Hallucinogens Addiction and Abuse
Hallucinogens are a diverse class of drugs that alter perceptions. Derived from certain plants and addictive 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.
What Are Hallucinogens?
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 by 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.
Hallucinogenic Drug Dependence And Addiction
Although addiction to these types of drugs is less common than with other substances, many people can still develop a dependence on Hallucinogens. Physical addiction is marked by tolerance to the drug, meaning more is needed to achieve the initial high. It is also recognized by the presence of withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
Psychological dependence can take place when:
- The user feels the need to take the drug more frequently.
- The user goes through extremes to get the drug.
- The user starts avoiding responsibilities or friends and family in favor of using the drug.
- The user continues to take the drug despite recognizing the severe consequences of doing so.
An addiction to a mind-altering substance may be linked to other conditions, including depression.
Phencyclidine (PCP) is a Dissociative Anesthetic that was discontinued for human use in 1965. The drug creates an “out-of-body” feeling, and coming down from its numbing effects can cause people to become agitated and irrational.
PCP is used as an additive to many other street drugs (including Marijuana, LSD, and Methamphetamine). This enhances their Psychedelic effects. Predominantly distributed as a powder, PCP can be snorted, smoked, injected, or swallowed.
When PCP is abused at high doses, this drug can cause hallucinations, seizures, and coma. PCP-induced deaths are most common when the user commits suicide or has an accident due to their altered state of consciousness. PCP is also known as:
- Angel Dust
- Embalming Fluid
- Killer Weed
- Super Grass
- Peace Pills
Don’t write off your addiction if you think you need help.
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, also known as Acid or LSD, is a highly potent Synthetic Hallucinogen. LSD was originally used in psychiatric therapy and research. Today, it is a Schedule I drug. LSD is most commonly abused by people in their late teens or early twenties as a “club drug,” along the same lines as MDMA and Ketamine.
LSD affects the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a part in the control of behavioral, perceptual, and regulatory systems. By interfering with these, LSD creates Hallucinogenic effects where the user loses touch with reality; seemingly mystical experiences, such as visions or a blending of the senses, may occur.
Magic Mushrooms (also called Psychedelic Mushrooms or Shrooms) are mushrooms that contain the Psychedelic drugs Psilocybin and Psilocin. These Hallucinogenic substances are chemically similar to LSD. Psilocybin is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning the federal government has not recognized medical use for the substance and has deemed there is a high potential for abuse. Psychedelic Mushrooms can cause effects ranging from heightened sensory experiences to impaired judgment and inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. So-called “bad trips” may include:
- Frightening hallucinations
- Panic attacks
Mescaline And Peyote
Mescaline is a naturally occurring Psychedelic substance found in the Peyote cactus. Peyote has been used in Native American traditions and is one of the oldest Psychedelic agents known. Its use was so central to indigenous culture that the Native American Church was founded in 1918 to preserve the right to use the drug. Mescaline has been suggested as effective in treating depression and alcoholism, but its negative effects outweigh its potential good in the eyes of the government. It is a Schedule I drug.
The perceived emotional and mental effects of Mescaline vary depending on the user’s body type, personality, drug history, and expectations for the experience. Some common effects of Mescaline/Peyote use include:
- Distorted sense of body
- Vivid mental images
- Altered perception of space
- Altered perception of time
- Loss of a sense of reality
Salvia Divinorum is a psychoactive plant that can induce hallucinations and visions. Sometimes called Sage Of The Seers or the Diviner’s Sage, Salvia Divinorum can produce a sensation of traveling through time and flying or floating above the ground. Other physical effects include dizziness, lack of coordination, chills, and nausea. Salvia Divinorum is federally legal in the United States, though many states have outlawed the sale and possession of the drug.
A concoction of Synthetic stimulants, Bath Salts don’t have a specific chemical makeup. Each batch of Bath Salts may vary slightly, with the primary ingredient often being a man-made form of Cathinone (a substance found in Khat). Adding to the inconsistency, many drug labs will slightly alter the drug’s chemical makeup to bypass federal regulation of the substances. Bath Salts can cause bizarre and disturbing behavior. Many emergency room visits linked to Bath Salts involve the user claiming to have seen demons and monsters.
Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid is found in human cells and synthesized for its intoxicating and sedating effects. GHB is a Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressant, and side effects will vary based on the level of dosage and the presence of other drugs in the user’s system. The most commonly reported side effects of GHB use include euphoria, decreased inhibitions, sleepiness, disorientation, loss of coordination, and decreased heart rate.
Types of Hallucinogens
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 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 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.
Symptoms of Hallucinogen Abuse
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, 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:
- Increased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Increased body temperature
- Mixed senses, like seeing colors or hearing shapes
While intoxicated with 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.
Risks of Hallucinogens Abuse
People who regularly use hallucinogens increase their risk of health problems. The long-term physical and mental health complications vary by type of hallucinogen. For example, extensive ketamine use can bring about memory problems and decrease sociability.
Additional long-term effects of hallucinogens include:
- 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 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.
Hallucinogens and Other Drugs
Mixing psychoactive substances 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.
Treatment for Hallucinogen Abuse
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:
- 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 treatments may help reduce 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.
Reclaim Your Life From Hallucinogens
Hallucinogen addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up California can provide to you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional treatment and safe detox. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
 NIDA. How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?
 NIDA. Hallucinogens DrugFacts.
 Garcia-Romeu, A., Kersgaard, B., & Addy, P. H. (2016). Clinical applications of hallucinogens: A review. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 24(4), 229–268.