Hallucinogens Addiction and Abuse

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Hallucinogens are a diverse class of drugs that alter perceptions. Derived from certain plants and mushrooms, these substances have been used for centuries for religious and recreational purposes. They can cause individuals to feel disconnected from their environment.

Hallucinogen use is common in the United States, especially among young adults. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 17 percent of Americans ages 18 to 25 used hallucinogens in their lifetime and about 7 percent used a hallucinogen in the past year.

Many individuals use hallucinogens to experience an intense high. However, sometimes these substances can cause individuals to endure an out-of-body experience that can be stimulating but dangerous. While high on hallucinogens, people might act in ways that they normally wouldn’t.

While most hallucinogens aren’t addictive, they can still lead to severe physical and psychological health problems that can last for years. Seeking treatment for hallucinogen addiction can be an important first step toward recovery.

Hallucinogens are a group of psychoactive substances that can induce auditory or visual hallucinations. People who use these drugs often see and hear things that are not there, which is also known as tripping.

Being high on hallucinogens can lead to severely distressing symptoms, an experience called a bad trip. During a bad trip, people often experience intense anxiety and panic attacks. Because their perceptions are altered, individuals intoxicated on hallucinogens may act erratically or become violent.

A study published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology indicated that some hallucinogens for medical use and therapeutic purposes exist. However, these substances can still cause harmful short- and long-term health problems.

magic mushrooms
Some of the more well-known hallucinogens include LSD, psilocybin, peyote, DMT, PCP and ketamine. While all of these drugs cause hallucinations, each substance has its own specific set of symptoms.

LSD

LSD is one of the most powerful hallucinogens. Made from lysergic acid, the drug can appear as a clear or white odorless material and is derived from rye and other grains. Many people chew blotter paper infused with LSD or swallow the substance to experience euphoria. Street names for LSD include acid, dots and yellow sunshine.

Psilocybin (Shrooms)

Psilocybin derives from certain kinds of mushrooms grown in the United States, South America and Mexico. Also called magic mushrooms and purple magic, psilocybin is typically produced synthetically in labs and can cause severe confusion and anxiety.

Peyote

Peyote is a small, spineless cactus that contains the hallucinogenic product mescaline as its main ingredient. Peyote can be swallowed, chewed or smoked with tobacco or marijuana. Street names of peyote include mesc, buttons and cactus.

DMT

Known as the “spirit molecule,” DMT is a hallucinogenic chemical compound that occurs naturally in certain plants and the human brain. Most individuals who use DMT drink the substance in an herbal tea called ayahuasca, which is brewed from Amazonian plants that contain DMT. A DMT trip can cause people to hallucinate past versions of themselves or images of aliens.

PCP

Developed in the 1950s as an anesthetic, PCP eventually became a popular hallucinogen in the United States. The substance comes in the form of a tablet, capsule, liquid or white crystal powder. PCP is a drug that is also called angel dust, peace pill and love boat.

Ketamine

Ketamine is a dissociative drug that is used as a surgical anesthetic for humans and animals. It distorts the way people perceive sights and sounds. When misused, the drug can be injected, swallowed, snorted or smoked.

Several types of hallucinogens exist. Many people are familiar with classic hallucinogens, which include drugs like LSD and psychedelic mushrooms. In recent years, the popularity of dissociative drugs, which include PCP and ketamine, and deliriants have increased nationwide.

Classic Hallucinogens (Psychedelics)

Classic hallucinogens include psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, peyote and other hallucinogenic substances. These drugs can cause euphoric and hallucinogenic effects, and they can be produced synthetically or found naturally in certain plants.

Dissociative Hallucinogens

Dissociative drugs are a group of psychedelic substances that can cause individuals to feel disconnected from their bodies. Common symptoms of dissociative drugs include delusions and paranoia. PCP, salvia and ketamine are examples of dissociative substances.

Deliriants

Deliriants are a class of hallucinogens that create visual perceptions that are difficult to tell apart from reality. Examples of deliriants include alkaloids like antihistaminics, atropine, henbane, mandrake and belladonna.

The presence of hallucinations is a telltale symptom of hallucinogen use. These effects can begin within 20 to 90 minutes of using hallucinations and can last for as long as 12 hours, depending on the dosage and the person’s overall health.

Hallucinations are not the only symptoms of using hallucinogens. These drugs can cause significant physical and psychological problems that can compromise a person’s overall well-being. For example, the effects of hallucinogens can affect eating and sleeping habits, which can further harm a person’s health.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, hallucinogens can cause a wide range of symptoms that might include:

  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased body temperature
  • Mixed senses, like seeing colors or hearing shapes

While intoxicated on hallucinogens, a person can lose control of their body movements. The inability to control movements can lead to unintentional injuries or even death. Driving while high on hallucinogens can increase the risk of experiencing a fatal crash.

People who regularly use hallucinogens increase their risk of health problems. The long-term physical and mental health complications vary by the type of hallucinogen. For example, extensive ketamine use can bring about memory problems and decrease sociability.

Additional long-term effects of hallucinogens include:

  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Speech problems

A common long-term effect of hallucinogen use is hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), a condition characterized by the presence of spontaneous hallucinations even after the effects of the drug wear off. People with HPPD often experience disorganized thinking, mood changes and paranoia.

Effects on the Brain

The psychological effects of hallucinogens can be debilitating. For example, hallucinogens can induce schizophrenic behavior in individuals who misuse the drug over an extended period of time. Schizophrenia is a severe psychological condition that can cause delusions and hallucinations.

Depression is also a common symptom of hallucinogen use. As a severe mental health disorder, depression affects the way people think, feel and interact with others. The condition is often associated with low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.

Are hallucinogens addictive? Most are not. For example, individuals who regularly use LSD, a popular hallucinogen, can develop a tolerance to it. But the drug has not been shown to produce physical cravings or compulsive drug-seeking behaviors that are associated with drug addiction.

However, research has found that certain hallucinogens are addictive. A report by the University at Buffalo indicated that the hallucinogen MDMA is addictive because it alters the same parts of the brain that other addictive drugs affect.

Effects on the Body

How do hallucinogens affect the body? The physical effects of hallucinogens vary by drug. Peyote, for instance, can lead to the reddening of the face and skin, sweating and an increased heart rate. Conversely, LSD can cause weakness, numbness and dizziness.

Hallucinogens are often used in high doses, as many individuals do not know how much of these drugs that their bodies can handle. When large amounts of hallucinogens are used nausea is a common physical effect.

Excessive use of certain hallucinogens can be fatal. For example, high doses of PCP can cause overdose symptoms, like seizures or coma. If left untreated, a hallucinogen overdose can result in death.

Mixing psychoactive substances together can produce severe physical and mental health problems. Mixing hallucinogens with drugs or alcohol can cause overdose or death because the body often cannot handle the intense effects caused by these interactions.

People who combine PCP and depressants, like benzodiazepines, can result in coma. Meanwhile, mixing LSD and alcohol can be particularly dangerous because acid decreases the effects of alcohol. As a result, people who use these substances tend to drink more, as it takes them longer to feel drunk, increasing their risk of alcohol poisoning.

Some hallucinogens, like PCP, can lead to addiction. Addictive hallucinogens can bring about withdrawal symptoms when someone who regularly uses them reduces or stops their substance use.

Hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms often include:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Drug cravings

While not all hallucinogens are addictive, people can still become dependent on many hallucinogenic drugs. If used regularly over time, hallucinogens can result in health complications that can worsen with continued drug use. It is important to seek treatment if your life revolves around hallucinogen use.

If you’re struggling with hallucinogen addiction, therapy could help. A licensed counselor with a background in addiction or mental health issues can offer you tips for reducing your substance use. If stress is the source of your hallucinogen use, a counselor can advise you on how to handle stress and avoid situations that induce negative emotions.

The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve any medications for treating hallucinogen use. Some behavioral treatment may be helpful in reducing hallucinogen use, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that further research must be done to confirm the efficacy of these therapies in treating the misuse of psychedelic drugs.

If you have questions about your hallucinogen use, contact a representative at The Recovery Village. An expert can talk to you about the dangers of these drugs and provide you with resources for reducing your substance use. To learn more, contact The Recovery Village today.

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