Hallucinogens are a class of drugs all their own. Psychedelic, or “mind-activating,” drugs are chemical compounds that produce distortions in one’s perception of reality. These distortions can involve changes in thinking, mood, sensory awareness, and behavior, often causing fully visualized or auditory hallucinations. A wide variety of trippy shrubs and tree frogs span the globe with known psychoactive properties.
The most commonly encountered hallucinogens include:
- Psilocybin “Magic” Mushrooms
- Mescaline (found in the Peyote Cactus)
- MDMA (“Ecstasy”)
Certain strains of cannabis and a few other known compounds could be considered hallucinogenic as well. The effects that hallucinogens have on the central nervous system and our own consciousness are not fully understood by modern medicine, however we know that the molecules of chemicals like LSD are structurally similar to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate sensations like mood, hunger, sexual desire, and body temperature.
The physiological effects are minor and don’t develop chemical addictions with the body, however the intense psychological effects can be radically life-altering and have been known to create a habitual dependency in which one continues to seek out the chemically altered state to achieve some sense of balance, health, or perceptual understanding. The very same reasons that psychedelic drugs were incorporated into ritualistic or spiritual traditions have also led to their abuse in contemporary culture.
Hallucinogenic time distortions are mild compared to the terrifying warping of thoughts and values and logic.
Signs of an unhealthy dependency on hallucinogenic drugs include the need (or obsessive quest) for increasingly larger doses to experience similar effects, frequent risky or unhealthy behavior, loss of memory, disassociation from people, severe depression or mood swings, and permanent changes in sensory perception. More severe symptoms include rare cases of schizophrenia and personality disorder, resulting from the psychological trauma of the drug experience. These are more rare than you might think but if you are noticing severe symptoms or an unregulated and unhealthy dependency on a psychedelic substance, seek medical guidance.
Recovering from a particularly traumatic trip, or perpetual abuse of psychedelic drugs, can sometimes require more than a glass of water and an aspirin. The level of disassociation from reality and everyday patterns of thought brought on by these compounds can be jarring or traumatic, creating an inability to cope with reality that may require professional guidance and counseling. Often the lingering unhealthy patterns left over from hallucinogenic trips are symptoms of PTSD and can take weeks or months of counseling and assistance to fully recover.
You can become addicted to a state of mind only accessible through hallucinogens.
Hallucinogenic drug use isn’t usually traumatic or scary, however. In fact, feelings of euphoria and a sense of increased life perspective are often reported. It’s also common among indigenous and tribal peoples as a rite of passage or initiation. They see the effects of the trip as visionary messages to be interpreted, as meaningful dreams, or "mind medicine". When we talk about a “psychological addiction” to hallucinogens, this refers to an obsessive dependency on the drug to maintain a positive or “correct” state of mind. You can be addicted to a state of mind only accessible through these drugs.
If you’ve experienced a psychedelic experience and are having trouble coping, seek counseling and guidance. Licensed therapists can help you process the thoughts, feelings, and visions and get you oriented back into your everyday life. If you have developed a habit or addiction to hallucinogenic drugs, it’s important that you enter a period of abstinence to detox from the drug and process the mental experience. High doses or prolonged and habitual use can cause anxiety, violent or aggressive behavior, convulsions, coma, or even (in extreme cases) organ failure. Overdoses are not common with most psychedelics and the majority of fatal accidents are related to the risky behavior, rather than the chemicals themselves. That doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous.
Living in a drug rehabilitation treatment center is the best way to break a hallucinogen addiction.
Living in a drug rehabilitation treatment center is the best way to break a hallucinogen addiction. The treatment center usually includes the necessary counseling to get your head right and back to living.
Your Mind Is A Trip
While it’s true that wildman shamans and trippy gurus throughout history have utilized hallucinogenic drugs to access alternative states of consciousness for various reasons, that doesn't mean every teenager or weekend reveler should go blasting off into the world of mixing chemicals and consciousness. There is a danger of creating psychological distress or instability if handled poorly. Remember that it’s not about what you see or experience in altered states of mind, it’s about how and what you bring back with you in order to reintegrate with friends, family, and society. The hippies figured it out a long time ago; you don't really need the drugs to get there. It’s just a shortcut to show you the way. There is no drug or practice more powerful or profound than the human mind.
After a successful recovery counseling and treatment, it’s important to manage your own state of mind. Avoid triggers that will send you in search of chemical trips. Don’t associate with those who would push these drugs on you.
Don’t associate with those who would push these drugs on you.
Most importantly, find new mountains for your mind to scale. Learn new philosophies and read old books. Take up a hobby, artistic craft, or personal practice that can continue to heal your mind and perception.
Recovering psychedelic abusers often find that a spiritual practice such as meditation or yoga can satisfy the need to change mental state and get “higher.”
Other pursuits include:
- Martial arts or Sports
- Arts and music
- Helping and counseling others
- Spiritual practice
It’s important to remember that just because a psychedelic drug isn’t as physically debilitating as an opiate addiction, the lingering effects on the mind can be even more insidious. Find a healthy state of mind through professional recovery assistance and move forward with a clear-headed perception of your own reality.
People have used LSD in their lifetime
People have used LSD in the last year
Species of hallucinogenic mushrooms
Hallucinogenic overdoses since 2000
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