Every day, thousands of people use hallucinogens without knowing the true consequences of using these substances. Hallucinogens come from natural sources such as plants and fungi or their chemical derivatives and many others are synthetically made to induce a broad range of hallucinogenic effects with thousands of internet sites offering questionable accuracy and means of identifying, obtaining, extracting, synthesizing, and ingesting hallucinogen drugs.
It isn’t uncommon for a person to have recurring symptoms of a hallucinogen experience termed as “flashbacks” weeks or months later because these drugs can have a powerful influence on the mind. In the least, according to John H. Halpern, MD, an expert on hallucinogens with the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center and the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, “hallucinogens are predictably, unpredictable.”
A long studied phenomenon, hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), can occur after a single hallucinogen experience and although the term “flashback” is often used interchangeably with HPPD, the distinctive differences come mainly when the flashbacks impair functioning or become clinically distressing.
Flashbacks can occur at any time upon cessation of hallucinogen use and while there may be some things that perpetrate the event, more often than not, they simply appear out of nowhere as residual effects of the drugs. Flashbacks are described in the DSM-IV by the American Psychiatric Association as re-experiencing “perceptual symptoms that were experienced during intoxication with the hallucinogens (eg, geometric hallucinations, false perceptions of movement in the peripheral visual fields, flashes of color, intensified colors, trails of images of moving objects, positive afterimages, halos around objects, and macropsia and micropsia.”
These symptoms can easily disappear as quickly as they appeared or last for several minutes or hours and may continue to occur repeatedly for an indefinite period of time. Some people who experience flashbacks appreciate having the so-called “free trip”, but, others may have had a difficult experience during their hallucinogen use and become overly anxious when the flashback occurs and it has been suggested that severe anxiety aggravates the misperceptions.
Most people would prefer not to experience a flashback at an inopportune time, but, there is no sure way to prevent them. Flashbacks can be unconsciously triggered by flashes of light, emotions, senses, thoughts, or surroundings, objects, movements, or nothing at all.
What is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder?
Many hallucinogen users report some brief perception abnormalities occurring after using hallucinogens, but, only few users are affected enough to be considered clinically significant and warrant the diagnosis of HPPD.
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder is marked by persistent, long-term, and pervasive perceptual abnormalities reminiscent of acute intoxication, not better attributable to any another medical or psychiatric condition, and by the “significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
The affects can be so disturbing the person may feel like they have seriously damaged their brain and this notion can exacerbate conditions of anxiety, depression, and psychotic symptoms leading to serious dangers including harmful or self-sabotaging behaviors and suicide.another medical or psychiatric condition, and by the “significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
The affects can be so disturbing the person may feel like they have seriously damaged their brain and this notion can exacerbate conditions of anxiety, depression, and psychotic symptoms leading to serious dangers including harmful or self-sabotaging behaviors and suicide.
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