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Are Psychedelics Addictive?

Are Psychedelics Addictive? Uses, Abuse, Addiction, Effects, Risks, Most Common Psychedelics & Treatment

What are Psychedelics and Are Psychedelics Addictive?

Psychedelics or psychedelic drugs are a subclass of a broader class of drugs commonly referred to as hallucinogenic drugs. These drugs alter one’s conscious perception and thinking processes (cognition) in such a manner that the individual’s conscious experience of the world is altered in a way different than other drugs alter it.

For instance, central nervous system depressants and central nervous system stimulants simply amplify familiar states of conscious experience, whereas psychedelic drugs alter these in such a manner that they are no longer familiar states, but to many people represent “new” states of consciousness. Most of these drugs are believed to primarily affect the neurotransmitter serotonin, although many have multiple effects.

Hundreds of different compounds are classified as psychedelics or hallucinogens, including well-known drugs like LSD, magic mushrooms, peyote, other various plants, and mescaline (also contained in peyote), ketamine (special K), and phencyclidine (PCP). Of course, there are hundreds of other substances in this class, many of which are so new that they are not even on controlled substances lists.

are psychedelics addictive
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), can cause tolerance. Tolerance means that a person may need to take higher dosages to achieve the same effect.

There is a misconception that marijuana and/or cannabis products are hallucinogens; however, these belong to the drug class cannabinoids, which is a class of drugs that does exhibit some hallucinogenic properties but also exhibits properties of stimulants and central nervous system depressants. The hallucinogenic properties of cannabis pale in comparison to the hallucinogenic properties of the drugs discussed in this article.

Apart from different cultural variations in the use of peyote and other mushrooms, typical users of psychedelic drugs are younger, often fairly well educated, and often individuals seeking to broaden their spiritual or cognitive experiences. These drugs are frequently mixed with other drugs. Individuals who mix psychedelic drugs with other drugs are often putting themselves at risk due to poor judgment and potential overdose issues with alcohol, narcotic drugs, benzodiazepines, and stimulants.

The effects that psychedelics produce are dependent on various factors, such as dosage and the personality of an individual. However, they include the following:

  • hallucinations, mainly visual
  • blissful mood or euphoria
  • changes in cognition, or thinking, such as:
    • mystical experiences
    • self-consciousness
    • altered time passage
    • introspection

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What are their uses?

Are Psychedelics Addictive? Psychedelics have both recreational and medical uses:

Recreational uses

In addition to producing visual hallucinations, euphoria, and mystical experiences, psychedelics have other effects that underlie their recreational use. According to one clinical trial, these include derealization, which is when a person feels detached from their surroundings, and depersonalization, which is when they feel detached from their body or mind.

According to the NIDA, people may misuse psychedelics with the hope of:

  • Detaching from reality
  • Coping with stress
  • Entering a spirit world or a more enlightened way of thinking

Medical uses

More research is necessary to provide proof, but a few studies suggest that psychedelics may have a few uses relating to mental health and substance use disorders.

Reduce depression and anxiety

Research from 2016 investigated the effects of psilocybin on 12 people with treatment-resistant depression. Following two doses — 10 milligrams (mg) and then 25 mg — of the drug, the symptoms diminished, and the improvements remained significant for 3 months.

Additionally, a 2016 clinical trial explored the effects of psilocybin on the symptoms of depression and anxiety in 51 individuals with a diagnosis of potentially life-threatening cancer. The results suggested that psilocybin produced a substantial and long-lasting reduction in depression and anxiety, as well as increases in optimism and quality of life.

An older 2014 study examined the use of LSD in 12 people who had anxiety associated with life-threatening conditions. The findings indicated that two moderate doses of 200 micrograms decreased anxiety, with these effects persisting throughout a 12-month follow-up period.

Help with smoking and alcohol abstinence

Research from 2016 assessed the use of psilocybin in helping 15 individuals quit smoking. An analysis of the data indicated that the drug might hold promise in fostering long-term smoking abstinence.

A 2015 clinical trial evaluated the value of psilocybin in 10 participants with alcohol dependence. The results suggested that the drug reduced cravings for alcohol and increased abstinence. For the most part, the benefits lasted throughout a 36-week follow-up period.

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Psychedelic Drugs List

LSD

Are Psychedelics Addictive? LSD is a drug that even when taken in very small amounts produces very powerful alterations of mood and vivid visual hallucinations. Most often, individuals who take LSD experience euphoria; however, there can be quite a range of symptoms that include extreme well-being to feelings of severe anxiety and even total despair and hopelessness. LSD is typically taken in a tablet or a liquid form that can be taken with certain types of ingestible papers.

The typical doses individuals who use LSD take are very small, between 100 and 200 micro milligrams, and they produce long-lasting effects that can last up to 12 hours. There appear to be no recorded fatalities from overdosing on LSD alone, and reports in the literature of LSD overdoses often include the use of LSD with other potentially dangerous drugs. Case studies reporting the reactions of individuals from very high doses of LSD indicate that no significant long-term effects occurred in these people.

There remain to be no significant documented physical effects from long-term use of LSD. Even though individuals appear to develop some level of tolerance to LSD, there is no significant literature describing withdrawal symptoms; thus, there is no evidence that physical dependence on LSD occurs. There does not appear to be any significant literature associating LSD use with the development of a substance use disorder or addiction, although there are most certainly isolated cases of chronic LSD abuse.

Some potential emotional issues appear to be associated with the long-term use of LSD. Some research reports that some long-term users of LSD may have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and issues with motivation to engage in typical everyday tasks. Individuals undergoing negative experiences (bad trips) can potentially develop serious emotional problems.

Of course, individuals under the influence of LSD are prone to poor decision-making and may suffer accidents related to very vivid perceptual distortions, such as visual hallucinations. There is a potential of developing flashbacks weeks to even years following chronic use of LSD, a condition known as hallucinogen-induced persistent perception disorder.

Magic Mushrooms

Are Psychedelics Addictive? There are over 100 species of psychoactive mushrooms that contain the substance psilocybin. Many of these also contain other psychoactive substances that act similarly to psilocybin. Magic mushrooms that contain psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine) are typically eaten. Common responses include:

  • Euphoria, severe alterations in the sense of time since time appears to move significantly slower, dissociation (e.g., feeling as if things are not real or that one is detached from one’s body), and vivid sensual experiences, such as vivid hallucinations
  • Cardiovascular changes, such as increased heart rate, hypertension, or hypotension
  • Tremors, issues with muscular coordination, and increased reflexes
  • Marked pupil dilation
  • Anxiety, panic reactions, and even paranoia in some chronic users
  • Decreased fear responses

There appear to be no documented case studies of fatalities as a result of overdosing on magic mushrooms alone, as individuals who have suffered fatalities after using mushrooms are also known to have used other potentially dangerous drugs in combination with the mushrooms. Of course, this does not mean that it is impossible to overdose to the point where there is a potential risk.

There are also no reports of physical dependence developing from chronic use of psilocybin (exhibiting both tolerance and withdrawal); however, tolerance probably does occur in isolation in people who use the drug regularly. Because of the powerful sensory distortions produced by the drug, individuals under the influence of the drug are undoubtedly prone to engaging in poor judgment and in being associated with accidents. In addition, there might be some instances of several emotional discomforts or even potential psychosis due to the hallucinogenic effects caused by the drug.

are psychedelics addictive
Individuals under the influence of shrooms are undoubtedly prone to engaging in poor judgment and in being associated with accidents.

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Peyote

Are Psychedelics Addictive? Peyote is a spineless cactus that needs several small protrusions that are commonly referred to as buttons. The buttons are taken and processed for the psychoactive ingredients found in peyote. The buttons are cut off and then dried out. They can be soaked in alcohol or water, or chewed. Some individuals grind the buttons into powder and smoke that.

The drug processed from peyote is mescaline, a well-known hallucinogenic drug. In the United States, certain members of Native American tribes and churches are allowed to use peyote in their religious services, even though it is classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I controlled substance.

The effects of peyote include:

  • Dizziness, muscle weakness, ataxia (impaired muscle coordination), a rise in body temperature, and increased reflexes
  • Increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and dilated pupils
  • Profuse sweating, fever, and/or chills
  • Extreme swings in mood, anxiety, and preoccupation with very trivial thoughts
  • The potential to develop psychotic-like experiences while under the influence of the drug
  • Heightened sensory experiences include seeing colors as being far brighter or sounds as being much more magnified, alterations in the perception of time, and synesthesia, which is a perception that one can detect sensory stimuli on a different modality (e.g., one feels that they can hear colors or see sound)
  • Significant dissociative experiences, such as feeling as if one is weightless, weighed down or detached from one’s body

Like the other drugs mentioned above, it appears that tolerance to mescaline (peyote) develops rather rapidly; however, there are no reports of physical withdrawal symptoms in chronic users who stop using peyote. Peyote does not appear to be a drug associated with significant drug abuse.

There are no reliable reports of serious physical damage resulting from overdose; however, as with any of these drugs, the potential for accidents or engaging in behaviors that can be risky due to poor judgment while under the influence of peyote is certainly present.

Ecstasy/Molly

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) commonly known as Molly, is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions).  It is chemically similar to stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception. 

It was initially popular in the nightclub scene and at all-night dance parties (“raves”). But the drug now affects a broader range of people, commonly called Ecstasy or Molly. Its chemical structure is similar to amphetamines, such as methamphetamine and a hallucinogen called mescaline. Mescaline is the active ingredient in the drug peyote.

The unique chemical structure of MDMA causes both hallucinogenic and stimulant effects, such as bursts of energy, changes in how time is perceived, and sensitivity to touch.  Ecstasy and Molly come in pills, capsules, and powder. They’re well-known club drugs that are popular at music festivals.

In 2016, an estimated 2.4 million people reported using ecstasy, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health published in September 2017.

Hallucinogen-Induced Persistent Perception Disorder

Are Psychedelics Addictive? One significant, but rare, a consequence of chronic use of psychedelic drugs is the development of a disorder known as hallucinogen-induced persistent perception disorder. This disorder occurs when individuals who no longer use these drugs experience flashbacks weeks, months, or even years after their last use. Flashbacks consist of experiences that typically occurred while under the influence of the drug, but they occur without actually taking the drug. It appears that a little over 4 percent of individuals who chronically used hallucinogens or psychedelic drugs develop this disorder.

The flashbacks appear to come out of nowhere, and individuals are surprised by them. Common experiences include flashing lights, flashing colors, seeing halos around people, and severe emotional distress. People can also experience very vivid and frightening hallucinations as they are unexpected.

Individuals who have co-occurring disorders (a psychological disorder like depression or bipolar disorder alongside chronic use of psychedelic drugs) appear to be at risk for this disorder. Other risk factors include having a history of negative experiences under the influence of the particular psychedelic drug (e.g., bad trips), consistently using other drugs in combination with psychedelic drugs (e.g., such as alcohol or marijuana), and a chronic history of using psychedelic drugs like LSD or mescaline.

There is no formal treatment for this disorder. Individuals who suffer from it typically receive medications to address any specific symptoms and may also learn stress reduction and relaxation techniques.

Effects of Psychedelic Drugs

The NIDA cautions that short-term side effects of psychedelics include:

  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Changes in the sense of time, such as a feeling that time is passing slowly
  • Heightened feelings and sensory experiences, such as seeing brighter colors

Long-term side effects include persistent psychosis. The effects of psychosis may involve:

  • Paranoia
  • Visual disturbances
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Mood changes

Another long-term effect is a phenomenon called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). This involves flashbacks of a prior drug experience that can happen without warning and cause significant distress or impairment. The flashbacks may occur within a few days or more than 1 year after drug use. HPPD can cause alarm, as a person may mistake the symptoms for a brain tumor or stroke.

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Risks

The following risks are associated with psychedelics:

Risks from a bad trip

Research from 2008 reports that the most common risk is what people call a “bad trip.” It may involve:

  • Fear
  • Dysphoria
  • Panic
  • Frightening illusions
  • Troubling thoughts about one’s life or evil forces
  • Hyperawareness of physiological processes

Risks from dangerous behavior

Psychedelics can impair judgment, which may sometimes cause a person to believe that they have superhuman powers. This belief may induce them to do hazardous things, such as jump off a building.

Risks from high dosages

Experts note that high dosages can affect the blood vessels, potentially causing:

  • Thrombus formation
  • Accumulation of platelets
  • Coronary artery spasms

Risk of death

According to the Department of Justice, an overdose of LSD or psilocybin rarely causes death. When death does occur, it usually stems from:

  • Accidents
  • Suicide
  • Inadvertent ingestion of poisonous plant material
are psychedelics addictive
Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) involves flashbacks of a prior drug experience that can happen without warning and cause significant distress or impairment.

Risks from contaminants

Drugs of abuse pose the danger of having metal or bacterial contamination, which can cause toxicity or infections.

Psychedelic Drug Addiction

Are Psychedelics Addictive? Psychedelics are generally not addictive. However, at least one psychedelic, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), can cause tolerance. Tolerance means that a person may need to take higher dosages to achieve the same effect. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that increasing the dosage can be a “hazardous practice.” The reason for this is that more side effects and risks are associated with higher dosages.

Psychedelics have certain effects, such as mystical experiences, that make them attractive for recreational use. Limited research suggests that they may also have medical uses, such as reducing depression and anxiety, as well as promoting abstinence from smoking and alcohol.

Reclaim Your Life From Psychedelics

Psychedelics can cause serious health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up rehab treatment & detox center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from the effects of abuse with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.

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