Hallucinogens: Psychoactive Drugs

The use of hallucinogens dates back at least 2,400 hundred years. In 2008, archaeologists discovered hallucinogenic paraphernalia, a bowl with two tubes that fit with nostrils, on the island of Carriacou, which dated back to 400 BC. A variety of cultures originally used psychoactive drugs/hallucinogens for religious and supernatural rituals. The Aztecs applied a paste from a flower to their skin, teotlaqualli, causing an altered mental state, in a ritual honoring their God. The Hindus derived a holy substance, Soma, from psychoactive mushrooms, to put themselves into a trance while praying. Peyote, a hallucinogen containing mescaline, which was discovered around the turn of the 19th century, and was used by Mexican Indians for sacred rituals.

Mescaline was intentionally isolated and discovered in 1888 and information about its psychoactive properties was published in 1897. LSD, arguably the most well known psychoactive drug, was discovered by accident in 1938. A chemist working for a Swiss drug company created the compound without knowing its effects. He accidentally ingested it and then continued administering it, documenting its powerful effects on the brain. LSD began to be used by psychiatrists as a mind-expanding therapeutic drug, administered to Hollywood stars and eventually promoted for widespread use by Harvard professor Timothy Leary. The “therapeutic” use of the 1950s turned into recreational use in the 1960s. The other organic psychedelic at the time, not produced in a lab, are mushrooms, containing the hallucinogen psilocybin. These were said to propel humans into the “spirit world”.

Hallucinogens: Psychoactive Drugs

What Hallucinogens Are the Most Popular?

In more recent years, people are using psychoactive drugs for social or recreational purposes, or to enable them to experience a more enlightened sense of being.

According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 229,000 Americans ages 12 and older reported current (past-month) use of LSD and 33,000 reported current use of PCP (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013). Among high school seniors, salvia was significantly more popular than LSD or PCP when it was added to the Monitoring the Future survey in 2009. Past-year use was reported to be 5.9 percent for salvia, 2.7 percent for LSD, and 1.3 percent for PCP. (NIDA)

Hallucinogens are divided into 2 categories: Classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. Classic hallucinogens (such as LSD), include Psilocybin (mushrooms), peyote (mescaline), DMT (Ayahuasca tea from Amazonian plants or made into a crystal powder in a lab), 251-NBOMe (a synthetic hallucinogen similar to MDMA but more potent). Dissociative drugs include PCP (phencyclidine or angel dust), ketamine (a veterinary tranquilizer), DXM (dextromethorphan or a cough suppressant), and salvia (from the leaves of a plant from South Mexico). Both types can cause hallucinations or false sensations and images that are not real. Dissociative drugs can cause users to have an out of body experience or to feel disconnected from their environment.

Psychoactive drugs are believed to be dangerous and to have a strong potential for abuse and addiction. The addict may have begun with the intention of only experimenting, however, the effects of hallucinogens, are stronger than most other drugs. The chemical structures of psychoactive drugs work like neurotransmitters and bind to their receptors in the brain. Long term use can cause permanent damage to the brain’s chemistry. One of the most well-known side effects is that the user can deplete their necessary amount and share of serotonin and dopamine.

These are both neurotransmitters in the brain that balance a person’s feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Initially, the drug intensifies these feelings for the addict. When the “high” is over, the person is left feeling depressed and with low energy, causing them to seek out the drug again to replenish their natural levels of dopamine and serotonin.

Thus, an addictive circle of use is begun. Another dangerous and short term side effect of psychoactive drugs is the intensity of the mood-changing chemical boosts. A person can have very violent or aggressive reactions to an altered reality, or they can believe themselves to be invincible in dangerous situations. People using hallucinogens can put themselves and others in extreme danger. Psychoactive drugs have a varied effect based on the user’s body chemistry, meaning each person has their own experience or reaction to the drug.

Treatment for Hallucinogen Addiction

Due to the dangerous potential of abuse and addiction, it is highly recommended that the addict seek long term treatment to recover from using psychoactive drugs. A person who has been abusing hallucinogens can be very erratic and suffer extreme mood swings. They can become depressed and experience extreme anxiety, which continues long after stopping. The addict must be able to rebuild their brain chemistry through natural sources that increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.

Recreate Life Counseling is a PHP program that offers Day / Night Treatment with Community Housing. We engage the addict in therapy and activities to ensure long term sobriety. Our behavioral staff and therapeutic counselors are here to assist the addict by providing individualized treatment plans to assist in recreating a life the addict does not want to escape from. We offer both individual and group therapy sessions after the initial treatment to ensure long term recovery. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, please reach out and a Recreate Life Counseling staff member will be happy to help you begin your new life in recovery.