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Hallucinogens are psychoactive drugs that can cause hallucinations by altering sensory perceptions to varying degrees. PCP, LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), and peyote (a cactus plant containing mescaline) are some of the most commonly used hallucinogens. Some common effects of hallucinogens include hallucinations of sights and sounds, disorganized thoughts, blurry vision, dizziness, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. Hallucinogens are also known to incite anxiety and paranoia. In some cases, this acute anxiety can lead to risky behavior that causes injury. Hallucinogen abuse can also lead to acute depression and other mental health conditions, especially among individuals with underlying mental health challenges.
If you or a loved one are unable to control your use of hallucinogens, please seek support. We’ve provided resources throughout this guide. Our team is also available to help with a free, confidential phone call.
How Do Hallucinogens Affect the Brain
When the brain is operating normally, neurotransmitter chemicals carry messages throughout different parts of the brain and body. These chemicals help us move, talk, make decisions, and control our automatic body functions like digestion and breathing. Like many types of drugs, hallucinogens impact how our brain produces these neurotransmitter chemicals.
Some drugs, such as opioids, stimulate our brains to produce high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, resulting in temporary feelings of pleasure. Hallucinogens, on the other hand, actually disrupt the way our brain produces neurotransmitter chemicals, leaving our brains and bodies confused. This can lead hallucinogen users to feel unexpected shifts in their mood, ability to sleep or eat, their feeling of pain, and their response to the outside world.
Hallucinogens can also “trick” our minds into seeing, hearing, or experiencing events that are not real.
Types of Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens can refer to a variety of different drugs that have a disruptive effect on the brain and body. These can include LSD, also known as acid, which is made in a laboratory, and psilocybin, which is found in mushrooms, and peyote, which is derived from a cactus. Whether they are organic or man-made, these drugs can produce uncontrolled and unpredictable experiences that affect both the users’ thoughts and actions.
Other types of hallucinogenic drugs are mainly man-made and are known for their powerful properties. These include PCP and Ketamine, both of which were developed for medical purposes and are now used recreationally.
Because the use of these drugs for recreational purposes is illegal, users need to be aware that the drug they consume may also contain other harmful chemicals that may produce medical complications.
Signs and Symptoms of Hallucinogen Use
Signs and symptoms of chronic hallucinogen use may include:
- Extremely dilated pupils
- Warm skin, excessive perspiration, and body odor
- Distorted sense of sight, hearing, touch
- Distorted image of self
- Distorted time perception
- Mood and behavior changes
- Unpredictable flashback episodes, even long after withdrawal
- Poor impulse control
- Fear, terror
- Deadened sensory perception (may experience severe injury while appearing not to notice)
- Symptoms of intoxication
- Unpredictable behavior (may swing from passive to violent for no apparent reason)
One of the most worrisome aspects of hallucinogen use is the long-term effect of the drug on the mind. Because hallucinogens “scramble” the brain and temporarily interrupt the normal functioning of the body, they can have lasting impacts on the brain. This is particularly common among individuals who have underlying mental health challenges that may be worsened through hallucinogen use.
Long-term concerns from hallucinogen use include psychosis, in which an individual struggles to control their thinking and emotions, sees things that are not real, and experiences paranoid thoughts or instincts. Another concern is persistent hallucinations, in which an individual has hallucinatory “flashbacks” that replay even after they have stopped taking the drug.
Signs and Symptoms of Hallucinogen Withdrawal
When someone stops taking hallucinogens after a long period of use, they will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms related to hallucinogen withdrawal will often vary from mild to severe depending on how often a person has used the drug. Some of the most common symptoms of hallucinogen withdrawal include:
- Panic attacks
- Speech problems
- Severe mood swings
- Seizures and tremors
- Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
Hallucinogens are a dangerous form of drug that can lead to psychological and physiological complications. Since many types of hallucinogens can contain unknown chemicals, every individual’s experience with these drugs will be different. For these reasons and more, it’s vital to seek out professional treatment when trying to recover from hallucinogen addiction.
Next Steps & Seeking Professional Help
If you or a loved one are concerned about hallucinogen use and addiction, please contact a treatment professional as soon as possible. Licensed professional treatment providers can provide vital resources to help you manage withdrawal symptoms, choose the appropriate treatment program, and maintain your recovery for the long term.
Turning Point of Tampa has helped individuals find recovery from addiction and substance use since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact us at 813-680-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org.