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Signs and Symptoms of Hallucinogen Addiction

Signs of hallucinogen use vary somewhat by drug, although all drugs in this class can cause auditory, visual and other sensory hallucinations. “Tripping” is often unpredictable and may vary with the amount ingested, type of drug and the user’s personality, mood, expectations and surroundings. Drug-induced psychosis manifests as a distorted or disorganized capacity to recognize reality, think rationally or communicate with others. In addition to short-term hallucinogen effects on perception and mood, a variety of physical symptoms can occur, as well as psychotic-like episodes long after a person has taken the drug. PCP effects are the most severe, although all dissociative drugs can cause respiratory depression, heart rate abnormalities and a type of withdrawal syndrome.1,2,3

LSD/d or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (Acid, blotter, doses, hits, microdots, sugar cubes, trips, tabs and window panes): First synthesized in 1937 by Albert Hofmann and popularized in the 1960s, LSD is a highly potent mood- and perception-altering hallucinogenic drug. Clear or white, odorless and water-soluble, LSD is synthesized from lysergic acid, a compound derived from rye fungus. While its initial form is crystalline, it is used to make tablets known as “microdots” or thin squares of gelatin called “window panes.” It is also diluted with water or alcohol and sold in liquid form. The most common type of LSD is paper soaked in the drug, then punched into small individual squares called “blotters.”2,4,5 LSD has potent psychotropic effects, described as inducing “mystical experiences” and any of the following:

  • Alterations of the state of consciousness
  • Euphoria
  • Enhanced capacity for introspection
  • Altered psychological functioning
  • A sense of unity
  • Transcendence of time and space
  • Positive mood
  • Feelings of joy
  • Blessedness and peace
  • A sense of sacredness
  • A positive attitude toward others and one’s self6

Although LSD can impart seemingly pleasant side effects, several detrimental short- and long-term symptoms can occur. At high doses, LSD activates the dopaminergic system, producing psychosis and related behaviors.6

Short-term effects: Rapid emotional swings, distortion of one’s ability to recognize reality, think rationally, or communicate with others; increased blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature; dizziness and insomnia; loss of appetite; dry mouth; sweating; numbness; weakness; tremors and enlarged pupils. Long-term effects: Frightening flashbacks known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, ongoing visual disturbances, disorganized thinking, paranoia, psychotic behavior and mood swings.7

Psilocybin (Magic mushrooms, hallucinogenic mushrooms, shrooms, boomers and little smoke): This type of hallucinogen is extracted from more than 75 known species of mushrooms found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico and the U.S. Psilocybin can be used dried or fresh and eaten raw, mixed with food or brewed as tea. It produces similar hallucinogenic effects as LSD. In addition to the following side effects, there is a risk of accidently ingesting poisonous mushrooms.2,7

Short-term effects: Hallucinations, altered perception of time, inability to tell fantasy from reality, panic, muscle relaxation or weakness, impaired motor coordination, enlarged pupils, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness. Long-term effects: Risk of flashbacks and memory problems.7

Peyote or mescaline (Buttons, cactus and mesc): Peyote is one of the oldest psychedelic agents known and mescaline has been used for centuries because of the mystical experiences it is purported to induce. The peyote cactus is a small, spineless cactus with tops or crowns with disc-shaped buttons containing mescaline. These are cut out, dried and typically chewed or soaked in water to produce an intoxicating liquid. The extract is bitter, so some users prepare a tea by boiling the plant for several hours. The cactus also contains as many as 50 chemically-related compounds including hordenine, tyramine, dopamine, anhalidine and pellotine. In addition to the mescaline, some of these alkaloids may be psychoactive and contribute to the peyote experience, which is alleged to be gentler than pure mescaline.2,8,9

Short-term effects: Increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure; dizziness; trembling; dilation of pupils; intense nausea and vomiting; suppression of appetite; sweating, numbness; rapid reflexes; muscle twitches and weakness; impaired motor coordination; enhanced perception and feelings; hallucinations; joy; exhilaration and euphoria. Highly adverse reactions (“bad trip”) include frightening hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, paranoia, agitation, depression, panic and terror. The long-term effects are unknown.7,9

DMT or Dimethyltryptamine (Dmitri, fantasia, businessman’s trip, businessman’s special and 45-minute psychosis): A white crystalline powder, this drug is a tryptamine found in specific plants in Mexico, South America and parts of Asia. DMT is the strongest of all psychedelic drugs and is sometimes referred to as an entheogen, which means “god-generated-within.” DMT is not activated when taken by itself orally, so it is typically snorted, smoked or injected. DMT was produced synthetically for the first time in 1931 by British chemist Richard Manske. In 2003, two synthetically created tryptamine drugs called alpha-methyltryptamine (AMT) and foxy methoxy (5-MeO-DIPT) were designated Schedule 1 drugs for their high potential for abuse and severe psychological and/or physical dependence.2,10,11

Short-term effects: Intense visual hallucinations, depersonalization, auditory distortions and an altered perception of time and body image (usually resolving in 30 to 45 minutes or less). Physical effects include hypertension, increased heart rate, chest pain or tightness, agitation, seizures, dilated pupils, involuntary rapid eye movements, dizziness and poor coordination. In high doses, DMT can cause seizures, respiratory arrest and coma. The long-term effects are unknown.7,11

Ayahuasca (Hoasca, aya and yage): The leaves of a vine called Banisteriopsis caapi are typically used in combination with DMT. A hallucinogenic tea is made from DMT-containing plants along with ayahuasca, which contains an MAO inhibitor. This prevents the natural breakdown of DMT in the digestive system, thereby facilitating a prolonged hallucinatory experience.2

Short-term effects: Strong hallucinations including perceptions of otherworldly imagery, altered visual and auditory perceptions, increased blood pressure and vomiting. The long-term effects are unknown.7

Salvia divinorum (Maria Pastora, Sally-D, diviner’s sage and magic mint): A psychoactive plant common to southern Mexico and Central and South America, salvia is typically ingested by chewing fresh leaves or by drinking its extracted juices. The dried leaves of salvia can also be smoked or vaporized and inhaled. Salvinorin A, the active chemical responsible for the high, is one of the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogens. It is especially dangerous to use when driving because it impedes awareness and one’s sense of reality. The legal status of purchasing salvia varies by state and is further defined by a person’s age.2,12

Short-term effects: Short-lived but intense hallucinations; altered visual perception, mood and body sensations; mood swings; feelings of detachment from one’s body and sweating. The long-term effects are unknown.7

PCP or phencyclidine (Angel dust, peace pill, hog, lovely, wack, ozone, dust, embalming fluid and rocket fuel): Originally developed in the 1950s as a surgical anesthetic, the drug was discontinued in the 1960s when it was discovered that people waking up from its effects experienced agitation, hallucinations and irrational thinking. In its pure form, PCP is a white crystalline powder readily dissolved in water or alcohol with a distinctive bitter chemical taste. As an illicit drug, PCP contains a number of contaminants, resulting in a color ranging from light to dark brown with a powdery to a gummy consistency. It is available in tablets, capsules, liquids and powders, which are either taken orally or snorted. Users frequently mix PCP with other intoxicating substances such as marijuana and MDMA.13,14

PCP is addictive and its use can lead to psychological dependence, craving and compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Users report memory loss, difficulties with speech and learning, depression and weight loss, with symptoms often persisting as long as a year after stopping PCP use. PCP also has sedative effects. When taken with other central nervous system depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, PCP use can result in coma or accidental overdose. PCP use is more dangerous than other hallucinogens because it can lead to aggressive or violent behavior against oneself or others, especially in those with a history of mental illness. Moreover, PCP users often think they are invulnerable, which can lead to accidental injuries and death.13,14

Short-term effects: Delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, problems thinking, a sense of distance from one’s environment and anxiety.7 Long-term effects: Impaired memory; impaired cognitive and decision-making abilities; speech problems; severe depression with suicidal thoughts; increased anxiety, paranoia and isolation; extreme weight loss; “flashback” phenomena and continuous hallucinations and delusional thinking even when not using the substance.14

Low doses: Slight increase in breathing rate; increased blood pressure and heart rate; shallow breathing; facial redness and sweating; numbness of the hands or feet and problems with movement.7

High doses: Decreased blood pressure, pulse rate and breathing rate; nausea; vomiting; blurred vision; flicking up and down of the eyes; drooling; loss of balance; dizziness; violence; suicidal thoughts; seizures, coma and death.7,13

Ketamin (Special K and Cat Valium): A drug derived from PCP, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic available in powdered or liquid form. While it has been used legally in veterinary settings for many years, it emerged as an illicit club drug associated with raves beginning in the mid-1980s. It is more powerful than speed and cocaine weight for weight, which increases the chances of accidental overdose. In some cases, it has been used as a date rape drug because it is odorless and colorless. It causes various side effects based on intoxication level and duration of use, including distorted perceptions of sight and sound and feelings of detachment from the environment and self.7.15

Short-term effects: Problems with attention, learning and memory; dreamlike states; hallucinations; sedation; confusion and problems speaking; loss of memory; problems moving to the point of being immobile; increased blood pressure; unconsciousness and slowed breathing that can lead to death. Long-term effects: Ulcers and pain in the bladder, kidney problems, stomach pain, depression and poor memory.7 Two studies published in the American Journal of Pathology indicate long-term use of ketamine may cause the cells lining the bladder to initiate their own death, enabling urine to penetrate underlying tissues, causing a painful condition called cystitis.16

  1. Hallucinogens. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/hallucinogens Updated May 2014. Accessed January 15, 2017.
  2. Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/what-are-dissociative-drugs Updated February 2015. Accessed January 15, 2017.
  3. How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body? National Institute on Drug Abuse website https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/where-can-i-get-more-scientific-information-hallucinogens-diss Updated February 2015. Accessed January 15, 2017.
  4. LSD. Drugs Forum website. https://drugs-forum.com/forum/showwiki.php?title=Lsd Accessed January 15, 2017.
  5. Das S, Barnwal P, Ramasamy A, Sen S, Mondal S. Lysergic acid diethylamide: a drug of “use”?. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2016;6(3):214-228. doi:10.1177/2045125316640440.
  6. De Gregorio D, Comai S, Posa L, Gobbi G. d-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) as a Model of Psychosis: Mechanism of Action and Pharmacology. De Berardis D, ed. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(11):1953. doi:10.3390/ijms17111953.
  7. Commonly Abused Drugs Charts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts Updated January 2016. Accessed January 15, 2017.
  8. Peyote. Drugs Forum website. https://drugs-forum.com/forum/showwiki.php?title=Peyote Accessed January 15, 2017.
  9. Peyote. Center for Substance Abuse Research website. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/peyote.asp Accessed January 15, 2017.
  10. AMT. Center for Substance Abuse Research website. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/amt.asp Accessed January 15, 2017.
  11. The most powerful psychedelic drug: what is DMT and what are the effects? Recovery Village website. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/recovery-blog/what-is-dmt-experience-effects/ Published October  Banisteriopsis caapi 27, 2016. Accessed January 15, 2017.
  12. The Facts About Salvia Divinorum Drug Use Among Teens. Very Well website. https://www.verywell.com/salvia-divinorum-drug-use-among-teens-3886678 Published February 27, 2016. Accessed January 15, 2017.
  13. PCP (Phencyclidine). Drugs website. https://www.drugs.com/illicit/pcp.html Accessed January 15, 2017.
  14. The Effects of PCP Use. Drug Abuse website. http://drugabuse.com/library/the-effects-of-pcp-use/ Accessed January 15, 2017.
  15. Ketamine. Center for Substance Abuse Research website. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/ketamine.pdf Accessed January 15, 2017.
  16. Excessive Ketamine Abuse Causes Bladder Cells to Commit Suicide. IFL Science website. http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/excessive-ketamine-abuse-causes-bladder-cells-commit-suicide/ Published March 21, 2016. Accessed January 15, 2017.
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