Psychedelics, commonly referred to as Hallucinogens, are a diverse group of chemical substances which generally no approved medical use, that produce changes in sensory perception. The term Hallucinogen, meaning hallucination generating is inaccurate, and the term psychedelic- mind manifesting or mind expanding- is more accurate. For simplicity and consistency, the term hallucinogen will be used herein. The effects vary, depending on type of hallucinogen used. There are three classes of hallucinogens based on mechanism of action, plus miscellaneous types:
1) Serotonergic endohallucinogens
These are a group of fungal alkaloids, or chemical compounds present in fungi, that increase levels of the brain chemical serotonin. Examples include:
- LSD (Lysergic Acid diethylamide), aka acid
- Psilocybin mushrooms, aka Magic mushrooms, aka ‘Shrooms aka Silly-cybin.
- Morning glory seeds. Morning Glory flowers, Ipomoea violacea contains a substance called Lysergic Acid Amide (LSA), which is closely related to LSD. The seeds are taken orally to induce a hallucinogenic experience.
- DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) produces intense visual hallucinations of “Ethereal Beings”
- Nutmeg spice produces primarily visual hallucinations, and:
- Ataxia (staggering)
- Vertigo (dizziness)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Grand mal seizures
The effects of nutmeg are often regarded as so unpleasant that most people do not use it twice. Nutmeg takes hours to work. The onset of effects takes about six or eight hours. The effects persist for about 10 to 14 hours
- Rye ergot (fungi. LSD is derived from rye ergot.
2) Catecholamine agonists hallucinogens work on two other brain chemicals; dopamine and norepinephrine, in addition to serotonin
- Mescaline comes from Peyote cacti, which are found in Southwestern US and northern Mexico, The Buttons, or dried pieces of cacti, are taken orally, or infused in hot water to make a beverage. It produces perceptual distortions.
- DOM (STP- Serenity, Peace, tranquility) 2, 5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine is similar to LSD but the effects last longer.
- MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) (X, XTC, ecstasy, Molly)
3) Anticholinergic hallucinogens. These types block a nerve chemical called acetylcholine, and tend to be very toxic, by causing temporary paralysis and asphyxiation. Examples include:
- Fly agaric mushrooms (Amanita Muscaria) Amanita type mushrooms are some of the deadliest mushrooms known.
- Belladonna berries aka Devil’s Cherries aka Belladonna, aka Deadly Nightshade, are small red to black berries. The berries contain three chemicals; atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine
- Mandrake leaves/flowers Mandrake Root. The pale yellow/cream colored root can grow in a roughly human figure, and also contain atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine.
All three compounds are anticholinergic, or have acetylcholine blocking effects, which produce the following effects:
- Hyperthermia or elevated body temperature.
- Tachycardia or rapid heart rate.
- “Bizarre, sometimes violent behavior”
- Dilated pupils, and photophobia, or extreme sensitivity to sunlight.
- Temporary amnesia.
4) Dissociative anesthetics
- PCP, aka Angel Dust, aka Phencyclidine
- Ketamine, aka Ketalar, aka Special K, aka K
- DXM (Dextromethorphan) is an OTC (Over the Counter) cough suppressant. It is hallucinogenic when consumed in large quantities.
Short-term and long term-risks of using Hallucinogens
The risks will vary, depending on which type of hallucinogen is used. Serotonergic endohallucinogens are non-addictive. Catecholamine agonist hallucinogens are potentially addictive, and anticholinergic hallucinogens are potentially deadly. The immediate effects of dissociative type anesthetics diverted for illicit use tend to be so unpleasant they are not widely popular. The primary risk of using any hallucinogen is the possibility of an accident resulting in serious injury while under the influence. There is a great deal of mythology around hallucinogens, especially LSD. However, there is no scientific evidence that using LSD produces any permanent damage. Individuals who are predisposed to severe and chronic mental illness may precipitate an acute psychotic episode from using hallucinogens, but hallucinogens do not cause someone to “go insane”, rather they hasten and exacerbate the onset and process of severe mental illness.