and it is therefore ineffective when ingested orally by itself. For an oral dose to be active, it must be mixed with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), which also produces a longer effect. This is seen in ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic botanical mixture that contains DMT and a plant-based MAOI ingredient. In this case, the effects are felt after 30 to 45 minutes and can last from two to six hours.

5. Mescaline

Mescaline or peyote is a psychedelic which is found in many types of cacti, most prominently in peyote and San Pedro. But it can also be man-made through chemical synthesis.
Mescaline selectively binds to and activates the serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine (HT) 2A receptor with a high affinity as a partial agonist. This explains why it produces effects that are similar to the other serotonergic hallucinogens like psilocybin, LSD, and DMT.

How Long Does Mescaline Last?

  • Total duration: 6 - 14 hours
  • Onset: 30 - 90 minutes
  • Come up: 60 - 20 minutes
  • Peak: Mescaline produces an acute psychotic state after 3–4 hours, affecting predominantly the right hemisphere (source)
  • Offset: 2 - 3 hours
  • After-effects: After-effects may be noticed the following 26 hours, with 3 to 6 hours being the most common.
  • Half-life: 6 hours
  • Detectable in system: Mescaline can be detected in the urine for 2 to 3 days after use, in the blood for around 24 hours, and in saliva tests for up to 10 days. Like the other psychedelics, it can be detected in hair tests for 90 days. However, mescaline is not included in the standard or extended drug screens, and you would have to take a specific test to detect it. (source)
Factors that play a role:
The duration can vary and depends on several factors, including the dose size, whether or not you have eaten, the type of mescaline, and the method of administration.
  • Dose size
    Although mescaline has the lowest potency among naturally occurring hallucinogens (30 times less potent than psilocybin), a full dose (200–300 mg) has a long duration of action. (source)
  • Digestion
    Mescaline is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and the onset may be observed within 30 min of ingestion, especially when taken on an empty stomach.
  • Type of mescaline
    There are several different forms of both natural and synthetic mescaline.
  • Method of administration
    To take mescaline, you can either chew the button or soak it in water to brew it like a tea. Mescaline is very bitter, but it can be consumed either raw or dried. It can also be grounded into powder and put into capsules. And you can smoke it with tobacco or marijuana.

6. MDMA (Ecstasy)

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), also known as ecstasy or Molly, is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception.
Although it is not technically a psychedelic because it has an amphetamine base, MDMA’s psychoactive (“mind-altering”) effects can induce states of consciousness similar to those of psychedelics.
For more information on MDMA, please click here.

How Long Does MDMA Last? (Swallowed)

  • Total duration: 3 - 7 hours
  • Onset: 20 - 90 minutes
  • Come up: 5 - 20 minutes
  • Peak: Peak effect is usually reached within the first 1 and 2 hours and can last anywhere between 90 minutes and 3 hours
  • offset: 1 - 2 hours
  • After-effects: After-effects may be noticed the following 2 to 72 hours, with an afterglow effect of 2 - 24 hours being the most common. When a high dose was taken, mild to severe negative side-effects usually show up 12 - 72 hours later and can last up to a week.
  • Half-life: 8 - 9 hours
  • Detectable in system: Like other amphetamines, MDMA stays in the system for 24 to 96 hours after use, with 72 hours being the average. In general, it can be detected in blood tests for up to two days, and it can be detected in urine tests for up to four days. Hair tests will show the drug for around 90 days.
Factors that play a role:
The duration can vary and depends on several factors, including the dose size and the purity of the MDMA, whether or not you have eaten, and the method of administration.
  • Dose size and purity
    A typical MDMA dose ranges from 50 to 120 mg. It is usually ingested orally in crystal form (MDMA) or pill form (ecstasy). Unfortunately, it is difficult to know the exact strength and contents of both MDMA crystals and ecstasy tablets as they are produced in unregulated labs and can be laced with other drugs like PCP, heroin, or cocaine. Redosing MDMA: Redosing MDMA is not recommended as your serotonin supply is finite. That means that repeated dosing will not provide a longer or stronger high once all of your serotonin is released.
  • Digestion
    Although MDMA stays in your system for a little longer than LSD or psilocybin, it is still metabolized fairly quickly, especially when taken on an empty stomach.
  • Method of administration
    While MDMA is most commonly swallowed, it is also infrequently ingested in other ways.

7. Ketamine

Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride), often shortened to “K”, is a general anesthetic with powerful dissociative and psychedelic effects.
Although it is not technically a psychedelic, but rather a dissociative, ketamine’s psychoactive (“mind-altering”) effects can induce states of consciousness similar to those of psychedelics.
For more information on ketamine, please click here.

How Long Does ketamine Last? (Insufflated)

  • Total duration: 45 - 90 minutes
  • Onset: 5 - 15 minutes
  • Come up: 5 - 10 minutes
  • Peak: 30 - 60 minutes
  • Offset: 1 - 2 hours
  • After-effects: After-effects may be noticed the following 2 to 12 hours.
  • Half-life: 8 - 9 hours
  • Detectable in system: Ketamine itself stays in your system for 2 to 4 days, and it is detectable in your urine throughout this period. However, tests looking for ketamine specifically will detect norketamine (the major metabolite) in blood and urine for up to 14 days, or longer in frequent users. (source)
Factors that play a role:
The duration can vary and depends on several factors, including the dose size and the purity of the ketamine and the method of administration.
  • Dose size and purity
    Ketamine is active at 10 to 15 mg when insufflated or injected into a muscle, while more common doses range between 30 and 75 mg. A too-large dose of ketamine can result in a so-called K-hole.
  • Method of administration
    Ketamine is most commonly ingested through insufflation. In this case, the onset phase ranges between 5 and 15 minutes. When ketamine is taken orally, the onset lasts between 10 and 75 minutes. And when injected, the onset is almost instant.

Closing remarks

As discussed, how long a psychedelic lasts depends on many different factors, including the specific substance that you take, the dose, how you ingest it, etc.
Besides carefully considering your set and setting, picking the right dose size is equally—if not even more—important, especially when it is your first time. You can control this by checking the purity of your drug and weighing it, checking what counts as a normal dose of this specific substance, and considering whether and how much you have eaten.
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