Your mind opens up and your thoughts unravel. They pull you in directions you never knew existed. A trip from a hallucinogen can be like this: eye-opening, mentally stimulating, reflective and an out of consciousness feeling.
Of course, a trip from a hallucinogen can also be like this:
Free-falling from an airplane and your parachute won’t open; temporary, excruciating insanity; loops of anxiety that play like a broken record in your mind; feeling like you’ve been sucked into a black hole and all that surrounds you is darkness and your deepest fears.
Without question, hallucinogens do a number on one’s perception, but there’s a lot more that happens behind the scenes of each trip. Here’s how hallucinogens affect the brain.
While there are several different types of hallucinogens, including PCP, LSD, psilocybin, peyote, DMT, ayahuasca and others, they almost all affect the brain in the same way.
Acting on neural circuits that use serotonin – an important chemical and neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function – hallucinogens produce perception-altering effects.
Most of these effects occur in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, an area involved in perception, mood, cognition and stress and panic responses.
While hallucinogenic effects can take up to 20 – 90 minutes to develop, they have a long life – with some trips lasting up to 12 hours.
In discussing hallucinogen effects on the brain, it’s important to note that each hallucinogen will impact the brain in slightly different ways, and every user will have a different experience with the ingested drug.
Hallucinogens are highly unpredictable. With that being said, the amount of drug ingested mixed with the user’s personality, current mood, surroundings and expectations will all dictate how the trip will evolve. But a trip cannot be controlled.
Once ingested, here’s how hallucinogens affect the brain:
During a trip, a user’s ability to distinguish real from fake is distorted, and their capability to think rationally and communicate logically is significantly diminished.
In general, hallucinogens produce a temporary, drug-induced psychosis that can manifest in the following ways:
• Rapid emotional shifts
• Panic reactions
• Spiritual experiences
• Extremely altered states of awareness and perceptions
• Seeing, hearing, touching or smelling things that aren’t real
• Intensified feelings and sensory experiences
• Changes in perception of time
Repeatedly ingesting hallucinogens can result in a tolerance, where your body and mind require increasingly larger doses of the drug to reach the coveted effects.
Since hallucinogens live in classes, research has found that if a user develops a tolerance to a specific hallucinogen, they will also have a tolerance to another hallucinogen in that same class. For instance, if an individual develops a tolerance to LSD, their mind will also have a tolerance to psilocybin.
While more research is needed for conclusive evidence, research thus far has shown that LSD does produce tolerance and PCP is addictive.
Stopping all use of certain hallucinogens can spark undesired withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, headaches, sweating and psychological symptoms like depression, anxiety and
The most serious long-term effects of hallucinogens are persistent psychosis and flashbacks, or hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD).
While this condition can be rare, it is not uncommon. Additionally, research has shown that it can happen to anyone – and can occur after just one exposure to hallucinogenic drugs – but it is more likely to develop in individuals with a history of psychological problems.
The long-term effects of persistent psychosis and flashbacks are:
• Visual disturbances
• Confused thinking
• Mood instabilities
• Mistaken neurological disorders, such as a stroke or brain tumor
It’s a common misconception that hallucinogenic drugs don’t damage lives the ways opioids, meth, cocaine or alcohol do. Hallucinogens can not only damage your mind and body, but the poor choices that are made because of your drug use can have a negative, long-term effect on the ones you love the most.
If your craving for the drug causes you to prioritize your addiction over family, financial and personal obligations and responsibilities, the time is now to quit your abuse of the substance and take back control of your life.
Learn more about our Christian-based hallucinogen addiction treatment program, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment.