Hallucinogens are illegal substances derived from plants, mushrooms, and man-made chemicals. Hallucinogens distort how the brain functions in perceiving time, reality, and the environment around the user. People who use hallucinogens will see, hear, feel, and think things that do not actually exist due to the drug's effect. It causes visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions. There are four main types of hallucinogens: LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), Peyote, Psilocybin, and PCP (phencyclidine).
Hallucinogens, like LSD and PCP, are manufactured chemicals. LSD is popularly known as acid, and is made from lysergic acid. PCP was manufactured in the 1950s and used as an anesthetic but banned shortly thereafter because patients who were given the drug were experiencing severe side effects, including psychosis. PCP is commonly referred to as angel dust, ozone, or wack. The two other types of hallucinogens are found in nature. Peyote is small, spineless cactus used in many American Indian religious practices. The psychedelic property of peyote is called mescaline. Lastly, psilocybin, popularly known as shrooms or magic mushrooms, comes from certain types of mushrooms that have psychedelic properties, and can be poisonous.
The short-term consequences of hallucinogens involve distorted perceptions of reality, including time and space. Specifically, using hallucinogens causes the user to "trip," and when "tripping" will see, hear, and feel things that seem real but are not. Hallucinogens may create paranoia, confusion, and severe mood swings. The short-term body responses include: increased heart rate and blood pressure, dilated pupils, excessive sweating, slurred speech, involuntary muscle spasms, and flushing of the face. There are significant dangers to using hallucinogens even one time because the effects of the drug described above can be re-experienced for weeks, months, or in some cases years.
This is a difficult question to answer. There is no recommended amount of hallucinogens to take because everyone's bodies can respond differently to the drug. What is known is that repeated use of hallucinogens, as with all drugs and alcohol, there is harmful effects. Hallucinogens may negatively impact certain areas of an individual's life. Some people become emotionally dependent on hallucinogens in which it is used to cope with the stress and pressures of life. This can interfere with the development of other coping skills when dealing with life's challenges. People who are using hallucinogens to cope, who are unable to have fun without using, or who are unable to function without using are probably using too much. Other people who should not use hallucinogens are the following:
- People under the age 21 - hallucinogens affect brain and body development.
- People who plan to drive or do other things that require concentration and judgment.
- People taking prescription or over-the-counter medications.
- People who are using alcohol.
- People who have heart or lung conditions.
- Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant - birth defects or infant death.
- People who struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction.
An addiction can be defined as needing to find and use the drug, even though the substance use is having a harmful effect on the individual's functioning in life. People with addiction will have their substance use harmfully impacting their relationships with family, in their schoolwork, and leisure activities. As their substance use becomes a bigger part of their lives, the use becomes more frequent and in larger amounts. People who are struggling with addiction spend quite a bit of their lives locating their drug, using their drug, and then recovering from their drug use. Over several years, people who are addicted feel they need to use to just make it through the day. If they are unable to get their drugs, they begin to withdrawal – the process of being mentally and physically sick until their body adjusts to being without drugs.
Hallucinogens are substances that are easy to develop a tolerance to, causing repeat users to use more frequently and in higher quantities to get the same effect. This can lead to an overdose, coma, serious health complications of heart, lungs, and brain, and even death.
Research has shown that hallucinogenic responses are very different from use to use due to the contrasting make-up and quantities used in creating the hallucinogens themselves. As result of the irregularity of the substances, hallucinogens are extremely hazardous to the people who use them.
It is not uncommon for hallucinogen users to experience harmful side effects while and after using. Reported effects of hallucinogens include: increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and body temperature, dilated pupils, excessive sweating, slurred speech, involuntary muscle spasms, flushing of the face, changes in sleep patterns and eating habits, mouth dryness, dizziness, drooling, upset stomach, throwing up, and numbness of body parts like hands and fingers. Repeated hallucinogen use can cause birth defects and/or infant death in those women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Specific to shroom or magic mushroom users (Psilocybin), there is the risk of being poisoned because some of the mushrooms harvested for hallucinogen use are poisonous.
As mentioned before, hallucinogens are not only unpredictable but they are tolerance-building substances; thus, making it very dangerous for people to use them. The more serious side effect using hallucinogens include:
- Deceased breathing and heart rate leading to coma or death
- Homicidal actions or attempts
- Suicidal idealations or attempts
- Heart and lung failure
- Flashbacks of using episodes
- Psychological distortions or psychosis, resembling schizophrenia – this can last for long periods of time, even years
- Overdose leading to coma or death
Never use hallucinogens with other drugs or alcohol as the effects of the drug may be heightened, which increases the adverse physical and psychological responses, and in some cases results in death.
Hallucinogens affect parts of the brain by causing the user to see, hear, and feel things that do not actually exist, but do seem real to them. These are referred to as hallucinations that distort a person's sense of reality, time, space, and the environment around them. The person using hallucinogens is unable to distinguish what is real and what is not, due to the effects drug. The brain is affected in such a way that the user's senses are influenced in how there are been experienced. For example, a person may see laughing or nails scratching, and may hear the color blue or purple. This means that what should be heard is being seen and what is being seen is heard. Such drug effects cause paranoia and impaired thinking for days, weeks, or years after use, which can cause extreme dysfunction in a person's life. Areas impacted include social interaction with friends, family, or even being in public, medical and/or psychiatric costs, physical health, and job loss. This is an actual mental health disorder called hallucinogen-induced persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD). In some cases, frequent hallucinogen use puts users at risk for developing other mental health disorders such as depression, dissociative conditions, continuous psychosis, or schizophrenia. It is important to note that these disorders may be only drug-induced but because of the extensive damage of hallucinogens on the body and mind it is very difficult to discern that.
Everyone is familiar with the consequences of drunk driving, but few people tend to recognize the dangers of drugged driving. Drugged driving is just that - driving under the influence of impairing drug substances. The use and abuse of drugs can negatively impact an individual's ability to drive safely by affecting reaction time, concentration, alertness, decision-making, and coordination. Specifically with the use of hallucinogens, drugged driving is very dangerous as the user's perception of reality is distorted by visual and auditory delusions, which can increase the user's paranoia. This is a concern for all persons on the road whether driving, riding, using, or any combination, as it puts everyone in danger.
Important to note that Wisconsin is among several states that have enacted the per se laws, whereby a person found to driving while having any trace of banned substances or such substances not prescribed to them in his or her blood stream is punishable under the law.
People use hallucinogens for a variety of different reasons. Most people who use hallucinogens develop the belief that using is beneficial for them. These anticipated benefits are known as positive expectations of using because even before they use the person is convinced that using hallucinogens is going to be a positive experience. Several common positive expectations of hallucinogen use include:
- Using helps me deal with stress and problems in my life
- Using is fun and helps me have a good time
- Using helps me fit in with a certain group of people
- Using helps me escape from the boredom of life
- Using helps me be sexual
- Using helps me feel mature
When teenagers have a positive experience with hallucinogens, they tend to remember only the positive aspects of using which increases their tendency to use more. Although there may be some short-term positive effects to using hallucinogens, the greater amount of hallucinogens used, the more likely negative consequences will occur.
Something else to consider is the likelihood that while "tripping," you could unknowingly put yourself in a serious harmful situation, or cause such an event. For example, thinking you can fly so you jump off a building or becoming so paranoid where you commit physical violence.
The safest strategy for a teenager is to not to use hallucinogens at all. If you have decided to quit using hallucinogens, it may helpful to avoid friends and situations that have lead to using episodes in the past. Many teenagers find it helpful to do activities that make being clean fun and rewarding.
For teenagers who make the decision to use hallucinogens despite the number of associate risk factors, there are several strategies to use more safely:
- Set a limit on the amount of hallucinogens you use
- Set a limit on the number of days and/or times you use hallucinogens
- Keep a record of your hallucinogen use
- Track how much you are spending on hallucinogens
- Don't buy hallucinogens
- Avoid places you associate with hallucinogen use
- Be ready to say NO if you are offered hallucinogens
- Spend time with friends who don't use hallucinogens
- Create a list of things you can do when you are bored or feeling other emotions that can trigger using hallucinogens
- Have a support system or a person you can go and talk to about your hallucinogen use
The more strategies you choose to use, the less likely you are to have significant negative consequences. Just remember the only real way to protect yourself from the consequences of hallucinogen use is to NOT use them at all.