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Hallucinogens make up a class of drugs that 1.2 million Americans were currently using at the time of the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(NSDUH). These drugs cause individuals to experience distortions of sensory perceptions, time, space, the environment, and their bodies. Common hallucinogenic drugs, their street names, and origins include the following:
Hallucinogenic drugs are believed to act on the communication network in the brain, disrupting its chemical messengers and affecting mood, the senses, body temperature, sex drive, muscle control, sleep functions, and appetite. Pain sensations, learning and memory functions, and response to the environment can also be impacted by hallucinogenic drugs, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns. These drugs typically take effect within a few minutes, and the experiences, or “trips” may last several hours or even up to a full day in some cases. General side effects of hallucinogens include:
Not all trips are good. Psychosis, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fear, seizures, amnesia, aggressive and violent outbursts, self-mutilating or suicidal ideations, extremely high body temperature, and elevated heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure can occur from hallucinogenic drug use. In 2011, over 100,000 people sought emergency medical treatment for a negative reaction to the abuse of a hallucinogenic drug, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). Bizarre behavior, accidents, injuries, and out-of-character actions can accompany hallucinogenic drug use, making these drugs unpredictable and dangerous.
These drugs may be mixed with other substances, sometimes without the user being aware, which can increase the potential risks. Individuals may also take the wrong thing, thinking it is something else with disastrous consequences, like ingesting a similar but more toxic mushroom than a psilocybin mushroom, which can be deadly. Also, overdose on some of these drugs, like PCP for example, can cause seizures, coma, or even death.
Flashbacks are typical side effects of taking a hallucinogenic drug. A flashback is the reemergence of the drug’s intoxication experience that can pop up at random. About 5-50 percent of individuals who use hallucinogenic drugs are believed to suffer at least one flashback, the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology reports.
Sometimes, these flashbacks persist and disrupt everyday functioning in a disorder called hallucinogenic persisting perception disorder, or HPPD. Visual disturbances, such as halos or trails following lights, are common symptoms of HPPD that can occur without warning and continually.Persistent psychosis is another disorder that can be a long-term side effect of hallucinogenic drug use. With persistent psychosis, individuals suffer from disturbed moods, disorganized thoughts, paranoia, and visual disturbances. PCP can cause individuals to suffer from symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia. They can also suffer memory loss, trouble thinking, speech difficulties, weight loss, and depression for up to year after stopping use of the drug, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) warns.
Some hallucinogenic drugs can cause physical and/or physiological dependence when used regularly. When this occurs, withdrawal side effects, like anxiety, agitation, depression, sleep issues, nausea and vomiting, headaches, and dizziness, may occur when the drug wears off. Individuals may suffer intense cravings for the drug and have difficulty stopping use.
When a person is no longer able to control their drug use and suffers behavioral, emotional, physical, and social consequences from it, addiction is likely the result. Addiction is chronic disease that requires specialized treatment.
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