Hallucinogens Addiction and Abuse

Hallucinogens are drugs that have the ability to change the way you think, act and react to both familiar and unfamiliar situations. A hallucinogen could evoke different feelings, causing you to become dissociated, delirious or to have an ‘out of world’ experience. In the case of the latter, this might be referred to as being psychedelic. Hallucinogens are recreational drugs and have the ability to produce visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as out-of-body experiences.

Using a hallucinogen results in a psychoactive experience, but at the same time, no two users of the same hallucinogen describe having the same experience. The use of hallucinogens can be exciting, especially for people that seek a unique experience. However, at the same time, there are many dangers associated with the use of hallucinogens. Some have been known to produce lifelong effects, even after a single exposure.

Hallucinogen addiction explained

The majority of hallucinogens in use are not addictive, in the sense that they do not result in the extreme drug-seeking behaviour or cravings commonly found in other substances when abused. However, some hallucinogens, such as Lysergic acid Diethylamide (LSD), are prone to tolerance in users. This means you will need increasing amounts of the drug to experience the hallucinogenic effect that you seek. The need to take repeatedly higher doses to achieve the same effect can be dangerous and result in taking hazardous doses.

One hallucinogen that is known to be addictive is Phencyclidine (PCP), also known as ‘Angel Dust’. It is synthesised in a lab and causes both hallucinations and dissociation. It is a dangerous drug that causes withdrawal symptoms when you cease usage. It can also cause memory loss, depression, and impaired speech/cognitive abilities, when used long-term.

Aside from those that have the effects described above, hallucinogen addiction is not physical, in that it’s not really associated with the use of the hallucinogenic substance itself, but instead is a psychological addiction. A psychological dependence on hallucinogens is a result of factors that could be biological, environmental or related to other mental health issues that cause you to find the use of hallucinogens appealing, where they provide an escape from real life circumstances.

The fact that hallucinogens disrupt the serotonin balance which could lead to depression can further proliferate this psychological addiction. It doesn’t matter if a hallucinogen is addictive or not, it is a source of danger. If you would like to speak to someone, then Addiction Helpers have caring specialists that can talk to you about hallucinogen addiction.

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Hallucinogens: What types are there?

Hallucinogens in general fall under three major categories.

  • Psychedelic hallucinogens. Hallucinogens under this category are known to cause changes in cognition and perception of reality, together with a heightened state of consciousness. They include drugs like LSD, Psilocybin, PCP and Peyote.
  • Dissociative hallucinogens: Dissociative hallucinogens give you the feeling of an out-of-body experience. They usually have higher potential for causing addiction. Substances in this category include Ketamine and Nitrous Oxide.
  • Deliriant hallucinogens are more likely to cause delirium rather than the lucid state other hallucinogens induce. Such substances are dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine and scopolamine.

Natural Hallucinogens vs. Synthetic Hallucinogens

Natural hallucinogens are substances that are organic and derived from plants and animals. Synthetic hallucinogens – as the name suggests – are synthesised in a laboratory, sometimes from plant materials. Some naturally occurring hallucinogens are:

  • Ayahausca: brewed as a tea sourced from an Amazonian plant.
  • Psilicybin mushroom: these are extremely popular.
  • Peyote: a cactus plant.
  • Salvia: a herb containing hallucinogenic compounds.

Synthetic hallucinogens include LSD, PCP (Angel Dust), Ketamine and Dextromethorphan. Some hallucinogens are naturally occurring in plants or animals, but can also be synthesised in a lab. Examples include DMT, which is the active ingredient found in Ayahausca tea, as well as mescaline, which is also found in the peyote.

The Most Common Hallucinogens

The hallucinogens most commonly used in the UK include the following:

  • Psilocybin mushrooms (‘Magic mushrooms’). 22% of adults who have ever taken drugs report using magic mushrooms.
  • A close second is LSD, taken by 20% of adults in the UK who have taken any substances.
  • Ketamine comes in third at 8%.
  • Other popular hallucinogens include: DMT, ayahausca, Salvia divinorum, dextromethorphan, Mescaline, and PCP.

Differentiating between Hallucinogen Addiction and Other types of Addiction

Hallucinogens in general carry a lower potential for physical dependence and addiction than other types of gateway drugs, such as opiates and stimulants. This does not mean that they are ‘lower risk however. With a drug addiction that involves opiates, barbiturates and other addiction prone drugs, repeated use causes the body to rely on the drug’s presence to carry out normal functions. When tolerance to one of the drugs occurs, you can be left with withdrawal symptoms, which lead you to increase the doses.

With hallucinogens (except PCP, which is also highly addictive), you might not experience withdrawal symptoms or require them to function normally, but you can still grow dependent on them psychologically and as a result you still end up being addicted. You’ll find yourself craving the experiences you had whilst under the influence of the hallucinogen. This still has the same ability to reorder your priorities and make you manifest the same extreme drug-seeking behaviour found in users of other gateway drugs.

Hallucinogen Addiction Symptoms

The symptoms of a hallucinogen are subtle and often take time to develop. It’s easy to not realise when you have a hallucinogen addiction. Symptoms include the following:

  • Intense and irresistible drug cravings
  • Drug seeking and drug using behaviours that are compulsive in nature
  • Loss of interest in normal life
  • Relationship, money and legal problems, as a result of drug usage

Hallucinogens might seem harmless at first, but end up having devastating effects on your life. If you or anyone you know needs help with these symptoms of addiction, you can call Addiction Helper to access facilities, experts and resources that can aid you in your journey to recovery.

Physical Signs of Hallucinogen Abuse

The signs of hallucinogen abuse vary widely, depending on the agent used and its effect on the user. If you suspect you or your loved one might have problems with hallucinogen abuse, Addiction Helper can provide all the necessary expert assistance. Look out for the following signs if you or someone you love has issues with hallucinogen abuse:

  • Hearing, sight and touch feel distorted
  • Change in perception of space, time or distance
  • Strange behaviour, including panic and fear
  • Changes in the ease and degree of coordination
  • Sweating, pupil dilation, rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing
  • Depression, extreme hunger or extreme loss of appetite
  • Loss of memory and neural function
  • Excessive sweating and yawning or even chills

These symptoms are not general to all hallucinogens, as the signs exhibited are heavily dependent on the type of hallucinogen used and the degree to which it is used.

Behavioural Signs of Hallucinogen Abuse

There are also behavioural symptoms that occur with repeated hallucinogen abuse. If you or someone you know begins to exhibit these behaviours, then it is important to seek for help before it is too late.

  • Drug seeking behaviour without regards to consequences
  • Changes in priorities
  • Temporary psychosis
  • Risky behaviour (unsafe sex practices, decisions that are not sound in judgement, and so on)
  • Loss of empathy

The use of hallucinogens should not be ignored by hoping it will pass away. If you or someone you love find yourselves repeatedly drawn to the use of hallucinogens, seek help right away.

Hallucinogen Abuse Statistics

 The use of hallucinogen is not restricted to adults, as an increasing number of children are being exposed to the use of illicit drugs – amongst them, hallucinogens. In a survey carried out by the NHS in England, as many as 15 % of school pupils had taken drugs.  10% had taken them in the past year, and 6% in the past month. The trend increases with age; 6% of a group of 11 year olds had tried drugs, while 24% of a group of 15 year olds had done the same. In adults, 8.4% had taken drugs in the past year.

In 2015, 1570 deaths were attributed to the use of narcotics and hallucinogens in England and Wales. The use of psychoactive substances (which previously declined between 2008 and 2011) has been steadily rising. The use of hallucinogens is not as innocuous as people often perceive it to be. As such, if you or someone you love have become regular users, the time to seek help is right now. Contact Addiction Helper and we’ll provide you with resources to help break the destructive cycle of addiction.

Short-term effects of Hallucinogen Abuse

Again, the use of hallucinogens and its effects vary widely, depending on the user, the substance used, its form, and the dose applied. It’s almost impossible to predict the effect a hallucinogen will have on a user, but the following effects are the ones most likely to occur. The adverse effects are also referred to as a ‘bad trip’ by users:

  • Euphoria (usually, this is what the user seeks), relaxation and mood changes.
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate.
  • Hallucinations, losing touch with reality, and paranoia.
  • Dilated pupils, blurry vision, and sleeplessness.
  • Dry mouth, sweating, loss of appetite, dizziness, and nausea.
  • Decreased sensation of pain.
  • Aggression and violence.

Long-term effects of Hallucinogens

The deleterious effects of hallucinogens usually manifest more in the long term. Like with any other drug, the development of a psychological dependence on hallucinogens can have devastating consequences for the user, as well as the user’s family and friends. Sometimes the damage caused by repeated hallucinogen use are irreversible. The following is a list of the most common effects of chronic hallucinogen use:

  • Flashbacks (which could occur any time, even weeks, months or years after drug use), mood swings, delusion, disinterest in participation in daily life.
  • Vision problems, persistent behavioural changes (including risky behaviours) and violence.
  • Depression, impaired memory and inability to concentrate.
  • Psychosis, paranoia and other mental disturbances.
  • Problems with speech.
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How Hallucinogens affect Your Physiology

Hallucinogens exert their physiological effect by interacting with serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for controlling mood, perception, sexual activity, nociception (pain perception) and some other functions. They stop the uptake of serotonin, thereby increasing the serotonin present. This results in the various effects as seen.

The observed result varies from one person to the next and is dependent on your personality, mental health condition, the environment surrounding you and more. Some other hallucinogens interact with glutamate receptors in the brain as an antagonist. This could either stimulate or depress the brain, depending on the dose of the drug used.

Your Brain and Hallucinogens

When hallucinogens are ingested, they work directly in the brain to disrupt the regular patterns of communication between the chemical systems that exist in the brain and spinal cord. They tamper with the normal patterns of serotonin and glutamate, which together regulate mood, sleep, hunger, sensory perception, muscle control and coordination, emotion, learning, memory and even sexual behaviour. These changes in brain chemicals – brought on by the use of hallucinogens – can persist with prolonged usage.

Your Heart and Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens affect the heart in many ways. The short term effect of hallucinogens includes increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, as well as an irregular heartbeat. The strain which hallucinogens are capable of placing on the heart can result in heart attacks and strokes. Some other hallucinogens (such as GHB) slow down the heartbeat and as such, can potentially stop the heart.

Hallucinogen addiction: Co-occurring disorders

Some disorders that occur as a result of hallucinogen usage are mental disorders and referred to as ‘substance-induced mental disorders’. There are also some mental disorders that co-occur in people who have a hallucinogen addiction that don’t come about as a result of the use of hallucinogens. It can be difficult to distinguish between an independent co-occurring disorder and a substance induced disorder. This dual-diagnosis can only be confirmed after a period of time has elapsed following substance use. Substance induced disorders often improve within hours or days after you stop the use of hallucinogens. They include:

  • Delirium
  • Persisting dementia
  • Persisting amnestic disorder
  • Psychotic disorder
  • Mood disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sleep disorder

Know the Risks

Due to the fact that many hallucinogens are not illegal drugs, people often assume that chasing a ‘legal high’ is safe. That hallucinogens have a reputation of not being ‘addiction-prone’also make it seem like a fun experience to try. This is not the case.  You need to be aware of the dangers of using hallucinogens. An addiction to hallucinogen can have devastating effects on your life and those of your loved ones.

  • Hallucinogens can cause violent and suicidal behaviours.
  • They can cause compulsive drug seeking behaviour.
  • Problems with school, work and home relationships can occur.
  • You might gradually find that you are no longer in control of your ability to stop taking hallucinogens, at which point it could be too late.

The use of hallucinogens also pose risks to your health.

  • They have the ability to cause stress and damage to your heart and brain – the two most important organs in the body.
  • They can also cause damage to the liver, kidneys and urinary tract.
  • Some hallucinogens (such as Ketamine) have the ability to cause respiratory depression and failure at high doses.

Being aware of the risks you’re exposed to when using hallucinogens is important. To find out more, contact Addiction Helper now to gain access to resources and experts that can help you.

Tired of Letting Hallucinogen Addiction Control Your Life?

The use of hallucinogens and becoming addicted to them is a slow process that you could easily overlook. You could wake up one day and realise that the decision to use or not to use is no longer within your power. At that point, you will likely feel compelled to use hallucinogens. However, you can take back control of your life and your decisions.

What you need is access to the right resources, facilities and assistance from experts in the field of drug rehabilitation that will provide the necessary support while you or a loved one recovers from an addiction to hallucinogens.

There are several types of treatment for hallucinogen addiction that begin with detoxing your body and getting rid of toxic chemicals brought about by usage.  You don’t need to wait until you find yourself or a loved one in the emergency room of a hospital. You should act now.

End Your Addiction with Medically Supervised Detox and Individualised Treatment Plans

Increase your chances of making a clean recovery from hallucinogen addiction through a medically supervised detox, together with individualised treatment plans. What you’ll get is a detox process that is medically supervised round-the-clock, as well as a customised treatment plan to optimise your recovery process and minimise the unpleasantness of your recovery period. Don’t wait any longer to begin your recovery journey. Contact Addiction Helper right away to discuss the options available to take back control of your life.

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Hallucinogen Addiction Treatment Options

Depending on your personality and history of hallucinogen use, there are different treatment options available for a hallucinogen addiction. Knowing what your options are and how they work will make the recovery period that much smoother.

What is Hallucinogen Detox?

A hallucinogen detox treatment primarily involves close supervision together with any interventions necessary to lighten the unpleasant effects caused either by hallucinogen use or its removal from the system. In some cases, drugs might have to be administered to ensure your safety and that of your loved ones as well. The ultimate aim is to stabilise the hallucinogen user.

Counselling Services

A hallucinogen addiction is mostly not physical, but psychological. As such, addressing other areas of your life can help improve recovery. You can get access to individual, group and family counselling as part of the recovery process. This ensures you or your loved one are in a good state of physical and mental health. Counselling also ensures you stay on the recovery path and helps you set the right recovery goals.

12-Step Groups

The 12-step programme is a commonly used recovery model that relies on the fact that people can help others recover from addiction. Being able to talk about recovery without judgement and the sense of shared camaraderie, insight and feedback that is common in these groups helps the recovery process immensely.

Behavioural Therapies

There are different types of behavioural therapies that can be used, depending on the provider and the individual undergoing therapy. Behavioural therapies aim to increase knowledge and awareness about your condition, reduce the incidence of relapse, and in general nudge you in the right direction towards recovery.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT aims to improve recovery by helping you identify unfavourable thought patterns, triggering emotions, and problematic behaviour. CBT also teaches coping strategies and lifestyle changes to help you cope with challenging situations, effectively reducing the chances of a relapse.

Motivational Therapies: This makes use of incentives to reward you when you have achieved specific goals in your treatment plan.

Multidimensional Family Therapy: The thing about hallucinogen addiction is that it affects those around you, such as your family and loved ones, especially when the addiction occurs in teenagers and adolescents. Multidimensional family therapy seeks to address all of the issues associated with drug use pattern and also improve family relations.


What Do Hallucinogens Look Like?

Hallucinogens come in many forms: a small pill, a white powder, an ordinary looking mushroom or even tea. LSD can come in gelatine squares or as blotting paper.

How Long Do Hallucinogens Stay In Your System?

The length varies depending on the type of hallucinogen used. For example, LSD can be detected in the system after five days of use, but effects resolve after 12 hours of ingestion. Some hallucinogens are undetectable after only 12 hours of use.

What Causes Hallucinogen Addiction and Abuse?

Hallucinogens are often used recreationally and that is the most common source of initial exposure. After that, a lot of other factors (such as your mental health condition, environment and even peer pressure) can contribute to repeated use of hallucinogens, leading to an addiction.

How do people use hallucinogens?

Different hallucinogens can be used in different ways. They can be ingested, made into tea, mixed with a drink, smoked, inhaled or snorted, swallowed or injected. The most common method is orally or by smoking.

How do hallucinogens affect the brain?

They disrupt nerve cells and chemical neurotransmitters in the brain, changing the individual’s normal pattern of response.

Can a person overdose on Hallucinogens?

Yes, they can. Some people quickly build a tolerance to hallucinogens, requiring higher and higher doses to elicit the desired response. These higher doses expose you to a greater risk of adverse effects and a possible overdose.

What are other risks of hallucinogens?

Stress and damage to the majority of the organs in the body (the heart, liver, kidney, brain and lungs) are all at risk of being damaged by the use of hallucinogens.

Are Hallucinogens Highly Addictive?

Hallucinogens are not highly addictive, but a psychological dependence can slowly develop.

Is Treatment Necessary?

Getting treatment maximises the chances of recovering fully from a hallucinogen addiction. Treatment also protects you from the unpleasant effects of being exposed to a hallucinogen.

Which treatments work for Hallucinogens addiction?

A detox treatment is highly effective at protecting you or a loved one from the dangers of hallucinogen usage. Other treatments like counselling, behavioural therapies and 12-step treatment help place you solidly on the path to recovery and prevent relapse.

What Happens After Treatment?

After treatment, you should be able to return to a normal life. This includes all the things you had before: work, family, friends and any hobbies you enjoyed or new ones you’ve developed.

Does treatment for Hallucinogen addiction work?

Recovery from hallucinogen addiction is a lifelong process. The treatment period helps you detox and get past the most intense period of your cravings. It also helps you develop coping strategies and skills for your day to day living. The success of your treatment is largely dependent on you.

Where Else Can I Find Help?

You can take advantage of Addiction Helper’s various resources and access to experts on addiction. Alternatively, speak with your GP or a local drug treatment service near you.

Should I Use an Intervention?

If someone you love is using hallucinogens frequently, then an intervention is sometimes the right tool to get through to them.

Where will I have my Hallucinogen Addiction treatment?

The detox period is carried out in an inpatient facility to enable close monitoring.

What about Withdrawal?

Withdrawal can be an unpleasant effect, but you can be assured that at Addiction Helper, we focus on making the adjustment phase as smooth as possible. If necessary, drugs will be administered to alleviate the more difficult symptoms.

Do you have any more questions about Hallucinogen abuse?

If you’d like to know more about extracting yourself or a loved one from the habit of frequent hallucinogen use, please contact us by completing the form below. An expert will be in touch with you shortly to discuss your concerns.

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