Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception, thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Some hallucinogens also cause users to feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment.
People use hallucinogens in a wide variety of ways, including smoking, snorting, and absorbing through the lining in the mouth.
Hallucinogens interfere with actions of brain chemicals responsible for functions that include:
The effects of hallucinogens can begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 6 to 12 hours.
Along with hallucinations, other short-term general effects of hallucinogens include:
Increased heart rate
Intensified feelings and sensory experiences
Changes in sense of time
Persistent psychosis and flashbacks are two long-term effects associated with some hallucinogens.
Evidence indicates that certain hallucinogens can be addictive or that people can develop a tolerance to them.
There are no government-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. Scientists need more research to find out if behavioral therapies are effective for addiction to hallucinogens.
Hallucinogens are found in plants and fungi or are synthetically produced and are among the oldest known group of drugs used for their ability to alter human perception and mood. Hallucinogens can be synthetically produced or are found in plants. Hallucinogens come in a variety of forms. MDMA or ecstasy tablets are sold in many colors with a variety of logos to attract youth. LSD is sold in the form of impregnated paper (blotter acid), typically imprinted with colorful graphic designs.
The most commonly abused hallucinogens are PSILOCYBIN (magic mushrooms), LSD, and MDMA (ecstasy). Hallucinogens are typically taken orally or can be smoked.
Sensory effects include perceptual distortions that vary with dose, setting, and mood. Psychic effects include distortions of thought associated with time and space. Time may appear to stand still, and forms and colors seem to change and take on new significance. We e k s or even months after some hallucinogens have been taken, the user may experience flashbacks - fragmentary recurrences of certain aspects of the drug experience in the absence of actually taking the drug. The occurrence of a flashback is unpredictable, but is more likely to occur during times of stress and seems to occur more frequently in younger individuals. With time, these episodes diminish and become less intense.
Deaths exclusively from acute overdose of LSD, magic mushrooms, and mescaline are extremely rare. Deaths generally occur due to suicide, accidents, and dangerous behavior, or due to the person inadvertently eating poisonous plant material.
Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause hallucinations - profound distortions in a person's perceptions of reality. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be man-made, and they are commonly divided into two broad categories: classic hallucinogens (such as LSD) and dissociative drugs (such as PCP). When under the influence of either type of drug, people often report experiencing rapid, intense emotional swings and seeing images, hearing sounds, and feeling sensations that seem real but are not. While the exact mechanisms by which hallucinogens and dissociative drugs cause their effects are not yet clearly understood, research suggests that they work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between neurotransmitter systems throughout the brain and spinal cord.
General Common Effects of Dissociative Drugs
Low to Moderate Doses
Loss of coordination, disorientation, and confusion
Dizziness, nausea, vomiting
Changes in sensory perceptions (such as sight, sound, shapes, time, and body image)
Feelings of detachment from self and environment
Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature
Physical distress, including dangerous changes in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature
Marked psychological distress, including feelings of extreme panic, fear, anxiety, paranoia, invulnerability, exaggerated strength, and aggression
Use with high doses of alcohol or other central nervous system depressants can lead to respiratory distress or arrest, resulting in death
Other visual disturbances (such as seeing halos or trails attached to moving objects)
Symptoms sometimes mistaken for neurological disorders (such as stroke or brain tumor)
Central Nervous System: The brain and spinal cord.
Cerebral cortex: The region of the brain responsible for cognitive functions including reasoning, mood, and perception of stimuli.
Dissociative: a type of compound, such as phencyclidine or ketamine, that produces an anesthetic effect characterized by a feeling of being detached from the physical self.
DXM: A common street name for dextromethorphan.
Flashback: A sudden but temporary recurrence of aspects of a drug experience (including sights, sounds, and feelings) that may occur days, weeks, or even more than a year after hallucinogenic drug use.
Glutamate: An excitatory neurotransmitter found throughout the brain that influences the reward system and is involved in learning and memory, among other functions.
Hallucinogen: A drug that produces hallucinations - distortions in perception of sights and sounds - and disturbances in emotion, judgment, and memory.
HPPD: Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder; the spontaneous and sometimes continuous recurrence of perceptual effects of LSD long after an individual has ingested the drug.
Kappa opioid receptor: A receptor on nerve cells that is activated by certain opioid-like compounds produced in the body. These receptors differ from those activated by the more commonly known opioids, such as heroin and morphine.
Neurotransmitter: A chemical compound that acts as a messenger to carry signals from one nerve cell to another.
NMDA receptors: N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, a type of glutamate receptor that is important for learning and memory; it is the target of drugs such as PCP and ketamine.
Persistent Psychosis: Unpredictable and long-lasting visual disturbances, dramatic mood swings, and hallucinations experienced by some LSD users after they have discontinued use of the drug.
Serotonin: A neurotransmitter involved in a broad range of effects on perception, movement, and emotions. Serotonin and its receptors are the targets of most hallucinogens.