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How is Hallucinogen Addiction Different from Other Forms of Drug Addiction?

Hallucinogen abuse can lead to a psychological dependence and eventually even an addiction.

With heroin and prescription pain pill addictions gaining increasing media coverage, hallucinogen-type drugs like LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin continue to fly under the radar as far as their actual addictive potential goes. Best known for the “out-of-this-world” experiences these drugs produce, hallucinogens interact with the brain in different ways than opiates or even stimulant drugs. In effect, the way hallucinogens interact with brain chemical processes accounts for why hallucinogen addictions develop in different ways than others types of drugs.

While hallucinogens, as a group, carry a lower potential for addiction than opiates and stimulants, they do still pose a risk for addiction all the same. Understanding how hallucinogen addictions develop can go a long way towards avoiding the dangers that come with this class of drugs.

Drug Dependence vs. Drug Addiction

Hallucinogen Addiction

Hallucinogen abuse creates a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Opiates, stimulants, benzodiazepines and barbiturates all carry a high potential for abuse and addiction. When abused for prolonged periods of time, the brain and body become physically dependent on the drug’s effects to function normally. Physical dependence also leaves users open to experiencing withdrawal effects as the brain’s tolerance levels increase.

With chronic drug abuse, the brain’s chemical network becomes even more so entrenched, creating conditions for psychological dependence to develop. Psychological dependence becomes the gateway for addiction to run its course. In effect, highly addictive substances cause both drug dependence and drug addiction to develop, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Hallucinogens differ in that their interactions in the brain don’t lead to physical dependence, however, psychological dependence can and does develop in cases of frequent, long-term drug use. While frequent hallucinogen use doesn’t cause withdrawal effects to take shape, it does create conditions for hallucinogen addiction to develop.

Effects of Hallucinogen Addiction on the Brain

Hallucinogens, such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin disrupt serotonin production levels in the brain. Serotonin, an essential neurotransmitter chemical, regulates sensory perceptions, memory and learning functions. In effect, hallucinatory effects result from abnormal levels of serotonin in the brain. With frequent hallucinogen use, brain chemical pathways reconfigure in such a way as to warp a person’s priorities and motivations to the point where his or her attentions become fixated on experiencing the effects of the drug.

Characteristics of Hallucinogen Addiction

Addiction in any form requires a psychological dependence to be present. This means physical dependence is not a required criterion for addiction to take shape. From this standpoint, hallucinogen addictions can have the same devastating effects in a person’s life as any other form of addiction.

According to the University of West Georgia, characteristics of hallucinogen addiction include:

  • Intense drug cravings
  • Compulsive drug-seeking and drug-using behavior
  • Radical shifts in priorities
  • Loss of interest in other life areas
  • Relationship problems caused by compulsive drug use
  • Money problems
  • Legal problems

Are Hallucinogenic Drugs Dangerous?

While users may not experience the types of harsh withdrawal effects that other drug types cause, they nonetheless experience the consequences of hallucinogen addiction within their day-to-day lives.

If you or someone you know struggles with hallucinogen addiction and are considering getting treatment help, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-609-2774 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

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