What are Hallucinogens

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Hallucinogens are a group of psychoactive perception-altering drugs that cause hallucinations or intense illusory sensations. Hallucinogens can be divided into two categories. There are classic hallucinogens, like LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca, and dissociative hallucinogens, like PCP, Ketamine, and Salvia.

Hallucinogens in History

The first potential use of hallucinogens dates as far back as 3200 BC – and potentially further – according to this study [1]. 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 is 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 [2] environments. That said, using hallucinogens in a therapeutic setting by a licensed doctor is quite different from buying them illicitly on the street and abusing them.

What Are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics is the umbrella street name for all hallucinogenic drugs. As explained, these drugs change the way a person perceives thoughts, feelings, and the world around them. People tend to use the term psychedelics whenever they talk about drugs that make you hallucinate. There are also street names for each type of psychedelic substance:


  • 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 

Salvia Divinorum:

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

What Do Hallucinogens Look Like?

Hallucinogens come in different shapes, sizes, and colors because some are derived from plants and fungi, 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 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 generally taste like any other mushroom you’d make for dinner.
  • 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 a white-ish crystalline powder. It easily dissolves in water, but has a slightly bitter taste. You’ll typically find it in tablets or capsules, but it is also sold in powder and liquid form. 

How Are Hallucinogens Taken?

Hallucinogenic use varies from drug to drug. 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 also be brewed, much like ayahuasca, which is usually 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 or injected and is considered one of the more dangerous hallucinogenic drugs because of its addictive side effects.

The following table shows the common methods of consumption for each hallucinogenic:

Mode LSD DMT Peyote Psilocybin PCP Ketamine Salvia
Pills x       x x  
as Liquid
x   x     x  
Eat Raw or Dried     x x     x
Brew into Tea   x x x     x
Snort         x x  
Inject         x    
Smoke or Inhale   x     x   x
Blotter Paper x            

Hallucinogens: Methods of Consumption

How Do Hallucinogens Work?

Hallucinogens are split into two categories; classic hallucinogens and dissociative hallucinogens. Each type operates differently within organ systems, causing varying effects. Classic hallucinogens tend to temporarily block or disrupt the communication between the brain and spinal cord and neurotransmitters like serotonin. When this occurs, the following may be affected:

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

Dissociative hallucinogens, on the other hand, interfere with the neurotransmitter 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 30 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 12 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. 

Which Symptom is Characteristic of Someone on a Hallucinogenic Drug?

A hallucinogen user typically experiences a variety of symptoms because hallucinogens heighten the senses. The user typically sees images and vibrant colors, experiences increased touch sensation, and hears things that aren’t there or hears 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 considered a bad trip. Many variables can cause a bad trip, so it’s hard to guarantee you will have a good trip if you try these substances. 

Hallucinogen use produces many physical symptoms as well, including: 

  • 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 these physical symptoms, people express having certain spiritual experiences when taking psychedelics. Some people mention having experiences with God, stating that God spoke to them, for example. 

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

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What Are The Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogens?

If a person persists in using hallucinogens, the above symptoms can produce negative, long-term effects. If you are on any antidepressants or antipsychotic medications, you may be particularly susceptible to such reactions.

Long-term effects of hallucinogens include:

  • Persistent Psychosis: Mental health issues, such as paranoia, may continue even after an individual stops using hallucinogens. 
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD): Commonly called flashbacks, HPPD is a condition where a former hallucinogen user continues to experience hallucinations or visual disturbances, even months or years after they were under the influence of psychedelics.

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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, is known to lead to addiction and 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 a person doing things they wouldn’t normally do. They could end up in dangerous and even life-threatening situations. 

Unfortunately, according to a Monitoring the Future study from 2021, an estimated 8% of young adults aged 19-30 reported using hallucinogenic drugs, an all-time high since the first survey in 1988. Now that we understand what are hallucinogens and the serious dangers involved with addiction, this is a worrying trend.

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 too dangerous, especially with dissociative hallucinogens. This category of drugs has existed 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 and want to better understand what are hallucinogens and their role in therapy, you are highly encouraged to first converse with a trusted professional on the matter rather than going to the streets and self-medicating.

How is Hallucinogen Addiction Treated?

Addiction treatment programs that specialize in hallucinogen abuse are difficult to find. There aren’t any FDA-approved medications that specifically treat hallucinogen addictions. Addiction recovery plans that treat other drug addictions can be beneficial, including medical drug detox treatment when necessary, residential treatment programs, and behavioral therapies. 

Addiction to dissociative hallucinogens should 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.

If you think that you or a loved one are dependent on hallucinogenic drugs, help is available at Avenues Recovery rehabilitation center. We help each individual pave the way to both physical and emotional recovery. No one is beyond help and everyone has a way back. Start your journey to health and wellness today by reaching out to the Avenues Recovery community. 




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