Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens are a class of drug that cause a person to experience distortions in awareness of their surroundings, thoughts, and feelings. Several drugs are grouped together under the hallucinogen category, including:

  • PCP.
  • MDMA (Ecstasy or “Molly”).
  • Ketamine.
  • LSD.
  • Peyote.
  • Mescaline.
  • Psilocybin mushrooms.

These drugs carry a risk of misuse or abuse that can lead to potentially harmful consequences for a person’s physical or mental health.  In 2020, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.6 million people in the United States reported using some form of hallucinogen in the previous year. 

Short-Term Effects of Hallucinogens

The effects of hallucinogenic drugs can start within a few minutes of taking the drug and can last for several hours, even up to a full day in some cases. Hallucinogens are believed to act on the communication network in the brain and can cause users to see, hear, or feel things that may feel real, but don’t exist. Some users experience a feeling of relaxation and dissociation — often referred to as a “trip.” Other short-term effects of hallucinogens can include:

  • Dry mouth.
  • Excessive sweating.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Uncoordinated movements.
  • Increases in blood pressure, temperature, and breathing rate.

Not all trips are good. Anxiety, paranoia, fear, amnesia, aggressive and violent outbursts,  can occur from hallucinogenic drug use.

Potential Long-Term Risks of Hallucinogenic Drugs

While rare, there are potential long-term risks from hallucinogenic drugs. 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% of individuals who use hallucinogenic drugs are believed to suffer at least one flashback, the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology reports.

Other long-term risks include:

Hallucinogenic persisting perception disorder (HIPPD). Visual disturbances, such as halos or trails following lights, are common symptoms of HPPD that can occur without warning.

Persistent psychosis. This 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.

In particular, PCP — a type of hallucinogen —  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.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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.

If you or someone you love are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol. River Oaks Treatment Center offers individualized addiction treatment programs ready to help you start the recovery process. Contact us today at to find out more about our Tampa Bay addiction treatment center or learn about the admissions process. Recovery is possible and we’re here to help.


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