Dependence on Hallucinogens: Definition and Examples

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  • 0:07 Hallucinogens
  • 1:44 History
  • 2:46 Side Effects
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

For centuries, people have taken hallucinogens. But what are the dangers? In this lesson, we'll look at hallucinogens more closely, including the history, side effects, and treatment of hallucinogenic dependence.


Roger is a normal, healthy guy. When he's at a party one night, a friend offers him a pill. Even though he knows it's probably not the smartest thing, Roger takes the pill. Soon, he starts experiencing some weird side effects. He starts seeing bright colors and butterflies floating around him, and he's pretty sure he can hear music that no one else can.

Roger is experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations. Hallucinations involve seeing or hearing something that isn't there.

There are many things that can bring on hallucinations, including certain brain problems and psychiatric disorders. In addition, hallucinations are a major side effect of a type of drug called a hallucinogen, which cause disturbances in a person's perception of the world around them.

Hallucinogens are dangerous and mostly illegal. The most famous hallucinogenic drugs: lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, and phencyclidine, or PCP. Other hallucinogens are found in nature, especially the cactus peyote and certain types of mushrooms.

Hallucinogenic dependence, like other types of drug dependence, is when someone becomes addicted to hallucinogens. They might begin to develop a tolerance for hallucinogens, find it necessary to take the drugs to function normally, and experience physical withdrawal when they don't take them.

Let's look closer at how hallucinogens are used, their side effects, and treatment for people who develop hallucinogenic dependence.


Hallucinogens have been around for most of history. Many cultures from around the world used natural hallucinogens, like peyote and mushrooms, in medicine. In addition, cultures from the ancient Hindus to American Indians used hallucinogenic drugs in their religious rites and/or to produce visions and mystical experiences.

LSD was the first man-made hallucinogen. It was discovered by a Swiss chemist, Albert Hofmann, who began to have hallucinations after coming into contact with it. Hofmann's bosses began to market the drug as a psychiatric drug meant to allow psych patients to access repressed emotions.

In the 1950s and 1960s, LSD became a popular drug for recreational use. Many people began using LSD at parties and in other social situations. However, it was around that time that the serious side effects of hallucinogenic drugs became known, and in 1968, LSD became illegal in the United States.

Side Effects

So, just what were the side effects that made people realize that LSD should be illegal?

Hallucinogens, like LSD, have many side effects. Besides the hallucinations, they can cause panic attacks and paranoia. In addition, people who take hallucinogens may experience mood swings while under the influence.

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