According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse – and contrary to widespread belief – hallucinogens can sometimes be addictive. While the addictive properties are far less intense than they are in other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol, an individual with a genetic predisposition, wavering emotional and mental health, and an unfavorable home or social life may develop a substance dependency disorder after ongoing experimentation.
What are hallucinogens? They are a diverse group of drugs that completely change one’s perception of the world around them, leading to auditory and visual hallucinations. Hallucinogenic drugs are typically split up into two categories: dissociative drugs (including PCP and Ketamine), and classic hallucinogens (like ‘magic’ mushrooms or LSD). While classic hallucinogens tend to grow naturally, dissociative drugs are often made synthetically.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding these drugs, predominantly because many ‘classic’ variations – such as mescaline (peyote) and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) – have been used medicinally for ages.
How do Hallucinogens Work?
It is believed that once hallucinogens are consumed, they begin disrupting signals within the brain – they interrupt the communication of cellular systems, and change the way that serotonin is received and processed. Serotonin regulates a lot of important physical functions, thus when it interrupted, a lot of adverse physical reactions are likely to take place. These may include (but are not limited to):
- Interrupted sleep
- Increased or decreased appetite
- A change in sexual behavior
- Increased or decreased body temperature
- Disrupted sensory perception
- Mood swings
- Bodily control/muscle control
Additionally, dissociative hallucinogens interfere with glutamate, another important chemical in the brain. This chemical regulates environmental responses, emotions, perception of pain, and learning and memory.
While classic hallucinogens tend to have shorter-term effects, the effects can be devastating for some. Common short-term effects include increased heart rate, profuse sweating, dry mouth, intensified sensory experiences, nausea, vomiting, discoordination, and generally bizarre behaviors.
Unfortunately, the psychological effects of hallucinogens are not always short-lived. Some who experiment with these drugs slip into paranoid episodes have panic attacks some even experience psychosis. These effects are far more common amongst those who use the drugs repeatedly over a long period of time. In some cases, hallucinogen-induced psychosis is permanent.
Are Hallucinogens Dangerous?
In short, yes – any illicit drug was originally made illegal because of the dangers it posed to society. Even legal drugs are dangerous, such as alcohol and (in many states) marijuana. It really all boils down to the concerned individual and their personal propensity towards substance abuse. Those who have pre-existing mental health disorders are also at greater risk, seeing as major changes in brain chemistry can ‘push them over the edge.’
There is a lot of information circulating about the potential benefits of drugs like psilocybin for those struggling with mental health disorders. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, some naturally-derived hallucinogens may have healing properties. However, medical professionals agree that much more research must be conducted before these claims can be confirmed.
Get the Help You Need with Garden State
It is also extremely important to remember that those who have struggled with addictive disorders previously can never use drugs of any type safely. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, drugs like LSD produce a tolerance, meaning the user will need to take greater and greater quantities in order to produce the same effects.
Increased tolerance is a telltale sign of addiction – if you find yourself using hallucinogens in greater quantities on a more and more frequent basis, you are likely struggling with a dangerous substance abuse disorder. Fortunately, we at Garden State Treatment Center are available to help. If you’re interested in learning more about the risks involved in hallucinogen use, or if you feel you may have a problem, please feel free to contact us today. We look forward to speaking with you soon.