The effects of hallucinogens produce “highs” unlike any other type of drug. Users enter into altered states of consciousness, often described as out-of-body experiences, where the mind roams free. The unusual effects of hallucinogens account for their ongoing use as recreational drugs.
With frequent use, the effects of hallucinogens can take on a life of their own as the brain struggles to maintain its regulatory functions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, hallucinogen use can disrupt brain and body functions to the point where users have difficulty coping with everyday life.
Once drug use reaches this point, finding help for the effects of hallucinogens offers the best chance of overcoming the drug’s hold over one’s life. As with other forms of drug abuse, the type of treatment help most needed depends on a person’s individual needs as hallucinogen use impacts different people in different ways.
Effects of Hallucinogens
Hallucinogen drugs exist in various forms, each of which delivers its own set of effects. As a group, hallucinogens tend to produce certain across-the-board effects, such as:
- Seeing things that aren’t there
- Hearing imaginary sounds and voices
- Distorted sense of time
- Distorted sense of space
- Experiencing changes in body shape or size
- Loss of touch with reality
The effects of hallucinogens result from changes in the brain’s biochemical make-up. Depending on the drug, hallucinogens stimulate neurotransmitter secretions, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, from individual brain cell sites, according to the University of Northern Colorado.
The brain uses neurotransmitters to transport information from one region to the other. Neurotransmitter chemicals also relay information throughout the body’s central nervous system. As the effects of hallucinogens mainly focus on the brain’s cognitive centers, drug effects most impact serotonin secretion processes.
Overall, neurotransmitters help in regulating most all major bodily systems including:
- Sensory perceptions
- Nerve-signal transmissions
- Logic and reasoning
- Impulse control
Not surprisingly, the effects of hallucinogens can cause significant disruptions to a person’s physical and psychological well-being over time.
Finding Help for the Effects of Hallucinogens
Initial Stage: Detox Treatment
As the first stage of recovery, detoxing from the effects of hallucinogens is a necessary first step. Stopping drug use altogether can be a shock to the system, bringing on a range of withdrawal symptoms. In effect, stopping drug use leaves the brain in a state of chemical imbalance that will only resolve over time.
Withdrawal symptoms can vary from drug to drug, though hallucinogens in general tend to produce the following types of withdrawal effects:
- Muscle spasms
- Elevated body temperature
- Flashbacks of prior drug “highs”
- Elevated blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate
- Extreme anxiety
Detox treatment programs work to stabilize the effects of hallucinogens during this initial stage. This may be done through medication therapies, especially in cases of chronic hallucinogen use.
Levels of Treatment
Treatment for hallucinogen abuse takes different forms in terms of intensity and duration of treatment. People at the early stages of drug use typically require a less intensive treatment level, whereas long-time users will likely require a more intensive, long-term treatment approach.
Levels of treatment take the form of:
- Intensive outpatient care – twice daily treatment sessions entailing group and individual therapies
- Outpatient care – twice a week or weekly treatment sessions
- Support groups – on an as-needed basis, with regular weekly attendance at the start
In general, the more the effects of hallucinogens disrupt a person’s daily life the more intensive the treatment should be. In some cases, other complications, such as mental illness may make intensive treatment necessary, regardless of how long or how often a person used drugs.
Likewise, the brain chemical imbalances left behind by ongoing hallucinogen use can also make users susceptible to developing psychological disorders. Under these conditions, a more intensive level of treatment is needed to overcome the effects of hallucinogens.
Psychosocial Treatment Needs
Someone needing help for the effects of hallucinogens likely uses the drug on a regular basis. With regular drug use comes dependency in terms of needing the drug to cope life stressors. This habit breeds its own set of problems.
In effect, the effects of hallucinogen have become part of a person’s lifestyle, which is characteristic of addiction-like tendencies. These tendencies eventually start to alter thinking patterns, behaviors, motivations and priorities. The longer a person keeps using hallucinogens the more drug-centered his or her life becomes.
Psychosocial treatment entails helping users replace faulty thinking patterns and behaviors with healthy coping skills. Psychosocial treatment options include:
- Drug education and counseling
- Individual psychotherapy
- Group therapy
- Support group work
While the physical effects of hallucinogens can be debilitating in and of themselves, it’s the psychological effects that make it so hard to abstain from ongoing drug use.
Medication Treatment Needs
In cases of long-time drug use, the effects of hallucinogens can persist for months or even years after stopping drug use. Under these conditions, medication therapies may be needed to support damaged brain chemical functions. This is especially the case for people who’ve developed co-occurring psychological disorders.
Medication therapies help to restore the brain’s normal chemical pathways, which in turn helps a person feel more like him or herself. Medication therapies can also help in relieving uncomfortable withdrawal effects of hallucinogens during the detox stage.
According to the National Center of Biotechnology, medications commonly used include:
While hallucinogens overall carry a low risk for addiction, long-term use increases one’s odds of developing an addiction problem. According to the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, once a person refuses to acknowledge the negative consequences of using hallucinogens an addiction problem has taken hold.
Treating an addiction takes considerably longer as the effects of hallucinogens have altered the brain’s reward system functions. Without needed treatment help, it’s likely a person will go through multiple relapse episodes before coming to terms with the problem. These factors combined with the damaging effects of hallucinogens on the brain’s cognitive functions make it increasingly difficult to recover from an addiction problem.
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