What are Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens are types of drugs also called psychedelics which alter the way in which a person perceives things. They affect all the senses of a person such as thinking, emotions and even sense of time. The most commonly known effect of hallucinogens is causing a person to see, hear and fell things that are either nonexistent or distorted, that is to hallucinate. Hallucinogens are generally known to be very destructive to one’s health over time and they are also very addictive.

Types of hallucinogens

Generally, hallucinogens can be classified into two main groups which are;

  • Natural hallucinogens: These occur naturally and consist of peyote cactus and some mushroom types (magic mushrooms), datura and morning glory seeds.
  • Man made hallucinogens: These are the most common and they are manufactured in laboratories. They include drugs such as LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide), STP and MDA.

How do hallucinogens work?

Hallucinogens have a general mode of action where they disrupt the interaction of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) with nerve cells. Serotonin is found in the brain and spinal cord and it is responsible for control of the perceptual, sensory, behavioral and regulatory systems in the body such as hunger, muscles, sexuality, moods and body temperature. When disruption occurs, these systems spin out of balance causing the loss of perception witnessed in hallucinations.

Uses of hallucinogens

Natural hallucinogens have been used for a long time in different cultures for spiritual and mystical experiences. In the United States, they were used extensively in the 60s by young people in pursuit of personal freedom and freedom from old ideas. Sometimes, hallucinogens are used in clinical medicine to treat psychiatric disorders or as anaesthetics.

Effects of hallucinogens

The effects that hallucinogens have on any particular individual depend on several factors such as the individual characteristics (weight, health status and size), the specific drug taken and the amount of drug taken. In general however, hallucinogens will have common immediate effects on the subject. Some of the immediate effects include;

  • Feeling of euphoria, relaxation and sense of well being
  • Confusion and difficulties in concentrating and thinking
  • Hallucinations and distortion of perception senses
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • Anxiety, panic and paranoia
  • Blurred vision and numbness
  • Increased heartbeat, blood pressure and breathing rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea and vomiting

Increased or heavy use of hallucinogens is referred to by the slang term “tripping”. Tripping usually causes panic, paranoia and intense and unpleasant hallucinations. These feelings can induce risk behavior that may cause injury. Drug induced psychosis is also another effect of hallucinogens which may occur either due to a single large dose or long term use. The symptoms of drug induced psychosis are hallucinations, bizarre behavior and delusions which last for hours.

Long term use of hallucinogens may cause negative effects to the general health of the user such as;

  • Brain damage
  • Memory loss
  • Thinking difficulties
  • Confusion
  • Flashbacks
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