Can You Get Addicted to Hallucinogens?

Can You Get Addicted to Hallucinogens?

In a word, yes. Certain types of hallucinogens can be addictive. While it is true that most mind altering drugs don’t lead to physical dependency or withdrawal symptoms, it is possible to develop a psychological dependence. The exception is PCP, which is highly addictive.

Let’s look at the different kinds of hallucinogens and how they affect the brain.

The Psychoactive Ingredients of Hallucinogens

The chemicals in different hallucinogens come from different sources. All hallucinogens affect the brain and LSD (acid) is the most commonly abused one of them all. LSD is acquired from the fungus that grows on rye and other grains. A small cactus which grows in the southwestern US and northern Mexico called Peyote, is used to create Mescaline. The drug Psilocybin comes from a certain type of mushroom found all through North and South America. On the other hand PCP is man made, and it’s original use was as an anesthetic, but which had too many grievous side effects, and therefore was discontinued from medical use.

How do Hallucinogens affect the Brain?

Contrary to popular belief, hallucinogens don’t necessarily always cause hallucinations. It is more accurate to say that they modify the mood and perception of the user. And due to the fact that a lot of these chemicals are extracted by processing plants, the amount of the hallucinogens can vary widely with each taking.

Hallucinogens like LSD, Mescaline and Psilocybin disrupt serotonin transmitters in the brain. PCP affects the brain’s glutamate receptors. These receptors are responsible for pain perception, learning and memory.

Tolerance and Addiction

Even though one can’t get addicted to LSD, individuals can develop a tolerance to it over time. The effects of LSD usually wear off after 12 hours, but it can be detected in urine for 2 to 5 days after use. Individuals who repeatedly use LSD have to take increasing amounts to get high. Developing a tolerance to LSD can also create a tolerance to other hallucinogens.

PCP is an addictive hallucinogen, and causes cravings and leads an individual with an addiction to seek it out. This makes it much more dangerous as compared to other hallucinogens.

There is no risk of addiction to Mescaline and Psilocybin, but it is possible to develop a tolerance towards it.

Health Effects of Hallucinogens

Whether or not a hallucinogen is addictive, taking the drug can still lead to serious health problems. It is important to note that all hallucinogens can cause ‘flashbacks’, which means that a user can suddenly re-experience using the drug, maybe even years later. Using the drugs can cause panic attacks and even psychotic episodes.

Users of Psilobycin can accidentally take poisonous mushrooms. Peyote can lead to fetal abnormalities if taken by pregnant women. Fever, high blood pressure and tremors are all effects of taking LSD.

PCP is the most dangerous. It’s side effects include delusions, hallucinations, paranoia. They can mimic schizophrenia. Former users of PCP can find that even a year later they are struggling with memory loss, weight loss, depression as well as difficulties in speaking and thinking. A PCP overdose can cause seizures, put someone in a coma and lead to death.

Even though it is unlikely that a user will develop any emotional or psychological dependence on non addictive hallucinogens, the addiction is not the only danger. The harmful side effects far outweigh the momentary high.
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