Drug and Alcohol

Hallucinogenic Drug Addiction: Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogen Abuse

What Are The Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogen Abuse?

Hallucinogenic drugs may or may not be addictive, but they have some harmful long-term consequences. Learn more in our blog!

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

March 2, 2023

Hallucinogens have long been used in different cultures as a part of attaining a higher level of spirituality. Still, hallucinogenic drugs can present a serious health threat.

These types of drugs change a person's perception of reality to the extent that the person becomes a danger to himself and to others. In recent years, hallucinogenic drugs have been termed "psychedelic drugs," a term that indicates that using these drugs helps the user feel and see things that aren't actually there.

Hallucinogens are strong enough to distort a person's interpretation, even when the drug hasn't been used recently—creating a surreal existence that does not allow the person to function normally in everyday situations at home or school. 

Read ahead to understand more about the long-term effects of hallucinogens and the type of side effects and withdrawal challenges associated with using hallucinogenic drugs. 

By the Numbers

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause changes in perception, mood, and thought. Commonly used hallucinogens include LSD, PCP, and MDMA (Ecstasy). These drugs can cause users to experience altered sensory perceptions, such as seeing, hearing, and feeling unreal things. Long-term use of hallucinogens may lead to addiction, mental health problems, and other serious physical health problems.

What Are Hallucinogenic Drugs?

Hallucinogenic drugs, like other addictive drugs, change a person's feelings and thoughts. This is different from drugs that bring about extreme relaxation or a high that creates a sudden bout of energy. Hallucinogens have often been regarded as mind-bending drugs. A more formal classification suggests that hallucinogenic drugs can be further split into two categories:

Invariably, all types of hallucinogens cause strange sensations or create hallucinating images. However, the dissociative class of hallucinogenic drugs can make the person disconnected from reality. This means the user can lose control over most voluntary actions, making it impossible to behave normally or be productive in any capacity. Among the many types of hallucinogens available today, the synthetic type presents a more significant addiction threat.

All Hallucinogenic Drugs Are Not the Same

Some hallucinogens are quick acting, and the effect sets in faster, while others take a lot longer to take effect. A person's entire experience upon using a hallucinogen is commonly referred to as tripping.

Many of the hallucinogens used today are manufactured. The most infamous of these is LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). Other hallucinogenic drugs that have developed a notorious reputation include PCP (aka angel dust) and ketamine. 

Hallucinogenic Drugs: A Short History

During the 1960s, hallucinogenic drugs started gaining popularity as a part of the counterculture. These drugs have persisted since then. Capable of altering an individual's perception of the real world, they still have some logical use as a part of medical therapies for people suffering from unbearable pain.

However, more dangerous side effects arise when hallucinogenic drugs are used without control. For recreational users, hallucinogenic addiction threatens their physical and mental health. To understand more about this, you must understand more about the short-term and long-term side effects of hallucinogenic drugs. 

It should be noted that hallucinogens that have been used traditionally, even in herbal medicine in some cases, were derived from plants. These hallucinogens were naturally occurring in some plants, and small concentrations were used to relax or relieve pain. From mushrooms to peyote cacti, many plants have a naturally hallucinogenic effect.

However, a drug is created when the plant extract is carefully gathered and processed repeatedly to produce a substance with a higher concentration of hallucinogenic compounds. For instance, psilocybin is found in mushrooms, but when a dried, higher concentration of such mushrooms is used, the hallucinogenic effect is dangerously enhanced. That is why magic mushrooms have become a common hallucinogenic substance of abuse.

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Common Hallucinogenic Drugs

  • Psilocybin: Psilocybin is naturally present in some mushrooms. These are not the usual type of mushrooms we eat as a pizza topping but drugs containing a psychoactive chemical. Such mushrooms are dried, processed, and consumed in high concentrations for a hallucinogenic effect.

  • Peyote: Peyote is a small cactus that does not look threatening. But mescaline is the main ingredient in this plant, and it has a hallucinogenic effect when used in high concentrations. Therefore, peyote is extracted from the plant and used as a hallucinogenic drug.

  • DMT: DMT, or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, is a potent biochemical that is found in plants. Small amounts of DMT are found in human spinal fluid and other tissues. Fast-acting with a short duration, and often very intense, DMT has been experimented with widely in recent decades.

  • LSD: LSD is considered one of the most powerful mind-altering chemical drugs on the streets. LSD is often consumed via blotter paper soaked in the substance.

  • 241-NBOMe: This is a very powerful, very dangerous, and toxic synthetic hallucinogenic drug. Sold illegally, it is also called the N-Bomb for its ability to overpower the mind with a single, strong dose.

Common Dissociative Hallucinogenic Drugs:

  • Ketamine: Ketamine is another hallucinogen extracted from surgery-scale anesthetics. A significant portion of the ketamine sold illegally is made from wrongfully sourced supplies for medical settings and veterinary units. This hallucinogen is commonly available as a powder or pill. Some people also use ketamine as an injected drug. Ketamine can also be snorted, and when drinks spiked with it are consumed, the person can easily lose composure or the ability to make a sensible decision—a reason why it gained the infamous tag of being a date rape drug. 

  • DXM: Dextromethorphan or DXM might have been intended as a cough medication, but its mucus-fighting compounds have a hallucinogenic effect and have been used to create a potent drug. DXM cough medication is available over the counter but can be dangerous to consume in large amounts. That's because these cough and cold medications often contain acetaminophen and other medications, which can cause organ damage in high amounts.

  • Salvia: Salvia is a plant-based hallucinogen used in Mexico and South America for many years. First, Salvia leaves were known to have a hallucinogenic effect. Now, the plant's extract has been processed into a drug. The extract can also be smoked or inhaled.

  • PCP: PCP or Phencyclidine is among the more classical hallucinogens that first gained attention during the 1950s. PCP is derived from the compound used to create the general anesthetic used in surgery. These days, PCP is available in various forms, from tablets to capsules, powder form, and liquid. 

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Some Short & Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs

Hallucinogenic drugs can make the person see images and hear sounds that don't exist in the surroundings. The user might feel strange sensations. Such effects are expected to begin within 30 to 90 minutes of hallucinogen use. Effects can last for almost a day in some cases.

The trip can be good or bad depending on how the person perceives an alternate reality. It should be noted that hallucinations are not always pleasant, and this is why some people talk about making bad trips after using a classic hallucinogen. Research studies over the years indicate that most classic hallucinogens affect the mind by partially disrupting communication between the brain's chemical systems and the spinal cord.

Such hallucinogenic drugs can interfere with the brain's ability to manage its serotonin levels. This can result in:

  • Mood swings

  • Altered sleeping patterns

  • Distorted sensory perception

  • Unusual hunger patterns

  • Altered body temperature

Short-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs

Specific short-term effects of hallucinogens include:

  • Panic and paranoia

  • Psychosis

  • Dryness of mouth

  • Sleeping problems

  • Excessive sweating

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Reduced appetite

  • Elevated breathing rate

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Fluctuating body temperature

  • Uncoordinated body movements

  • Intensified sensory perception, such as seeing color as being extremely bright

  • Loss of sense of time – unable to recall which time of the day or which day of the week

Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs

The long-term effects of hallucinogens are limited. Usually, the result is limited to a day or lesser, and highly long-lasting effects are rare. 

  • Sudden and extreme mood changes

  • Paranoid about the people around

  • Visually incoherent

  • Distorted thinking pattern

Short & Long-Term Effects of Dissociative Hallucinogenic Drugs 

Dissociative hallucinogenic drug symptoms appear quickly and last more than a few hours. The effects of such hallucinogenic drugs depend on how much of the substance was used. In addition, hallucinogenic dissociative medicines bring about a series of side effects by interfering with brain chemicals.

In low & moderate doses, dissociative drugs can cause short-term effects like:

  • Emotional numbness

  • Disorientation 

  • Fluctuating body temperature

  • Perception of pain or unpleasant feelings

  • Loss of coordination

  • Increase in blood pressure

  • Elevated heart rate

The long-term effects of dissociative hallucinogenic drugs are still being researched. Yes, hallucinogenic drugs like PCP can cause long-term addiction. Some expected long-term effects of these drugs, which can linger for months, include:

  • Slightly slurred speech

  • Loss of short-term memory

  • Unexplained anxiety

  • Depression 

  • Loss of weight due to reduced appetite

  • Suicidal thoughts

Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs: Continuing Psychosis

One of the most concerning long-term effects of hallucinogenic drugs is the occurrence of psychosis which often happens in people who have been using hallucinogenic drugs over a long period. Here, psychosis does not go away completely even after not using the drug for a few days. The person tends to suffer from a strong sense of detachment from reality. This can be worsened by accompanying symptoms like extreme mood swings. The person might develop unwarranted violent outbursts. Some people show a pattern of emotional outbursts which might seem uncalled for, and the hallucinations might seem as strong and vivid as reality.

In some hallucinogen drug users, there is a pattern of panic attacks that can seem as serious as a bout of paranoid schizophrenia. Here, the person suffers from vivid hallucinations along with getting delusional. The thinking is abrupt, and the abnormal behavior can threaten the people around. These hallucinogenic drug-induced episodes can last up to some months. Some people might suffer from hallucinations even after having undergone detox. 

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Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs: Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, or HPPD, is perhaps the least understood of all hallucinogen side effects. While people understand that using a hallucinogenic plant, shrub, or extract is bound to create some degree of hallucinations, most people don't realize that hallucinogenic drugs create an entirely different level of hallucinations, bordering on making the person look mentally unstable. For example, the person might show signs of talking when nobody is around, explain seeing halos, or might complain of objects moving in the room.

These are not short-lived visual disturbances but hallucinations so strong that the person might start suffering from anxiety or panic attacks due to seeing ghost images. Some lesser-pronounced HPPD symptoms include seeing flashes of light or seeing sparkling stars. The symptoms of HPPD don't tend to go away quickly after abstaining from using hallucinogenic drugs.

For the family, it might seem like the affected person has developed some neurological disorder. Here, the hallucinations can be as intense as they are for someone who has suffered a stroke or brain tumor. While the person might seem lost in a world of thoughts, the entire experience can be unnerving.

Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs: Amotivational Syndrome

Amotivational Syndrome is a lesser-understood effect of using hallucinogens for a long time. The person seems unusually demotivated, suffering from passivity toward everyday situations, and unable to take any interest in activities at home, school, or work. This usually develops into self-inflicted social withdrawal/isolation. 

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Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs Explained: Flashbacks

Flashbacks are among the more spoken-about long-term side effects associated with using potent hallucinogens over an extended period. For example, people experiencing personal trauma or an emotional low might recall the past more graphically when using hallucinogenic drugs.

This can also happen with people who have been victims of abuse, trauma, or PTSD. More importantly, the hallucinogen flashbacks can continue much longer after stopping the use of hallucinogens. Flashbacks caused by hallucinogens can also be induced by stress or extreme exertion. 

Hallucinogenic Drugs Interfering With Daily Life? The Edge Treatment Center Can Help

There's plenty of debate over whether or not hallucinogenic drugs are addictive. Addiction is more about harmful behavior patterns. If you're using hallucinogens as a way to avoid daily life, or if they're causing havoc with your relationships, job, or education, reach out to The Edge Treatment Center.

We'll help you leave hallucinogens behind. At our outpatient drug rehab, you'll learn healthy coping mechanisms and ways to move past challenges without relying on hallucinogens. For more information, contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

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