Hallucinogens are drugs that contain alkaloid compounds that have the effect of making the user think he or she is seeing or hearing things that are not real. In other words, they make you hallucinate. Many people who experiment with hallucinogens do so with the false impression that these drugs are low-risk. Even if they are not as addictive or as physically damaging as drugs like heroin or cocaine, these substances can cause serious psychological damage and can lead you to become psychologically dependent.
What Are Hallucinogens?
Many of these drugs come from plants, and some have been used by indigenous people throughout the world to aid in spiritual rituals. When consumed, the alkaloids in these drugs mimic neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain, and make you see or hear things. It may seem like hallucinogens went out of style in the 1970s, but they are still around, and some have even made a comeback. Here are some of the most common hallucinogens on the market:
- LSD stands for d-lysergic acid diethylamide and it comes from a fungus that grows on rye. LSD causes trips lasting up to 12 hours.
- This compound comes from some kinds of mushrooms that grow in North and South America. Users call these magic mushrooms and their effects last up to six hours.
- The crown of the peyote cactus has been used by Native Americans for millennia. Typically made into a tea, the effects of peyote last about 12 hours.
- Also known as angel dust, this is a synthetic compound that can cause serious mood disturbances in addition to hallucinations. It is more likely to cause bad reactions and violent outbursts than other hallucinogens.
Are Hallucinogens Chemically Addictive?
Most of these drugs are not considered to be chemically addictive or to cause physical dependence. Drugs like heroin or crack lead to physical dependence by making changes in the brain that cause it to adapt to the drug. The exception is PCP, which is considered addictive. Using PCP can lead to brain changes that cause users to become tolerant to its effects, to crave it and to compulsively seek it out despite the negative consequences.
Are Hallucinogens Psychologically Addictive?
Although hallucinogens like LSD and peyote don’t cause the physical changes that lead to dependence, that doesn’t mean they are never addictive. These kinds of drugs can be psychologically addictive. There are all kinds of addictive behaviors that are not related to chemical substances, like compulsive gambling or overeating, for instance.
Psychological addiction tends to occur when you engage in a behavior, or use a hallucinogen, in reaction to negative emotions, like stress. Over time your use of, say, magic mushrooms becomes associated in your mind with becoming more relaxed, getting away from reality and generally escaping the trials of everyday life. Eventually you start to use the drug in an addictive way. You use it to cope and you keep seeking it out in a compulsive way, no matter how it may be negatively affecting your life.
The simple answer to whether you can get addicted to hallucinogens is yes. You absolutely can get addicted. It’s just not the same kind of addiction as people who get hooked on drugs like heroin. There are other risks associated with using hallucinogens, like having bad trips that can lead to emotional and psychological trauma. You should think twice and three times before experimenting with these serious and mind-altering drugs.