Hallucinogens are a group of psychoactive drugs that alter a person’s perception and reality. Despite the level of perceived safety of certain hallucinogens and the legal status, it is important to keep in mind that the use of any of these substances may result in a psychological or physical drug dependence or substance abuse.
What are Psychedelic Drugs (Hallucinogens)?
Hallucinogens are a diverse group of psychedelic drugs that cause people to have an altered state of mind. Hallucinogenic drugs are a class of drugs that can either be naturally derived from plants or synthetically manufactured. Hallucinogenic drug use causes changes in the way a person sees, hears, and feels things. It effects their sensory perception and may have sedative effects.
Many hallucinogens have chemical structures similar to those of natural neurotransmitters (serotonin, acetylcholine, or catecholamine-like). Common hallucinogens such as LSD are only found in synthesized form, while LSA is naturally occurring. Other hallucinogens such as ketamine and MDMA are manmade in laboratories.
The chemical structures of hallucinogens target specific centers of the brain and spinal cord such as the neurotransmitter serotonin, to alter its understanding of sensory input and regulatory systems. For example, someone who is using hallucinogenic substances may hear sounds that are not real or see things that are not really there. These psychedelic effects will be heightened with higher doses of the drugs.
Types of Hallucinogens
The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies hallucinogens under two categories of classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. Both types of hallucinogens can cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not.
Classic hallucinogens will typically take effect somewhere between 20-90 minutes after taking the drugs. Dissociative drugs can begin taking effect within minutes of taking the drugs and effect the hallucinogen users for up to hours after. Dissociative drugs cause effects such as loss of coordination, numbness, hallucinations, disorientation, and increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure.
Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as acid or LSD, is a synthetic hallucinogen that is highly potent. LSD was originally used as a treatment method for certain mental disorders and as psychological behavioral therapies. However, after more research they determined these drugs to be dangerous and have the potential to cause adverse effects.
LSD is classified as a Schedule I drug. LSD is typically abused by people in their early twenties or late teens. It is referenced as a “club drug,” and is along the same lines as ketamine and MDMA.
Hallucinogenic mushrooms or also known as “magic mushrooms” are drugs that contain other drugs such as psilocin and psilocybin. These drugs are found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America. These magic mushrooms may be boiled into a tea, cooked, or eaten raw.
Psilocybin has no recognized medical use and is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it has a high potential for abuse. When any hallucinogens are taken in high doses there is a risk for a bad trip. Experiencing these bad “trips” means that the hallucinogenic effects may be dangerous.
Marijuana or also known as “cannabis”, is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis plant. It is primarily used for recreational and medical purposes.
Phencyclidine (PCP) is a dissociative anesthetic that was discontinued for human use in 1965. The use of hallucinogens like these creates an “out of body” feeling and coming down from its anesthetic effects can cause people to become irrational and agitated.
Ketamine is a hallucinogen drug that is used by veterinarians and medical practitioners as an aesthetic. It is often used illegally as a hallucinogenic drug. It can be made into tablets or pills or dissolved in liquid. It is usually swallowed, snorted, or injected.
Mescaline is a psychedelic substance that is a naturally occurring hallucinogen drug found in the peyote cactus, with active ingredient mescaline.
Generally, some of the common effects of most hallucinogens include:
- Hallucinations of touch, sound, and sight
- A blurring of the senses, such as sounds being ‘felt’, or colors being ‘heard’
- Feeling detached from the body
- Loss of muscle control
- Changes in body temperature
- Distortions of time, direction, and distance
- Changes in sexual behavior
- Accelerated blood pressure and heart rate
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and loss of appetite
How do They Affect the Brain?
Hallucinogens work by disrupting certain chemicals in the brain which affects the communication to the spinal cord. Some hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates:
- Body temperature
- Sensory perception
- Sexual behavior
- Intestinal muscle control
What are the Long-Term Effects?
Using hallucinogen drugs can cause long-term effects in the body. Although, these effects are usually rare, they can be serious. Some examples of long-term effects include:
Long-term mental effects including disorganized thinking, paranoia, mood changes, or visual disturbances. Someone who uses the drug for long periods of time or in large doses may experience these problems.
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
HPPD, or acute hallucinogen-induced psychosis, is a rare disorder characterized by the presence of flashbacks of visual hallucinations because of previous use of hallucinogens. It is a condition that causes significant distress or impairment in the social, occupational, or other important areas of a patient’s life, which is not attributable to hypnopompic hallucinations or any other medical conditions
These occurrences are more common for people that experience mental health disorders, but it can happen to anyone who uses hallucinogens. It can happen after just one time of using the drug, which is why it is important to be aware of the risks.
Psychoactive substances are found in several medications as well as in alcohol, illegal and recreational drugs, and some plants and even animals. The two most common psychoactive substances are alcohol and caffeine. Although these drugs are legal, they are still considered harmful and can be dangerous if used frequently.
Hallucinogen Drug Abuse
Like many other substances, hallucinogen use can result in drug misuse or addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes drug dependence occurs with repeated use, causing the neurons to adapt so they only function normally in the presence of the drug.
Currently, there is no known medications that are being used to treat addiction to hallucinogens, but more research is needed to determine how effective behavioral therapies are.
Symptoms of Addiction to Hallucinogens
The most common symptom of addiction to hallucinogens include:
- Difficult time stopping drug use
- Using the drug at high doses or during inappropriate times
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing use
- Needing more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect
- Lack of interest in hobbies, activities, or relationships
- Changes in mood, anxiety, or irritability
If you or someone you know is experiencing the above symptoms it may be necessary to seek medical supervision and treatment at a facility like La Hacienda Treatment Center. Please contact our team for additional information on our programs.
Treatment at La Hacienda Treatment Center
La Hacienda Treatment Center treats clients who are struggling with abuse to drugs, alcohol and other substances including hallucinogens. Often, someone going to treatment is looking for someone to provide medical advice and address the reason behind their addiction. Our highly trained staff are equipped with the right tools and experience to provide high quality care to all clients.
Many times, addiction and mental health disorders coincide, and both need to be treated during recovery. Substance abuse may be the result of a mental illness, which is why it is crucial to develop healthier coping strategies for these disorders. It is important to treat a client’s mental health along with their physical health during addiction treatment and recovery.
Recovery is Possible