• Hallucinogens cause people to experience—you guessed it—hallucinations, imagined experiences that seem real.

  • Activity Two

    Objective

    The student will learn that hallucinogens cause other sensory misperceptions.

    Activity

    Fill one bowl with warm water, another with cold water, and a third with water at room temperature. First, have the students place the fingers of one hand in the warm water. Wait 60 seconds. Then have them place their fingers in the room temperature water and describe the temperature of the water (feels cool). Then have the students place their fingers of the other hand in the cold water. Wait 60 seconds. Then have them place their fingers in the room temperature water and describe the temperature of the water (feels hot). Remind students that hallucinogens can affect the way we perceive reality.

  • What are hallucinogens?

    Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions), thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be human-made. People have used hallucinogens for centuries, mostly for religious rituals. Common hallucinogens include the following:

    Blotter sheet of LSD-soaked paper squares that users take by mouthPhoto by DEA
    Blotter sheet of LSD-soaked paper squares that users take by mouth
    • Ayahuasca is a tea made from one of several Amazonian plants containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the primary mind-altering ingredient. Ayahuasca is also known as Hoasca, Aya, and Yagé.
    • DMT is a powerful chemical found in some Amazonian plants. Manufacturers can also make DMT in a lab. The drug is usually a white crystalline powder. A popular name for DMT is Dimitri.
    • D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is one of the most powerful mood-changing chemicals. It is a clear or white odorless material made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. LSD has many other names, including Acid, Blotter, Dots, and Yellow Sunshine.
    • Peyote (mescaline) is a small, spineless cactus with mescaline as its main ingredient. Peyote can also be synthetic. Buttons, Cactus, and Mesc are common names for peyote.
    • 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (psilocybin) comes from certain types of mushrooms found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. Other names for psilocybin include Little Smoke, Magic Mushrooms, Purple Passion, and Shrooms.

    Some hallucinogens also cause users to feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment. Common examples include the following:

    Ketamine in white powder form.Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CC0
    Ketamine
    • Dextromethorphan (DXM) is a cough suppressant and mucus-clearing ingredient in some over-the-counter cold and cough medicines (syrups, tablets, and gel capsules). Robo is another popular name for DXM.
    • Ketamine is used as a surgery anesthetic for humans and animals. Much of the ketamine sold on the streets comes from veterinary offices. While available as an injectable liquid, manufacturers mostly sell it as a powder or as pills. Other names for ketamine include K, Special K, or Cat Valium.
    • Phencyclidine (PCP) was developed in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery. It’s no longer used for this purpose due to serious side effects. While PCP can be found in a variety of forms, including tablets or capsules, liquid and white crystal powder are the most common forms. PCP has various other names, such as Angel Dust, Hog, Love Boat, and Peace Pill.
    • Salvia divinorum (salvia) is a plant common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. Other names for salvia are Diviner's Sage, Maria Pastora, Sally-D, and Magic Mint.
    Salvia plant.Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CC0
    Salvia

    How do people use hallucinogens?

    People use hallucinogens in a wide variety of ways, as shown in the following chart:

    How do hallucinogens affect the brain?

    Research suggests that hallucinogens work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between brain chemical systems throughout the brain and spinal cord. Some hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates:

    • mood
    • sensory perception
    • sleep
    • hunger
    • body temperature
    • sexual behavior
    • muscle control

    Other hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical glutamate, which regulates:

    • pain perception
    • responses to the environment
    • emotion
    • learning and memory

    Short-Term Effects

    The effects of hallucinogens can begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 6 to 12 hours. Salvia's effects are more short-lived, appearing in less than 1 minute and lasting less than 30 minutes. Hallucinogen users refer to the experiences brought on by these drugs as "trips," calling the unpleasant experiences "bad trips."

    Along with hallucinations, other short-term general effects include:

    • increased heart rate
    • nausea
    • intensified feelings and sensory experiences
    • changes in sense of time (for example, time passing by slowly)

    Specific short-term effects of some hallucinogens include:

    • increased blood pressure, breathing rate, or body temperature
    • loss of appetite
    • dry mouth
    • sleep problems
    • mixed senses (such as "seeing" sounds or "hearing" colors)
    • spiritual experiences
    • feelings of relaxation or detachment from self/environment
    • uncoordinated movements
    • excessive sweating
    • panic
    • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
    • psychosis—disordered thinking detached from reality

    Long-Term Effects

    Little is known about the long-term effects of hallucinogens. Researchers do know that ketamine users may develop symptoms that include ulcers in the bladder, kidney problems, and poor memory. Repeated use of PCP can result in long-term effects that may continue for a year or more after use stops, such as:

    • speech problems
    • memory loss
    • weight loss
    • anxiety
    • depression and suicidal thoughts
    A distorted view of a car driving on the road.Hallucinogens can cause severe visual disturbances.
    Photo by Steve Johnson/CC BY/

    Though rare, long-term effects of some hallucinogens include the following:

    • Persistent psychosis—a series of continuing mental problems, including:
      • visual disturbances
      • disorganized thinking
      • paranoia
      • mood changes
    • Flashbacks—recurrences of certain drug experiences. They often happen without warning and may occur within a few days or more than a year after drug use. In some users, flashbacks can persist and affect daily functioning, a condition known as hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD). These people continue to have hallucinations and other visual disturbances, such as seeing trails attached to moving objects.
    • Symptoms that are sometimes mistaken for other disorders, such as stroke or a brain tumor

    What are other risks of hallucinogens?

    Other risks or health effects of many hallucinogens remain unclear and need more research. Known risks include the following:

    • Some psilocybin users risk poisoning and possibly death from using a poisonous mushroom by mistake.
    • High doses of PCP can cause seizures, coma, and death, though death more often results from accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication. Interactions between PCP and depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines (prescribed to relieve anxiety or promote sleep—alprazolam [Xanax®], for instance) can also lead to coma.
    • Some bizarre behaviors resulting from hallucinogens that users display in public places may prompt public health or law enforcement personnel intervention.
    • While hallucinogens' effects on the developing fetus are unknown, researchers do know that mescaline in peyote may affect the fetus of a pregnant woman using the drug.

    Are hallucinogens addictive?

    Evidence indicates that certain hallucinogens can be addictive or that people can develop a tolerance to them. Use of some hallucinogens also produces tolerance to other similar drugs.

    For example, LSD is not considered an addictive drug because it doesn't cause uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior. However, LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take higher doses to achieve the same effect. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug. In addition, LSD produces tolerance to other hallucinogens, including psilocybin.

    On the other hand, PCP is a hallucinogen that can be addictive. People who stop repeated use of PCP experience drug cravings, headaches, and sweating as common withdrawal symptoms.

    Scientists need more research into the tolerance or addiction potential of hallucinogens.

    How can people get treatment for addiction to hallucinogens?

    There are no government-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. While inpatient and/or behavioral treatments can be helpful for patients with a variety of addictions, scientists need more research to find out if behavioral therapies are effective for addiction to hallucinogens.

    Points to Remember

    • Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception, thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Some hallucinogens also cause users to feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment.
    • People use hallucinogens in a wide variety of ways, including smoking, snorting, and absorbing through the lining in the mouth.
    • Hallucinogens interfere with actions of brain chemicals responsible for functions that include:
      • mood
      • sensory perception
      • sleep
      • body temperature
      • muscle control
      • pain perception
      • memory
    • The effects of hallucinogens can begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 6 to 12 hours.
    • Along with hallucinations, other short-term general effects of hallucinogens include:
      • increased heart rate
      • nausea
      • intensified feelings and sensory experiences
      • changes in sense of time
    • Persistent psychosis and flashbacks are two long-term effects associated with some hallucinogens.
    • Evidence indicates that certain hallucinogens can be addictive or that people can develop a tolerance to them.
    • There are no government-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. Scientists need more research to find out if behavioral therapies are effective for addiction to hallucinogens.

    Learn More

    For more information about hallucinogens, please visit:

    www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/hallucinogens

    www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts

    [copyright /]

  • Hi, my name’s Sara Bellum. Welcome to my magazine series exploring the brain’s response to drugs. In this issue, we’ll investigate the fascinating facts about hallucinogens.

    Hallucinogens cause people to experience—you guessed it—hallucinations, imagined experiences that seem real.

    The word “hallucinate” comes from Latin words meaning “to wander in the mind.” No wonder some people refer to hallucinating as “tripping.”

    The “trips” caused by hallucinogens can last for hours. Parts of these trips can feel really good, and other parts can feel really terrible.

    Hallucinogens powerfully affect the brain, distorting the way our five senses work and changing our impressions of time and space. When people use these drugs a lot they may have a hard time concentrating, communicating, or telling the difference between reality and illusion.

  • Activity Three

    Objective

    The student will learn vocabulary and facts associated with hallucinogens.

    Activity

    Instruct the students to complete the Hallucinogens Word Puzzle (below). The puzzle and solution to the puzzle are included in the guide.

    Word Puzzle

    Blank word puzzle

     

    Word Puzzle Answers

    Word puzzle with answers

  • Explains to young teens how hallucinogens affect the brain’s communication centers as well as its ability to control sleep and emotions.

  • Some hallucinogens can be found in plants. Mescaline comes from a cactus called peyote. And certain mushrooms, also known as “magic” mushrooms, are hallucinogens.

    But many hallucinogens are chemicals that don’t occur in nature. Some examples are:

    • LSD, also called acid
    • MDA, also called the “love drug,” related to the stimulant amphetamine
    • MDMA, known as ecstasy, also related to amphetamine
    • PCP, often called angel dust
  • Los alucinógenos hacen que las personas tengan—¡lo adivinaste!—alucinaciones. Las alucinaciones son experiencias imaginadas que parecen ser reales.

  • Your brain controls all of your perceptions—the way you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. How does your brain communicate with the rest of your body? Chemical messengers transmit information from nerve cell to nerve cell in the body and the brain. Messages are constantly being sent back and forth with amazing speed.

    Your nerve cells are called neurons, and their chemical messengers are called neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitters attach to special places on nerve cells (called receptors), they cause changes in the nerve cells.

    This communication system can be disrupted by chemicals like hallucinogens, and the results are changes in the way you sense the world around you.

  • Clara Mente explorando peyotes desde un avión

    Me llamo Clara Mente y quiero darles la bienvenida a mi serie de boletines informativos que exploran la respuesta del cerebro a las drogas. En este ejemplar, investigaremos varios datos fascinantes sobre los alucinógenos. Alguna de esta información fue descubierta recientemente por los científicos que lideran la investigación en este campo.

    Los alucinógenos hacen que las personas tengan –¡lo adivinaste!– alucinaciones. Las alucinaciones son experiencias imaginadas que parecen ser reales. La palabra "alucinar" viene de palabras en latín que significan "vagando por la mente".

    Con razón que algunas personas se refieren a tener alucinaciones como "tomar un viaje".

    Los "viajes" causados por los alucinógenos pueden durar varias horas. Partes de estos viajes pueden hacerte sentir muy bien y otras partes pueden hacerte sentir muy mal.

    Los alucinógenos afectan al cerebro de una manera muy poderosa, distorsionando la manera en que los cinco sentidos funcionan y cambiando nuestra percepción del tiempo y del espacio. Las personas que usan estas drogas a menudo pueden tener dificultad para concentrarse, comunicarse o para distinguir la diferencia entre la realidad y una ilusión.

  • MDMA and MDA cause neurons to release a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which can overactivate serotonin receptors. Serotonin is important to many types of nerve cells, including cells that receive sensory information and cells that control mood, sleep, and memory. Animal studies have taught us that MDMA and MDA can damage fibers from these nerve cells. And even though some of these fibers grow back, they don’t grow back normally. They can wind up in places where they don’t belong.

  • Un cacto alucinógeno

    Algunos alucinógenos se encuentran en las plantas. La mescalina viene de un cacto llamado peyote. Ciertos hongos, conocidos como hongos mágicos, son alucinógenos.

    Pero muchos de los alucinógenos son sustancias químicas que no se encuentran en la naturaleza. Algunos ejemplos incluyen:

    • La LSD, también conocida como ácido;
    • La MDA, una anfetamina que es un tipo de droga que investigo en más detalle en mi boletín informativo sobre estimulantes;
    • La MDMA, una anfetamina conocida como éxtasis; y
    • La PCP (fenciclidina), a menudo llamada polvo de ángel.
  • PCP prevents the actions normally caused when a neurotransmitter, called glutamate, attaches to its receptor in the brain. It also disrupts the actions of other neurotransmitters.

    This drug’s effects are very unpredictable. For example, it may make some people hallucinate and become aggressive, while others may become drowsy and passive. It is also addictive.

  • Una célula nerviosa

    Tu cerebro controla cómo percibes las cosas, es decir, cómo ves, oyes, hueles, saboreas y cómo sientes. ¿Cómo se comunica tu cerebro con el resto de tu cuerpo? Los mensajeros químicos transmiten información de una célula nerviosa a otra tanto en el cuerpo como en el cerebro. Estos mensajes son enviados constantemente de un lado a otro a una velocidad impresionante.

    Tus células nerviosas se llaman neuronas y sus mensajeros químicos se llaman neurotransmisores. Cuando los neurotransmisores se adhieren a lugares especiales en las neuronas (llamados receptores) causan cambios en estas neuronas.

    Este sistema de comunicación puede ser interrumpido por sustancias químicas como los alucinógenos y los resultados son cambios en la manera en que percibes el mundo a tu alrededor.

  • LSD causes its effects mainly by activating one type of receptor for serotonin. Because serotonin has a role in many important functions, LSD use can have many effects. These may include sleeplessness, trembling, and raised heart rate and blood pressure.

    LSD users may feel several emotions at once (including extreme terror), and their senses may seem to get crossed—giving the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds.

    Even a tiny speck of LSD can trigger these effects. And LSD has an unusual “echo”: many users have flashbacks—sudden repetitions of their LSD experiences—days or months after they stop using the drug.

    Have your perceptions been

    altered upside down

    Hallucinogens can change the way you see things. The experience is a little like looking at the optical illusion above.

  • Clara Mente reconectando las neuronas

    La MDMA y la MDA hacen que las neuronas liberen un neurotransmisor llamado serotonina. La serotonina es importante para muchos tipos de células nerviosas, incluyendo las células que reciben información sensorial y las células que controlan el sueño y las emociones. La serotonina que ha sido liberada puede sobreactivar los receptores de serotonina. En los animales se ha demostrado que la MDMA y la MDA dañan y destruyen las fibras nerviosas de aquellas neuronas que contienen serotonina. Esto puede ser un gran problema porque las neuronas que almacenan serotonina juegan un papel en varias cosas como en el estado de ánimo, el sueño y el control del ritmo cardiaco.

    Los científicos han descubierto recientemente que las neuronas con serotonina que han sido dañadas sí pueden hacer crecer sus fibras nuevamente, pero que éstas no vuelven a crecer normalmente. Es posible que las fibras vuelvan a crecer en áreas del cerebro donde normalmente no lo harían, mientras que no logran crecer en otras áreas del cerebro donde sí deberían encontrarse. Los nuevos patrones de crecimiento pueden causar cambios en el estado de ánimo, en el aprendizaje y en la memoria.

  • The truth is, there’s still a whole lot that scientists don’t know about the effects of hallucinogens on the brain. Maybe someday you’ll make the next big discovery.

    Until then, join me—Sara Bellum—in the other magazines in my series, as we explore how drugs affect the brain and nervous system.

    Mind Over Matter is produced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. These materials are in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission. Citation of the source is appreciated. NIH Publication No. 03-3858. Printed 1997. Reprinted 1998, 2000, 2003.

  • La PCP no deja que ocurran las acciones que normalmente toman lugar cuando un neurotransmisor llamado glutamato, se adhiere a su receptor en el cerebro. También interrumpe las acciones de otros neurotransmisores.

    Los efectos de esta droga son impredecibles. Por ejemplo, puede hacer que algunas personas tengan alucinaciones y se vuelvan agresivas, mientras que a otras les puede dar somnolencia y se vuelven pasivas. También causa adicción.

  • For teachers: Background information and classroom activities for use with the Hallucinogens Student Booklet.

    Hallucinogens are drugs which cause altered states of perception and feeling and which can produce flashbacks. They include natural substances, such as mescaline and psilocybin that come from plants (cactus and mushrooms), and chemically manufactured ones, such as LSD and MDMA (ecstasy). LSD is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. MDMA is a synthetic mind-altering drug with both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Although not a true hallucinogen in the pharmacological sense, PCP causes many of the same effects as hallucinogens and so is often included with this group of drugs. Hallucinogens have powerful mind-altering effects. They can change how the brain perceives time, everyday reality, and the surrounding environment. They affect regions and structures in the brain that are responsible for coordination, thought processes, hearing, and sight. They can cause people who use them to hear voices, see images, and feel sensations that do not exist. Researchers are not certain that brain chemistry permanently changes from hallucinogen use, but some people who use them appear to develop chronic mental disorders. PCP and MDMA can be addictive; whereas LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline are not.

    Research has provided many clues about how hallucinogens act in the brain to cause their powerful effects. However, because there are different types of hallucinogens and their effects are so widespread, there is still much that is unknown. The following paragraphs describe some of what is known about this diverse group of drugs.

  • Clara Mente sigue explorando

    La verdad es que todavía hay mucho que los científicos no saben sobre los efectos de los alucinógenos sobre el cerebro. Tal vez algún día tú serás quien logre el próximo gran descubrimiento.

    Hasta entonces, acompáñame en otros boletines informativos de mi serie, en los que exploramos cómo las drogas afectan al cerebro y al sistema nervioso.

    Explorando la Mente es una serie producida por el Instituto Nacional sobre el Abuso de Drogas (NIDA, por sus siglas en inglés), parte de los Institutos Nacionales de la Salud. Estos materiales son del dominio público y se pueden reproducir sin permiso. Se agradece citar la fuente.

    Publicación NIH No. 06-3858 (s). Impresa en el 2006.

    Instituto Nacional sobre el Abuso de Drogas
    Institutos Nacionales de la Salud
    Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de los EE.UU.

  • Mechanism of Action

    LSD binds to and activates a specific receptor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. Normally, serotonin binds to and activates its receptors and then is taken back up into the neuron that released it. In contrast, LSD binds very tightly to the serotonin receptor, causing a greater than normal activation of the receptor. Because serotonin has a role in many of the brain's functions, activation of its receptors by LSD produces widespread effects, including rapid emotional swings, and altered perceptions, and if taken in a large enough dose, delusions and visual hallucinations.

    MDMA, which is similar in structure to Methamphetamine and mescaline, causes serotonin to be released from neurons in greater amounts than normal. Once released, this serotonin can excessively activate serotonin receptors. Scientists have also shown that MDMA causes excess dopamine to be released from dopamine-containing neurons. Particularly alarming is research in animals that has demonstrated that MDMA can damage serotonin-containing neurons. MDMA can cause confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety.

    PCP, which is not a true hallucinogen, can affect many neurotransmitter systems. It interferes with the functioning of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is found in neurons throughout the brain. Like many other drugs, it also causes dopamine to be released from neurons into the synapse. At low to moderate doses, PCP causes altered perception of body image, but rarely produces visual hallucinations. PCP can also cause effects that mimic the primary symptoms of schizophrenia, such as delusions and mental turmoil. People who use PCP for long periods of time have memory loss and speech difficulties.

    The following activities, when used along with the magazine on hallucinogens, will help explain to students how these substances change the brain and the body.

  • What are hallucinogens?

    Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions), thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be human-made. People have used hallucinogens for centuries, mostly for religious rituals. Common hallucinogens include the following:

    Blotter sheet of LSD-soaked paper squares that users take by mouthPhoto by DEA
    Blotter sheet of LSD-soaked paper squares that users take by mouth
    • Ayahuasca is a tea made from one of several Amazonian plants containingdimethyltryptamine(DMT), the primary mind-altering ingredient. Ayahuasca is also known as Hoasca, Aya, and Yagé.
    • DMT is a powerful chemical found in some Amazonian plants. Manufacturers can also make DMT in a lab. The drug is usually a white crystalline powder. A popular name for DMT is Dimitri.
    • D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is one of the most powerful mood-changing chemicals. It is a clear or white odorless material made from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. LSD has many other names, including Acid, Blotter, Dots, and Yellow Sunshine.
    • Peyote (mescaline) is a small, spineless cactus with mescaline as its main ingredient. Peyote can also be synthetic. Buttons, Cactus, and Mesc are common names for peyote.
    • 4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine(psilocybin) comes from certain types of mushrooms found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. Other names for psilocybin include Little Smoke, Magic Mushrooms, Purple Passion, and Shrooms.

    Some hallucinogens also cause users to feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment. Common examples include the following:

    Ketamine in white powder form.Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CC0
    Ketamine
    • Dextromethorphan(DXM) is a cough suppressant and mucus-clearing ingredient in some over-the-counter cold and cough medicines (syrups, tablets, and gel capsules). Robo is another popular name for DXM.
    • Ketamine is used as a surgery anesthetic for humans and animals. Much of the ketamine sold on the streets comes from veterinary offices. While available as an injectable liquid, manufacturers mostly sell it as a powder or as pills. Other names for ketamine include K, Special K, or Cat Valium.
    • Phencyclidine (PCP) was developed in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery. It’s no longer used for this purpose due to serious side effects. While PCP can be found in a variety of forms, including tablets or capsules, liquid and white crystal powder are the most common forms. PCP has various other names, such as Angel Dust, Hog, Love Boat, and Peace Pill.
    • Salvia divinorum (salvia) is a plant common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. Other names for salvia are Diviner's Sage, Maria Pastora, Sally-D, and Magic Mint.
    Salvia plant.Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/CC0
    Salvia

    How do people use hallucinogens?

    People use hallucinogens in a wide variety of ways, as shown in the following chart:

    How do hallucinogens affect the brain?

    Research suggests that hallucinogens work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between brain chemical systems throughout the brain and spinal cord. Some hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates:

    • mood
    • sensory perception
    • sleep
    • hunger
    • body temperature
    • sexual behavior
    • muscle control

    Other hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical glutamate, which regulates:

    • pain perception
    • responses to the environment
    • emotion
    • learning and memory

    Short-Term Effects

    The effects of hallucinogens can begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 6 to 12 hours. Salvia's effects are more short-lived, appearing in less than 1 minute and lasting less than 30 minutes. Hallucinogen users refer to the experiences brought on by these drugs as "trips," calling the unpleasant experiences "bad trips."

    Along with hallucinations, other short-term general effects include:

    • increased heart rate
    • nausea
    • intensified feelings and sensory experiences
    • changes in sense of time (for example, time passing by slowly)

    Specific short-term effects of some hallucinogens include:

    • increased blood pressure, breathing rate, or body temperature
    • loss of appetite
    • dry mouth
    • sleep problems
    • mixed senses (such as "seeing" sounds or "hearing" colors)
    • spiritual experiences
    • feelings of relaxation or detachment from self/environment
    • uncoordinated movements
    • excessive sweating
    • panic
    • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
    • psychosis—disordered thinking detached from reality

    Long-Term Effects

    Little is known about the long-term effects of hallucinogens. Researchers do know that ketamine users may develop symptoms that include ulcers in the bladder, kidney problems, and poor memory. Repeated use of PCP can result in long-term effects that may continue for a year or more after use stops, such as:

    • speech problems
    • memory loss
    • weight loss
    • anxiety
    • depression and suicidal thoughts
    A distorted view of a car driving on the road.Hallucinogens can cause severe visual disturbances.
    Photo by Steve Johnson/CC BY/

    Though rare, long-term effects of some hallucinogens include the following:

    • Persistent psychosis—a series of continuing mental problems, including:
      • visual disturbances
      • disorganized thinking
      • paranoia
      • mood changes
    • Flashbacks—recurrences of certain drug experiences. They often happen without warning and may occur within a few days or more than a year after drug use. In some users, flashbacks can persist and affect daily functioning, a condition known as hallucinogen persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD). These people continue to have hallucinations and other visual disturbances, such as seeing trails attached to moving objects.
    • Symptoms that are sometimes mistaken for other disorders, such as stroke or a brain tumor

    What are other risks of hallucinogens?

    Other risks or health effects of many hallucinogens remain unclear and need more research. Known risks include the following:

    • Some psilocybin users risk poisoning and possibly death from using a poisonous mushroom by mistake.
    • High doses of PCP can cause seizures, coma, and death, though death more often results from accidental injury or suicide during PCP intoxication. Interactions between PCP and depressants such as alcohol and benzodiazepines (prescribed to relieve anxiety or promote sleep—alprazolam [Xanax®], for instance) can also lead to coma.
    • Some bizarre behaviors resulting from hallucinogens that users display in public places may prompt public health or law enforcement personnel intervention.
    • While hallucinogens' effects on the developing fetus are unknown, researchers do know that mescaline in peyote may affect the fetus of a pregnant woman using the drug.

    Are hallucinogens addictive?

    Evidence indicates that certain hallucinogens can be addictive or that people can develop a tolerance to them. Use of some hallucinogens also produces tolerance to other similar drugs.

    For example, LSD is not considered an addictive drug because it doesn't cause uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior. However, LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take higher doses to achieve the same effect. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug. In addition, LSD produces tolerance to other hallucinogens, including psilocybin.

    On the other hand, PCP is a hallucinogen that can be addictive. People who stop repeated use of PCP experience drug cravings, headaches, and sweating as common withdrawal symptoms.

    Scientists need more research into the tolerance or addiction potential of hallucinogens.

    How can people get treatment for addiction to hallucinogens?

    There are no government-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. While inpatient and/or behavioral treatments can be helpful for patients with a variety of addictions, scientists need more research to find out if behavioral therapies are effective for addiction to hallucinogens.

    Points to Remember

    • Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception, thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Some hallucinogens also cause users to feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment.
    • People use hallucinogens in a wide variety of ways, including smoking, snorting, and absorbing through the lining in the mouth.
    • Hallucinogens interfere with actions of brain chemicals responsible for functions that include:
      • mood
      • sensory perception
      • sleep
      • body temperature
      • muscle control
      • pain perception
      • memory
    • The effects of hallucinogens can begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 6 to 12 hours.
    • Along with hallucinations, other short-term general effects of hallucinogens include:
      • increased heart rate
      • nausea
      • intensified feelings and sensory experiences
      • changes in sense of time
    • Persistent psychosis and flashbacks are two long-term effects associated with some hallucinogens.
    • Evidence indicates that certain hallucinogens can be addictive or that people can develop a tolerance to them.
    • There are no government-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. Scientists need more research to find out if behavioral therapies are effective for addiction to hallucinogens.

    Learn More

    For more information about hallucinogens, please visit:

    www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/hallucinogens

    www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/commonly-abused-drugs-charts

    This publication is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated, using the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Activity One

    Objective

    The student will learn how hallucinogens cause visual misperception and hallucinations.

    Activity

    Have students draw a bull's-eye onto a sheet of unruled white paper. Make a small "X" at the center of another sheet of paper. Now, have the students stare at the bull's-eye for about 20 seconds and then quickly shift their focus to the "X". Students will find that an after-image of the bull's-eye will appear. Explain that after-images are a class of optical illusions, which have some similarity to hallucinations. Have students search the Internet and other sources for information about drug-induced hallucinations and prepare a report summarizing their findings.

  • All materials appearing in the ​Research Reports series are in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission from NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated.