by Teen Drug Abuse Staff
Hallucinogens have been used throughout the centuries for their ability to alter human perception. They are among the oldest known drugs, many of which are found in plants and fungi. In the past, hallucinogens have been used for religious, social and medical practices.
When consumed by teens, hallucinogens cause imagined experiences that seem real. The word “hallucinate” comes from the Latin words meaning “to wander in the mind.” When consumed in non-toxic dosages, hallucinogens produce changes in perception, mood, and thought. These changes in perception include:
- Psychic effects, which are disorders of thought associated with time and space.
- Physiological effects, such as elevated heart rate, dilated pupils, and increased blood pressure.
- Sensory effects – perceptual distortions that vary with setting, mood, and dose (Hallucinogens).
Hallucinogens affect a teenagers well being and may change the way they feel
emotionally. They may cause them to feel suspicious, confused, paranoid, and disoriented. Hallucinogens can cause mixed up speech, loss of muscle control, and make the teen act in aggressive, irrational, or violent ways.
The use of hallucinogens leads to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to heart and lung failure. The drug changes the way the brain interprets reality, time, and the surrounding environment. Also affected is the way the teen reacts to situation, images, voices, and things that don’t exist (Hallucinogens affect the Heart).
Ingesting hallucinogens can be pleasurable for some teenagers and extremely frightening for others. Hallucinogens are unpredictable; each time they are used the results can be different. The user may experience flashbacks, weeks or even months after the drug has been consumed. Flashbacks are more likely to occur when the teen is under stress and they seem to occur more frequently in the youth. Various types of hallucinogens include:
- MDA and MDMA
LSD is the most potent hallucinogen and is derived from a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. However, it can be manufactured synthetically in illegal labs. LSD is usually taken by mouth, but can also be inhaled or injected. Pure LSD is a white, odorless powder that is water soluble. The drug is usually mixed with other substances, such as sugar and is sold on the street as: blotter acid – pictured paper that has been soaked in an LSD solution, capsules, microdot tablets, and thin squares of gelatin known as window panes.
The body can quickly form a tolerance to a hallucinogen, so the teen will have to take more and more of the drug for the same effect. This is very dangerous because taking stronger doses may cause severe side effects, which could lead to an overdose.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a teen is using hallucinogens. They sometimes have different effects, depending on the user and the dose. Look for the following signs: irrational behavior, distorted sense of light, touch, and hearing, faintness, mood swings, dilated pupils, and anxiety or paranoia (Look around you).
Hallucinogens such as MDA and MDMA cause the release of serotonin in the brain. The released serotonin can over-activate the serotonin receptors. In animals, MDA and MDMA have been shown to damage and destroy nerve fibers of neurons that contain serotonin. This can be a big problem for the user because serotonin neurons have a major role in the control of heart rate, sleep, and mood.
MDA and MDMA are extremely popular in the dance and rave club scene that is so popular with kids today. Parent’s are under the delusion that these dance clubs are safe because they don’t serve alcohol. This idea could not be further from the truth. Teenagers hide the hallucinogens in inventive and secretive ways, such as in eye drop bottles, candy containers, and energy drinks so that law enforcement and parents cannot easily detect them.
Teens who abuse hallucinogens over an extended period of time can experience severe anxiety, depression, and paranoia. There have been cases documented where an excessive amount of hallucinogens can cause the user never to come down from their “trip” and they remain in a permanent state of delusion (A Recent Discovery).
There is no way to predict a bad trip. Hallucinogens are not consistent, so each trip may differ depending on the drug’s purity and strength. Don’t try to help someone through a bad trip – call 911 and a trusted adult immediately. Be supportive, responsible, and encourage the teen to seek professional help.
“A Recent Discovery” NIDA for Teens: Mind over Matter. 2005. 01 Jul 2005 http://teens.drugabuse.gov/mom/mom_ha14.asp
“Hallucinogens” Information on Hallucinogens from Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Oct. 2004. 01 Jul 2005 http://www.pamf.org/teen/risk/drugs/hallucinogens/
“Look around you” www.health.org.2004. 01 Jul 2005 http://www.health.org/_usercontrols/parentpage.aspx