Hallucinogens are a group of drugs that affect one’s consciousness of their surroundings, as well as change their thoughts and feelings. They cause hallucinations or images and sensations that seem very real when they are not. There are two categories of hallucinogens, classic and dissociative. Classic hallucinogens include LSD, Psilocybin, and Peyote, which cause the user to see, hear and feel things that are not real. Dissociative drugs include PCP, Ketamine, and Salvia, which cause the user to feel out of control or detached from their body or environment. Whereas hallucinogens were historically used for religious or healing purposes, nowadays people report using them for social reasons such as having fun or dealing with stress. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, over 30 million Americans have used hallucinogens at least once in their lifetime.
Common examples of classic hallucinogens include:
- LSD is one of the most potent hallucinogens and is clear or white and odorless. It is found in a fungus that grows on grains such as rye. LSD is also referred to as acid.
- Psilocybin is from certain mushrooms which are found in tropical and subtropical regions located in the United States, Mexico, and South America. Psilocybin is commonly referred to as shrooms or magic mushrooms.
- Peyote is a small cactus in which mescaline is the main component. It can also be human-made or synthetic. Peyote is also known as mescaline.
- DMT is a very powerful chemical that is found naturally in some plants located in the Amazon. Ayahuasca is a tea made from these plants. DMT can also be synthetically made, and usually takes a white crystal-like powder.
Common examples of dissociative drugs include:
- PCP was created in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery. However, it is not used for this anymore due to its serious side effects. PCP can be in tablet, capsule, liquid, or white crystal-like powder form. PCP is also known as Angel Dust.
- Ketamine is used as a general anesthetic for surgery, and most of the ketamine found on the streets comes from veterinary offices. It can be in pill or powder forms, or as an injectable liquid. Ketamine is sometimes added to drinks as a date-rape drug and is also known as Special K.
- Salvia is a plant found in Central America, South America, and southern Mexico. Its dry leaves are typically smoked, or fresh leaves are chewed or drank in a tea form.
Hallucinogens Effect on The Brain and The Body
Classic hallucinogens temporarily disrupt communication between the chemical systems throughout the brain and spinal cord, interfering with serotonin. Serotonin is the brain chemical that regulates mood, sensory awareness, hunger, sleep, body temperature, sexual performance, and intestinal muscle control. Dissociative drugs interfere with glutamate. Glutamate is the brain chemical that regulates emotion, pain perception, responses to one’s environment, memory, and learning.
Classic hallucinogens affect the user within 20 to 90 minutes and can last from 15 minutes up to 12 hours, depending on the drug used. Along with hallucinations, short-term effects include nausea, loss of appetite, an increase in blood pressure or body temperature, sleep problems, and panic. Long-term effects of classic hallucinogens are rare but can occur, and research has identified two that are associated with their use: Persistent Psychosis and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPDD). Persistent Psychosis is a series of continuous mental problems that consist of paranoia, mood changes, visual disturbances, and confused thinking. HPDD is characterized by flashbacks of specific drug experiences that occur without warning and can happen within a few days or for more than a year after drug use. Both of these conditions occur more often in people with a history of mental illness but can happen to anyone, even first-time users. Behavioral therapies, anti-depressants, and antipsychotic medications have been used to treat and cope with these conditions.
Dissociative drugs affect the user within a few minutes and can last for several hours up to several days, depending on the drug used. Low doses of dissociative drugs can cause numbness, increase in blood pressure or body temperature, and coordination loss. High doses of dissociative drugs can cause amnesia, panic, trouble breathing, mood swings, and seizures. Long term effects may include addiction, especially in the use of PCP. Furthermore, problems with speech, weight loss, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts may occur for a year or more after use.
The Addictive Nature of Hallucinogens
Evidence and research suggest that some hallucinogens can be addictive, and tolerance to them can develop. Although LSD is not considered an addictive drug, it creates tolerance, so users may need to take higher doses to produce the same effect over long time use. The tolerance produced by LSD affects tolerance to other hallucinogens as well, such as psilocybin. PCP can be addictive, as repeat users who have stopped using it experience cravings, sweating, and headaches which are common symptoms of withdrawal. DMT does not seem to lead to tolerance or addiction, so more research is needed on its, and other hallucinogens, tolerance or addiction potential.
Behavioral treatments have been found to be helpful for patients with a variety of addictions. At Fort Worth Recovery, we offer a safe and nurturing environment to help our clients achieve long-lasting recovery, and therefore lead happier and healthier lives. A personalized and professionally managed detox program is the foundation for a meaningful and lasting recovery. We also seek to inspire clients to face their challenges, accept their present state, and foster hope for their future. If you or someone you know is struggling with dealing with an addiction, call us today at 844.332.1807.