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Are Natural Psychedelics as Dangerous as Others?

What's the difference between natural and synthetic psychedelic drugs? Find out here.

As a drug class, psychedelics run the gamut in terms of effects, potencies as well as ingredients. Unlike other types of addictive drugs, any one psychedelic drug can produce unpredictable effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This unpredictability contributes to the danger involved with using these types of drugs.

Both synthetic and natural psychedelic effects can take any number of forms, including:

  • Visual/tactile/auditory hallucinations
  • Feelings of floating in air
  • Time distortions
  • Vivid colors
  • Distorted visual field, as in seeing a small room as an auditorium-sized space

In general, natural psychedelics, like all psychedelics, act on certain neurotransmitter chemical systems in the brain. Chemical systems most affected include serotonin, dopamine and glutamate, all of which regulate essential brain and body functions, including:

  • Motor coordination
  • Emotions
  • Cognitive processes
  • Heart functions
  • Respiratory functions
  • Body temperature
  • Sensory perceptions

Natural psychedelic drug types include:

Synthetic Psychedelic drug types include:

  • LSD
  • Ecstasy
  • MDMA
  • Metaescaline
  • Jimscaline
  • Trisescaline
  • Escaline

Variations in Potency

As man-made drugs, synthetic psychedelics contain measured amounts of ingredients (to a certain extent), whereas natural psychedelic substances found in plants and fungi contain varying potency levels from one plant to the next. These variations can pose serious consequences for someone using a particular drug for the first time, as too high a potency level can lead to overdose as well as incite any number of physical or psychological health risks.

Additive or Extraneous Materials

mdma additive

MDMA is a commonly used additive.

Additive or extraneous materials commonly used in synthetic psychedelics may well increase any dangers associated with using these drugs compared to natural psychedelics. While synthetic varieties typically contain measured ingredient mixtures, additive materials can pose a real danger to unsuspecting users.

Commonly used additives include:

  • MDMA
  • Heroin
  • Bath Salts


With natural psychedelics, certain varieties may be difficult to identify, especially in the case of mushrooms. According to Brown University, psilocybin mushrooms can easily be confused with poisonous mushroom varieties, which can cause adverse effects when ingested.

Adverse effects may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Death

Environmental Factors

Psychedelic effects can produce transcendent-like, “out-of-body” journeys as well as horrifying hallucinations. According to Bryn Mawr College, environmental factors hold a considerable influence over the type of experience a user will have. In this respect, both natural and synthetic psychedelics carry an equal risk of producing unpleasant, and sometimes, dangerous “high” effects.

Risk Factors

The dangers associated with synthetic and natural psychedelic drug use can be especially risky under certain circumstances, including:

  • People currently taking any type of medications
  • People who have a “weak” sense of self or ego
  • People with a family history of mental illness

Considering the unpredictability that comes with psychedelic drug use, users expose themselves to some degree of danger every time they use. In effect, both natural and synthetic psychedelics come with certain risks.

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