Because hallucinogens are often pushed to the back burner in the overdose and drug abuse epidemic, they are not always perceived to be as harmful as other, more potent drugs.
However, hallucinogens can have dangerous effects, even with just one use, affecting a person’s psychological and emotional state. Hallucinogen addiction can lead to repeated abuse and the onset of multiple effects on all aspects of a person’s health.
Hallucinogen addiction treatment programs work to reverse these damaging effects, helping individuals quit use of the drugs, build skills to foster a sober lifestyle, and stay strong in recovery.
What Are Hallucinogens And How Are They Abused?
Hallucinogens are illicit drugs of abuse which produce side effects similar to those of stimulant drugs as well as hallucinations (mind-altering perception changes).
Hallucinogens include a diverse range of drugs which have similar yet separate side effects, including:
- peyote (mescaline)
People abuse hallucinogens in a variety of ways, depending on the drug. Some are produced as pills or tablets and taken orally, eaten raw, crushed into a powder and snorted, or dissolved into a tea.
Hallucinogens are also injected or smoked for faster effects. All hallucinogens are illegally produced and any use of them is considered abuse.
How Does Hallucinogen Abuse Lead To Addiction?
Not all hallucinogens are considered addictive drugs. For example, LSD is not considered addictive as it does not lead to compulsive drug-seeking.
Others, like PCP, are addictive. This hallucinogen can cause a person to experience withdrawal symptoms when stopping use, such as headaches, drug cravings, and sweating.
Addictions to hallucinogens likely develop due to a disruption in the brain’s natural chemical production. Once a person no longer produces feel-good chemicals on their own, addiction has formed.
Individuals can also develop tolerance to hallucinogens, which means with continued use they no longer feel the effects with the same size dose. This often prompts a person to take larger and more frequent doses, which can lead to increased effects and risk of overdose.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hallucinogen Addiction
Hallucinogen addiction occurs when a person is no longer able to control use but seeks and uses the drug even if they are aware of its negative effects.
A person addicted to hallucinogens may become preoccupied solely with seeking the drug and using it. They may show less interest in activities or hobbies, shirk responsibilities, or even neglect health and hygiene.
The following may be signs and symptoms of a hallucinogen addiction:
- drug-seeking behaviors: secrecy, hiding things, lying, or stealing
- withdrawal symptoms or drug cravings when not using hallucinogens
- irritability or mood swings when unable to use hallucinogens
- psychosis or paranoia (due to high doses)
- ongoing bouts of euphoria due to repeated use
- extreme hallucinations
- sleep troubles
Why Do People Abuse Hallucinogens?
While there are many reasons people may abuse hallucinogens, perhaps the most common is thrill-seeking, or to seek the mind-altering effects of the drugs.
Many potent drugs work to either depress or stimulate the central nervous system, but hallucinogens go a step further and create enhanced perceptions of time, mixed senses, and convincing hallucinations.
People may take hallucinogens to try a new experience or enhance the effects of other drugs (polydrug abuse). Unfortunately, hallucinogens are a dangerous drug to use for recreation, as they can have damaging effects even with the first use.
Side Effects Of Hallucinogen Abuse
Because hallucinogens are powerful, potent drugs, both short-term and long-term effects can be harmful, unpredictable, and may result in lasting damage.
Short-term side effects of hallucinogen abuse include:
- changes to time perceptions
- extreme sweating
- enhanced sensory experiences
- increased heart rate, body temperature, breathing, and blood pressure
- lack of appetite
- lack of coordination
- dry mouth
- having mixed senses, “seeing” sound, “hearing” color
- feelings of calm and relaxation
- feelings of deep spirituality
- sense of panic
- paranoia or psychosis
- sleep troubles
Long-term side effects of hallucinogen abuse may include:
- ulcers in the bladder, kidney problems, and poor memory in those who abuse ketamine
- memory loss
- speech troubles
- weight loss
- suicidal thoughts and ideations
Risks Of Long-Term Hallucinogen Abuse
Little is known about the long-term risks of hallucinogen abuse as drug research studies are often aimed at more potent and widely used drugs.
What research has revealed is certain long-term risks, such as the long-term side effects of hallucinogens, as well as rare instances of psychological symptoms.
The following are possible risks of long-term hallucinogen abuse:
- persistent and ongoing psychosis: this is characterized by continued mental issues due to hallucinogen abuse and includes disorganized thoughts, mood changes, paranoia, and visual disturbances
- flashbacks to drug experiences: these can occur at random times, will appear incredibly lucid and can impact daily functioning (also known as hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder)
- realistic symptoms which can be mistaken for other serious conditions, such as brain tumor or stroke
- poisoning, in psilocybin users
- seizures, coma, or death in high doses of PCP
- bizarre behaviors
- effects on child development during pregnancy
Can You Overdose On Hallucinogens?
Certain hallucinogens can lead to poisoning, seizures, coma, or stroke which can be fatal. Hallucinogens are very powerful and unpredictable drugs.
There are no known safe doses of hallucinogens, so each time a person uses the drugs, they are at risk of experiencing adverse to fatal results.
Further, hallucinogen abuse can increase the risk of experiencing an overdose when abused with other drugs. This is especially true when mixing hallucinogens with central nervous system depressants, like alcohol or benzodiazepines (i.e. Xanax).
Treatment Programs For Hallucinogen Abuse And Addiction
Due to the possible damaging side effects caused by hallucinogen abuse, treatment for hallucinogen addiction would be best facilitated in an inpatient setting.
What Happens In A Hallucinogen Addiction Treatment Program?
Inpatient, or residential, programs for hallucinogen abuse involve behavioral therapy to treat the psychological effects of abuse.
Methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy can aid individuals in changing thought patterns to avoid hallucinogen abuse and alter behaviors for a more positive lifestyle.
Counseling also plays a role in treating hallucinogen addiction. Individualized rehab programs provide counseling both in groups and one-on-one to ensure a person stays strong in treatment.
Upon leaving treatment, individuals may be connected with various outpatient treatment programs to help stay the path of sobriety, such as sponsors, support groups, and outpatient counseling programs.
Support for recovery from hallucinogen abuse is available within intensive rehab programs. For more information, or for help finding a rehab program for hallucinogen abuse and addiction, contact us today.
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These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — DrugFacts: What are hallucinogens?, Hallucinogens
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: National Institutes of Health — Over 30 million psychedelic users in the United States, Taking psychedelics seriously