NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
Find NIDA for Teens on: NIDAnews on Twitter NIDANIH on YouTube Facebook NIDA-NIH on Flickr Sara Bellum Blog RSS
  • Hallucinogens cause people to experience—you guessed it—hallucinations, imagined experiences that seem real.

  • Activity Two


    The student will learn that hallucinogens cause other sensory misperceptions.

  • Provides basic facts about hallucinogens (LSD, peyote, psilocybin, and PCP) including how they are abused, how they affect the brain, other health effects, and treatment options.

  • 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.

  • Activity Three


    The student will learn vocabulary and facts associated with hallucinogens.


    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


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Offers an overview of salvia, an herb common to southern Mexico, Central, and South America. Discusses potential health and behavioral effects resulting from its abuse.

  • Activity One


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

  • Offers the latest research findings on hallucinogens and dissociative drugs, describing what they are, how they are abused, and basic facts about different drugs within this classification of drugs.