What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are psychoactive drugs that alter mood and perception. Learn about the effects of hallucinogens and the available treatments here.

Table of Contents

What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are psychoactive drugs that alter mood and perception, producing an altered state of consciousness. Major hallucinogenic substances fall into one of three groups: psychedelics, dissociative, and deliriants.


How Do Hallucinogenics Work?

When these substances are consumed, they interact with the neurotransmitters in the brain in various ways. Depending on the type of drug, they may stimulate, suppress, or modify neurotransmitter activity. Hallucinogenic drugs cause a chemical imbalance that produces feelings of euphoria along with distorted sensory experiences.

How Do Hallucinogenic Drugs Affect Someone?

Trippy hallucinogenic drugs affect people in different ways, and outcomes will vary depending on the type of drug taken. However, there are common side effects to look out for that are often indications of hallucinogenic use:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and body temperature
  • Intensified sensory experiences
  • Skewed perception of time
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Spiritual experiences
  • Feelings of relaxation
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Strange behavior

Type of Hallucinogens

The various types include:

  • LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide): Also known as acid, LSD is one of the most common hallucinogenic drugs. It causes changes in thought, emotion, and perception and can produce extreme hallucinations when taken at high doses. LSD usually comes in liquid and blotter form.
  • PCP (phencyclidine): Commonly called angel dust, PCP is an extreme hallucinogenic drug that produces mind-altering effects. It may cause hallucinations, distortions, and violent behavior.
  • Ketamine: Ketamine is a prescription drug that causes hallucinations. It is used as an anesthetic but can have psychedelic effects in larger doses.
  • Magic Mushrooms: Magic mushrooms are a type of mushroom that contains psilocybin. Once ingested, the psilocybin breaks down to become psilocin, which is responsible for its psychedelic effects.
  • Mescaline: Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic that produces effects similar to LSD.
  • Ayahuasca: This class of mild hallucinogen drugs can be brewed in tea. It is traditionally used in spiritual ceremonies in South America and among indigenous people of the Western basin.

Are Hallucinogens Addictive?

While not all types of hallucinogenic substances are addictive, some have the potential to be. For example, PCP is addictive, while LSD has not been found to cause dependency issues.

Can You Overdose on a Hallucinogen?

While taking high doses of major hallucinogenics can cause unpleasant experiences, most won’t lead to an overdose. One exception is PCP, which can cause seizures, coma, and death when taken excessively and/or mixed with depressants.

People should also heed the hallucinogenic warning, as the drugs can lead to dangerous behaviors. Additionally, there is the risk of the drug being poisonous (e.g., consuming poisonous mushrooms thinking they are magic mushrooms) or containing unsafe contaminants.

How Do Hallucinogens Affect the Brain?

Hallucinogenic substances interact with the neurotransmitters of the brain and produce the following hallucinogens effects:

  • Mood: While some people find hallucinogens put them in a relaxed mood, others will experience psychosis and paranoia.
  • Sensory Perception: Major hallucinogens affect sensory perception, such as making colors seem brighter. They can also produce distorted images and audio hallucinations.
  • Sleep: Some hallucinogens cause feelings of alertness that make it difficult to sleep. For instance, one study found that LSD increases wakefulness and decreases spindle and REM sleep.1
  • Body Temperature: Hallucinogens have powerful interactions with the nervous system that lead to a rise in body temperature.
  • Responses to the Environment: Responses to the environment will change depending on how the person’s body reacts to the drug. For example, if the hallucinogen makes a person paranoid, they may become paranoid and suspicious of their surroundings. If the drug makes a person relaxed, they may feel more inclined to embrace people and things in their surroundings.
  • Emotions: Emotions are a direct reflection of mood. Some major hallucinogens and mild hallucinogen drugs will make people happy, while others will make them fearful or paranoid.
  • Learning and Memory: Many scientists suggest that hallucinogens increase brain activity, causing uncontrolled memory retrieval and increased learning in some capacities.2

Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs

Hallucinogenic drugs affect the brain and body in many ways, causing both short-term and long-term effects.

Short-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs

Short term effects include the following:

  • Anxiety and Panic: For some people, the increased mental processes, along with the changes in perception major hallucinogens cause, lead to feelings of anxiety and panic.
  • Changes in Appetite: The way hallucinogens interact with the serotonin levels in the body can reduce appetite.
  • Changes in the Perception of Time: Trippy hallucinations drugs affect the brain’s fundamental processes distorting the sense of time. One study discovered that over half of participants under the influence of hallucinogens experienced time distortion and temporal insularity.3
  • Feelings of Euphoria and Relaxation: Both major hallucinogens and mild hallucinogen drugs increase serotonin levels to produce feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Common hallucinogenic drugs speed up nervous system activities, increasing heart rate.

Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs

If you take serious hallucinogens long term, they may produce effects such as:

  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD): This non-psychotic disorder involves visual hallucinogens and distorted perceptions that last weeks or months after the drug wears off.
  • Persistent Psychosis: Persistent psychosis is a disconnection from reality that lasts six months or more. It can be caused by taking certain types of hallucinogens. Research shows significant similarities between schizophrenia and LSD-induced psychosis, including premorbid adjustments, cognitive measures, and the number of hospitalizations.4
Hallucinogens Addiction

Treatment for Hallucinogen Addiction

If you become addicted to hallucinogenic substances, help is available. Facilities typically follow a course of action that includes:


Detoxification, or detox, involves allowing the body to rid itself of harmful substances. Withdrawal symptoms will occur, but the medical staff will actively monitor the patient to ensure they are as comfortable as possible and prevent relapse.

Residential Care

While some may prefer outpatient treatment, residential care is available. The facility will provide twenty-four-hour care, keeping track of progress and updating treatment according to the patient’s changing needs.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis simultaneously addresses the addiction and its underlying cause, such as a mental health condition. It is an excellent treatment option for those with co-occurring disorders to achieve long-term recovery.


A variety of therapies may be used, including traditional and alternative methods. The treatment team will develop a customized plan in accordance with the patient’s needs.

Treatment at Soledad House

If you need help with a hallucinogen addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out to Soledad House. We are a recovery program for women offering highly effective, faith-based treatment. Our team of experienced medical professionals will give you the tools to help you recover and achieve life-long sobriety. Contact us to find out how to reclaim your life from addiction.