Hallucinogens is a term used for a pharmacological grouping of agents that can be divided into the following drug categories:

  • Psychedelics
  • Dissociatives
  • Deliriants

This family of drug is classified as being psychoactive, meaning that they can alter the brains subjective experiences causing changes in perception, thought, and consciousness.  Commonly used hallucinogens include:

  • LSD
  • Mescaline
  • Peyote
  • Psilocybe

LSD and Mushrooms

The most common of the psychedelics are LSD and what is known as “magic mushrooms” (psilocybe).  The experiences from these two substances can very in intensity, duration, and emotional content depending upon the potency of the compound (LSD) or species (mushroom), as well as, the mood of the experiencer.

Effects of LSD

LSDs effects generally last between 6-12 hours and range from mild to “total” in effect.  Some people experience euphoria when taking LSD with slight visuals, whereas others will speak to crossing over into other realms, both good and bad.  The experience is called “tripping” and is classified as “good trips” or “bad trips”.

Effects of Psilocybe

People using magic mushrooms in general have fewer “bad trips” and many claim to have spiritual and profound experiences.  In many cultures mushrooms were used by shamans to gain religious insight for their tribe and community.  Trips are shorter than with LSD typically between 3-4 hours peaking between the 2 to 3 hour mark.

Psychedelics and the Brain

Psychedelics work differently than other drugs.  There is still a great deal of ongoing research into the nature of this classification of drugs.  They are categorized as: serotonin 5-HT2A receptor agonists, but there is current research into their association with DMT present in the human brain and how this relates with what is known about serotonin agonists and their functionality.

Essentially, what the drug does is “ignite” brain activity causing changes in subjective perception in a profound way.  An individual could be in a room and not be aware that he or she is in the room, in fact, believing and experiencing that they are elsewhere.

Dependency and Side Effects

This class of drugs does not have a physical dependency component to its use. The drugs create short-term tolerances, meaning that taken within a short period of time creates weakened results.  For this reason they are seldom abused. However, the extreme nature of the user experience does have potential for harm and must therefore be discussed.

Side effects of this drug could be potentially dangerous.  For example, should an individual believe that he or she is somewhere other than where he or she actually is potential for self-harm is high.  Someone could potentially “fly” out a window if they believed they had wings.  That is how subjective an experience psychedelics overlap over the cognitive state.  While examples of this are rare in comparison to use it is still something to be considered.


The chemical components in these drugs are considered “non-toxic” and therefore the chances of overdose are extremely unlikely.

Drug Detoxification and Treatment

Psychedelics in and of themselves are rarely abused and do not justify a detoxification program or even “treatment”.  In fact, ancient cultures tied these drugs to spirituality and religious experience, therefore to “treat” someone for its usage seems an inappropriate use of the language.

Understanding “why” someone uses these drugs, if they are used in conjunction with other substances, or if they are included in drug binging should all be part of an investigation into someone’s candidacy for a treatment program.

Typically, individuals who use psychedelics are not shamans (although some are) and use them experimentally or in conjunction with other drugs.  Discussion of their use in treatment programs is usually an ancillary discussion when treating behavioral or lifestyle patterns.

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