LSD (Acid)

Published on March 6th, 2014

Hallucinogenic compounds are found in an array of plants and mushroom extracts. They have been used mostly for religious rituals throughout history. Most hallucinogens contain nitrogen and are classified as alkaloids. The chemical structures of most hallucinogenics are similar to those of natural neurotransmitters such as; acetylcholine, serotonin, and catecholamine. The exact mechanisms which allow hallucinogens to exert their effects is still unclear,however research suggests that these drugs work by temporarily interfering with neurotransmitter action or by binding to their receptor sites.

Common Types of Hallucinogens include;

  • LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains (ergot). It is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals, popular in clubs and other party scenes.
  • Peyote is a small, spineless cactus in which the principal active ingredient is mescaline, which can also be produced through chemical synthesis. It has been used by natives in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States as a part of religious ceremonies for centuries.
  • Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is obtained from certain types of mushrooms. These mushrooms are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. Psilocybin mushrooms on average will contain less than 0.5 percent psilocybin plus trace amounts of psilocin, another hallucinogenic substance.
  • PCP (phencyclidine) was developed as an intravenous anesthetic in the 1950. Since this time its use has since been discontinued due to serious adverse effects.

How Are Hallucinogens Abused?

The way in which hallucinogens are abused varies by its form.

  • LSD comes in tablet, capsule, and liquid form. It is usually taken orally. LSD liquid is commonly added to absorbent paper, it is then divided into decorated pieces, each equivalent to one dose, it is then placed on the tongue to dissolve. When in its liquid form it can also be dropped on the tongue directly or within the eye.
  • Peyote: The top of the peyote cactus, also referred to as the crown (disc-shaped button), it is cut from the roots and dried. The buttons are commonly chewed or soaked in water to create an intoxicating liquid that is mixed with various types of tea for taste.
  • Psilocybin: Mushrooms containing psilocybin can be fresh or dried and are often taken orally. It is also commonly brewed as a tea or added to other foods to mask its bitter flavor.
  • PCP is a white crystalline powder that has a distinctive bitter chemical taste. PCP is usually mixed with liquids and alcohol, it can be mixed easily with dyes. It is often sold on the illicit drug market in a variety of tablet, capsule, and colored powder forms that are normally snorted, smoked, or orally ingested. PCP that is smoked is often applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana.

How Do Hallucinogens Affect the Brain?

Hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD, peyote, psilocybin and PCP cause profound distortions in a person’s perception of reality. When an individual is under the influence of an hallucinogen drug they will experience a wide array of effects such as; seeing images, hearing sounds, and feeling sensations that seem real but are not. Users may also experience rapid, intense emotional swings with the hallucination. LSD, peyote, and psilocybin work by disrupting the interaction of nerve cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. This distribution happens throughout the brain and spinal cord, where the serotonin system is involved in the control of behavioral, perceptual, and regulatory systems, including mood, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior, muscle control, and sensory perception. Other hallucinogenic drugs such as PCP act mainly through a type of glutamate receptor in the brain that is important for the perception of pain, responses to the environment, and learning and memory.

  • LSD:  People under the influence of LSD will  experience more sensations and feelings than any physical signs. Commonly user will feel several different emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. When LSD is taken in large enough doses it produces delusions and visual hallucinations, the individuals sense of time and self is also altered. Some may experience their senses “crossing over” one another, as if they are able to hear colors and see sounds. Some individuals may be frightened and become panicked due to these, some experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings of despair, fear of losing control, or fear of insanity and death while using this drug.Some LSD users may also experience flashbacks, or recurrences of certain aspects of the drug experience. These flashbacks can occur suddenly and without warning, occurring within a few days or more than a year after the use of LSD. These flashbacks can persist and cause significant distress or impairment in social or occupational functioning in some individuals, this is a condition known as hallucinogen-induced persisting perceptual disorder (HPPD).LSD is not considered an addictive drug since it does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior and most users are able to stop its use in time. It does produce tolerance, requiring users to take increasingly large doses to achieve the desired effects, due to the unpredictability of LSD this can be extremely dangerous practice.
  • Peyote: Those who use peyote are experiencing effects of mescaline, these are psychological and cognitive which can be long term. Many peyote abusers have reported experiencing flashbacks.
  • Psilocybin: The effects experienced while taking psilocybin have LSD-like properties and produce alterations of autonomic function, motor reflexes, behavior, and perception. There are psychological consequences due to the use of psilocybin that include; hallucinations, an altered perception of time, and an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Users may experience panic reactions and psychosis, especially if a user ingests a large dose. Users may also experience long-term effects such as flashbacks, risk of psychiatric illness, impaired memory, and tolerance.
  • PCP:  PCP  was originally developed as an anesthetic in humans, it was discontinued in 1965 because patients often became agitated, delusional, and irrational while recovering from its anesthetic effects. It is a “dissociative drug,” which distorts perceptions of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment from the environment and self. Some users report the PCP abuse generates feelings of strength, power, and invulnerability as well as a numbing effect on the mind. Others adverse psychological effects due to PCP abuse include: Schizophrenia-like symptoms, Mood disturbances, memory loss, difficulties with speech and thinking, depression, and weight loss. Prolonged use of PCP may also result in the individual developing an addiction, experiencing craving and compulsive PCP-seeking behavior, despite severe adverse consequences.

What Other Adverse Effects Do Hallucinogens Have on Health?

Commonly hallucinogen abusers will experience adverse effects that often is due to the large number of psychoactive ingredients within the drug.

  • LSD‘s effects depend largely on the amount the individual has taken. It may cause dilated pupils, a raise body temperature and increase heart rate and blood pressure. It may also cause profuse sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors.
  • Peyote‘s effects are often similar to those of LSD. It may cause increased body temperature and heart rate, the user may experience uncoordinated movements known as ataxia, as well as profound sweating, and flushing. The active ingredient mescaline has also been  reported to cause fetal abnormalities.
  • Psilocybin‘s effects often include; muscle relaxation or weakness, ataxia, excessive pupil dilation, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness.
  • PCP taken at low-to-moderate doses will produce physiological effects  similar to that of PCP including a slight increase in breathing rate and a pronounced rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. The users breathing may become shallow; flushing and profuse sweating, generalized numbness of the extremities, and loss of muscular coordination may occur as well.

What Treatment Options Exist?

Treatment for alkaloid hallucinogen intoxication is usually supportive: provision of a quiet room with little sensory stimulation, only sought out when the individual experiences a bad trip and i at risk to their own safety and/or the safety of others. Patients experiencing extreme agitation or seizures may be prescribed benzodiazepine medications for relief.

While most hallucinogen’s are not addictive, PCP can be when it is used on a regular basis. However there is no specific treatments used for PCP abuse and addiction, inpatients and/or behavioral treatment programs have proven to be helpful in its treatment.


Statistics and Trends

Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of LSD for 8th-Graders, 10th-Graders, and 12th-Graders; 2013 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period 8th-Graders 10th-Graders 12th-Graders
LSD Lifetime 1.40 2.70 3.90
Past Year 1.00 1.70 2.20
Past Month 0.50 0.60 0.80
National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Trends in Prevalence of LSD for Ages 12 or Older, Ages 12 to 17, Ages 18 to 25, and Ages 26 or Older; 2012 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period Ages 12 or Older Ages 12 to 17 Ages 18 to 25 Ages 26 or Older
LSD Lifetime 9.10 1.00 5.90 10.70
Past Year 0.40 0.60 1.80 [0.10]
Past Month 0.10 0.10 0.30 0.00
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