What are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are simply a class of drugs that causes hallucinations to the user. Hallucinations can happen in different ways. The main idea behind all of these ways, however, is that hallucinations cause a person to sense things that are not really there. There are 5 types of hallucinations based on our 5 senses:

  • Auditory Hallucination – hearing sounds coming from inside or outside your mind. Sometimes these voices may seem to communicate with the hallucinating person, telling him things or commanding him to do something.
  • Visual Hallucinations – seeing people, colors, shapes or anything that are not really present.
  • Tactile Hallucinations – the type of hallucinations that pertain to our sense of touch. This may cause the person to have different sensations like tickling, or that something is moving against your skin. It may also have the person feel heat that is really not there.
  • Olfactory – smelling something that is not really there. This is less common than those mentioned above.
  • Taste – tasting something that is not really there. This is the rarest form of hallucinations.

What are the naturally occurring Hallucinogens?

These drugs can be found naturally in many sources are called classic hallucinogens, some of which are:

  • Psilocybin – found in some species of mushrooms. They have been used in native rites for centuries. These “magic mushrooms” that contains psilocybin can be ingested orally or made into a tea.
  • DMT – found in seeds, bark, leaves or stem of various plants. It is used as ayahuasca, which is a brew used by indigenous tribes of Amazonia in traditional ceremonies. It is said to have healing properties and has recently become popular with Westerners.
  • Salvia Divinorum – a herb of the Labiate (mint) family which can be found in the cloud forest regions of Sierra Mazateca in Oaxaca, Mexico. Salvinorin A, the psychoactive substance found in Salvia, is the most potent, naturally occurring psychedelic compound.
  • Mescaline – found in some species of cactuses. These are used by the natives in Northern Mexico and the southwestern United States in traditional religious ceremonies.

What are the synthetic or man-made Hallucinogens?

Man-made hallucinogens are mostly illegal drugs that are used for its effects of being “high” and the psychedelic sensation. The most popular of these are:

  • LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) – is the most popular psychedelic drug. It is derived from a chemical in rye fungus. It has started to become popular in the 1960’s during the rise of the subculture called psychedelia. Its effects was accidentally discovered by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss scientist in 1938.
  • MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine) – more commonly known as molly, it is a drug that produces a feeling of communion or oneness with others due to the increased empathy and emotional connection. It also causes euphoria, which is why it is commonly used as a party drug.
  • 25I-NBOMe – more commonly known as N-bomb, it is a synthetic drug that is used for neurochemistry and brain mapping. Its effects are found to be similar to the effects of MDMA. However, this specific type of drug is fatal at high doses.
  • PCP (Phencyclidine) – is a synthetic drug that is originally created as an aesthetic for use in hospital surgeries. However, it was found to have negative side effects like mania, delirium and disorientation which cause general practitioners to stop using it in the 1950s.

What are the effects of Hallucinogens?

This type of drugs cause hallucinations to a person by affecting the neural circuits in the brain that use the neurotransmitter serotonin. They also affect the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for mood, cognition and perception and other parts of the brain that regulate arousal and physiological response to stress and panic.

The effects of hallucinogens vary from person to person and depend on many things like size, weight and health of the person taking it. Aside from hallucinations, they can affect the senses by causing feelings of euphoria, blurred vision, sense of relaxation, etc. Other effects include disorganized thoughts, anxiety, agitation, paranoia, panic, etc. It can also cause drug-induced psychosis in some people. Psychosis is a mental disorder in which thoughts and emotions are impaired that cause a person to become lost in contact with reality.

There is not much research that has been done to study the risks of these drugs in general to a person’s health. We do know, however, that some hallucinogens affect the body in certain ways. For example, it is known that psilocybin can cause risks of food poisoning because even if psilocybin itself is not poisonous, the user can mistakenly take other poisonous mushrooms instead. The illegal drug, PCP, which is more commonly called angel dust, can cause seizures, coma and death.

Are Hallucinogens addictive?

Hallucinogens, especially the man-made ones can be addictive. This poses grave danger to those that become addicted to it because of its unknown long-term effects. Also, it can cause the user to develop tolerance. Because of this, the user is forced to take more of the substance to achieve the same level of effect as the first time. This increases the risks even more.

The effects of addictive use of hallucinogens include flashbacks or experiencing the effect of the drug again even after some time when the drug was used, impaired motor function, loss of memory and neural function, severe depression and permanent changes in sensory perception.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of hallucinogen use?

Like every addictive drug, the user will begin to feel withdrawal symptoms as the drugs leave his system. The symptoms can be of 2 types:

  • Flashbacks
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of coordination
  • Aggressive, hostile or violent behaviour.
  • Zombie-like state
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Depression
  • Frank psychosis
  • Hyperthermia
  • Diarrhea
  • Permanent post-hallucinogenic perceptual disturbance
  • Long-term psychosis
  • Fear of going insane

How can you treat hallucinogen addiction?

Fortunately, there are treatments available for hallucinogen addiction. Although there are still no pharmacological treatments for it, the method that is usually used is behavioral therapy. Individuals that suffer from hallucinogen addiction can still experience psychosis even after the use of these drugs is stopped. This is still dangerous for the patient because psychosis can lead to violent behavior and even suicide. These treatment centers focus on providing a safe and calm environment for their patients.

Responsible Drug Use

The use of any type of drug always has some risk associated with it. The same is the case for use of hallucinogens, whether natural or man-made. Aside from the drug itself, feelings associated with its use can also be addictive, which makes it much more dangerous. Although its negative effects on human health is not entirely known yet, what we do know about its effects, however, is that it should not be abused as a drug.