What are hallucinogens? Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that produce profound changes in consciousness, perception and behavior. They can cause users to see, hear and feel things that aren’t real or to have distorted perceptions of reality. Drugs classed as hallucinogens include psychedelics, dissociatives and those known as deliriants.
Psychedelics include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD acid), psilocybin and psilocin (“magic mushrooms”), dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and, from the peyote cactus, mescaline. Such hallucinogens intensify sensory perception generally leading to the experience of visual and/or auditory hallucinations as short term effects.
While some users may feel euphoria or experience ultra-vivid or distorted colours, shapes and sounds, others may be overwhelmed by panic attacks or succumb to severe depression. In other words, bad feelings are often made worse. A few people may find themselves later having disturbing “flashbacks” or suffering from Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).
Dissociatives such as phencyclidine (PCP) and ketamine are so termed because they induce feelings of disconnection from the world and even from one’s own body. They have painkilling properties and can impair both short and long term memory. PCP can prompt violence, cause convulsions and damage lungs. Ketamine can result in serious bladder problems and evidence now exists to suggest it may cause liver damage. Early physical examination and ongoing monitoring is therefore vital.
Plant-based deliriants such as scopolamine are so called deliriants because they induce delirium, a state of confusion and disorientation.
The side effects of hallucinogen use are far-reaching and can range from mild to severe. They may include out of body experiences, time distortion, intense emotions, and false memories. Hallucinogens also have the potential to cause physical symptoms such as nausea and increased heart rate or blood pressure.
Long-term effects of hallucinogens may lead to tolerance to hallucinogens, whereby more has to be taken to achieve the same effect. Many hallucinogen-related harms, including accidental self-injury or death, are linked to unsafe behaviour while under their influence.
Other damaging impact of hallucinogen abuse is psychological, including, potentially, psychosis. Symptoms of anxiety and depression may be triggered, uncovered or intensified. Ongoing psychiatric monitoring inevitably plays an important role in treatment.
There are generally no physical withdrawal symptoms when the person stops taking hallucinogens. However, in as much as people develop a habitual pattern of use despite serious negative consequences, it makes sense to address compulsive or disordered use of hallucinogens as an addiction. There is likely to be a powerful psychological, if not physical, dependence to address.
Hallucinogen addiction treatment begins with steps to ensure physical safety and mental stability. While compiling a clear picture as to present and past consumption, it will be essential to identify what other drugs are being consumed simultaneously or separately. Mixing drugs is inherently risky.
It helps to explore how the person’s attraction to hallucinogens developed. This aids the treatment team’s understanding of the individual while highlighting emotional, mental and situational risks for relapse. Many people drawn to hallucinogens are individuals who like to challenge the boundaries of accepted normality. They may feel impelled to escape from reality as they currently experience it, or look to unlock themselves emotionally. They may be searching for spiritual meaning.
Like all addicted people, they are probably seeking some emotional reward they have not been able to find (or perhaps lost) in relationships with people. Thus, engaging in meaningful inter-personal interaction becomes central to the recovery process. This may be achieved through a combination of individual, group and family therapy. Experiencing non-chemical sources of spiritual wellbeing will be essential to recovery in the long term.
The safe, tranquil yet spiritually uplifting environment of our alpine luxury addiction treatment centre will almost certainly be of benefit, as will access to the variety of complementary therapies available.