As far back as biblical times and maybe even beyond, various cultures have engaged in the use of hallucinogens. They are among the oldest group of drugs used by human societies. In many parts of the world today, including the United States, most hallucinogens are illegal. The key feature of these drugs is that they alter your perception of reality and can cause you to have, as the name suggests, hallucinations. Your mood and understanding of your world may shift while under the influence. While it might seem like hallucinogens are simply fun and games, the opposite can also be true. Like any drug, there are negative side effects that may cause the party to come to an abrupt end.


Which Hallucinogens Are Commonly Used?

Hallucinogenic compounds are derived from natural sources like plants and fungi or created synthetically. Some common hallucinogens include:  

  • LSD: Also known as acid, this commonly used drug is synthesized from lysergic acid, which is derived from a rye fungus.
  • Psilocybin: Another frequented substance, psilocybin is typically ingested in the form of mushrooms (“shrooms”) and has effects similar to LSD. 
  • Peyote: This small cactus from South America contains mescaline, the compound responsible for its effects.
  • Ayahuasca: Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is the primary psychoactive ingredient found in this hallucinogenic brew. It is made from plants native to the Amazon. 
  • DMT: DMT can be derived from ayahuasca or created in a lab. It is highly hallucinatory but only lasts for a few minutes. 
  • Salvia divinorum: Also known as diviner’s sage, this plant is found in southern Mexico and Central and South America. Traditionally, fresh leaves are chewed but they can also be smoked. 

With the exception of LSD and synthetic creations, these hallucinogens have been traditionally used during religious and spiritual practices among indigenous peoples, notably in Central and South America.


Effects of Hallucinogen Use

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, these drugs are thought to work by “acting on neural circuits in the brain that use the neurotransmitter serotonin.” One largely affected area of the brain is the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in mood, cognition and perception. Other areas, including those involved in regulating arousal and responding to stress and panic, may also experience changes when using hallucinogens.

As a result, hallucinogens can prevent you from understanding and responding to people and situations like you normally would. The things that you see, feel and hear can become distorted or seem nonexistent. Sensations become intensified, and you might notice things you never did before. Time can feel like it’s dragging on and on. Some may report this as being a pleasurable, euphoric and relaxing experience, but others suffer from mild to severe side effects, such as sweating, increased heart rate, high blood pressure or nausea.


Consider the Dangers of Hallucinogens

One of the dangers of using hallucinogens is the potential for a “bad trip.” A bad trip can result in heightened levels of anxiety, confusion, disorientation and panic. Whether or not you will experience this is variable; it depends on the dosage taken and your personality, mood, environment and expectations about the drug’s effects. 

As a result of a severe adverse reaction, consuming too much of the drug, or having an underlying mental health disorder, drug-induced psychosis can occur. This is a serious condition that causes persistent hallucinations and delusions, sometimes even causing you to believe things that are not real. In short, psychosis manifests as a disconnection from reality. This can be a terrifying and confusing experience that may occur once, in short episodes, or over a longer period of time throughout your life. Entering into a residential treatment program may be the best option to recover from psychosis. 


Hallucinogenic Use In a Clinical Setting

For decades, research in the West on psychedelics has been highly controversial. In more recent times, though, researchers are examining hallucinogenic drugs as a tool to supplement therapies that treat disorders involving perceptual distortions, like schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and dementia. The National Institute of Drug Abuse states that ayahuasca, in particular, may have the potential to treat substance use disorders and some mental illnesses. 

Another study states that several hallucinogens may be able to treat “chronic pain, cluster headache, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood disorders, substance use disorders, and psychological distress associated with life-threatening illnesses.” Complicating the understanding of how psychedelics can be used in treatment is the fact that expectations, personal experiences and the external environment seem to play a prominent role in influencing a patient’s experience. Either way, more research is required to come to any conclusions about the safety and clinical applications of hallucinogenic compounds in treating mental and physiological conditions. 


Although hallucinogens have been used for thousands of years by numerous societies, use of this powerful drug can alter your perception of reality and interact with the brain circuits that affect mood, cognition, perception, arousal, panic and stress. You can have a “bad trip” or experience a severe adverse reaction that can trigger a drug-induced psychosis. Authentic Recovery Center is a home-like residential treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California, that can help you or a loved one overcome addiction to hallucinogens Our licensed clinicians and dedicated staff will help you heal using evidence-based approaches and the 12-step philosophy. Call us today to find out more about our programs: (866) 786-1376.