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Hallucinogens - Effects and Addiction Treatment

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This article deals with information about hallucinogens, which are psychoactive drugs. Read below to get more details.

Written by

Dr. Karthika Rp

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ramchandra Lamba

Published At May 22, 2023
Reviewed AtNovember 8, 2023

Introduction

Hallucinogen is a drug that produces psychological effects that tend to be associated with sensations such as dreams or religious exaltation or mental conditions such as schizophrenia. Hallucinogens make changes in perception, thought, and sense, varying from distortions of what is sensed (illusions) to sensing objects where none exist (hallucinations). Hallucinogens promote sensory signals, often accompanied by a loss of control over what is experienced. Hallucinations are the sensory experience created by the brain that feels real. Hallucinations can affect all five senses, leading to hearing different sounds, visualizing an image, or a person nobody else in the room hears or sees.

What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are drugs that change someone’s perception of reality. Although hallucinogens are also known as ‘psychedelic drugs,’ hallucinogens make people look, feel and listen to things that are not real or distort their understanding of what is happening around them. Some are quick-acting, and others take longer to take effect. Being under the influence of a hallucinogen is generally called ‘tripping.’ Some hallucinogens are synthetically manufactured, like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), phencyclidine (PCP), angel dust,’ and ketamine. Some of the naturally occurring compounds are found in particular plants. For example, the peyote cactus produces the hallucinogen mescaline, and psilocybin is found in certain mushrooms called ‘magic mushrooms.’

Hallucinogens come in several various forms. Some of the hallucinogens are mentioned below,

  • LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) is a powerful drug, and it is typically used. Small squares of blotting paper or gelatin are drenched in LSD, which are then consumed, although they may also be available in tablets or capsules.

  • PCP (Phencyclidine) is usually available in tablet form, capsules, or powders of various colors. It is swallowed, sniffed, or injected but is sometimes smoked.

  • Ketamine can be made into tablets or pills or dissolved in liquid, usually swallowed, snorted, or injected. Medical practitioners and veterinarians use it as an aesthetic. However, it is usually used illegally as a hallucinogenic drug.

  • Magic mushrooms can be cooked or eaten raw. It can be boiled to drink also.

  • Mescaline is obtained from the peyote cactus and can be found as a white powder. While dried, ground peyote buttons can be found as capsules. It is usually swallowed, chewed, or smoked.

  • Ayahuasca is a plant-based hallucinogenic tea. It is used traditionally in parts of South America, and Ayahuasca has become popular amongst western travelers.

Some other depressant and stimulant drugs also have a hallucinogenic effect in high doses, including cannabis and ecstasy. Some serious injuries and accidental death are real risks of people taking hallucinogens.

What Are the Effects of Hallucinogens?

Depending on the drug type, the dose strength, the functioning of the person taking them, and their state of mind will impact the effects of hallucinogens.

Some of the expected effects of hallucinogens include the following:

  • Sight, sound, taste, and touch hallucinations.

  • Sounds being ‘felt’ or colors being ‘heard’ (A blurring of the senses).

  • The person feels detached from the body (psychosis).

  • Time, direction, and distance distortions.

  • Relaxation.

  • Increased heart rate.

  • Pupil dilation.

  • Nausea.

  • Increased blood pressure.

  • Increased blood pressure, breathing rate, body temperature, and loss of appetite.

  • Dry mouth.

  • Sleep problems.

  • Spiritual experiences.

  • Feelings of relaxation.

  • Uncoordinated movements.

  • Excessive sweating.

  • Panic.

  • Paranoia (extreme and unreasonable distrust of others).

  • Bizarre behaviors.

Hallucinogens are unpredictable drugs. Sometimes the intake of hallucinogens will give unpleasant experiences.

Symptoms can include nightmarish hallucinations, severe panic, paranoia, and nausea. It is also probable to have a mixture of good and bad experiences in one trip. Other unpleasant side effects of hallucinogens include the following,

  • Muscle spasms.

  • Loss of coordination.

  • Convulsions.

  • Unconsciousness.

  • Aggressiveness.

  • Hostile and violent behavior.

  • Catatonic syndrome (zombie-like state).

How Is a Hallucinogen Addiction Treated?

There are no FDA-approved (food and drug administration) medications to treat patients addicted to hallucinogens. However, behavioral treatments can be helpful for patients with various addictions, and scientists need more investigation to find out if behavioral therapies are effective for addiction to hallucinogens.

It is essential to treat hallucinations as the underlying root cause. The treatment plan ultimately depends on and is framed according to the cause of the hallucination. For example, if a person has hallucinations due to alcohol withdrawal or schizophrenia, the doctor would prescribe medications to cure or control the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal or schizophrenia. The measures would be recommended to overcome hallucinations. The treatment for hallucinations is a long-term therapy with multidisciplinary approaches; the treatment results in such cases are unpredictable.

Treatment modalities for hallucination include:

  • Psychotherapy: Counseling is a significant part of therapy, as the counselor acts as a guide; and can help you regulate the thought process and develop strategies to avoid hallucinations.

  • Medicinal Treatment: Patients who hallucinate are usually treated with antipsychotic drugs that help control or eliminate the frequency of hallucinations.

  • Patients with a history of hallucinations are advised to stay calm and avoid situations that make them anxious; they are also asked to avoid dark spaces or places with a loud noise, as such areas can trigger hallucinations.

  • Friends and family must give strong support; whenever a person hallucinates, a loved one can tap on the back or shout his name, which can distract and bring a person back to consciousness.

Whenever a person hallucinates, it is essential to assure him that you understand what he is going through and make him believe he will get well soon. In addition, a record can be maintained stating the time, place, or situations that aggravate or cause hallucinations; this can help prevent the frequency by avoiding similar situations.

Conclusion

Hallucinogens are psychoactive drugs causing mind-altering effects ranging from mild to intense. These effects differ from drug to drug. Effects can range from ecstasy to panic, from mild distortion of the senses to full hallucinations (where people believe drug-induced visions or other perceptions are real). In severe cases, visit a nearby health professional and get help at a time.

Dr. Ramchandra Lamba
Dr. Ramchandra Lamba

Psychiatry

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