The Top Nine Most Commonly Abused Hallucinogens – A hallucinogen is a psychoactive substance often considered “psychedelic” because it induces hallucinations, altered perception, and other significant subjective changes in thoughts, emotion, and consciousness.
Hallucinogens aren’t often considered to be chemically addictive like many other illegal drugs, and some have even been researched as potential treatments for addiction. Direct modification of brain chemistry is usually required to cause dependency, and psychedelics tend to have minor or indirect influences on brain chemistry.
However, hallucinogens do have some potential risk of abuse or emotional and psychological addiction, and some can lead to lasting psychiatric problems, including psychosis.
Serotonergic Hallucinogens vs. Dissociatives
The main difference between serotonergic hallucinogens and dissociative psychedelics is that the dissociatives produce more intense derealization and depersonalization. For example, ketamine, a common dissociative, generates sensations that make the surrounding environment seem unreal as well as the feeling of being disconnected from one’s body, as well as the perceptual alterations experienced with other psychedelics.
Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as acid or LSD, is probably the most well-known psychedelic drug. Popularized by the 196 0s counterculture, the compound was also the subject of a wide range of scientific studies throughout the 20th century.
LSD alters perceptions and awareness and may also cause hallucinations. It is not considered chemically addictive but can cause some adverse side effects such as anxiety and paranoia. Some studies have also shown an increased likelihood of developing psychological disorders such as schizophrenia among adults with other risk factors.
Psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, is a class of fungi that is believed to have been consumed since prehistoric times as an entheogen (a class of psychoactive substances that induce some type of spiritual or religious experience) and hallucinogenic drug. Psilocybin produces increased empathy, euphoria, and altered thinking. In some fungal species, it can cause open and closed eye visualizations.
Although psilocybin isn’t chemically addictive and doesn’t present a significant health threat, they are hard to distinguish from toxic mushrooms such as Death Caps which can look identical to some species of psilocybin and grow in the same areas.
N, N-Dimethyltryptamine, also known as DMT, was popularized by two researchers in the late 20th century, and was given the nickname “the Spirit Molecule.” DMT has been consumed for possibly thousands of years by Amazonian tribes who activated DMT innately in plants by brewing it in tea, referred to as ayahuasca.
DMT may be among the most potent psychedelic drugs known to humans and has the potential for powerful visual hallucinations. While there is scant evidence to suggest that it could result in chemical dependence or medical complications, there is a chance that psychological issues could develop from bad trips.
Mescaline is a psychedelic alkaloid that can be found in a number of southwestern cacti such as peyote. Native American shamans commonly employ peyote in religious ceremonies. The substance is technically illegal in the U.S., but special exceptions are often made for groups that use it for religious or spiritual purposes.
Mescaline causes color intensifications, euphoria, and an increase in introspection. Users often report having personal epiphanies while on using mescaline. When consumed, the peyote cactus is bitter and can cause nausea and vomiting. Mescaline, like other psychedelic drugs, does have a potential for psychological addiction but is not thought to be chemically addictive.
3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy, or molly) is an entactogen which is a class of drugs that induce a feeling of communion or oneness with others. Unlike the psychedelic drugs mentioned above, MDMA is most often used as a social “party” or “club” drug. In addition to elevating mood and producing euphoria, MDMA’s effects include feelings of increased empathy and emotional connection.
In some users, MDMA can cause mild hallucinations such as color changes or heightened auditory effects. Adverse effects of MDMA can include dehydration and a spike in body temperature that means users need to drink water consistently while intoxicated. There have been reports that MDMA has led to fatal medical complications due to hyperthermia and dehydration, especially when combined with alcohol.
Salvinorin A, or salvia, is a psychoactive drug that is derived from the Salvia divinorum plant native to Oaxaca, Mexico as well as Central and South America. Salvia is unusual in its chemical structure compared to other naturally-occurring hallucinogens. Unlike other psychedelic drugs, it’s not an alkaloid, but rather, a terpenoid, which is a broad category of organic chemicals.
Salvia is a dissociative drug (sometimes classified as an atypical psychedelic) that belongs to a class of psychoactive substances that distort sight and sound, and users often report feeling detached from reality and the world around them or themselves. Its hallucinogenic effects can result in trance-like states, anxiety, and dysphoria. Salvinorin A is federally legal in the U.S., but some states such as Florida classify it as a controlled substance.
Phencyclidine (PCP), also known as Angel Dust, is a synthetic drug that also causes dissociative hallucinations. PCP was originally synthesized as an anesthetic for medical use, but due to side effects that may include mania, delirium, and disorientation, use in humans was discontinued in the 1950s.
Unlike other psychedelic drugs, PCP is considered to be moderately addictive, and there is some risk of developing psychological problems. PCP can be found in various forms, including tablets or capsules, liquid, and a white crystal powder.
Ketamine, also known as Special K, was a precursor to PCP and was synthesized for the same purpose, as an anesthetic for use in surgeries. It can induce sedation and cause memory loss as a side effect. Its recreational use causes similar effects to PCP and it, too, has a low to moderate addiction potential.
Ketamine is often employed as a surgical anesthetic for both humans and animals. Much of the Ketamine peddled on the streets is diverted from veterinary offices. While Ketamine is available as an injectable liquid, manufacturers mostly sell it in powder or pill form.
Dextromethorphan (DXM), also known as Robo, is the one drug on this list that can be obtained over-the-counter and therefore has the most incidental usage. DXM is a common active ingredient in cough-suppressing medicines like Vicks, NyQuil, Robitussin, and many others.
At high doses, it can produce dissociative hallucinogenic effects similar to PCP or ketamine. Some who overuse products such as NyQuil may experience these effects unaware of that DXM is present in the formula or even that excessive DXM consumption can lead to such results.
More commonly, however, DXM is abused by teens looking to get high because it can be easily obtained over-the-counter at pharmacies. Fortunately, abuse is very unlikely to result in addiction or dependence.
Treatment for Hallucinogen Abuse
While hallucinogens are not considered to be chemically addictive, they certainly can be abused, and some frequent users may develop a psychological dependence upon them. Persons abusing hallucinogens are urged to undergo a substance abuse program at a qualified treatment center. Research has shown that people who receive care using a comprehensive, evidence-based approach experience the best outcomes and are more likely to enjoy long-lasting abstinence.
Recovery by the Sea employs caring addiction professionals who deliver therapeutic services, such as psychotherapy and counseling with compassion and expertise. We offer partial hospitalization and outpatient programs that provide clients with the resources and support they need to recover and sustain long-term sobriety and wellness.
You don’t have to suffer from substance abuse any longer – contact us as soon as possible to find out how we can help you reclaim your life!
Related: Polysubstance Abuse