Using drugs will always involve a risk factor; the more an individual abuses a drug, the higher the risk of the individual experiencing long-lasting physical and mental health conditions. Hallucinogens are drugs that cause hallucinations—profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be artificial, and they are commonly divided into two broad categories: classic hallucinogens (such as LSD) and dissociative drugs (such as PCP).
Hallucinations are a common side effect of many illicit and prescription drugs. Hallucinations are perceptions and sensations that aren’t real to the surrounding individuals but feel very real to the individual experiencing them. These perceptions or sensations are created within individuals’ minds and will convince them of a reality that does categorically not exist. Hallucinations have been recorded to make an individual believe things they are:
Individuals who have experienced hallucinations have stated that they can:
- See people whom they know have died
- Feel bugs crawling on or inside their skin
- Smelling odors that bring back a specific memory
- Hearing voices or people they know or have known in the past
There are different types of hallucinations that an individual can experience:
- Auditory hallucinations (Hear
- Olfactory hallucinations (Smell)
- Visual hallucinations (See)
- Somatic or tactile hallucinations (feel or touch)
Drugs that are known to cause hallucinations
There have been a variety of medications that have been documented to cause hallucinations such as opioids. Heavy drug use can produce hallucinations the majority of the time. Below we have listed a list of drugs that are known to cause hallucinations:
- Bath salts
Unfortunately, this list of drugs is just a tiny snippet of a long line that can produce a severe and uncomfortable hallucination effect on an individual who abuses drugs.
How hallucinogens work
There has not been much successful documentation surrounding exactly how hallucinogens and dissociative drugs produce their effects on individuals who consume the drugs. However, common hallucinogens are thought to affect an individual’s neural circuit within the brain, which involves the neurotransmitter serotonin.
The regions of the brain that are severely affected by hallucinogens will be responsible for:
- Body temperature
- Muscle control
- Sexual behavior
- Sensory perception
The dangers of hallucinations
Hallucinogens cause various durations, intensities, and long-term lingering effects of hallucinations. These hazardous drugs affect how individuals think, including the perception of reality and the self.
When an individual is led to the illusion of a hallucination, they are at a significantly higher risk of performing risky or life-threatening behaviors that can lead to physical harm to themselves and others. Hallucinations for individuals under the influence can often be terrifying, instilling panic within the individual. Misusing a substance or taking too much just one time can lead to severe health issues and alarming hallucination-like effects.
Short-term effects of hallucinogens
The short-term effects of hallucinogens can leave individuals experiencing the effects within 20-90 minutes of consuming the substance. The effects the individual begins feeling can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours. Common short term side effects can be seen to include but are not limited to:
- Changes in the perception of time
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in appetite
- Panic attacks
- Anxiety attacks
- Intensified emotions and sensory experiences
- Sleep disturbances
Long term side effects of hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are known to cause long-term side effects in some cases further; however, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these effects are rare.
Meaning a ‘Split-brain” while this is a rare experience, schizophrenia is a type of psychosis characterized by persistent psychotic symptoms, usually longer than six months. Psychotic symptoms are generally accompanied by a decline in the individual’s function in society.
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder:
Involves the recurrence of experiences associated with hazardous substances, including hallucinations or visual disturbances.
Sudden flashbacks can additionally occur with no warning and can often happen more than a year following the drug abuse.
Psychosis is a severe mental health issue that will temporarily cause an individual to begin interpreting the world around them in a completely different way. Drug-induced psychosis will be a direct cause of substance abuse which is known to either trigger or exacerbate on-set mental health issues such as bipolar and schizophrenia.
Psychosis will generally be characterized by delusions or hallucinations, which are both experiences that remove an individual from reality.
Delusions: These are irrational beliefs that an individual will 100% believe even when presented with evidence that completely contradicts the individual’s thoughts.
Hallucinations: Refers to an intense sensory perception of non-natural phenomena. Individuals will vividly see, hear or feel things that do not exist in the real world, only in the reality of their perception when under the influence.
Symptoms of drug-induced psychosis
The symptoms of drug-induced psychosis are more than often gradual, with the intensity and toxicity of the substance becoming more harmful as the dosage and frequency increase. Additionally, if an individual has underlying mental health conditions, hallucinogens will more than often worsen an individual’s symptoms, resulting in extreme paranoia.
Some of the symptoms of drug-induced psychosis can be seen include but are not limited to:
- Panic attacks
- Auditory hallucinations
- Visual hallucinations
- Anti-social behavior
Dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal
In the same way every other drug works, it is entirely possible for an individual to build a tolerance to hallucinogens. Once individuals build up their tolerance, they need a larger, more frequent dosage to continue experiencing the same effects.
More often than not, individuals will develop a psychological dependence that believes that regular drug use is an essential part of their life. Scientists have documented that individuals become physically dependent on hallucinogens like ketamine and PCP. If the individual stops taking hallucinogens, they may begin experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Hallucinogens are drugs and come with a set of risks like every drug out there. Hallucinogens can alter an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. While using these substances, individuals can often experience hallucinations where they have perceptions or sensations that are not real.
While the exact mechanisms by which hallucinogens and dissociative drugs cause their effects are not yet clearly understood, research suggests that they work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between neurotransmitter systems throughout the brain and spinal cord. Recent research has indicated that some hallucinogens may have therapeutic potential for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety however this is yet to be studied further.