Hallucinogens Addiction

Ariella Belote
Calendar icon Last Updated: 01/24/2024

Reading Time: 5 minutes

What is Hallucinogens Addiction?

Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter one’s thoughts, feelings, and awareness of one’s surroundings and environment. Hallucinogen drugs fall into three categories — psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants — and can cause people to experience hallucinations, images, and sensations that appear to be real, but aren’t. The most popular types of hallucinogens are Ayahuasca, DMT, LSD, PCP, Salvia, Peyote, and DXM.

Hallucinogens interfere with a number of brain chemicals that regulate normal bodily processes such as appetite, muscle control, and sexual behavior. It can also impact one’s emotions, learning, and memory. Over time, fluctuations in these brain chemicals can lead to problems with weight loss, speech disorders, and depression, and may increase the risk for suicidal ideation. Long-term hallucinogen use can also lead to flashbacks, persistent psychosis, and other serious conditions that may cause death.

Though very few hallucinogens carry the risk of physical dependence, nearly all of them can cause severe side effects when misused and can lead to psychological addiction. Hallucinogen addiction can be safely treated using therapies aimed at helping patients overcome psychological symptoms of hallucinogen misuse, though drug detox may be used in some instances to relieve certain physical withdrawal symptoms.

What are the Risks of Hallucinogens Addiction?

Many hallucinogens like LSD, peyote, and psilocybin are Schedule I substances, while others, such as salvia, are not classified substances. However, any hallucinogen can cause severe side effects when misused, and increase one’s risk for dependence, addiction, and death.

While the effects of hallucinogens can often be enjoyable, many individuals experience adverse reactions, commonly known as a “bad trip”. It is tough to predict whether or not a person will experience this type of negative reaction. Adverse reactions can include:

  • Paranoia
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Self-harm
  • Violence

What are the Symptoms of Hallucinogens Addiction?

Hallucinogens affect the brain and body in a number of ways. The effects of these drugs can begin anywhere between 20 and 90 minutes of use, and can usually last between six and 12 hours. Salvia produces the most short-lived effects, which usually appear in under one minute, and typically lasts fewer than 30 minutes. The majority of symptoms caused by hallucinogens are psychological, but some of these drugs can cause physiological symptoms such as dilated pupils, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure.

General side effects of hallucinogens can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Intensified feelings, thoughts, and experiences
  • Hallucinations
  • Strange sensory experiences including blending of senses, distorted sense of time and place, or distorted perception of body
  • Depersonalization, or the sensation of being apart from one’s own body, unable to control your actions
  • Experiencing a wider range of sensations than what you are normally used to, or heightened awareness of your environment and surroundings

Side effects of psychedelics (including ecstasy, psilocybin, LSD, peyote):

  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle issues
  • Psychosis

Side effects of dissociative drugs (such as ketamine, DXM, PCP):

  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Fear and paranoia
  • Changes in heart rate and blood pressure

Side effects of deliriant hallucinogens (including atropine, diphenhydramine, scopolamine):

  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Panic
  • Heart failure

Since hallucinogens are made up of a wide range of different drugs, chemicals, and substances, many long-term effects of hallucinogens are unknown. Researchers have learned that ketamine can lead to a medical condition called ketamine bladder syndrome, which is marked by symptoms including severe bladder pain, frequent urination, blood in the urine, and incontinence. Long-term use of PCP can cause adverse effects that last for at least one year including memory loss, depression, and suicidal ideation. Some users may even suffer permanent effects such as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder — a disorder marked by the continual presence of sensory disturbances similar to those generated by the use of hallucinogens.

If you think someone you know is experiencing a bad trip, try to calmly speak with them, or take them into a darkened room with little to no stimulation. If you think he/she is a danger to him/herself or others, or cannot be calmed, call 911.

What are the Signs of Hallucinogens Addiction?

Some hallucinogens, like peyote, LSD, and psilocybin, are not considered to be addictive. Others, like salvia or ayahuasca, have not been researched thoroughly enough for us to know for certain if they are addictive. But certain hallucinogenic drugs, like PCP and DMT, can be highly addictive, and the longer you abuse them, the more serious the effects of the drug will likely become.

Those who become addicted to hallucinogens may withdraw from close friends and loved ones and spend more time with new friends who enable and encourage their drug use. They may start losing interest in their favorite activities and suffer a decline in performance at work or school. They may also start getting into trouble with the law, or run into financial problems as a result of spending an excessive amount of money on hallucinogens and paraphernalia. But hallucinogen addiction treatment can help these individuals improve their psychological health, and learn the skills they need to overcome addiction and stay sober.

What to do if Someone You Love is Abusing Hallucinogens

If you are concerned about a loved one, the first step is to try and talk to them about their drug use. If they are open to treatment, you can help them find a local treatment center to assist in their recovery. They may be in denial or respond in anger at you suggesting a problem, in which case you can set up an intervention with a treatment specialist or doctor. If you are concerned about their health, but they are resisting treatment, you can check in on them and ensure they are okay. Be supportive without being an enabler, and remember that it is no one else’s decision but theirs to get help or treatment.

Which Treatment Options are Available for Hallucinogens Addiction?

Treatment for hallucinogen misuse and addiction focuses strongly on helping patients put an end to their substance abuse and heal from the negative effects that these drugs can cause. In most cases, behavioral therapies are the main treatment options for recovery, and patients can learn better attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs that can help them understand the dangers of drug abuse and avoid relapse.

Treating any co-occurring mental disorders is also extremely important in rehab for hallucinogen abuse. Any issues that are associated with these drugs and one’s mental state must be addressed and treated so the individual will not backtrack in their recovery. Being treated for hallucinogen abuse often requires large amounts of therapy, but certain medications may be helpful as well.

Hallucinogens are extremely dangerous drugs, whether they are addictive or not, and should be avoided. If you have been struggling with the misuse of any drug, it is best to seek professional help to make real, long-term change.

Medical Reviewer
Ariella Belote, BSN, RN
Acute Care Registered Nurse
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Ariella Belote, BSN, RN, has experience working as a nurse in outpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment, where she worked with clients experiencing various dependencies. She also works to connect clients with local resources designed to support recovery on a daily basis. In addition, she works in acute care and is familiar with short and long term treatment for withdrawal and addiction.