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Different Types of Hallucinogenic Drugs

by
author image Dr. Tina M. St. John
Tina M. St. John runs a health communications and consulting firm. She is also an author and editor, and was formerly a senior medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. St. John holds an M.D. from Emory University School of Medicine.
Different Types of Hallucinogenic Drugs
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Overview

Hallucinogens are drugs taken recreationally to alter thoughts, perceptions and emotions. Hallucinogens, also known as dissociative drugs or psychedelics, produce visual, auditory and other sensory hallucinations -- experiences that are not real. Euphoria may occur, but these drugs also commonly cause agitation, confusion, anxiety, paranoia, delusions, loss of social inhibitions and wildly labile emotions. Large doses of hallucinogens can cause psychosis, ruptured brain blood vessels, brain damage, seizures, and potentially fatal respiratory and heart failure. According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 1.3 million Americans use hallucinogenic drugs.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, is a potent hallucinogenic drug. LSD produces effects primarily through interactions with serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that facilitates interactions between nerves causing varied effects in the brain and body. Physical effects of LSD include increased blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature, nausea, tremors and weakness. Sweating is typical along with dilation of the pupils. Psychic effects of LSD include distorted perceptions of distance and time, and visual, sound and touch-related hallucinations. Heightened emotions typically change frequently and abruptly. Paranoia, agitation, fear, anxiety and panic may occur. LSD can have long-term effects on the brain, including flashbacks that may interfere with daily functioning.

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Phencyclidine

Phencylidine, or PCP, was once used as an anesthetic. But this medical use was abandoned because of the disturbing mental effects of the drug. Physical effects of PCP may include nausea and vomiting, shallow breathing, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, blurred vision, sweating and drooling, dizziness, poor coordination, loss of balance and numbness. Mental and emotional effects of PCP include agitation, anxiety, aggression, paranoia, delusions, distortion of visual and auditory perceptions, irrational thinking and dissociation -- a sense of being detached or outside of yourself and your environment. The psychological state produced by PCP is similar to that of people with the mental disorder schizophrenia. Long-term use of PCP may cause depression, memory loss and abnormal speech and thought patterns.

Mescaline

Mescaline is a hallucinogenic chemical found in the peyote cactus. It can also be manufactured. Physical effects of mescaline include nausea, elevated body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, incoordination, tremors and weakness. The drug distorts thoughts, emotions and sensory perceptions. Euphoria may occur, but anxiety, agitation and intense fear are also possible. Flashbacks can occur in people who use mescaline.

Psilocybin

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance found in certain species of mushrooms. The effects of this drug are similar to LSD, although it is not as potent as LSD. Physical effects include weakness, incoordination, nausea and pupil dilation. Mental and emotional effects include euphoria, nervousness, anxiety, panic, terror, paranoia, delusions and sensory hallucinations. Long-term effects may occur with use of psilocybin, including memory disturbances and persistent flashbacks.

Other Hallucinogens

A number of other drugs and substances can have hallucinogenic and/or dissociative effects. Salvia divinorum, more commonly known as salvia, is an herb that produces short-term hallucinogenic effects. Ketamine, an anesthetic, is known to produce primarily a dissociative experience when used recreationally. "Designer" street drugs are synthetic chemicals produced for their psychoactive properties, some of them hallucinogenic. Examples include ecstasy/MDMA and K2, also known as "spice."

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