Damaging Long-term Effects of Hallucinogens

When you take hallucinogens, they change how you experience reality. They immediately affect the prefrontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that controls conscious thinking, cognition, and perception.

These effects are relatively short-term, although some trips can last twelve hours or more. You can experience psychosis, accidents, and injury during this time. If you keep taking hallucinogens, you continue to experience these risks and more.
 

What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are drugs that change how you experience the world around you. They change what you see, think, and feel. There are many types of hallucinogens, and some of the most common include the following:

  • LSD/Acid
  • Psilocybin/Mushrooms
  • MDMD/ecstasy/Molly
  • PCP
  • Ketamine/Special K
  • DXM (Dextromethorphan)
  • Peyote

Some hallucinogens are “natural” or derived from plants. Others are completely synthetic and developed for medical or recreational purposes.

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What Happens Right After You Take a Hallucinogen?

Hallucinogens create a number of short-term side effects. What you experience, and how strongly you experience it, varies from person to person and dose to dose. However in general, when you use a hallucinogen, you can expect any or all of the following:

    Partygoer tripping
  • Rapidly changing feelings and mood alterations. You may feel euphoric, depressed, violent, anxious, afraid and more, and all within a short period of time.
  • Distorted sense of reality. Time, direction, and distance may all become jumbled.
  • Synesthesia. Senses may blend together so that you feel like you can see music or hear colors.
  • Visual hallucinations. You may see things that aren’t there or experience an intensified sense of vision.
  • Depersonalization. You may have an “out of body” experience where you feel weightless or disconnected, or you may lose all sense of identity or self.

Side effects are different every time and can range from a “positive” experience to a bad trip marked mostly by fear or anxiety. Because sense of reality and perception is skewed, you may put yourself and others at risk even during a “good” trip.
 

What Happens If You Keep Taking Hallucinogens?

Every time you take a hallucinogen, there are risks involved. If you keep taking them, these risks continue and more add on. You may experience long-term side effects of hallucinogen use such as persistent psychosis, Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), flashbacks, and more.

 

Long-Term Hallucinogen Use and Persistent Psychosis

Hallucinogenic drugs can lead to longer-lasting, recurring or persistent psychosis. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that this involves experiencing the following:1

  • Visual disturbances
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Paranoia
  • Mood disturbances

You may also experience acute panic attacks. Symptoms may resemble paranoid schizophrenia and involve hallucinations, delusional thinking and abnormal behavior. Persistent psychosis symptoms occur even when you are no longer high and at unexpected or unwanted times.

Long-Term Hallucinogen Use and HPPD

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is marked by visual disturbances. You may see halos, random shapes, or color or motion in your peripheral vision. The symptoms of HPPD are sometimes mistaken for neurological conditions, like a stroke or a brain tumor. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology explains that you’ll know what you’re seeing isn’t real, but this doesn’t make it any less intrusive or disturbing in your everyday life.2

While immediate effects of hallucinogens only last minutes or hours, HPPD can continue for years.

 

Flashbacks Resulting from Hallucinogen Use

During a flashback, you re-experience some or even all of the changes in mood, perception and feeling that you’ve experienced while on the drug. In other words, you feel high or like you’re on a trip even when you’re sober.

Flashbacks can take place months or even years after you stop using hallucinogens. And Therapeutic Advances shares that up to 50% of hallucinogen users experience these flashbacks. They can be triggered by stress, fatigue and use of other drugs, or they can be completely unexpected.
 

Other Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens can cause long-term changes in how you think and feel. For example some users experience Amotivational Syndrome, a syndrome marked by apathy, passivity and little interest in life. You may become socially withdrawn or perform well below your potential.

You may also experience the following:

  • Difficulty with speech and thought
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Violent behavior
  • Increased panic
  • Impaired concentration
  • Substance use disorder or addiction

While any long-term effects of hallucinogen use can interrupt life, most of these subside once you get help and get sober.

Sobriety Can Stop Long-Term Damage

When you get sober, you stop a lot of long-term effects in their tracks. You can reverse much of the damage of addiction, and you can move forward to a healthier life. However you can’t do it alone, and you can’t do it overnight.

Psychology Today explains: “Patients who stay in treatment longer than three months usually have better outcomes than those who stay for a shorter time. Patients who go through medically assisted withdrawal to minimize discomfort but do not receive any further treatment perform about the same in terms of their drug use as those who were never treated.”3
So get real, complete treatment, stay the course of that treatment, and find your better life.

How Do I Find Help Ending Hallucinogen Use?

You can put an end to any substance use disorder. Start the journey by reaching out to your doctor, your therapist, or a professional treatment provider like The Canyon. We’re here to help you gain the tools, skills, and support you need for a lifetime of recovery. No question or concern is too big or small. Please reach out at 877-345-3299 today.


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Sources

1 Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Feb. 2015.

2 Hermle, Leo, et al. “Hallucinogen-Persisting Perception Disorder.” Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. Oct. 2012.

3 Hallucinogens.” Psychology Today. 2 Feb. 2018.

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