Whether you have been exposed to them personally, through a friend, or just seen them on a movie, chances are you’ve heard of psychedelics or psychedelic drugs. However, many may not be too informed on the details of these substances and what exactly they can do to the body and mind.
While they aren’t as harmful as other drugs like heroin and cocaine, the use of hallucinogens and psychedelic drugs can still lead to emotional and behavioral effects, both in the short and long term.
There are a number of popular psychedelics that are used across the country and around the globe. Psychedelics are used recreationally, as a form of medication, in religious and cultural ceremonies, and more.
Let’s start by asking a simple question: What’s a psychedelic?
What’s A Psychedelic?
Psychedelics are powerful psychoactive substances that are used to alter perception and mood and affect the way the brain functions and interprets stimuli. Psychedelic drugs and hallucinogens are thought to produce their effects by affecting neural communication in the brain that use serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness and helps control behavior, mood, senses, and thinking.
The primary purpose of psychedelic drugs is to trigger psychedelic experiences. A psychedelic experience is a temporary altered state of consciousness in which a person may say or hear things that aren’t there.
Nearly all psychedelic substances are illegal in the United States and globally. There are some exceptions for some of these drugs to be used for religious ceremonies and research purposes. However, recreational use of psychedelics is still common. Some of the most commonly used psychedelic drugs include LSD, mushrooms, and peyote.
LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as acid, is one of the most common and well-known hallucinogens. It is a drug that comes as a white powder or clear colorless liquid and is generally taken as a tablet.
Like all psychedelics, LSD is a mind-altering drug that changes your mood, behavior, and the way you interact with the world around you. A regular dose of LSD will likely cause hallucinations and have you seeing, hearing, or feeling things that appear to be real but are actually just created in your mind.
After using acid, effects usually start within 20 to 30 minutes. Effects will peak in about two to four hours and can last up to 12 hours. LSD users refer to the hallucinogenic experiences as trips. Trips can be “good” or “bad” depending on what the user experiences during their drug use.
Good trips are characterized by feelings of joy and euphoria and the perception that your thoughts are extremely clear. You may also feel that you have superhuman abilities and are not afraid of anything.
Meanwhile, bad trips can lead to a number of worrisome things including terrifying thoughts, disorientation, and irrational fears. You can have fears that you may die soon or you may feel extreme confusion after experiencing a brief lapse in memory.
It should be noted that the use of LSD can lead to certain mental problems, and may require the help of medication to solve symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.
Mushrooms, or psilocybin mushrooms, grow in certain parts of South America, Mexico, and the United States. These mushrooms generally ingested orally where the body will break down the substance to produce psilocyn.
Physical effects of the drug include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness, and lack of coordination.
Some of the psychological consequences associated with using psilocybin include hallucinations and an inability to recognize and differentiate reality from fantasy.
Similar to the effects of LSD, users of psilocybin mushrooms can also experience bad trips that could result in a number of problematic behaviors and outcomes such as accidental injury, suicidal attempts, amnesia, and more.
It should be noted that there is some belief among the mental health community that psilocybin has some potential as a treatment method for certain conditions such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more.
Peyote is a small cactus that grows in the Southwestern United States and parts of Northern Mexico. The cactus contains a psychedelic compound called mescaline that causes the psychoactive effects. Peyote has been used for centuries by Native Americans in certain rituals and ceremonies. Peyote is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. However, some Native Americans are able to use it legally as a part of their religious services.
Along with using peyote for cultural and religious reasons, the substance is also used by some as a recreational drug.
Peyote produces perceptual, cognitive, and emotional experiences including vivid mental images and distorted vision, joy, loss of a sense of reality, and more. All of these things can have major effects on mood and lead to long-term behavioral and emotional effects.
Despite the fact that this is a psychedelic drug, it is different from other major hallucinogens like LSD and psilocybin. The chemical structure of mescaline and peyote is similar to the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. These similar structures can interfere with their actions in the brain.
There is one noticeable side effect of mescaline which is a prolonged psychotic state that is similar to that of paranoid schizophrenia.
Effects Of Hallucinogens
Many believe that there are no long-term side effects caused by hallucinogens, however, this is not true. There are many short- and long-term effects that can lead to some behavioral and emotional issues among those who use psychedelics and hallucinogens.
As we know, when taking psychedelic drugs and hallucinogens, the user will experience a number of sensory effects that can affect their perception. It causes hallucinations, including changing the way that you interact and perceive the world, you can even see things that do not exist.
Along with these notable and understood effects of using hallucinogens, there are also a number of physical effects from using these substances. For example, some effects include:
- Increased heart rate
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Increased blood pressure and more
While most of these physical effects are only temporary, there are some long-term effects that can come from using these types of substances.
Most of the long-term effects that occur are behavioral changes, including decreased motivation, prolonged depression, increased panic, impaired memory, psychosis, delusions, and more.
Psychedelics like LSD and mushrooms are not thought of as being addictive. However, like all drugs, the repeated use of them will cause the buildup of a tolerance to the drug, causing users to take more of the substance in order to feel the desired effects. It should also be noted that there is a phenomenon in taking psychedelics called “micro-dosing”.
Micro-dosing is a term used to describe the ingestion of small quantities of psychedelic substances on a regular basis. There is more research that needs to be conducted on the short- and long-term effects of psychedelic micro-dosing but the practice has become more widespread in recent years.
Along with these short-term and long-term health risks associated with using psychedelic substances, users may also deal with a problem known as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder
One of the major long-term effects of using hallucinogens is called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.
This type of disorder is characterized by recurrences of certain drug experience. A person who has this disorder may experience hallucinations or other visual disturbances some time after taking whatever drug they used. These flashbacks will happen without warning and may occur within a few days or more than a year after drug use.
Unfortunately, there is no strong correlation between the number of times a person takes a hallucinogen and the development of the disorder. This means that even using these drugs one time can lead to long-term effects that affect vision, hearing, and perception.
The episodes that someone will experience from hallucinogen persisting perception disorder will be spontaneous and are repeated recurrences of some of the sensory changes that occurred when using a specific psychedelic drug.
Obviously, there are a number of short-term and long-term effects that can occur from using psychedelics. While most of these problems may not be life-threatening they are still serious physical and mental health issues that can impede quality of life.
It should be noted that while the use of hallucinogens does not produce drug-seeking behavior, it can be characteristic of people who are already using other substances.
If you or a loved one is dealing with some sort of substance-related issue and it is interfering with their day-to-day life, it may be best to reach out to a drug and alcohol treatment facility to see how they can help. Landmark Recovery, is one rehabilitation facility that is dedicated to helping patients overcome whatever issues that they are dealing with. If you would like to learn more about what Landmark is and how we can help you create a personalized treatment plan for your loved one, please visit our website and reach out to our Carmel drug & alcohol rehab admissions team today.