While the dangers of opioids, alcohol, and other drugs have been well-publicized, one category that is often overlooked is hallucinogens. These are substances that can profoundly distort your perception of reality and lead to a number of serious health conditions that can be extremely difficult to deal with. When assessing the overall substance abuse landscape, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of hallucinogens, as these drugs can have serious health consequences.
What Are Hallucinogens?
Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that can lead to significant distortions of one’s reality. They can lead to profound changes in a person’s mood and mental stability. Hallucinogens are substances that can be either synthetically produced or found in plants or mushrooms. Under the influence of these drugs, individuals can experience intense sensory distortions, including seeing images and hearing sounds that are not there. (1) The mechanisms through which hallucinogens affect a person’s consciousness are not fully understood. However, it is clear these drugs can lead to significant change’s in a person’s behavior and sense of self.
Commonly Used Hallucinogens
Examples of the most commonly-used hallucinogens include LSD. LSA is a chemically-derived substance that can lead to a loss of appetite, impulsiveness, rapid emotional shifts, and feelings of euphoria. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2), about 229,000 Americans reported using LSD in the last month. Psilocybin is another hallucinogen that is widely used and is typically ingested in the form of a mushroom. This substance can lead to feelings of introspection, and relaxation but can also lead to panic and paranoia.
Peyote is a hallucinogen found in a cactus and can lead to intense sweating, uncoordinated movements, and elevated body temperature and heart rate. DMT is a hallucinogen that has increased in popularity in recent years. Using DMT can lead to increased heart rate, feelings of agitation, and profound spiritual experiences. Ayahuasca, which is a form of DMT produced by combining two substances found in nature. It is another hallucinogen that can lead to severe vomiting, increased blood pressure, and feelings of dissociation.
The Biggest Dangers of Hallucinogens
Many people associate hallucinogens, also referred to as “psychedelics”, as being harmless and positive. But these substances can have negative repercussions for the user.
For individuals who have pre-existing mental health conditions, hallucinogens can produce terrifying thoughts and feelings of anxiety and despair, while potentially triggering latent psychosis. “Bad trips” can cause a person to feel out of control and feel that they are “losing their mind” or in the process of dying.
Hallucinogens lead to an increase in energy and heart rate. Ingesting them can also lead to intense insomnia as the experience can last in excess of 12-hours. According to one study (3), there are more than 32 million individuals in the United States who have used hallucinogens at some point in their lifetime. This highlights how widespread the use of this drug is.
Are Hallucinogens Addictive?
Although many hallucinogens are not physically addictive, an individual can still become psychologically dependent on them. Regular use of these substances can also lead to an increase in the amount of the drug needed to provide the same level of high. This is something that can lead to spending larger amounts of money and reprioritizing spending habits to compensate for this habit. Addiction to hallucinogens can also cause strains on relationships, as a person can become more involved with their drug use than any other part of their life.
Perhaps the biggest risk associated with hallucinogens is how they can lead to persistent or recurring psychosis. This includes experiencing disorganized thinking, visual disturbances, and paranoia. Additionally, a person under the influence of hallucinogens may be prone to make irrational decisions, possibly leading to an incident that can be harmful and, in extreme cases, even prove to be fatal. The term “flashback” has been used to describe situations where an individual will re-experience something they went through during an intense hallucinogenic drug experience. Something may trigger these experiences without warning, though stress, fatigue, or using another substance can often cause a flashback.
Seeking Help to Address the Dangers of Hallucinogens
Struggling with chronic addiction to hallucinogens is something that can require significant intervention. These substances can lead to profound changes in one’s personality and overall life perspective. Thankfully, there are resources available to help a person tackle any issues associated with this substance. Ocean Hills Recovery offers a full spectrum of tools and resources to individuals dealing with the effects of hallucinogenic drugs. We combine the latest science with a compassionate and holistic approach to ensure your journey back to normalcy is as smooth and manageable as possible.
If you are struggling with an addiction to hallucinogens or another type of substance, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today to keep you focused on the path to recovery. We offer a solution-focused approach that we structure according to each person’s individual situation. Relapse is not a failure. But it can only become a success if you decide to take the next step and address the problem. Let the caring clinicians of Ocean Hills Recovery help you jumpstart the recovery process and keep you on the road to sobriety. Give us a call today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.