Hallucinogens are drugs that produce hallucinations, causing users to feel, hear and see things that aren’t really there. Common hallucinogens include LSD (also called “acid), psilocybin (also called “mushrooms”), peyote, DMT and ayahuasca (National Institute of Drug Abuse). Many drug users do not see hallucinogens as “hard” drugs and do not consider them to have any particularly negative side effects. However, these drugs affect the body dramatically and have the potential to cause extreme states of physical or emotional duress. Before taking any hallucinogens, it’s vital to understand the potential dangers.
Short-term effects of hallucinogens
The high of a hallucinogen involves an extended experience of distorted reality, which is often called a “trip.” During a trip, the users of many hallucinogens will lose their ability to distinguish between hallucinations and reality. They may lose the ability to think rationally or even communicate. The effects of the trip are unpredictable and can vary widely depending on the person, the circumstances and the type and amount of drug taken. While some experiences are reported to be pleasant, “bad trips” can include nightmarish feelings of fear, paranoia and despair. The length a trip can last from 20 minutes to 12 hours depending on the drug and dosage, so extended bad trips can be extremely harrowing experiences.
Whether the hallucinogenic trip is pleasant or frightening, the impact that the drug has on the body is typically stressful. The side effects of hallucinogens depend on the specific type being used, but can include increased heart rate and blood pressure, elevated body temperature, numbness, weakness, body tremors, agitation and severe vomiting. While popular opinion generally holds that hallucinogens create a purely mental and emotional experience, they do in fact cause potentially unhealthy physical states that contribute to accidental injury or pose a danger all by themselves.
Long-term effects of hallucinogens
Long-term hallucinogen abuse can cause two known conditions that make functioning in everyday society difficult. The first is called Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. Popularly known as “acid flashbacks,” this condition causes sudden and brief hallucinogenic experiences to occur without warning. Victims may also experience additional visual disturbances, such as contrails and halos around moving objects. These experiences can unexpectedly interfere with common tasks and sometimes be mistaken for symptoms of more serious mental disorders, such as brain tumors.
The second condition that can result from chronic use of hallucinogens is Persistent Psychosis. Symptoms of this disorder include visual disturbances, mental confusion, paranoia and mood swings. These effects are experienced constantly and can have a catastrophic impact on a user’s mental health. Luckily, psychotherapy has been shown to be effective in treating Persistent Psychosis and improving the victim’s quality of life.
If you know someone who is abusing hallucinogens or any other drug, the Texas Substance Abuse Helpline can provide information and treatment options at all hours. Call us to speak to a qualified substance abuse specialist.