Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that change users’ awareness by acting upon the prefrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for perception, mood and cognition. Well-known hallucinogens include LSD, peyote, psilocybin (aka “magic mushrooms”) and ayahuasca. Meanwhile, dissociative drugs such as PCP, salvia and ketamine also fall under the category of hallucinogens.
For centuries, humans have used hallucinogens in religious rituals and to access parts of their consciousness that are normally dormant. However, the same characteristics that led many people to incorporate hallucinogens into various ritualistic or spiritual traditions have also led to their promotion as drugs of abuse. Many people’s curiosity about these drugs’ mind-altering properties leads them to experiment, which can be dangerous. If you’re worried about your son’s access to hallucinogens and dissociative substances, here’s what you should know.
Short-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs
People who use dissociative and hallucinogenic drugs have intense visual, auditory and tactile experiences that feel real, but do not exist. These altered perceptions are known as hallucinations. Hallucinogens create a form of drug-induced psychosis by distorting their users’ capacity to distinguish fantasy from reality.
One problem associated with hallucinogen use is that the drugs’ effects can be unreliable because of the variations in their active compounds. The amount taken, plus the user’s personality, mood, environment and expectations, can all influence which direction the trip will take. Sometimes, hallucinogens provide a mentally stimulating experience, with feelings of hyperawareness and creativity. However, bad trips are equally possible. These produce terrifying thoughts and fears of losing control or dying. People having negative experiences on hallucinogenic drugs can also be in danger of harming themselves or others.
Along with their short-term effects on perception and mood, hallucinogens can cause increased blood pressure, disturbed sleep, panic, paranoia and recurring psychotic-like episodes and flashbacks long after someone takes them. Dissociative drugs can also lead to respiratory depression and heart rate abnormalities.
Are Hallucinogens Addictive?
Because hallucinogenic drugs like LSD accumulate in a user’s body, repetitive use can quickly lead to a high tolerance, which means someone will need to take more of the substance to achieve the same desired effects. Some research indicates the possibility of a cross-tolerance, which means that a person who has developed a tolerance to one hallucinogen will also have a tolerance for others. However, hallucinogen tolerance isn’t permanent. If the user stops taking the drug for several days, their tolerance will gradually decrease as the substance leaves their system.
In general, there’s more risk of developing a psychological dependence on hallucinogens than a physical one. Unlike people who have become dependent on alcohol or other categories of drugs, chronic hallucinogen users typically do not experience any physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking “classic” hallucinogens like peyote. However, ceasing use of dissociative drugs may lead to withdrawal.
Accredited Young Adult Addiction Treatment
If you’re a concerned parent, you can find some peace of mind in the fact that the use of hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs among U.S. high school students has remained relatively low in recent years, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Still, if your son is exhibiting any unusual behavioral changes, you may have reason to suspect he is using or abusing drugs. Don’t let him squander his potential with substance abuse. Contact us at Spearhead Lodge to learn more about our world-class young men’s addiction treatment center.