Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogens
Posted on 09/20/19: Arizona Opioid Epidemic
Hallucinogens are drugs that alter the way in which a person interprets and experiences reality, in a way that differs from the effects of most other substances. They are diverse types of drugs that change a person’s awareness of their surroundings as well as their own thoughts and feelings. Some of the most commonly used hallucinogens today include:
- LSD (Acid)
- Psilocybin (Mushrooms)
- MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)
- Ketamine/Special K
- DXM (Dextromethorphan)
Some hallucinogens are natural, meaning they were derived from plants, roots, and mushrooms. Others are synthetic and developed for medical or recreational purposes. Historically, people have used hallucinogens for religious or healing rituals. More recently, people report using these drugs for social or recreational purposes, including to have fun, cope with stress, or have a spiritual experience.
Hallucinogens are often split into two classes: classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “both types of hallucinogens can cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real although they are not. Additionally, dissociative drugs can cause users to feel out of control or disconnected from their body and environment.” Ultimately, hallucinogens warp a person’s perception of reality by changing the way their brain’s prefrontal cortex operates. This area of the brain is critical to the control of conscious thought, perception and cognitive function. Even short-term use/abuse of hallucinogens can result in temporary psychosis.
On some occasions, people who have used hallucinogens for a long time can experience flashbacks to hallucinations they saw during a previous trip. Recurring flashbacks characterize something referred to as HPPD, or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. Symptoms of HPPD can include any or all of the following:
- Movement in peripheral vision
- Flashes and trails of colors and lights
- Halos of light surrounding objects
HPPD is generally associated with LSD use, but other hallucinogens have been reported to cause the condition as well. While it is possible that symptoms of HPPD can improve on their own without the help of a doctor, in some cases medically assisted treatment is the answer to recovery. If left untreated, the symptoms may last for years. Even though the individuals who experience the side effects listed above know the experiences are imaginary, they continue to be disturbing nonetheless. One thing that does make HPPD different from immersive flashbacks is that it solely affects a person’s vision: they do not relieve any other feeling or sensation of being on the drug.
Other long-term effects of hallucinogens involve different types of cognitive damage that can include any combination of the following:
Insomnia – People that use hallucinogens tend to experience sleep problems that worsen and lead to insomnia. Although doctors don’t fully understand the causes of insomnia, they do consider it a disruption of normal brain activity. People who suffer from insomnia stay awake because the brain struggles with shifting into the normal sleep cycle. Insomnia, coincidentally, is a common symptom of LSD abuse. The powerful hallucinogen disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters, making sleeping difficult and inconsistent. Additionally, insomnia tends to accompany deeper issues such as a psychological disorder, which can often be the reason for drug abuse.
Memory Impairment – Abusing hallucinogens has been found to lead to irreversible neurological damage. This should not be surprising: a user is constantly living in an alternative reality, and the line between what is true and what is make-believe is completely blurred. Although infrequent use of hallucinogens is considered safe in terms of neurological damage, frequent use and abuse has been shown to cause memory impairment, as well as negatively affect other important brain functions.
Flashbacks – A more serious risk of hallucinogenic substance use, particularly whenh igh doses are involved, is flashbacks. Flashbacks are strong, sometimes crippling episodes in which a user suddenly, out of nowhere, experiences feelings/sensory distortion long after the actual hallucinogenic trip has taken place. They come in the form of visual hallucinations such as geometric shapes, intense colors, halos, or trailing lights from images. Sometimes people or situations may suddenly seem bizarre or ridiculous, as the person experiencing the flashback begins feeling disassociated with their surroundings and what is happening in that current moment. Self-control is required in these types of social situations, which can be scary and uncomfortable for the person involved.
Depression – A common symptom of extended hallucinogen use is depression. This mental illness can result from chemical imbalances that develop through the long-term use of hallucinogens, or through the psychological effects of a hallucinogen’s high. As mentioned, some people choose to use hallucinogens recreationally, with reasons rooted in spiritual enlightenment and mind-expanding experiences. Once a user has gone on their “higher journey”, coming back to the “normal world” may cause feelings of discontentment with everyone and everything around them, leading to depression.
Anxiety – Anxiety is a common symptom of all types of drug abuse, very much including hallucinogens. This is due to the psychological and physical effects of these drugs, especially if an individual has a bad trip. A bad trip is considered an instance in which a person takes a hallucinogen, and rather than go on a “spiritual journey”, they experience extremely unpleasant hallucinations, irrational thoughts, intense paranoia, and panic. Bad trips can be caused by being in a bad mindset before taking the drug, taking too high a dose of the drug, or suffering from an underlying mental health disorder that is triggered while on the drug. In extreme cases, bad trips can cause users to have intense spikes in emotion which lead to suicidal thoughts.
While hallucinogens aren’t often the topic of addiction, they can cause serious harm to cognitive and psychological functioning. The worse your mental state becomes due to hallucinogen abuse, the more likely you will be to widen the scope of your addictive tendencies. Soberliving AZ offers comprehensive treatment that has healed many from the physical and mental effects of drug abuse. You could be next, all you have to do is reach out and give us a call today.
If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.
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