Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that typically lead to subjective changes in the way that a user thinks, acts or reacts to various situations. There are a number of different types of hallucinogens including psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants. Each one causes a unique, psychoactive experience for the user and has a number of potential risks or dangers associated with use.
When asked the question, “what are hallucinogens?” a number of potential answers come to mind. Hallucinogens are:
- drugs that distort the user’s perception of reality
- drugs that can cause hallucinations either auditory or visual
- drugs that can cause intense emotional mood swings or behavioral changes in the user
- drugs that disrupt the production of serotonin and cause distinct changes in the way that the brain processes sensory or emotions
For more information about hallucinogens, their uses, and their abuse and addiction potential, call 800-592-1193.
Criteria for Establishing a Hallucinogenic Drug
According to L.E. Hollister, there are a number of different criteria that a drug must meet in order to be considered a hallucinogen. While most hallucinogens are distinctly categorized, some actually have a less distinct ability to fall into this general group of pharmacological agents. In order for a drug to be considered a hallucinogen, it must:
- cause distinct changes in thought or perception when compared to the other effects of the drug
- cause minimal intellectual or memory impairment
- not result in stupor or narcosis as an integral effect of the drug
- result in limited or minimal side effects to the nervous system
- have minimal risk of causing cravings afterward
A major effect of hallucinogens is that not all hallucinogens will cause the same effects and sometimes, even the same drug can cause various effects on the same user. For instance, a user may use a hallucinogen at one time and experience auditory hallucinations and then later the user may use the drug and experience a complete lack of hallucinations or the user may actually experience visual hallucinations.
Types of Hallucinogens
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are four common types of hallucinogens. Each of these drugs works by binding to the receptor sites responsible for the transmission of serotonin. The most common types of hallucinogens include:
How Hallucinogens are Abused
Each hallucinogen is different and has a different potential method of abuse. For many years, actually dating back to ancient history, hallucinogens have been used in rituals, spiritual ceremonies and similar traditions. It was not until many, many years after hallucinogens were being abused that the potential risks of using these drugs were noticed. Still, many tribes and spiritual conservationists continue to abuse hallucinogens.
The effects of hallucinogens are highly volatile in that there is no real way of knowing how the user will react from one use to the next. The reactions tend to be varied and unreliable which is the primary concern when taking these drugs. Different effects can be produced for different people and even for the same people at different times. The primary reason why hallucinogens cause such instability is due to the variation in the active components of the drugs with each time the drugs are used.
Where Do Hallucinogens Come From?
Most of the time hallucinogens are derived from plants or mushrooms. For instance, LSD is present in ergot which is a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. Peyote, is a portion of the cactus that is the active ingredient in mescaline. And, psilocybin is the active ingredient that is found in certain types of tropical and subtropical mushrooms.
Dangers of Hallucinogens
Unfortunately, the greatest danger associated with hallucinogens is the simple fact that these drugs cannot be moderated or monitored to ensure a consistent dose. Also, the effects that a user will have can vary so significantly that there’s no real way to know whether a user will have a “good trip” or a “bad trip” until the effects of having taking the drug are already well under way. Depending on the type of hallucinogen being used, the method of use and the individual user there are a wide range of potential dangers which could arise.
There have been no controlled research studies on the actual effects that hallucinogens have on the brain so it’s hard to tell exactly how bad these drugs are for the brain. Small studies have shown that certain drugs, such as LSD do have the potential to cause widespread damage to the brain such as a condition known as hallucinogen-induced persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD) which can cause flashbacks to occur for a period of weeks or even years following the drug use.
Taking hallucinogens can lead to the following serious side effects:
- increased body temperature
- high blood pressure
- rapid heart rate
- nausea and vomiting
- shallow breathing
- loss of muscular control
It’s important to be aware of the dangers of taking hallucinogens. Primarily, even if you’ve taken a particular hallucinogen once in the past and had fun, you should know that the same may not happen in the future. There are many risks and dangers that could arise even if you take a hallucinogen that you are familiar with and have enjoyed before.
For help with hallucinogen abuse or addiction, call 800-592-1193.
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