A lot of recreational drug slang is reasonably comprehensible. Some is pretty cryptic, possibly by design. A common expression for "take LSD" is "drop acid". The "acid" part is obvious; it's a common expression for lysergic acid diethylamide. But whence "drop"?

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    Drop it into your mouth. – Hot Licks Nov 24 '17 at 1:35
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    I am fairly sure that the original method of taking LSD was in liquid form. You would therefore take it by taking it up in a bulb dropper and allowing a few drops to fall on the tongue. I suspect that this is the source of the term; however, I have evidence for this. – Jack Aidley Nov 24 '17 at 10:34
  • * have NO evidence of this. Sorry for the typo – Jack Aidley Nov 24 '17 at 11:54
  • @JackAidley - I was under the impression that sugar cubes were used. – Hot Licks Nov 25 '17 at 3:05
  • @HotLicks I thought that came slightly later as a more pleasant way to do it? – Jack Aidley Nov 25 '17 at 9:12

Green's Dictionary of Slang links all uses of drop related to drugs under one definition.

v.6. 1. (drugs) to consume pills or any drug that can be taken orally.

The earliest cited use is from 1961:

The drugs are either inhaled, swallowed or injected [...] To take orally is to ‘drop it’.

  • 1961 - The Real Bohemia by Francis J. Rigney and L. Douglas Smith. New York

It's possible that the word "drop" grew in association with LSD because of the well-known counter-cultural mantra coined by Timothy Leary:

Turn on, tune in, drop out

Wikipedia quotes Leary describing the meaning of drop out in this phrase:

"Drop Out" meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean "Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity".

So it is clear that "drop out" in the phrase was not meant to refer to the act of taking LSD, but Leary's reputation as a popularizer and proponent of LSD use might have led to misinterpretations of "drop out" referring either to dropping away from social awareness or, possibly, "dropping acid."

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    As a veteran of the '60s, I can attest to the fact that my friends and I never considered the "drop" of "drop acid" to be derived from, or even closely related to, the "drop" of "drop out". We also rarely, if ever, used the verb "drop" in reference to any drug but LSD, even other psychedelics. One simply did not drop, say, mescaline or psilocybin. – Richard Hussong Nov 24 '17 at 3:58
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    The "drop out" answer has the appeal of actually sounding like an etymology; it has the fault of not actually being correct. And as you note, I've never heard "drop" used to any other drug, recreational or medicinal. – Steve Nov 26 '17 at 2:40

I think it's fairly obvious. From a transitive sense of drop, "to let fall (like a drop or drops)," the OED gives

  1. slang
    c. To swallow or take (a drug); esp. in phr. to drop acid (cf. acid adj. and n. Compounds 2). slang.
    1966 R. Alpert & S. Cohen LSD (inside cover) Drop a cap, swallow a capsule of LSD.
    1967 R. Bronsteen Hippies' Handbk. 13 I dropped my first acid in Paris.
    1969 Guardian 3 Dec. 9/1 She had dropped some LSD and had been tripping for an unknown number of hours.
    1971 ‘E. McBain’ Hail, Hail, Gang's all Here ii. 170 I realized he was on an acid trip... I tried to find out what he'd dropped.
    1973 M. Amis Rachel Papers 183 I was using the Mandrax my dentist had given me, surreptitiously dropping one at ten thirty.
    1984 S. Bellow in Vanity Fair (N.Y.) Feb. 110/2 Some kids are dropping acid, stealing cars.
    1985 S. Vanauken Under Mercy iv. 81 We obtained two six-hit caps and, recklessly, decided to drop the lot.

When I was young it was always understood that to drop a pill (or a liquid drop of a drug) meant to swallow it.

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    This does not explain the etymology, merely lists the early usages, as such it does not answer the question. – Jack Aidley Nov 24 '17 at 10:28
  • @JackAidley: The etymology would be the same as the etymology of the transitive drop (i.e., to drop something), which ought to be obvious. You "drop" the tablet (or droplet) down your throat. – Robusto Nov 24 '17 at 14:34

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