The out-of-the-ordinary effects brought on by hallucinogens places this drug class in a league of its own. Distorted sensory perceptions, hallucinations and dramatic mood fluctuations best typify the effects caused by these drugs.
While not nearly addictive as stimulant or opiate drugs, hallucinogens do carry certain addictive properties when used on an ongoing basis. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, dosage amount, emotional state and setting can all influence the types of effects any one hallucinogen produces.
Signs of hallucinogen addiction can take various forms, all of which result from damage done to the brain. Die-hard hallucinogen users, in particular, face the risk of serious psychological damage as the effects of these drugs can persist long after the “high” wears off.
Whether using LSD, magic mushrooms or PCP, hallucinogens alter sensory perceptions causing users to hallucinate. According to Bryn Mawr College, changes in sensory perception may take the form of:
- Time moving slower
- Seeing random colors
- Physical objects changing shape or size
- Physical objects moving on their own
- Hearing random sounds
- Experiencing one’s own body changing shape
- Smelling random fragrances
These effects result from the changing chemical levels in a person’s brain. Hallucinogens directly alter serotonin neurotransmitter levels, which in turn disrupts other neurotransmitter chemical processes.
Unlike other addictive drugs, hallucinogen effects on brain chemical processes can persist long after using the drug. In the case of long-time hallucinogen users, these effects can cause permanent brain damage to develop.
Tolerance Level Effects
Tolerance levels have to do with the brain’s sensitivity in terms of how it reacts to a drug’s effects. As with most every addictive drug type, brain cells become less sensitive to hallucinogen effects the more often a person uses.
The length of time between drug use also influence brain tolerance levels. The shorter the time between drug doses the higher the brain’s tolerance level goes.
The higher the tolerance level the larger the dose needed to experience the same desired “high” effects. This mechanism accounts for the addictive potential of hallucinogen drugs.
Anytime a drug alters a person’s sense of reality, drastic brain chemical imbalances are at work. With long-term hallucinogen use, users undergo considerable damage to the brain’s cognitive and emotional centers. Over time, changes in the brain’s actual physical structures can result in a condition known as persistent psychosis.
Symptoms of persistent psychosis include:
- Drastic mood swings
- Disorganized thought patterns
- Distorted sense of reality
- Disconnect from reality
Psychotic episodes may occur on a regular basis or random basis. In effect, this sign of hallucinogen addiction can disrupt a person’s work life, social life as well as his or her ability to maintain lasting relationships.
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder
Once addicted to hallucinogens, users may experience hallucinations on an ongoing basis regardless of whether they’re “high” or not. According to the University of Houston, people affected by hallucinogen persisting perception disorder experience flashbacks of hallucinations had while using.
Flashbacks can occur at any time with little to no warning. Users may also experience distortions in vision, hearing, touch and smell at any time. This condition can last for years regardless of whether a person is actively using or not.
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