Hallucinogens Withdrawal and Detox
Hallucinogens can be described as synthetic drugs or plant-derived substances that are capable of altering your sensory perception, as well as your sense of self. Hallucinogens that are derived naturally often come from specific types of fungus. When ingested, the chemical properties of these fungi are what alter your perception of the world.
Hallucinogenic drugs psychologically influence you by affecting what you hear, see, feel, smell, and taste. Your brain chemicals that are most influenced by the substance are acetylcholine and serotonin, which are responsible for your body’s regulatory systems that cover sexual behaviour, mood, hunger, perception, body temperature, and muscle control.
Hallucinogens can be ingested, injected, or even inhaled. Whichever way you use the drug, its use over time can lead to substance dependence. In the event this happens, trying to quit hallucinogens can lead to serious withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Impaired memory
- Lessened attention span
- Mental confusion
- Difficulty with abstract thought
There are different types of hallucinogens and some were initially created to be anaesthetic agents. Under current laws, most hallucinogens are deemed to be illegal drugs. Common types of hallucinogenic drugs you might come across are LSD, ecstasy (MDMA),marijuana, PCP (phencyclidine or angel dust), peyote, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, dextromethorphan and ketamine.
Why Does Someone Go Through Withdrawal after Quitting Ecstasy?
Hallucinogens mostly have no discernible medicinal benefits, but many people tend to imbibe them with the aim of achieving a pleasurable ‘high’. Depending on the hallucinogen used, a person might experience any of the following effects:
- Enhanced sexual feelings and desires
- Spiritual ‘awakening’ or feeling disconnected from one’s body
- Warped sense of time (psychedelic experience)
- Seeing vivid colours or other forms of hypersensitivity Warped special perception
- Seeing visions
- Enhanced awareness
However, depending on drugs to experience the above effects comes at a price, as substance dependence/addiction can develop over time. Quitting any addictive substance that your system has developed an addiction to can lead to withdrawal symptoms. These include feelings of physical and psychological discomfort, as your body starts to crave for the effects of the abused substance.
Withdrawal symptoms are a natural phenomenon, brought about by your body being deprived of a chemical substance that it has become dependent on. For instance, if after prolonged abuse of ecstasy or similar hallucinogens, you suddenly try to quit, you’re very likely to experience withdrawal symptoms.
The use of ecstasy and other hallucinogens chemically altersyourbrain and ultimately leads to your physiology readjusting to function with the drug in your system. If the drug is powerful enough or if abuse spans a significant amount of time, your brain will come to believe it needs the drug to function. This can lead to the triggering of physical and psychological cravings whenever the drug isn’t in your system. Said cravings can be quite powerful and, in some cases, painful. This can make it quite difficult to cease usage of hallucinogens like ecstasy.
Ecstasy abuse specifically increases neurotransmitter activities in your brain. The neurotransmitters influenced by the drug are those connected with your feelings of happiness and love, and this can lead to your experiencing euphoric highs and positive emotions. If you stop taking the drug after prolonged use, it will become difficult to experience the positive feelings associated with the use of ecstasy and this can lead to experiencing the opposite of the pleasures felt when using ecstasy. For instance, you might experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, agitation and paranoia.
Symptoms of ecstasy withdrawal are often mostly psychological in nature, but there have been recorded cases of individuals experiencing physical effects as well. Duration and intensity of symptoms of withdrawal can vary from individual to individual, depending on a variety of factors, such as physiology of the user, potency of the drug, and frequency/duration of drug usage.
People who have co-occurring mental disorders or addiction to other substances might experience a more complicated and intense withdrawal.
The physical symptoms of hallucinogen withdrawal can differ depending on the physiology of the individual in question, as well as the specific type of hallucinogenic drug used.
The typical hallucinogen drug influences the production and processes of neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain, especially the chemicals glutamate and serotonin. Both these chemicals are essential for the regulation of a variety of major bodily processes. Therefore, once your body has grown accustomed to the influence of hallucinogens in your system, the following withdrawal symptoms might be triggered once you stop using hallucinogens:
- Dangerously elevated heart rate
- Stiffening of the muscles
- High blood pressure
- Rapid breathing/hyperventilation
- Fluctuations in body temperature
Please understand that, while these withdrawal symptoms can be very inconvenient, they are an essential step to take on your journey to becoming free of substance abuse.
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Most psychological symptoms are tied to developing a psychological addiction to the drug, which can ultimately lead to intense cravings, as well as disorders such as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), and persistent psychosis.
Those suffering from HPPD tend to experience a continuous perception distortion, even when they are not taking the drug. For instance, even after you quit using hallucinogens, you might continue to experience a changed visual perception that causes you to hallucinate and see images that aren’t actually there. HPPD can also lead to you experiencing intense flashbacks, as well as other psychological alterations. Said flashbacks can cause you to hallucinate for long periods and have difficulty differentiating between what’s real and what isn’t.
People who suffer from persistent psychosis due to abuse of hallucinogens can also experience visual disturbances. There can be further complications such as paranoia, disorganised thinking and troubling mood shifts.
Aside from HPPD and persistent psychosis, the following might also be experienced as a psychological symptom of hallucinogen withdrawal:
- Feelings of rage
- Anxiety disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Low impulse control
- Severe mood swings
- Panic episodes
- Speech difficulties
Psychological withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and severity, depending on the type of hallucinogen abused. Regardless how severe your case might be, there are addiction centres that can keep you safe and help effectively manage the strains of withdrawal with expert assistance. A variety of drug rehabilitation programmes are available, and clinics offer assistance that’s best suited to your needs.
Long-term hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms
If not professionally managed, the withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping hallucinogens usage can be far-reaching. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that in circumstances where individuals have abused hallucinogens for a long time, they may suffer from extensive brain damage, which may linger for years after the abuser has stopped using the drug.
In some scenarios, a hallucinogen abuser might develop HPPD, which can lead to long-term residual hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms, which can go on for years– even after the use of hallucinogens has stopped. Symptoms of HPPD include:
- Episodes of hallucinations and random flashbacks
- Schizophrenia-like symptoms
Because the above symptoms are quite complicated, they can severely impair a recovering hallucinogen abuser’s ability to cope with everyday life. With proper management and professional guidance from specialists, a full and healthy recovery is certainly possible.
How to ease hallucinogen addiction withdrawal symptoms?
Hallucinogen addiction withdrawal symptoms can be quite uncomfortable if not properly managed by qualified individuals in the right setting. To make overcoming addiction and its withdrawal symptoms as easy as possible, it is highly recommended that you put yourself in the care of experts who have the tools and competence to keep you safe and comfortable throughout the duration of your withdrawal process.
If you are using hallucinogens such as LSD, it might be possible to quit the drug safely without worrying about physical withdrawal symptoms. Regardless what sort of hallucinogen you’re using, psychological symptoms are still something you have to worry about, as you have to overcome your mental dependence on the abused drug.
Activities such as professional counselling, support and therapy can all help with easing the trauma of overcoming the withdrawal symptoms of hallucinogens. There are options concerning rehabilitation centres that provide such supportive care and easy access to therapy that will assist you in getting past the withdrawal stage.
For people who experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as panic attacks or a ‘bad trip’, being alone or far from professional care can be quite dangerous. If medical help is close at hand in such situations, you can be administered a fast-acting benzodiazepine, like Triazolam or Diazepam, to calm you down. In other scenarios, different treatment such as the use of an antipsychotic tranquiliser like Thorazine might be needed to ease the withdrawal symptoms by lessening the intensity of the adverse reaction.
Can hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms be fatal?
There are various types of hallucinogens available and the potency and effect of each one vary. The more powerful the drug is (and the more intense its effects), the more dangerous it likely is if overly abused or if the user has an adverse reaction to it.
How intense the withdrawal symptoms of a hallucinogen will be is strongly dependent on the potency of the drug itself, how long it has been abused for, and the physiology of the abuser. In most cases, hallucinogenic drugs are not associated with fatal withdrawal symptoms.
Physical withdrawal symptoms you might experience from quitting hallucinogens can include increased body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate. However, while these symptoms might not be immediately life-threatening, it doesn’t make the use of hallucinogenic drugs any less dangerous. This is because when you take hallucinogens, you have very little control of your faculties and this can lead you to engage in dangerous behaviours, such as making bad decisions, acting violently or unpredictably. This is even more pronounced if you are experiencing a hallucination.
Other physical withdrawal symptoms can include:
- loss of appetite
- dry mouth
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Hallucinogen Withdrawal Timeline
Hallucinogen withdrawal symptoms can affect the functionality of both your body and mind. Because they aren’t that common, what you’re most likely to experience are behaviour-based withdrawal symptoms. According to Bryn Mawr College, such symptoms might impair your brain’s cognitive and emotion-based functions for the duration of the withdrawal.
Commonly experienced behavior-based withdrawal symptoms include:
- speech difficulties
- panic attacks
- violent tendencies
- psychotic-like behaviour displays
- extreme and frequent mood swings
The effects of withdrawal symptoms can make it very difficult to perform everyday activities or even cope with normal situations while the effects last. For chronic hallucinogen abusers, symptoms can last months – and in some unusual cases, years– if not properly managed by a qualified medical professional. That’s why it’s best to contact an addiction helpline for professional treatment when you’re ready to kick an addiction habit.
What determines the intensity and duration of a withdrawal period is often the potency of the drug, how long it has been used for, the frequency of usage and dosage amounts, as well as the physiology of the abuser. Certain specific drugs also have well-understood timelines for withdrawal completion, while others don’t. For example, hallucinogens like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) have no recorded withdrawal timeline profile. LSD is similar in nature to mescaline, psilocybin, and PCP. Its effects when consumed are known to include psychedelic experience and alterations of mood, such as triggering a sense of wellbeing or euphoria. Users can also encounter a ‘bad trip’, in which case they might experience negative emotions such as anxiety, hysteriaor hopelessness.
For other hallucinogenic drugs such as MDMA, there is a better-understood withdrawal timeline. A breakdown of the timeline for MDMA withdrawal is:
- Days 1-3: Signs if withdrawal will begin to manifest within a couple of days of quitting. Withdrawal symptoms at this stage can include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, paranoia, depression, loss of appetite, fatigue, and inability to concentrate. Said symptoms can appear quickly and can be quite intense.
- Days 4-10: Typically, withdrawal symptoms should last for about a week and gradually lessen as time passes. Symptoms such as cravings, depression, insomnia, as well as problems with concentration and memory can continue for a while after.
- Days 11+: After the first week and beyond, depression might remain intense, as your brain chemistry tries to readjust to no longer being influenced by substance abuse. You might still struggle with insomnia, cravings for drugs, concentration, and memory problems, but these problems will fade with time, as long as you remain committed and do not relapse.
At times, it can take months to become completely free of the influences of drug abuse. There are services that can recommend a rehabilitation programme and support group that will keep you strong and dedicated throughout the experience.
Hallucinogen Withdrawal Remedies
Medical treatment for hallucinogen withdrawal or intoxication involves treating psychosis and stabilising physiological processes. This is because the situation might require sedation in order to prevent injuries during possible episodes of violent or hostile behaviour while withdrawing.
Aside from the likelihood of self-harm, a person undergoing withdrawal might also have their wellbeing seriously jeopardised when they experience other symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and flashbacks. Psychological symptoms which can lead to mental and behavioural disorders can cause such a patient to feel stressed, overwhelmed, and even frightened. Letting such psychological symptoms go untreated is highly risky and can lead to a serious relapse and the patient becoming addicted to other drugs. This is why checking into a professional addiction treatment facility is likely the best choice when fighting addiction. It will ensure your quality of life after withdrawal isn’t compromised and that long-term psychological consequences are well avoided.
A professional addiction treatment programme can provide the following treatment to help get past withdrawal and successfully quit hallucinogens:
- Withdrawal assistance treatment
- Support groups
- Psychological treatment
- Family therapy and counselling
- Behavioural modification
- Aftercare programmes
Hallucinogen Detox Treatment
Many people think that once the process of detoxification is over, a person has become addiction-free, but this is not true. The detox treatment might be a very important step in overcoming substance addiction, but it is by no means the only or final step.
Follow-up therapy must also be provided after detoxification to help you come to terms with you new life, as well as help avoid a relapse.
The length of a detox programme is often dependent on a variety of factors, including:
- how long you’ve been addicted to hallucinogens and what specific hallucinogen you were abusing
- your age and general health
- any prescribed medication you might be taking for health reasons
- your current mental health
Once you’ve been properly diagnosed by a specialist, a detox regime that best suits your condition will be drawn up to provide the care you need. During the detox process, your progress will be closely monitored by your assigned caregiver. As things change, your detox regime will be reviewed as necessary, and your safety and wellbeing will be made paramount at all times. Healthy eating and lots of rest will also be adhered to during this period.
While going through detox, you might feel under pressure and in bad health, but remember it’s worth it and that all uncomfortable symptoms are temporary and will pass. A full rehabilitation programme will provide the tools to help cope with detox, as well as avoid a relapse. By seeing detox and rehab through to the very end, you can finally go back to having control over your life and accomplishing your dreams.
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How can supervised detox help?
Regardless the level of your addiction, supervised detoxification is the best way forward. However, if your dependence is an especially powerful one, you should never consider anything less than medically supervised detoxification at a reputable establishment. This is because such an establishment will have all the necessary equipment to safely rid your body of all harmful toxins. The experts on hand can also respond as required and promptly in the event that there are any complications during detox.
To make the detox process as smooth as possible, your caregiver might treat you with benzodiazepines to help manage your insomnia, anxiety, and seizures brought on by the toxins leaving your system. If you were to try detoxing yourself, you wouldn’t have access to such treatment, which can make for a very difficult recovery. Accessing medications off the black market is by no means a substitute to supervised medical detox.
The Detox Process
For the purpose of detox to be fully accomplished, the right process needs to be followed and the necessary treatment provided. Some of the steps you can expect to go through during your journey through detoxification include:
Step 1: Intake
This is also referred to as the admission process. It’s a pretty straightforward process which guarantees that not only are you being entered into the right treatment clinic, but you’ve also been prescribed the most suitable course of treatment. The intake process will consist of the following steps:
- Assessment: This involves understanding your specific condition and needs in order to facilitate recommendation of suitable treatment clinics and a plan of treatment.
- Choosing your addiction rehab clinic: This involves setting a date for your admission to the clinic.
- Reserving a place: Your space at the chosen detox clinic will be reserved, pending your arrival.
- Arriving at the rehab clinic: Upon your arrival at the treatment clinic, you’ll be welcomed by an admissions team, who will book you in and provide all the information you need concerning your stay at the facility.
- Doctor’s assessment: A full assessment of mental and physical health will be carried out. This will require you to also provide information about any prescription or over the counter medication you might be taking. During this step, it is very important that you provide honest and accurate information.
Step 2: Detox
The detox step is crucial and unavoidable if you are truly committed to breaking free of your addiction to hallucinogens. Detoxing can be an unpleasant experience, but when it’s done under the watchful eye of professionals, it can be far more comfortable than trying to do it on your own. Without detox, psychological treatment cannot be of maximum benefit.
A detox plan that best suits your circumstances will be written up for you and substitute medication might be prescribed to help you get through addiction more smoothly.
Step 3: Rehab
Once detox has been successfully completed, the next step is rehab. Rehabilitation is often mistakenly interchanged with detoxification, but they are both quite different.
Rehab comes after a detox or once your system has been cleared of all hallucinogen related toxins. The process of rehabilitation is therapeutic and aimed at treating the psychological effects of addiction. Without rehabilitation, the chances of a relapse are very high.
Everyone is different and will therefore likely need a different level of care. The right rehab programme to help a particular individual is dependent on their needs. Commonly used rehab programmes include:
- Residential rehab programmes. These are intensive treatment programmes that require patients to remain in the facility full-time, until the completion of rehab.
- Halfway houses or sober living houses. This is similar to Residential rehab programmes, but patients in this scenario are offered far more freedom.
- Outpatient treatment. This allows patients to come to the facility from home for rehab activities.
- Community-based programmes. Instead of receiving treatment at a formal facility, these programmes are delivered amongst a community of people facing the same issue. It is mostly supportive and follows the model of the 12-step treatment programme, often used by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Your rehabilitation process will be constantly evolving to help you get a better grasp on your new found life. If you prefer, rehab doesn’t have to end when addiction treatment is over and can continue for as long as you need it.
Step 4: Aftercare
Aftercare is not a mandatory treatment but is highly recommended. Aftercare counselling sessions will help you stay on track once addiction rehab treatment is over. With aftercare, your recovery will be more secure and your chances of relapse greatly lessened. This is thanks to the assistance and support you’ll receive about relapse prevention and also the help that will be provided to assist in implementing (into your daily life) things you learnt at rehab. The process of aftercare is simply designed to help structure your days and keep you focused on recovery. How long aftercare lasts is completely up to you, as it is completely voluntary.
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Risks of continued use after detox
Doing detox on your own isn’t fine, because important medical and psychological aspects of your recovery will not be attended to. One of the greatest risks of an ineffective detox is the high likelihood of a relapse.
Relapsing after undergoing detox can lead to a variety of complications – the most dangerous being the high risk of an overdose. An overdose in such a situation will be caused by the fact that the detoxification has reduced your tolerance for hallucinogens. Unaware of this fact, you could consume a dose that you could process before going for detox, but are now unable to handle. An overdose can lead to a variety of health complications and in the worst case scenarios, could be fatal.
Finding a hallucinogen treatment programme
You can access to interventionists and healthcare professionals, both in the private and public sector, and can put yourself in touch with any of them, the moment you need their services. Certain services also have contacts with some of the best addiction rehab and detox clinics around the world and can facilitate your admission into anyone that’s best suited for your needs.
The goal is to not just help you find the nearest rehab but to also provide much-needed support before, during and after your treatment. With the right help, the road to addiction recovery doesn’t have to be a lonely or unnecessarily difficult one.
The Bottom Line: You Can Beat Hallucinogen Addiction
Hallucinogen addiction can be beaten –just like any other addiction. You just need to be committed to taking back control of your life and turning things around for the better. There are services that are ready to help you accomplish all this and more, with all the professional advice you need. A variety of experts can provide professional guidance and support that will ensure your road to addiction recovery is as smooth, safe, and healthy as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the use of hallucinogens result in drug dependence?
The use of hallucinogens chemically alters the functioning of your brain and leads to your physiology becoming dependent on the drug. This leads to your brain believing that it requires the consumption of hallucinogens to function. This, in turn, leads to physical and psychological cravings whenever a significant amount of time passes before you consume a fresh dose.
Abusing hallucinogens increases the activity of neurotransmitters in your brain, especially those connected with your feelings of happiness and love. Each time you use the drug, you can experience euphoric highs and positive emotions, but substance dependence will develop when your body becomes reliant on the use of hallucinogens to stimulate your neurotransmitters. Failure to use the drug after you have developed a dependency means your body will not be able to achieve the same level of satisfaction you had before becoming addicted. This will trigger cravings followed by feelings of anxiety, depression, agitation, paranoia, as well as other negative effects.
How can I make hallucinogen withdrawal easier to handle?
The best way to ease the effects of hallucinogen withdrawal is to put yourself in the care of a reliable rehabilitation programme. By doing this, you are assured medically assisted (or medically supervised) detoxification from medical and mental health professionals. Not only is this much safer than trying to detox yourself, it is also much more effective and guarantees you’ll enjoy better comfort during the detoxification process.
Where can I turn for help with a hallucinogen addiction?
If you are suffering from hallucinogen addiction and would like to take back control of your life, give a reliable helpline a call. The leading helplines can provide professional advice concerning a range of treatments. They can also offer bespoke treatment options and put you in touch with some of the best addiction rehab centres in your area.
Who can I talk to if I don’t trust my family?
If you are not comfortable about discussing your addiction with your family, you can talk to advisers and helpline counsellors. They have years of experience working with people and actually helping them beat their addiction. If you prefer, certain referral services can also handle your case discreetly and be there to support you whenever you need any assistance with your addiction programme.
Do I risk a relapse?
Every recovering addict risks a relapse. This is especially so if you keep exposing yourself to triggers that can lead to your craving hallucinogens again. To help you stay strong and focused on recovery, it is recommended that you access quality aftercare, as well as being part of a support group, such as the Narcotics Association. This will help you stay focused on recovery and also enlighten you on how you can avoid stressors, triggers, and other temptations that might lead you to relapse.
Is withdrawal dangerous?
Withdrawal is only dangerous if not supervised by a professional or if you try to do it yourself. This is why you should consider getting a medically supervised detox and rehab that will monitor and manage both the psychological and physical aspects of your withdrawal. This way the process of your withdrawal be better managed and more convenient.
What signals a user’s dependence on a hallucinogen?
When dependence or an addiction to hallucinogens develops, the following symptoms usually become apparent:
- Changes in the perception of time and environment
- High body temperature
- Wild mood swings
- Memory loss
- Pupil dilation
- Inability to discern reality from fantasy
- Diminished ability to learn new concepts
- Nausea and vomiting
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