For people looking for an otherworldly “high,” hallucinogens deliver just that, and then some. Peyote, LSD, PCP and psilocybin (also known as magic mushrooms) are just a few of the types of hallucinogens on the market.
The different varieties of hallucinogens produce a wide range of effects. Even in cases where a person only uses one type of drug, the drug’s effects, as well as its “high” effect, can vary from dose to dose.
While hallucinogens may not be as addictive as heroin or cocaine, they do still alter brain functions when used on a regular basis. In general, any drug capable of altering brain chemical functions carries a potential for addiction. Once addicted, users develop both physical and psychological symptoms, some of which can be deadly.
Derived from plants as well as synthetically made, hallucinogens have played a central role in religious rituals within various cultures, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The mind-altering effects produced by hallucinogens accounts for their use within religious ceremonies as well as for why today’s users gravitate towards these drugs.
Plant and mushroom-based hallucinogens, such as peyote and psilocybin contained varied amounts of powerful chemicals that closely resemble the brain’s own neurotransmitter chemicals. Synthetic hallucinogens, such as PMA and LSD also contain neurotransmitter-like chemicals, though amounts are less varied than those found in nature.
Effects on the Brain
Hallucinogen drugs are so named because of their ability to induce hallucinations. Hallucinations can be visual, auditory and/or tactile depending on the type of drug used.
Hallucinogens create these effects by interfering with key brain neurotransmitter processes. These processes normally regulate:
- Sensory perceptions
- Impulse control
- Body temperature
- Muscle control
- Learning and memory
Different drugs interfere with specific neurotransmitter chemicals, which accounts for why hallucinogen effects vary from drug to drug. For example, peyote and LSD interfere with serotonin neurotransmitter processes, while PCP disrupts glutamate chemical processes.
Physical symptoms of hallucinogen addiction can vary depending on the type of drug used. The length of time a person has used can also have a bearing on the types of symptoms experienced.
Like cocaine and heroin, hallucinogen effects in the brain directly alter the body’s central nervous system functions. With repeated use, certain bodily processes will undergo considerable wear and tear. Physical symptoms of hallucinogen addiction result from the drug’s damaging effects on the bodily processes affected.
Physical symptoms to watch out for include:
- Tremors, trembling in the extremities
- Chills and/or hot flashes
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated heart rates
- Seizure episodes
- Muscle rigidity
Hallucinogen users can experience “good trips” or “bad trips” depending on where they’re using and their overall emotional state at the time, according to Bryn Mawr College. Whether good or bad, the intense emotions and experiences had result from massive amounts of brain neurotransmitter chemicals being secreted in the brain.
After a while, brain chemical imbalances reach a point where a person can experience periodic or ongoing distortions in sensory perceptions. Psychological symptoms of hallucinogen addiction may also take the form of:
- Violent behaviors
- Extreme mood swings
- Psychotic episodes
- Communication difficulties
- Panic attacks
Ultimately, hallucinogen addiction results in considerable damage to brain structures as well as brain chemical processes that may become permanent.
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