Let’s Talk About Hallucinogens
When people consider hallucinogenic drugs, the 1960s will likely come to mind. The late 1960s birthed the counter-culture of hippies and hallucinogenics. Initially, these substances were promoted as a means of expanding consciousness and exploration of the self. However, the federal government quickly outlawed hallucinogens in 1970, placing them into the Schedule I classification of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Schedule I substances are recognized as the most dangerous chemical substances, noting no current accepted medical usage and high abuse potential.
Despite the majority of these substances being illegal and having a high potential for harm, many people continue to engage in the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Therefore, it is essential to understand what these substances are, the side effects of use and the potential health consequences that can result from “tripping” on hallucinogenic drugs even one time.
What are hallucinogens?
More commonly known as psychedelics, hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter awareness and perception. Being under the influence of a psychedelic drug is commonly referred to as “tripping,” partly because a user is taking a psychological trip to a different state of consciousness, but also because the word tripping accounts for acting foolish or without thinking.
Hallucinogens can be divided into two categories: classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. While both classic hallucinogens and dissociatives can cause hallucinations (sensations and visual images that seem real although they are not), dissociative drugs differ as they can cause users to feel disconnected from their physical body and environment. Hallucinogens can be found in plants and fungi or are synthetically (man-made) produced in a laboratory.
Common examples of classic hallucinogens include:
- LSD: LSD is also known as “acid.” It is synthetically made from natural fungi and is known as one of the most potent mind-altering chemicals.
- Psilocybin: Psilocybin is a psychoactive ingredient found in mushrooms. It is more commonly referred to as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms.”
- Peyote: This is a cactus that derives mescaline, a psychoactive ingredient. Peyote can also be synthetically made.
- DMT: DMT is a natural chemical found in various Amazonian plants. When DMT is made into tea, it is known as ayahuasca. It can also be smoked and produced synthetically.
Marijuana, also known as THC, weed or cannabis, is also occasionally classified as a classic hallucinogen.
Common examples of dissociative hallucinogens include:
- Ketamine: This is also known as “K” or “special K.” Ketamine is used as an anesthetic during surgeries for both humans and animals. It induces a loss of consciousness and is often abused recreationally.
- Salvia: This is an herb that can cause intense psychedelic effects.
Effects of Hallucinogens on the Mind
Hallucinogens are known to stimulate abnormal sensory effects. While every hallucinogenic substance produces unique effects, most classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs overlap.
Hallucinogens work by temporarily disrupting communication between important neurons in the brain and body. Neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, are impaired. Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter that is damaged with the use of hallucinogens. As these drugs interfere with serotonin, regulation of the following functions are also impaired:
- Sensory perception
- Body temperature
- Sexual behavior
- Intestinal muscle control
Short-Term Effects of Hallucinogens
Specific short-term effects may include:
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Changes in perception of time and space (distorted senses)
- Mixed senses, such as “seeing” sounds or “hearing” colors
- Intensified feelings and sensory experiences like brighter colors
- Uncoordinated movements
- Increased heart rate
- Pupil dilation
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Bizarre behaviors
Long-term Effects of Hallucinogens
When considering the long-term effects of hallucinogens, it is essential to understand that these effects do not result solely from repeated or chronic use. This long-term impact may result even after using hallucinogens one time. Examples of long-term effects may include:
- Persistent psychosis (PP), a condition characterized by visual disturbances, paranoia, mood swings and disorganized thinking
- Enduring changes in personality and attitude
- Depression and anxiety
- Substance misuse
Are hallucinogens dangerous?
In short, all chemical substances are dangerous. However, hallucinogens are particularly dangerous because they can permanently alter an individual’s mind. While there is emerging research on the effectiveness of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and treatment-resistant depression, the recreational use of hallucinogens may cause more harm than good. The bottom line is hallucinogens are incredibly dangerous when a person uses them without medical guidance.
Hallucinogens are unpredictable.
First and foremost, these substances are dangerous because they are unpredictable. No one person can predict the sensory and cognitive effects they may experience from hallucinogen use, even if they assume that they are well-prepared. Many users report having “bad trips,” which are negative experiences that involve mental agitation, extreme anxiety and a lost sense of reality. These effects can be long-lasting.
Hallucinogen use can lead to addiction.
The other reason these substances, like any chemical substances, are dangerous is that they can cause an individual to become addicted or dependent on them quickly. Some people may turn to them to initially explore their effects, although they quickly find that the use of hallucinogens can be a means of escape from reality. Luckily, treatment for hallucinogen addiction is available to help individuals get back on their feet and find grounding in their reality once again.
Cliffside Malibu is an addiction treatment center specializing in treating hallucinogen use and addiction. We believe that our inpatient treatment program can be valuable as you work to heal and concentrate on your well-being. Treatment sessions will help you explore personal triggers and behaviors that led to your hallucinogen addiction. To learn more about our treatment program, call us today at (855) 403-5641.