What are Hallucinogens?
Hallucinogens are a family of mind-altering substances that produce profound changes in a person’s sensory perceptions. Often referred to as psychedelic drugs, hallucinogens do not produce the same type of physical dependence as substances such as alcohol, heroin, and cocaine cause, but they can still be psychologically addictive.
Hallucinogens are aptly named, as they produce hallucinations, which are sights, sounds, smells, even tastes and textures that appear real, but aren’t. They’re able to do this because they affect how several vital chemicals in the nervous system that control most of the body’s vital functions.
For example, classic hallucinogens like LSD affect the neurotransmitter serotonin, which controls mood and perception, while dissociative hallucinogens such as ketamine impair glutamate, which affects how we perceive pain.
These are the most commonly abused recreational drugs with hallucinogenic effects:
- LSD/Acid-LSD is one of the most powerful mind-altering hallucinogens. It’s also the most commonly used chemical in this family, so much so that “tripping” and “tripping on acid” has entered our cultural vocabulary.
- MDMA (Ecstasy, Molly)
- Mushrooms (psilocybin, psilocin)
- Mescaline and peyote
Ketamine is unusual in that it has several legitimate medicinal uses. It’s used as an anesthetic, and a form of ketamine, esketamine, is used to treat depression. In the 1950s and ‘60s, studies on possible medical uses for LSD were conducted, but the negative effects on study participants proved to be too difficult to overcome.
How Do People Use Hallucinogens?
Hallucinogens are usually taken orally or inhaled, although PCP is injected. LSD may be used by swallowing a liquid, tablet, or pills. People also may place small pieces of paper soaked with LSD, onto the lining of their mouths, where the drug is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Ketamine is typically taken as a capsule, liquid, or tablet, but can be injected. Mescaline, psilocin, and psilocybin are often dried and made into tea but may be eaten, while DMT may be eaten or smoked.
Hallucinogens and the Brain
Mind-altering substances like hallucinogens affect how sensory information from the environment is processed in the brain by changing how brain cells communicate with each other. Classic hallucinogens like LSD affect the neurochemical serotonin, while dissociative hallucinogens affect glutamate. This difference means that dissociative hallucinogens like ketamine cause a person to experience all the same effects as classic hallucinogens, but they also cause a person to feel disconnected from their body, or out of their body.
All hallucinogens strengthen sensory signals from the environment, but also cause them to be incorrectly routed in the brain, leading to intense, often dream-like hallucinations. When people take hallucinogens, their brains lose the ability to correctly interpret input from their surroundings.
How Dangerous are Hallucinogens?
Broadly speaking, hallucinogens, with a few exceptions, aren’t as immediately dangerous from their effects on the body in comparison to drugs like heroin, cocaine, or alcohol but they are dangerous because of the things people do when under their influence.
When a person is tripping on acid on LSD (under the influence of LSD), they may lose the ability to interact with the world around them, which puts them at high risk of accidentally harming themselves. People are often gravely injured simply by falling while under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.
PCP is the most dangerous hallucinogen. It’s immediately harmful to the body and produces physical and psychological addiction.
Hallucinogens Other Effects
Another of the many negative effects of hallucinogens is the interaction between them and other classes of drugs. For example, people who drink alcohol while using hallucinogens feel less intoxicated than they really are, prompting them to consume far more than is safe.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogen Use?
Long-term effects of hallucinogens can include physical dependence and psychological dependence. Heavy use of hallucinogens over time causes the cells in the brain that make and respond to neurotransmitters to become less effective, as well as a decrease in number.
The most serious long-term effects of hallucinogens use include:
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD). Visual disturbances and hallucinations can repeat as flashbacks with little or no warning, anywhere from days to years after the last time a person uses these mind-altering substances.
Persistent Psychosis. Persistent psychotic disorder is rare but more debilitating than hallucinogenic persisting perception disorder and can follow the long-term use of hallucinogens. As in HPPD, visual disturbances are common, along with mood swings, paranoia, and disorganized thinking.
The short-term effects of hallucinogen abuse include:
- Elevated pulse
- Increased blood pressure
- Dry mouth
- Changes in one’s sense of the passage of time
- Disturbed sleep
Is There Help for Someone Abusing Hallucinogens?
Located in Port St. Lucie, FL, Agape Detox takes a holistic, caring approach to helping people reclaim their lives and achieve total wellness. They offer medically supported detox services, inpatient rehab, dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring disorders, and numerous options in therapy.
If you’re seeking help for yourself or someone abusing hallucinogens, Contact the Agape professionals today to discuss your treatment needs privately and create a treatment plan tailored to those specific needs. By completing treatment in a safe, clean, and comfortable environment, the strongest foundation for recovery can be created.
Dual-diagnosis care is the most effective way to treat dissociative disorder co-occurring with substance abuse. In dual-diagnosis treatment, both drug use and dissociative disorder are treated simultaneously. This approach is essential to recovery because both conditions fuel each other.
If you or someone you love has dissociative disorder as a co-occurring disorder, our dual diagnosis program can help. We offer a diverse range of medical and mental health services on our Florida campus, as well as many holistic therapies for promoting better health all-around. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our programs or to start your intake interview.