Hallucinogens Abuse Signs, Symptoms, Effects, & Treatment


 What are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that can alter perception, thoughts, and feelings. They can sometimes cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be human-made. People have used hallucinogens for centuries, mostly for religious rituals.

Common hallucinogens include the following:

  • Ayahuasca is a tea made from several Amazonian plants containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the primary mind-altering ingredient. Ayahuasca is also known as Hoasca, Aya, and Yagé.
  • DMT is a powerful chemical found in many different plants. Manufacturers can also make DMT in a lab. The drug is usually a white crystalline powder and it is often smoked. A popular name for DMT is Dimitri.
  • D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a clear or white odorless material made from lysergic acid, which can be found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. It is often in liquid form or “dropped” on paper or candy. LSD has many other names, including Acid, Blotter, Dots, and Yellow Sunshine.
  • Peyote (mescaline) is a small, spineless cactus that includes mescaline as a psychoactive component. Peyote can also be synthetic. Buttons, Cactus, and Mesc are common names for peyote.
  • 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (psilocybin) comes from certain types of mushrooms found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. Other names for psilocybin include Little Smoke, Magic Mushrooms, Purple Passion, and Shrooms.

Hallucinogens Found in Mushrooms

Some hallucinogens also cause users to feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment.  These are often referred to as “disassociates”. Common examples include:

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant and mucus-clearing ingredient in some over-the-counter cold and cough medicines (syrups, tablets, and gel capsules). Robo is another popular name for DXM.
  • Ketamine is used as a surgery anesthetic for humans and animals. Much of the ketamine sold on the streets comes from veterinary offices. While available as an injectable liquid, manufacturers mostly sell it as a powder or as pills. Other names for ketamine include K, Special K, or Cat Valium.
  • Phencyclidine (PCP) was developed in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery. It’s no longer used for this purpose due to serious side effects. While PCP can be found in a variety of forms, including tablets or capsules, liquid and white crystal powder are the most common forms. PCP has various other names, such as Angel Dust, Hog, Love Boat, and Peace Pill.
  • Salvia divinorum (salvia) is a plant common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. Other names for salvia are Diviner’s Sage, Maria Pastora, Sally-D, and Magic Mint.

Hallucinogens can be used in a variety of ways:

Hallucinogens are thought to temporarily disrupt communication between chemical systems throughout the brain and spinal cord. Some hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates:

  • mood
  • sensory perception
  • sleep
  • hunger
  • body temperature
  • sexual behavior
  • muscle control

Other hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical glutamate, which regulates:

  • pain perception
  • responses to the environment
  • emotion
  • learning and memory

The effects of hallucinogens can begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 6 to 12 hours. Salvia’s effects are more short-lived, appearing in less than 1 minute and lasting less than 30 minutes. Hallucinogen users refer to the experiences brought on by these drugs as “trips,” calling the unpleasant experiences “bad trips.”

Along with hallucinations, other short-term general effects include:

  • increased heart rate
  • nausea
  • intensified feelings and sensory experiences
  • changes in sense of time (for example, time is perceived as passing slowly)

Specific short-term effects of some hallucinogens include:

  • increased blood pressure, breathing rate, or body temperature
  • loss of appetite
  • dry mouth
  • sleep problems
  • mixed senses (such as “seeing” sounds or “hearing” colors)
  • spiritual experiences
  • feelings of relaxation or detachment from self/environment
  • uncoordinated movements
  • excessive sweating
  • panic
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • psychosis—disordered thinking detached from reality

We know little about the long-term effects of hallucinogens. Repeated use of PCP can result in long-term effects that may continue for a year or more after use stops and include speech problems, memory and weight loss, anxiety, and depression. Researchers also know that ketamine users may develop symptoms that include ulcers in the bladder, kidney problems, and poor memory.

Though uncommon, long-term effects of some hallucinogens include:

  • Persistent psychosis: a series of continuing mental problems, including visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia, and mood changes.
  • Flashbacks: recurrences of certain drug experiences. Flashbacks often happen without warning and may occur within a few days or more than a year after drug use. In some users, flashbacks can persist and affect daily functioning, a condition known as hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD). These people continue to have hallucinations and other visual disturbances, such as seeing trails attached to moving objects.

Evidence indicates that certain hallucinogens can be addictive or that people can develop a tolerance to them. Use of some hallucinogens also produces tolerance to other similar drugs.

Hallucinogens can produce pleasure

Why do young people use hallucinogens? One of the wonderful things about adolescents and young adults is their innate desire to seek novelty and pleasure. This same drive can also expose them to great risks; something that we know about the way teen brains work is that it causes teens to underestimate the likeliness that they will experience negative consequences. While it makes sense that young people would be interested in mind-altering experiences and the existential exploration that is so often associated with hallucinogens, it also can expose them to risks and experiences beyond their ability to cope. Young people may also use hallucinogens and other substances as a way of simply escaping their everyday reality.

As with all substances, hallucinogens are particularly risky for adolescents and young adults whose brains are still developing. While it is true that these powerful substances have been used as a rite of passage for many generations and across many cultures, in today’s culture youth are generally using these substances without supervision, guidance, or moderation. The effects of hallucinogens on the developing brain are not fully understood, but they may increase the risk of triggering latent mental health concerns. Teens who use these substances can also experience a sense of boredom with their experiences while not using hallucinogens, and a sense of isolation from peers who have not experimented with these substances. When using as a way to escape an unpleasant reality, they miss opportunities to develop coping skills and genuine connection not induced by chemicals.

There are no government-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. However, when we understand the reasons that adolescents and young adults use these substances, such as existential curiosity, self-medication, difficulty relating to others and the world, a lack of impulse control or a desire to fit in, we can address these root causes as well as help teens to recognize the pros and cons of taking these powerful substances. Sandstone Care specializes as an adolescent drug treatment center in Denver CO, and as a drug rehab for young adults Denver CO.

If hallucinogens are affecting you or your loved one, seek support. Informed, intelligent, care is the best way to show someone you love who may be struggling with a substance abuse issue. For drug rehabilitation for troubled teens in CO, or information about drug treatment for troubled youth in Denver CO, or Boulder, CO, contact us.

The content for this page was taken from: National Institute on Drug Abuse

Contact Us