Lindsey Blakley
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
February 27, 2023

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. Hallucinogens Definition
  2. Hallucinogens: A History
  3. Hallucinogen Examples and Street Names
  4. What Do Hallucinogens Look, Taste, and Smell Like?
  5. How Are Hallucinogens Taken?
  6. How Do Hallucinogens Work?
  7. Symptoms and Effects of Hallucinogens
  8. Abuse, Overdose, and Fatality Rates
  9. Detox and Treatment 

Hallucinogens Definition

Hallucinogens are a group of psychoactive perception-altering drugs that cause hallucinations or intense sensations of things that aren’t really there. This group splits into two categories as well. There are classic hallucinogens, like LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca, and there are dissociative hallucinogens, like PCP, Ketamine, and Salvia.

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What Are Hallucinogens? (A Brief History)

According to this study, the first potential use of hallucinogenics dates as far back as 3200 BC – and potentially further – according to this study. However, the first known psychedelic compound to be isolated in the New World was Mescaline in 1888. Later, in 1938, LSD was more stumbled upon than discovered. Swiss chemist Albert Hoffmann synthesized LSD in 1938 and discovered its psychedelic effects in 1943 when he accidentally ingested a rather large dose.

The use of LSD really took off in the 1960s, along with Psilocybin mushrooms. This period was when psychedelics first appeared on the party drug scene. Prior to this, the history of hallucinogens revolved around religious practices and supernatural rituals. Hinduism is specifically known to include hallucinogens in its spiritual practice. 

Today, the world of psychedelics is shifting again. Scientists and therapists alike use psychedelics, namely Psilocybin, in therapeutic environments. That said, using hallucinogens in a therapeutic setting by a licensed doctor is quite different than buying them illicitly on the street and abusing them. 

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Hallucinogenic Drugs: Examples and Street Names

As explained above, the term ‘hallucinogens’ is essentially an umbrella term for all of the drugs that change the way a person perceives thoughts, feelings, and the world around them. There is an umbrella street name as well, known as psychedelics. People tend to use this term whenever they talk about any hallucinogenic drug. However, there are also street names for each of the hallucinogenic drugs. 

Street names for each hallucinogen include: 

  • acid
  • acid tabs
  • blotter
  • paper
  • microdots
  • dots 
  • magic mushrooms
  • shrooms
  • mushies
  • caps
  • magics
  • golden tops
  • blue meanies
  • liberty caps
Peyote (Mescaline):
  • cactus
  • mesc
  • mescal
  • cactus joint
  • cactus buttons

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine):
  • The spirit molecule
  • dimitri
  • the businessman’s trip
  • fantasia
  • 45-minute psychosis
  • the dream drug
  • aya
  • hoasca
  • yagé
  • the tea 
  • angel dust
  • embalming fluid
  • love boat
  • whack
  • rocket fuel
  • supergrass
  • peace pill 

  • special K
  • k
  • super k
  • KitKat
  • meow mix 

Learn more about Ketamine

Salvia Divinorum:
  • Salvia
  • Maria Pastora
  • sally-D
  • safe of seers
  • diviner’s sage

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What Do Hallucinogens Look, Taste, and Smell Like?

Hallucinogens come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors because some derive from plants like cacti and mushrooms, while others are synthetic. 

Below are some examples of the most popular hallucinogens and what they look, smell, and taste like: 

  • LSD: 
    • LSD is traditionally on a piece of paper that can either be all white or have a picture printed on it. The LSD itself is a liquid that gets dropped onto the piece of paper. Although some people describe it as having a metallic taste, the liquid itself is generally clear and tasteless. 
  • Psilocybin: 
    • Psilocybin is found in mushrooms. There are different mushrooms that can be psychoactive but look a bit different in appearance. They all generally taste like any other mushroom you’d make for dinner. Here is information on how to identify psilocybin mushrooms.
  • DMT: 
    • DMT is usually in a crushed white or yellow powder. It can also be found in large chunks or rocks. It has a very unique and intense smell when smoked but doesn’t have an odor in its natural state. Some say it almost tastes like burnt plastic. 
  • PCP: 
    • PCP is also a white-ish crystalline powder. It easily dissolves in water but has a slightly bitter taste. You’ll typically find it in tablet or capsule but is also sold in powder and liquid form. 

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How Are Hallucinogens Taken?

Hallucinogenic use comes in a variety of methods. Typically, the way it is used depends on the drug itself. For instance, LSD is notorious for being on “blotter” paper that is perforated into little squares, known as “hits.” The user places a square of paper on the tongue and eventually swallows or spits it out. However, someone can also take the liquid form and drop it directly onto the skin, tongue, and even eyeballs. 

Psilocybin mushrooms are generally eaten, placed into a tea, or blended and placed inside capsules.

Hallucinogenic drugs like DMT and PCP are generally smoked. DMT can be brewed into tea, much like ayahuasca, which is pretty much always drunk in tea form. When used this way, DMT’s effects last for several hours rather than a few minutes.  

PCP can also be snorted and injected and is considered one of the more dangerous drugs causing addictive side effects. 

Here is a table showing common methods of ingestion for each hallucinogenic:

Swallow as liquidXXX
Eat raw or driedXXX
Brew into teaXXXX
Blotter paperX

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How Do Hallucinogens Work?

Hallucinogenics can be split into two categories; classic hallucinogens and dissociative hallucinogens. Each type operates differently within organ systems, causing varying effects.

Classic Hallucinogens

These tend to temporarily block or disrupt the communication between the brain and spinal cord and the brain’s chemical systems, like serotonin. When this occurs, some effects of the disruption are:

  • Sensory perception 
  • Mood
  • Body temperature
  • Sleep
  • Hunger
  • Sex drive 
  • Intestinal muscles 

Dissociative Hallucinogens

On the other hand, dissociative hallucinogens interfere with glutamate. The interference leads to symptoms like: 

  • Difficulty regulating emotions 
  • Differences in pain perception 
  • Memory functionality changes 

Depending on the substance, the effects (also known as the “trip”) can last anywhere from thirty minutes to 12 hours. Generally, the shorter the trip, the more intense the effects.

For example, LSD is a substance whose trip lasts upwards of twelve hours with a “come-up,” “peak,” and “come-down.” If you take something like DMT that only lasts around 30 to 45 minutes, you feel the equivalent intensity of the LSD peak for that entire 45 minutes without a come-up or come-down. 

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Symptoms and Effects of Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens heighten the senses of the person using them. The user typically sees images, vibrant colors, increased touch sensation, and even hears things that aren’t there or hears things more crisply than normal. Usually, the effects appear within the first hour to hour and a half. 

The trip can go one of two ways: a “good trip” or a “bad trip.” If the images, sounds, and sensations aren’t particularly positive, this is what’s known as a bad trip. There are a lot of different variables that can cause a bad trip, so it’s hard to guarantee you will have a good trip if you try these substances. 

Along with these effects, there are some other physical symptoms the body experiences: 

  • Nausea 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Intense emotions that can feel uncontrollable 
  • Changes in perception of time 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Increased body temperature 
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Sleeping issues (inability to fall asleep until the trip is over)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Some incoordination 
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Other bizarre behaviors 

Alongside this list of symptoms, people have expressed having certain spiritual experiences when taking hallucinogens. Some people mention having experiences with God, stating God spoke to them, for example. 

Those that have underlying mental health issues are at higher risk of experiencing negative symptoms such as panic, paranoia, and psychosis.

Long Term Effects of Hallucinogens

Suppose the person continues to use hallucinogens; these effects can turn into other negative long-term effects. If you are on any antidepressants or antipsychotic medications, you may be particularly susceptible to such effects. 

Some long-term consequences include: 

  • Persistent Psychosis 
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

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Hallucinogen Abuse, Overdose, and Fatality Rates

Abuse, overdose, and fatality depend on the type of hallucinogen the person uses. When using LSD, for example, there isn’t necessarily a concern for addictive side effects, but the user will quickly build a tolerance and the need to take higher doses the more they use it. 

PCP, on the other hand, has been known to lead to addiction as well as overdose. Dissociative hallucinogens, in general, are at higher risk of causing seizures, coma, and even death. 

The main concern with hallucinogens is that they alter the brain’s perception of reality, which can potentially lead to the person doing things they wouldn’t normally do. They could end up in a dangerous and even life-threatening situation. 

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Hallucinogenic Drug Addiction Treatment 

Responding to hallucinogen addiction isn’t a cut-and-dry process as there aren’t any FDA-approved medications to treat hallucinogen addiction. There are, however, behavioral therapies that appear to be helpful. More research still needs to be done on hallucinogens as a whole before scientists can effectively say behavioral therapies treat hallucinogen addiction, but for now, it seems to be the best option. 

Addiction to dissociate hallucinogens can be helped via traditional recovery treatments at a recovery facility under the care of professionals. Not only are dissociative hallucinogens more dangerous than classic hallucinogens, but the withdrawal symptoms are far more intense as well.

Hallucinogenic Drugs – Better Safe Than Sorry

Hallucinogens are some of the most intense drugs out there, and while they are now approved for use in “breakthrough therapy,” they should never be used without the guidance of a professional. The risks are just too dangerous, especially with dissociative hallucinogens. This category of drugs has clearly been in human history since the dawn of time, but there is still so much unknown about them. If you feel you could potentially benefit from a hallucinogenic experience, you are highly encouraged to first converse with a trusted professional on the matter rather than going to the streets and self-medicating.   

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