Reality Check: Hallucinogens Are Dangerous

When under the influence of hallucinogens, individuals experience hallucinations ( distortions in their perceptions of reality) that may cause them to hear, see and feel things that are not real Hallucinogens come in many forms, including tablets, plants and cough suppressants.

Although this escape from reality is what appeals to many users, the truth is that hallucinogens have these effects because they are damaging the brain. Hallucinogens disrupt the serotonin system in the brain, impacting the user’s ability to control their mood, muscles, perceptions, body temperature and sexual behavior .

Some of the most abused hallucinogens include:

  • LSD  -- A synthetic hallucinogen derived from rye fungus that is typically sold as tablets known as "microdots," thin squares of gelatin called "window panes," or dissolved onto paper or other materials. LSD is illegally manufactured and has no valid medical use. Dealers often sell LSD on colored paper, making it difficult to determine the drug’s age or purity.
  • Mescaline – A hallucinogen that comes from peyote (a cactus plant) or is manufactured. Mescaline distorts thoughts, emotions and sensory perceptions, and can cause flashbacks and other undesirable effects.
  • Psilocybin – A hallucinogen found in a certain type of mushroom that produces effects similar to LSD. Flashbacks and memory problems have been reported with psilocybin abuse.
  • PCP and Ketamine – These “dissociative drugs”  distort the users’ perceptions of sight and sound and produce “out of body” feelings and a sense of detachment. They were intended for veterinary use, but have become drugs of abuse. In high doses, DXM (the active substance in over-the-counter cough syrups) can produce similar effects. Dissociative drugs can be snorted, smoked or eaten. They are not hallucinogens, but they have similar effects.

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The Effects of Hallucinogen Abuse

In addition to the damage they inflict on the brain, hallucinogens are dangerous because their effects are unpredictable and may vary based on the user's mood, surroundings or personality. While one “trip” may produce enjoyable hallucinations and distortions of reality, the next may result in panic and fear. You simply never know what you’re going to get.

Effects of hallucinogen abuse may include:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • High temperature
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors or uncoordinated movements caused by muscle contractions
  • Rapid shifts in emotions, ranging from euphoria to fear

These effects can begin within minutes of taking a hallucinogen and may last for several hours (or even days). People who abuse hallucinogens may become disoriented, feel exaggerated strength, or become violent or suicidal.

LSD abuse can produce flashbacks (also known as persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder), or repetition of the sensory distortions experienced during an LSD trip, even after just one use. Some users have difficulty thinking rationally, recognizing reality and turning thoughts into words, while others may experience a long-lasting psychotic-like state. Dramatic mood swings, visual disturbances and hallucinations can last for years, causing some users to feel that they have a psychiatric illness or brain damage.

Addicted to Hallucinogens

Like other drugs, many hallucinogens are addictive when used repeatedly over time. When trying to quit using hallucinogens or dissociative drugs (namely PCP), users may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as memory loss and depression, which may last t for as long as a year after stopping use of the drug . Tolerance to certain hallucinogens, such as LSD, can develop quickly, leading to use of higher doses and more frequent LSD trips.

Hallucinogen addiction can be treated in residential or outpatient drug rehab, depending on the individual’s drug history, commitment to treatment and relapse risk. In hallucinogen rehab, people learn to enjoy life without needing drugs to alter their reality, and to manage any long-term effects of hallucinogen abuse. Therapy, relapse prevention planning, life skills training and education about addiction are all components of the best hallucinogen rehab programs.

Do you think you or someone near you is abusing hallucinogens? If so, call 866-323-5612 for a free, confidential assessment and other resources. Get treatment for hallucinogen addiction now, and take the first steps toward the life you’ve imagined.

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