Hallucinogens are a group of substances that alter your thoughts, feelings, and awareness of your surroundings. Typically, hallucinogens are broken down into two categories including classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. Both types of hallucinogens cause sensations that feel real but are not, called hallucinations. Dissociative drugs can cause more extreme symptoms to occur such as feeling out of control to the point that you are no longer connected to your body.
Some hallucinogens are man-made, and others are extracted from some plants or mushrooms. They were originally used for healing or religious rituals but were later reported to be taken for social or recreational reasons such as to deal with common stressors, anxiety or other mental health problems.
Hallucinogens were originally used for religious purposes during healing rituals. Once people figured out the way that they made you feel, they became more popular for recreational or social purposes and would be commonly found at night clubs, bars or raves.
Hallucinogens and the Brain
There has been some research that has shown that classic hallucinogens work by interfering with the communication between the brain and the spinal cord. Some types of hallucinogens effect a chemical in the brain called serotonin, which can affect:
- Intestinal muscle control
- Sexual behavior
- Body temperature
- Sensory perception
Dissociative hallucinogenic drugs affect the brain chemical glutamate, which regulates:
- Pain perception
- Learning and memory
- Responses to the environment
Are Hallucinogens Natural?
Despite being considered “natural,” hallucinogens do have the tendency to be severely altered and changed before people take them. There can be added ingredients that are extremely harmful to the body if they are taken. Hallucinogens are one of the most dangerous drugs that you can take, making you perceive the world in an entirely different way due to the side effects of the drug.
Hallucinogens can be man-made or come from natural ingredients including plants or mushrooms. Most contain nitrogen and are classified as “alkaloids,” having a similar chemical compound structure as neurotransmitters (serotonin, acetylcholine, or catecholamine-like).
These drugs can make you feel wheezy, resulting in your own senses to become weakened and you begin to lack control of your own body. Another side effect of these drugs is an increased libido and sexual urges, causing you to have an intense craving to have sex anytime and anywhere.
- LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide)
- Peyote (mescaline)
- Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine)
- DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine)
- PCP (Phencyclidine)
- Dextromethorphan (DXM)
- Salvia (Salvia divinorum)
Side Effects of Hallucinogens
Most hallucinogens can cause some extreme side effects such as causing you to hear sounds, see images, and feel things that are not actually real. They can cause hallucinations, spiritual experiences or even panic.
Effects of this drug will generally begin within anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes and in some cases (with LSD) can last up to 12 hours or can last as short as 15 minutes with other drugs (DMT). People who use these drugs refer to their experiences with them as “trips.” They will call the experience a “bad trip” if it was not a good high.
Short-term Side Effects
The most specific short-term side effects include increased blood pressure, breathing rate, or body temperature, loss of appetite, dry mouth, sleep problems, spiritual experiences, feelings of relaxation, uncoordinated movements, excessive sweating, panic, paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others, psychosis—disordered thinking detached from reality, or bizarre behaviors.
Long-term Side Effects
There have been two known long-term effects to be present after using hallucinogens. The first is Persistent Psychosis, which refers to continuous mental health problems that include paranoia, disorganized thinking, visual disturbances, and mood changes.
The second long-term effect is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD). This disorder is when someone has recurrences of experiences they have had during drug use. They can happen anytime and anywhere from days after drug use for up to a year after using.
Are Hallucinogen Drugs Dangerous?
Hallucinogens have made people act in uncharacteristic ways and engage in behaviors that are not typical for them, often dangerous or harmful. For example, in extreme cases people have been known to commit suicide by jumping off buildings or bridges, violently attacking other people due to the visions they are experiencing after using these drugs.
While hallucinogens are easily obtainable, especially in night clubs as well as among raves, taking just one dose can be lethal. Because you have absolutely no way of knowing exactly what is in the substance you are taking, it could contain very harmful ingredients that could cause you to overdose or go into extreme shock. It is best to avoid using hallucinogens altogether, to remain safe and healthy, free from drugs.
Hallucinogens and Addiction
There are some hallucinogens that can cause addiction, but not all of them have the potential to. LSD is a common hallucinogen, but it is not typical for people to become addicted to it. It usually does not cause someone to have drug seeking behaviors and crave it constantly. Although, not necessarily addictive, people do build up a tolerance to the drug and will need more and more to achieve the same results. This can be extremely dangerous, given the fact that the drug is unpredictable.
Other drugs such as DMT, are unknown to whether they are addictive or not. It does not appear to lead to tolerance, and little evidence that taking it from ayahuasca tea, can lead to you becoming addicted to it. Another hallucinogen, PCP can be highly addictive because of the intense urges it causes for you if you stop taking it. Some people can experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, cravings, and sweating.
Treating Addiction to Hallucinogens
There are no known medications that can treat addiction to hallucinogens, but there can be some success if the proper behavioral treatments are used. More research needs to be done to determine the right methods or potential medications that can be used to treat addiction to hallucinogens.
If you or someone you know is abusing hallucinogens, reach out for help right away.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019, April). Hallucinogens DrugFacts. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens