Hallucinogen Disorders

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What are Hallucinogens?

psychedelic image of head

Hallucinogens are a type of drug that make people see, hear, or feel things that aren't truly there. They change the way people feel (emotions) and they make a person think unusual thoughts. Some people say that hallucinogens can make real life feel like a dream where unexpected things happen and things look very different. Hallucinogens have been used for thousands of years in early religious ceremonies. Doctors and scientists started using them to try to help people in the last 150 years. They weren't very helpful for most people. Now they are mostly used by people who want to get high. These drugs can totally change the way a person sees the world around them. People can easily hurt themselves or others when they are on hallucinogens because they don't know what's happening. These drugs can be very dangerous.

Dangers of Hallucinogens

There are so many different types of hallucinogens that it is hard to describe what all the dangers are. Here are some of the more common ones: extreme fear (called paranoia), high blood pressure or heart problems, sick to your stomach, headaches, mood changes, weight loss, trouble speaking, trouble thinking, mixed senses (feeling a flavor, hearing a sight), and many other side effects. One of the scariest side effects is flashbacks. Flashbacks are when a long time after taking drugs (sometimes months or years) the person starts having effects of hallucinogens again. This is rare but can happen at any time. People could be driving or sitting in class and their brain starts to act like it is on drugs again. This can be really scary and can result in hospitalization.

Types of Hallucinogens

There are two main types of hallucinogens, PCP (phencyclidine) and related drugs and Other Hallucinogens. Doctors and therapists break hallucinogens into these two groups when deciding how to help people because of the different dangers of each type of hallucinogen. Within these two groups, there are many other types of hallucinogens.

PCP and Related Drugs

Are more dangerous than most other hallucinogens. People who use PCP and ketamine may become disconnected from reality and do things that can severely harm themselves or others. Additionally, ketamine, which was used as an animal surgery medicine, can knock someone out so they don't know what is happening. Ketamine has been reportedly used as a date-rape drug because it makes it so the user cannot remember what happened or move while they are high. These drugs have bad side effects that can last a long time after people stop using them. These include increased feelings of worry and stress, stomach problems, weight loss, trouble sleeping, and depression. High enough doses can cause strokes, brain damage, or death. 

Other Hallucinogens

Include drugs such as LSD, psychedelic mushrooms, mescaline, MDMA (ecstasy/molly), or DMT. These are a class of drugs with a wide range of different effects. Doing these drugs can make people see and hear things that aren't there. People often take these drugs at music events because it may increase their enjoyment of the show. However, people report "bad trips" where hallucinogens can make things really scary and they see and hear terrifying things. This can be really scary because hallucinogen effects can last for over 24 hours depending on the drug. 

Designer Hallucinogens

Are new versions of both types of hallucinogens (PCP and others) that are made in labs to copy the illegal versions of the hallucinogens that already exist. People have been changing ingredients to make these copy-cat drugs that work like the illegal ones, but don't have laws against them. Some of these drugs are against the law and others are not. Usually, designer drugs are more dangerous because people don't know what they are actually taking. The people who make these drugs don't always know what they are doing and sometimes make something that is very dangerous. These drugs aren't tested or regulated so anything can happen when you take them. These drugs contain lots of unexpected chemicals that can be really dangerous. People have overdosed and died when taking what they thought were legal, designer-drugs from the internet.