As a group, hallucinogens alter a person’s sensory perceptions, which translate into altered states of consciousness. In terms of the different drugs that fall under this classification, each drug produces its own unique effects and withdrawal symptoms based on the areas of the brain most affected.
According to Bryn Mawr College, the most commonly used hallucinogen drugs include:
- Psilocin or mushrooms
Hallucinogens derive from both natural and synthetic ingredients, with most having no known medicinal purposes. Depending on the drug, hallucinogen effects may take the form of:
- Warped sense of time
- Seeing vivid colors
- Warped special perception
- Seeing visions
- Feeling disconnected from one’s body
- Enhanced awareness
With such a wide variation in drug effects, hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms can take any number of forms depending on the person, his or her experience with hallucinogen drugs as well as one’s mood when using.
Hallucinogen Withdrawal Symptoms
Hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms result from brain chemical imbalances brought on by frequent drug using practices. Most hallucinogen drugs interfere with the brain’s glutamate and serotonin production processes. Glutamate and serotonin are essential neurotransmitter chemicals, both of which play key roles in regulating several major bodily processes.
Once hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms take effect, a person may experience:
- Stiffening of the muscles
- Elevated heart rate
- Increase in blood pressure
- Increase in breathing rate
- Fluctuations in body temperature
Hallucinogen effects on brain chemical levels affect a person’s emotional and psychological states, both during and after the “high.” These interactions leave users open to experiencing a range of psychological hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms.
Psychological symptoms can vary in severity and intensity based on the type of drug used. Symptoms may take the form of:
- Panic episodes
- Psychotic-type breaks from reality
- Severe mood swings
- Speech difficulties
- Feelings of rage
- Low impulse control
While hallucinogens in general pose a low risk of abuse and addiction compared to other types of drugs, they nonetheless take a toll on the brain’s ability to maintain normal bodily functioning when used on a frequent, ongoing basis. At some point, the brain starts to develop a tolerance to hallucinogen effects, which in turn drives increased drug use.
In effect, hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms develop out of the wear and tear these drugs have on brain chemical functions. Once hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms start to take shape, the brain has developed a physical dependence on the drug’s effects. With continued drug use, this dependency will evolve into a psychological dependency, which is the hallmark of addiction.
Long-Term Hallucinogen Withdrawal Symptoms
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term hallucinogen use causes widespread brain damage that can linger for years, regardless of whether a person stops using or not. In extreme cases, users can develop a condition known as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder or HPPD.
HPPD causes residual hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms that persist long after a person stops using. HPPD symptoms include:
- Random flashback episodes of hallucinations had while “high”
- Schizophrenic-type symptoms
Under these conditions, the brain is working at a diminished functional capacity, which can greatly impair a person’s ability to cope with everyday life.
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