Hallucinogens

Hallucinogenic drugs, often referred to as psychedelics, are substances that alter a user’s state of mind. Users can find themselves in an altered sense of time and place.

While hallucinogenic drugs are not usually highly addictive, they have have adverse effects on a user’s life and the lives of those close to them.

Types of Hallucinogens

There are many different kinds of hallucinogens that can lead to abuse. Among the most common are:

  • LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide)
  • DMT (dimethyltryptamine)
  • Peyote (mescaline)
  • Psilocybin (mushrooms)
  • Ayahuasca

Effects of Hallucinogens

People taking hallucinogens have an altered perception of reality and can also experience problems with cognition, psychomotor functions, and various senses. The effects vary based on the individual taking the drugs, the type of drug used, and how the drugs were administered. The context and surroundings during which hallucinogens are used can also have an impact.

Many users refer to the experience taking hallucinogens as taking a “trip” and refer to “good trips” and “bad trips.” Each person may experience hallucinogens differently, with the results, dangers, and long-term consequences for one’s health differing widely.

Mood swings are common among hallucinogen users. Some may feel powerful feelings of excitability or euphoria, exhilaration, aggression, high energy and paranoia. Some users report feeling multiple feelings at the same time. The feelings can cycle rapidly from one sensation to another, may occur simultaneously, or sequentially over time.

Users feel disconnected from time and space, and may report strange sensations, such as “smelling colors” or “seeing sounds.” These experiences can be pleasant and euphoric or very unpleasant.

When using, people may not remember where they are, who they are, or who others are. They may imagine time moving rapidly or slowly and themselves or others altering their appearance or saying things that are nonsensical.

The highs associated with hallucinogenic usage can last for varied lengths of time, often depending on the person using and the amount of substances consumed.

Repeat abusers can develop tolerance to lower dosages of hallucinogens, causing users to use more. Dependency on these substances can occur, resulting in physiological changes to the brain and central nervous systems.

Over time, these changes to the brain and nervous system can have significant impacts on a users cognitive, emotional and psychomotor abilities. Major changes in behavior and personality disorders can develop tat can be difficult to reverse, even after a user has stopped using.

Among the mental health issues that users may face are:

  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Mood changes
  • Disordered thoughts
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Persistent psychosis
  • Dissociative disorder (previously known as multiple personalities disorder)

Long-term users of hallucinogens can also cause flashbacks or hallucinations, even when sober. These flashbacks can be so vivid and severe as to impair daily functionality, which is known as HPPD (hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder).

Treatment Options for Hallucinogens

Are hallucinogens addictive? Hallucinogens are not physically addictive, but may be psychologically addictive.  If you use hallucinogenic drugs frequently despite that usage negatively affecting your life, you may be addicted psychologically addicted.

Withdrawal from hallucinogens may not be as physically disruptive as withdrawal from other substances, but can still cause physical symptoms, including chills, diarrhea and nausea. Professionally administered detox is not necessary for hallucinogen addiction but there are important steps to be taken to address the underlying causes of the addiction and any after-effects from the drug use.

Often users experiencing a “bad trip” are brought to an emergency room, where professionals usually make sure the patient is safe and will not themselves or anyone else until the trip ends.

Treatment begins by focusing on stabilization and observation. Drugs to address underlying issues that may have caused the use or are side effects of hallucinogens may be administered, such as anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and anti-anxiety drugs.

There are several options available to address the psychological impact of hallucinogen abuse, including:

Counseling Services

Individual, family and group counseling services help to address important underlying issues related to the abusive behavior. Therapy work focuses on improving the relationships in a users’ life, communication, and focus on positive behaviors and experiences. Structured, regular sessions with a therapist help users stay focused on their recovery and help them gain and retain proper perspective.

Behavioral Therapies

Different therapies are designed to help the user recognize patterns and responses to stress and other feelings. Behavioral therapy, especially when combined with pharmacological treatment, can help decrease symptoms, learn strategies, reduce relapses, and make progress towards identified behavioral goals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps people recognize negative thoughts, patterns of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Understanding how thoughts, emotions, behaviors and actions are related gives people a change to recognize high-risk situations and reduce the likelihood for repeat decisions to use.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT helps people by providing skills to manage difficult relationships or painful emotions. Mindfulness, emotional regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance are key concepts to DBT, designed to help people live in the moment, tolerate negative emotions, and communicate more effectively.