Hallucinogens are drugs that alter brain chemicals and create intense psychological effects including extreme emotional reactions, hallucinations, and other sensory and perception distortions. According to the DOJ, “Hallucinogen are found in plants and fungi or are synthetically produced,” and they are “among the oldest known group of drugs” used for the purpose of altering perception and mood. There are many different types of hallucinogens, and while some are more natural and may possibly be less harmful than others, they all have the possibility to cause dangerous side effects in those individuals who abuse them, especially frequent users.
There is a group of several types of hallucinogenic drugs that occur in nature and, in many cases, have been used for centuries by those hoping to experience religious or mystical epiphanies. These include:
Background: According to CESAR, peyote is “a spineless cactus with small protrusions called ‘buttons’ that are used for psychoactive hallucinogenic purposes.” It can be grown in very few places, and its principle compound is mescaline, an amphetamine that causes hallucinogenic effects.
Street Names: bad seed, P, ubs, tops, seni, hikori, kiuli, hyatari, cactus, mesc, moon, mezc, topi, mescal, cactus buttons
Legal Status: The drug is a Schedule I substance, meaning it is illegal to use due to its extreme potential for abuse and inability to be used for medicinal purposes.
Methods of Use: The buttons can be dried and then chewed or “soaked in water to produce an ingestible liquid,” ground into powder, smoked, ingested as a tablet, capsule, or powder, or, very rarely, injected.
Side Effects: increased body temperature, numbness, anxiety, chills, mood swings, synesthesia (the experience of altered perceptions––”seeing music” or “hearing colors”), melding of past and present experiences, hallucinations, problems with concentration, heightened experience of senses and perceptions
Long-term Effects: hallucinogen-induced persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD), flashbacks, psychosis
Street Names: boomers, magic mushrooms, cubes, caps, gods flesh, sherm, shrooms, silly putty, silly cybin, musk, liberty caps
Legal Status: The chemical psilocybin is a Schedule I drug, but the mushrooms themselves are not scheduled.
Methods of Use: Psilocybin mushrooms can be eaten fresh or dried (usually prepared with another type of food), brewed into a tea, crushed into a powder to make capsules or tablets, smoked, and rarely, injected.
Side Effects: increased body temperature, sweating, nausea/vomiting, hallucinations, synesthesia, confusion, inability to distinguish reality from the past/fantasy, hallucinations, spiritual experiences, anxiety, mood changes “altered perception of time and space” (CESAR)
Long-term Effects: tolerance, withdrawal, confusion, HPPD, flashbacks
Background: Salvia divinorum is also known as salvia, and it is a hallucinogenic plant native to Mexico. The Mazatecs used it for many years in their religious rituals, and the plant is actually part of the sage family.
Street Names: La Maria, la hembra, magic mint, diviner’s mint/sage, the female, leaves of Mary, herb of the shepherdess, ska pastora
Legal Status: In the United States, salvia is not listed as a controlled substance and neither is its active ingredient Salvinorin A.
Methods of Use: The plant can be dried and smoked, chewed as quid, ingested, or vaporized and inhaled.
Side Effects: dizziness, nausea, decreased heart rate, slurred speech, chills, hallucinations, feelings of spinning and twisting, seeing shapes and patterns
Long-term Effects: Little is known about the drugs long-term effects. According to CESAR, “There have been no reports of health problems or hospitalizations as a result of salvia use, few dangers related to its use have been identified, and no evidence exists that it is addictive.”
Some hallucinogenic drugs can also be created in a lab instead of found in nature. Still, both types of drugs can be dangerous. Some of these substances were originally made for medicinal purposes while others were always meant to be drugs of abuse.
Background: First synthesized in 1938, it was used to treat everything from schizophrenia to sexual perversions until the 1970s when it was discovered that the drug causes extreme side effects that make it unsuitable for medicinal use.
Street Names: acid, purple haze, battery acid, doses, boomers, cubes, sugar cubes, dots, electric Kool-Aid, tabs
Legal Status: LSD is a Schedule I drug.
Methods of Use: It can be crushed into a powder and dissolved, a liquid that is dropped onto a small piece of paper that is then chewed and ingested, inhaled, or injected.
Side Effects: hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurry vision, synesthesia, “sense of heightened understanding,” intensification of sensations, paranoia, mood swings, anxiety, and rarely, seizures (CESAR)
Long-term Effects: psychosis, PPD, flashbacks, tolerance
Background: PCP was synthesized in 1926 as an anesthetic. Today, it is only rarely used as an animal tranquilizer because of its severe side effects.
Street Names: angel dust, amp, embalming fluid, boat, zoom, belladonna, amoeba
Legal Status: PCP is a Schedule I drug.
Methods of Use: It can be sprinkled on cigarettes or other smokeable drugs or ingested as a pill or capsule, often unknowingly by the individual.
Side Effects: paranoia, nausea/vomiting, salivation, blank staring, muscle rigidity, panic, hostile and violent behavior, homicidal or suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, agitation, delusions of grandeur, coma, overdose, death
Long-term Effects: addiction, toxic psychosis, HPPD, flashbacks, isolation, anxiety, depression, memory problems
Background: The drug is “similar to both the stimulant amphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline” (SAMHSA). It was synthesized in 1912 and later used in “psychotherapy and marriage counseling” until it was found to be dangerous (CESAR).
Street Names: E, ecstasy, molly, rolls, pills, go
Legal Status: MDMA is a Schedule I drug.
Methods of Use: It is taken mostly as a tablet or crushed and swallowed in a napkin and occasionally smoked.
Side Effects: muscular tension, chills, hallucination, extremely high body temperature, fainting, blurred vision, jaw clenching, anxiety, euphoria, paranoia
Long-term Effects: addiction, confusion, depression, paranoia, severe anxiety