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Hallucinogens are a class of mind-altering drugs that can distort reality.

Hallucinations include images, sounds, or sensations that feel extremely real, but are not.

Many mind-altering drugs contain nitrogen, classifying them as alkaloids.

The chemical structure of these mind-altering drugs is similar to natural neurotransmitters, such as serotonin.

Hallucinogens can be lab-made, but they can also come from plants, mushrooms, or extracts from either one.

Typically there are two types of mind-altering drugs: classic and dissociative.

LSD is known as a classic hallucinogen, while PCP is known as a dissociative hallucinogen.

Both forms of these mind-altering drugs can cause intense highs and lows, resulting in mood swings, and the possibility of addiction.

Types of Mind-Altering Drugs

Although there are many forms of mind-altering drugs, there are a few that people abuse more than others.


Often called hoasca, aya, and yage, ayahuasca is brewed from plants containing DMT.

Typically found in regions of the Amazon, this drug is mixed in a tea to consume.


Dimethyltryptamine, the active ingredient in ayahuasca, is a natural chemical found in many plant species.

DMT can be found primarily in the Amazonian, but also chemically synthesized in a lab.

DMT usually comes as a white powder.

DMT is vaporized or smoked, either on top of marijuana or tobacco in a pipe or bong.


The chemical form being D-lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD is commonly known as acid.

LSD is a manmade chemical derived from ergot.

Ergot is a fungus that grows on certain grains.

LSD is known as the most powerful hallucinogen because it produces powerful hallucinations.

LSD changes the way that reality is perceived and completely alters moods.

You will often find LSD in a clear liquid, or on a sheet of paper, called a “tab.”

It can come in pill form, but more often comes in tabs.

Users will refer to taking acid as taking a “trip.”


Also known as “peyote,” mescaline is a natural substance found in the peyote cactus.

The top of the spineless peyote cactus plant has small button-like discs which contain mescaline.

Those buttons are dried out, and either chewed or brewed to make tea.

Chemical synthesis of mescaline is possible.

For many years it was used by indigenous people but now is known to be abused.


One of the most dangerous manmade substances on earth, PCP, was initially developed as an anesthetic.

PCP discontinued for human use in 1965 due to its intense side-effects.

Now, it is an illegal street drug sold in either liquid or powder form.

Similar to the methods of ingesting heroin, PCP can be snorted, injected, smoked, or swallowed.

PCP produces hallucinations as well as “out-of-body” sensations.

PCP can be life-threatening and can lead to serious mental problems.


Found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, psilocybin, and psilocin can produce a high.

In large doses, psilocybin can produce effects similar to LSD.

Known on the street as “shrooms,” these mushrooms are grown in cow manure and can be eaten fresh or dried.

They are normally mixed with fruit or made into a “shake.”

Can Hallucinogens Be Addictive?

It can be hard to answer the question “are hallucinogens addictive,” due to the lack of knowledge researchers have on them. There is evidence that suggests certain hallucinogens can be addictive based on the person using them. There is also evidence that suggests some people can develop a tolerance to specific hallucinogens as well.

LSD is not an addictive drug because it does not cause a withdrawal effect. LSD does produce tolerance, so those who take LSD will need to take more of the drug to reach the desired effect. The tolerance can be dangerous due to LSD being unpredictable, and dosages not being regulated. There is a similar case with psilocybin.

Effects of Mind-Altering Drugs

Scientists are not quite sure how hallucinogens and other mind-altering drugs produce their effects on the user. Classic hallucinogens might affect neural circuits in the brain due to their reaction to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Dissociative drugs cause their effects by disrupting the actions of the glutamate system.

Hallucinogens affect the parts of the brain that control mood, sensory perception, sleep, body temperature, sexual behavior, hunger, and muscle control.

Classic hallucinogens refer to LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT. These cause users to see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that are not real. These effects typically begin within 20 minutes to 1 and a half hours of ingesting.

LSD can last as long as 12 hours, while other mind-altering drugs can be as short as 15 minutes, such as DMT.

Long-Term Effects of Classic Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens can cause very intense or disturbing visuals. There are two main long-term effects of classic hallucinogens in prolonged and excessive use.

1. Persistent Psychosis: This is a series of continuing mental problems such as bad visuals, disorganized thinking, paranoia, and mood changes.

2. Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD): Also known as flashbacks, this happens when the recurrences of drug experiences come back suddenly. These can happen without warning and can occur even one year after use.

Often these conditions are found in people with a history of mental illness, but they can occur in anyone. Even if you have used mind-altering drugs one time, you are at risk for HPDD. Some antidepressant and antipsychotic medications are used to treat these conditions.

Short-Term Effects of Dissociative Mind-Altering Drugs

Dissociative mind-altering drugs refer to PCP. PCP can last up to 12 hours. The short term effects of PCP in low to moderate doses include:

  • Feeling numb
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Increase in heart rate

In high doses, short-term effects include:

  • Memory loss
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Amnesia
  • Feeling unable to move
  • Intense mood swings
  • Trouble breathing

In high doses, short-term effects include:

  • Memory loss
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Amnesia
  • Feeling unable to move
  • Intense mood swings
  • Trouble breathing

Long-Term Effects of Dissociative Mind-Altering Drugs

There has not been enough research to understand the long-term effects of dissociative mind-altering drugs. Researchers have discovered that repeated use of PCP results in addiction and other long-term effects can continue after a year of non-use. These might include:

  • Trouble speaking
  • Memory loss
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts

Mind-Altering Drugs and Mental Illness

Many mind-altering drugs stimulate, trigger, or worsen mental illness. Mind-altering substances can trigger psychosis or bring out anxiety, panic, and other mental health problems. It is very dangerous for anyone with a mental illness to use mind-altering drugs.

Treatment For Hallucinogen Addiction

As of the publication of this article, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens or mind-altering substances.

There are behavioral treatments, such as dialectical behavioral therapy, known as DBT.

These can be helpful for patients with any addiction.

At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we offer free insurance verification to help pay for treatment.

The verification allows you to be comfortable with the payment, and payment options, before coming to treatment.

If you or someone you love has an addiction to mind-altering substances, then health should be your number one priority.

Contact us at Resurgence Behavioral Health today to start your path to recovery.