Hallucinogenic drugs or hallucinogens, as they are sometimes called, are drugs that effect users’ sensory perceptions. There are many drugs that fall into this broad category, but they are all characterized by their ability to change one’s subjective perception of reality. In the last 15 years, there has been a significant revival of interest in these drugs in particular amongst young Americans.
One contributing factor has been the rise in popularity of the “rave” culture in which participants use these drugs and dance parties to induce trance-like states of consciousness. Another major factor in the hallucinogenic drug craze has been increased access to information about such drugs on the Internet. The word “hallucinogen” is often used as a term to describe the following psychedelic drugs:
LSD (D-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)
LSD, commonly known as “acid”, is an extremely powerful psychoactive compound that is synthesized from ergot fungi. Even in small doses, LSD has intense effects on the user. LSD users typically experience vast distortions of their senses and “trips” on LSD usually result in intense periods of introspection and self-awareness for up to 12 hours.
Additionally, LSD produces intense visual effects such as “trails” or “tracers”, swimming points of light, luminous colors, and the appearance that textured surfaces are “breathing”. Because LSD in its pure form is very bitter, it is typically taken orally along with a substrate like a sugar cube, a geltab, or absorbent blotter paper. A fairly common occurrence with LSD users is the “bad trip” where the user has a frightening and often traumatic experience.
Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybe cubensis)
“Magic mushrooms”, also known as “shrooms”, are species of mushrooms that contain the chemical compounds psilocybin or psilocin. They are often grown in hydroponic conditions but they also grow wild on dung in cow pastures. These mushrooms are primarily eaten whole, either fresh or dried. They may also be taken by infusing them in water or juice or added to baked goods. The effects produced by mushrooms are similar to those produced by LSD.
Common effects are distortions in the way one sees and hears, light-headedness, and the feeling that one is having a spiritual awakening. Mushrooms also produce many side effects among frequent users such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, and anxiety. One of the great dangers of psilocybin mushrooms is their strong resemblance to poisonous mushrooms found growing in similar environments. Those who accidentally eat these poisonous mushrooms can experience permanent liver damage and in extreme cases, death.
Mescaline is a hallucinogenic drug that is either produced synthetically or extracted from the Peyote or San Pedro cactus plants. The tops of these cacti are cut into “buttons” and dried. These buttons are usually taken orally or are infused in water to create an intoxicating liquid. The effects of mescaline are intense and can often last from 12 to 24 hours. Such effects are similar to the previously mentioned hallucinogens and include altered states of consciousness and rich visual and auditory hallucinations.
Hallucinogenic drugs powerfully affect the brain, and prolonged use can severely affect users psychologically. People who abuse these drugs display many of the following side effects:
• Difficulty concentrating and communicating.
• Panic disorder.
• Unexpected repetitions of the hallucinogenic experience, or “flashbacks”.
• Inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.
• Paranoia or psychosis similar to schizophrenia.