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The Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogens

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

February 16, 2024

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Considering trying LSD or mushrooms? While often perceived as “safer” than harder drugs, both have potential long-term effects you should be aware of before making a decision.

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This blog delves into the potential consequences of using hallucinogens, helping you make informed choices about your well-being. 

We’ll explore various long-term effects of hallucinogens, from psychological impacts to potential risks, so you can approach these substances with a clear understanding.

What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens, also known as psychedelics, are a class of psychoactive drugs that induce profound alterations in consciousness and subjective experiences. Hallucinogens can be derived from natural sources, such as certain mushrooms (psilocybin), cacti (mescaline), or the combination of plants used to brew ayahuasca, as well as synthetic compounds like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and DMT (dimethyltryptamine).

When ingested, hallucinogens can induce a wide range of effects. Hallucinogens distort one’s perception of reality by changing the way the brain’s prefrontal cortex processes information. This critical area of the brain control conscious thought, perception, and cognition. Even short-term abuse of hallucinogens may result in temporary psychosis. The long-term effects of hallucinogens include a host of unpleasant possibilities. These include persistent psychosis as evidenced, wild mood discrepancies or variations, hallucinations, and irrational thinking.

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Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogen Abuse

Not only do users experience a myriad of disturbing effects from hallucinogens, but, if they continue using drugs, they will likely experience devastating consequences. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the following hallucinogens long-term effects have been linked to using classic hallucinogens:

Persistent Psychosis

One of the more troubling long-term effects of hallucinogens (for example, long-term effects of LSD) is varying levels of psychosis. In cases of persistent psychosis, there is a profound detachment from reality.  Users may experience wild mood swings, violent outbursts, emotional outbursts, and hallucinations that may seem all too real. Panic attacks are not uncommon and almost mirror the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, which includes hallucinations, delusional thinking, and abnormal behavior. These episodes can last for several hours up to many years, but such length for persistent psychosis is rare.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) involves hallucinations that most people typically associate with drugs in this group. Things like seeing halos and trails attached to moving objects are very real side effects.  Other visual disturbances can include after images or ghost images, flashes of light, twinkling sparkles of light, and bolts of light or light trails. The symptoms of Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) are sometimes mistaken for neurological disorders, like a stroke or a brain tumor: people who experience these symptoms know the experiences are imaginary, but they are disturbing nonetheless.

Flashbacks

Flashbacks can become very problematic, especially for those dealing with personal trauma, abuse trauma, or PTSD. For people dealing with co-occurring mental disorders, professional treatment is highly recommended. Surprisingly, these flashbacks can occur long after a person has stopped using hallucinogens. Scientists have not been able to fully explain this phenomenon, but this is yet another example of the effects of hallucinogens. In short, there’s a possibility of users feeling as if they have used the drug even if they’ve been sober for a prolonged period of time. These flashbacks may take place for months or years after you’ve stopped using hallucinogens and might be triggered by fatigue, stress, trauma, use of other legal drugs or even when exerting yourself.

Amotivational Syndrome

Amotivational Syndrome manifests itself as apathy, passivity, and an inability to take an interest in any activity whatsoever. In short, a total and complete lack of motivation, drive, or interest in any form of exertion. Users suffering from this symptom appear to others to be socially withdrawn and lethargic.

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Short-Term Effects of Hallucinogens

Along with these long-term effects, hallucinogens also lead to a number of different short-term effects of hallucinogenic drugs that can also happen. Unfortunately, these issues can lead to major problems and dangerous physical and psychological symptoms. Some of the common hallucinogens’ short term effects include:

  • Speech difficulty

  • Unexplained loss of weight

  • Severe depression or lethargy

  • Loss of memory

  • Violent behavior

  • Increased instances of panic

  • Impaired or total lack of concentration

  • Increased likeliness of fantasies or delusions

  • Unexplained behavior and other mental disturbances

Fortunately, the effects of hallucinogens usually subside once the individual stops taking the drugs. While there is the possibility of withdrawal symptoms when they stop abusing hallucinogens, a medically supervised detox program can help ensure a lower risk during the detoxification process. If hallucinogen use has become a problem for you or a loved one, it’s time to seek professional addiction treatment. While there is a difference between substance use and substance abuse, addiction treatment can help one overcome the triggers that can lead to relapse. If in doubt, you should talk to the person about their addiction or substance problems.

Hallucinogens Examples

Some examples of hallucinogens include:

  • LSD

  • Mescaline

  • Psilocybin (also known as shrooms or magic mushrooms)

  • PCP

  • Cannabis (weed)

  • Ecstacy

  • Ketamine

  • Salvia

Some of these specific hallucinogens have unique long and short-term effects. Short-term and long term effects of psychedlics should be considered before partaking in hallucinogenic drugs. 

LSD Long-Term Side Effects

Although uncommon, the effects of LSD long term can be quite deterring. These side effects can include panic reactions, schizophrenic episodes, and post-hallucinogenic perceptual disorder which can up to 5 years. 

Mushroom Side Effects Long-Term

Though uncommon, the risks of long-term side effects from psychedelic mushrooms (shrooms) can be unpleasant. The long-term effects of hallucinogenic psilocybin mushrooms are mostly centered around the psychological effects of what is called a “bad trip”. 

In these cases, users can sometimes have flashbacks to nightmarish scenarios in which they experienced high levels of fear and cortisol release during a mushroom trip.

However, mushroom side effects long-term like this are very rare and typically stop within a few weeks to a few months after the bad trip. The long-term effects of shrooms, while not common, should be considered before partaking in this drug. 

Mushroom Side Effects Short-Term

The short-term side effects of mushrooms are also typically tame compared to psychedelic long term effects, including sensory enhancement, a sense of altered time, unusual ideas or behaviors, and a shift in mood. However, as mentioned above, the short-term effects of shrooms can also include bad trips on occasion, which can be quite scary for the user.  

Anxiety, panic attacks, and feelings of being overwhelmed are possible, particularly when consumed in unfamiliar or chaotic environments. Additionally, individuals with a predisposition to mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, may be at higher risk of experiencing acute psychological distress during or after mushroom use.

One crucial aspect to consider is the concept of “set and setting,” a term popularized by Timothy Leary and his colleagues in the 1960s. “Set” refers to the individual’s mindset, emotional state, and expectations before taking mushrooms, while “setting” pertains to the physical and social environment in which the experience occurs. A positive set and setting can significantly contribute to a more pleasant and manageable trip.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with long-term side effects from any drug or alcohol addiction issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our addiction rehab in Orange County at 866.330.9449 to get the help you need.

Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogens FAQs

Can hallucinogens have long-term effects?

Hallucinogens may have long-term effects that are still being studied. Research suggests that they can lead to lasting changes in personality traits, increased openness, and shifts in attitudes and beliefs. Individuals who have had an intense hallucinogenic drug experience may report enduring psychological effects, including improved well-being and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, the long-term effects of hallucinogens vary among individuals, and further research is needed to fully understand their benefits and risks for risks like mushroom side effects long term .

How do hallucinogens affect the body?

Hallucinogens affect the body by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain, particularly the 5-HT2A receptors. This interaction leads to disruptions in neural signal transmission, resulting in altered perception, cognition, and mood. Hallucinogens can cause sensory distortions, such as visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as changes in time perception and the perception of one’s body. Additionally, they can impact emotions, intensify feelings, and enhance introspection. The specific effects of hallucinogens on the body can vary depending on the substance, dosage, individual factors, and the setting in which they are consumed.

Can hallucinogens be addictive?

Hallucinogens are generally not considered addictive in the same way as substances like opioids or stimulants. They do not typically produce physical dependence or withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. However, some individuals may develop psychological dependence or exhibit patterns of problematic use, such as compulsive seeking or craving for hallucinogenic experiences. The risk of psychological dependence can vary depending on various factors, including individual susceptibility, frequency of use, and motivations for use. Responsible and informed usage, along with self-awareness and moderation, can help minimize the potential for problematic patterns of use.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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