What are Hallucinogens and Their Effects?


Hallucinogens are powerful drugs that induce a mind-altering state of consciousness in the consumer. Wildly popular in the 1970s following Dr. Timothy Leary’s Harvard experiments during the 1960s, hallucinogens crop up frequently in the rave and all-night dance scene and clubs of today. Studies reveal that lifetime use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), ketamine, and GHB is prevalent among teens. The more troubling fact in the studies is the perception among 61% of teens surveyed that prescription drugs are easier to get than illegal drugs.

The NIDA states that the use of LSD and hallucinogenic drugs has decreased among secondary students since 1998, but that ketamine and LSD are increasing in popularity among older teens and young adults at dance clubs and all-night raves.

In the first clinical trials of hallucinogenic or psychedelic drugs since the 1970s, Swiss scientists are treating terminally ill patients in an attempt to help them deal with their impending death and improve their remaining quality of life. In another recently-completed clinical trial conducted by scientists at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, psilocybin was used to help terminally-ill cancer patients come to terms with their illness.

Hallucinogens include LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and ibogaine and cause hallucinations in consumers, i.e., people see and hear things that aren’t there, or feel sensations that don’t exist, feel a distorted sense of reality, and powerful mood swings. LSD is the drug that most people identify with hallucinogens.

On the street, you can hear names for LSD like acid, backbreaker, battery acid, blotter, blotter acid, boomers, Elvis, loony tunes, microdots, pane, paper acid, sugar cubes, trip, yellow sunshine, yellow stars, and Zen, among others. LSD is typically sold as a liquid that is often packaged in small bottles originally designed to hold breath-freshening drops. The liquid LSD is applied to tablets, squares of gelatin, sugar cubes, or blotter paper. It is usually taken orally and has a slightly bitter taste. It can be swallowed, sniffed, injected, and snorted.

Street names for psilocybin include blue meanies, goldens, liberty caps, magics, and liberty caps. Psilocybin can appear as dried mushrooms or crushed into a powder in capsules. There is also synthetically-made psilocybin that’s a white crystalline powder placed into capsules, tablets, or liquid. Psilocybin (magic mushrooms) can be eaten raw, used in various food recipes, and even brewed into tea.

Mescaline carries names like buttons, cactus, cactus head, chief, love flipping, love trip, mescal, meze, moon, peyote, and topi. Mescaline appears as a white crystalline powder. It is also made synthetically and used in various colors of capsules and pills. Mescaline is usually swallowed, although it is also chewed or smoked.

Hallucinogen effects are caused by the disruption of the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. The serotonin system acts to control the behavioral, regulatory, and perceptual systems in the body, which include sensory perception, body temperature, hunger, mood, muscle control, and sexual behavior.

The effects vary from consumer to consumer, i.e., their tolerance for the drug and amount ingested. People take them in a deliberate attempt to feel euphoric, relaxed, happy, and to get away from their problems. However, there are many unwanted side effects too. Some consumers report being terrified, experiencing fear of losing control, going insane, dying, and a profound sense of despair.

LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline are not considered to be addictive, but consumers can develop a tolerance for them, thus requiring more frequent and larger doses to achieve the same high. They also don’t produce the same drug-seeking behavior in abusers as methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine.