Hallucinogens distort one’s perception of reality, because they affect the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls conscious thinking, cognition, and perception. Hallucinogens may result in temporary psychosis. With long-term use, these drugs may lead to recurring or persistent psychosis as evidenced by mood disturbances, visual disturbances and disorganized thinking. According to Psychology Today, hallucinogens commonly include the following substances:
- LSD, also called “acid” because it is manufactured from lysergic acid, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains
- Psilocybin, which is harvested from mushrooms from tropical areas of the US, Mexico and South America
- MDMA, a synthetic psychoactive also known as ecstasy or Molly. It is similar to both amphetamine and mescaline.
- PCP (phencyclidine), a synthetic drug originally developed as an anesthetic, but it was discontinued due to its side effects of delirium and hallucinations
- Ketamine, known also as Special K, a derivative of PCP that has recently become popular
- DXM (dextromethorphan), a drug found in cough medicines and cold tablets or gel caps. This drug is also sold as a powder over the Internet.
- Peyote, a small, spineless cactus that produces mescaline that Native Americans use in religious ceremonies
These drugs create a number of short-term side effects, the severity of which will vary from person to person based on the drug and the amount taken. Brown University reports that, when under the influence of hallucinogens, an individual may experience rapidly changing feelings and perceptions, such as depression, violent behavior and distorted reality.
According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, these drugs often cause the following side effects:
- Mood alterations – Users usually feel euphoric, but sometimes they become severely depressed.
- Distorted sense of direction, distance and time – A few minutes may seem like hours, or hours may seem like minutes. Past, present and future may also become jumbled.
- Synesthesia – This is best described as a melding of two senses. In other words, someone may think he is seeing music or hearing colors.
- Visual hallucinations- This may include an intensified sense of vision and perceptions of bizarre images.
- Depersonalization – This condition is marked by an “out of body” sensation. For instance, the individual may feel like her body is becoming tiny. Another may feel his body is weightless, like in space.
- Preoccupation with philosophy – Someone under the influence of hallucinogens may believe she has discovered great truths and pieces of wisdom about life; however, her thoughts seem unintelligible or random to someone who is sober.
What is particularly dangerous about hallucinogens is that their side effects can be different every time they are used. Panic is commonly induced, which cause a “bad trip.”
Long-term Side Effects of Hallucinogen Abuse
Not only do users experience a myriad of disturbing effects from hallucinogens, but, if they continue using drugs, they will likely experience devastating consequences. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following long-term effects have been linked to using classic hallucinogens:
- Persistent psychosis, which means dissociation from reality. Users may experience mood disturbances, visual disturbances and disorganized thinking. They may also experience acute panic attacks that resemble paranoid schizophrenia, which includes hallucinations, delusional thinking and abnormal behavior. These episodes can last for several hours up to many years, but such length is rare.
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), which is marked by hallucinations, seeing halos and trails attached to moving objects. Other visual disturbances can include after images, sparkles and flashes of bright bolts of light. The symptoms of HPPD are sometimes mistaken for neurological disorders, like a stroke or a brain tumor: people who experience these symptoms know the experiences are imaginary, but they are disturbing nonetheless.
- Flashbacks, or recurring sensations from a previous experience of using a hallucinogen. In other words, users feel as if they have used the drug, even though they are sober. According to the Alcohol-Drug Education Service, these flashbacks may take place for months after you stop using hallucinogens, and they can be triggered by stress, fatigue, other drugs or even exercising.
- Amotivational syndrome, which is marked by apathy, passivity and little interest in life. Users also become socially withdrawn and perform well below their potential.
In addition to these problems, long-term hallucinogen abuse can lead to the following issues:
- Difficulty with speech and thought
- Weight loss
- Memory loss
- Violent behavior
- Increased panic
- Impaired concentration
- Increased possibility of delusions
- Severe mental disturbances
Fortunately, many of these effects subside once the individual stops taking these drugs and remains sober. Some people will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop abusing hallucinogens. If hallucinogen use has become a problem behavior, professional addiction treatment can be very helpful. Addiction treatment can help each individual gain skills to overcome triggers of hallucinogen abuse in a safe and comfortable environment.
Get Help for Hallucinogen Addiction
If you or someone you love struggles with an addiction to hallucinogens or other substances, we can help. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline anytime to talk with our recovery professionals about the nature of addiction and the problems that hallucinogens can cause. Don’t let addiction control your life any longer—call now to get the help you need today.