Hallucinogens: Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:05 What are Hallucinogens?
  • 0:49 The Most Common Hallucinogens
  • 1:06 LSD and Peyote
  • 2:44 Psilocybin and PCP
  • 4:07 How Hallucinogens…
  • 4:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gary Gilles

Gary has a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology and has been teaching and developing courses in higher education since 1988.

Hallucinogens are mind-altering drugs that are commonly known as psychedelics. Learn more about hallucinogens, the most common types and the various effects they have on people.

What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are certain types of drugs that distort a person's mental and perceptual abilities and often produce bizarre images and sensations. These sensations are so unusual that they're sometimes referred to as trips. Users often see images, hear sounds and experience sensations that seem realistic but do not exist. For example, a person using a hallucinogen may feel as though bugs are crawling over their entire body when there are, in fact, no insects on them at all.

Hallucinogens have been used throughout history both as a source of natural medicine and in religious traditions around the world. In Western culture, hallucinogens have also been used to enhance creativity and expand the mind's potential.

The Most Common Hallucinogens

There are many different kinds of hallucinogens. Some are found naturally in plants, seeds, fungi and leaves, while others are synthetic and developed in a laboratory. They are most often eaten, drunk in a tea or smoked. Let's take a look at some of the most common hallucinogens.


LSD (lysergic acid diethyl amide) is a synthetic compound and one of the most powerful hallucinogens. It's typically delivered on a small piece of paper that the user puts into his or her mouth. LSD can cause a person to focus on small details, like the pores of their skin, or see objects in brilliant color. LSD can also prompt strong moods swings that range from joy to depression. An LSD trip can last up to 10 hours, during which time the person can experience impaired judgment and hallucinatory-like experiences. Though LSD is not considered to be addictive like cocaine and heroin, you can build up a tolerance that requires using more of the substance in order to get the same high.


Peyote is a small, spineless cactus that contains a hallucinogenic compound called mescaline. It comes from the dried tops of the roots of the cactus, often called peyote buttons, which are then dried. It can be brewed in tea, processed into a powder and capsulized or simply eaten directly. Mescaline can also be created synthetically.

Mescaline produces a hallucinatory state similar to LSD but with fewer visual distortions. Mescaline's perceptual distortions typically affect a person's thinking process, time awareness and self-awareness. For example, a mescaline-induced experience might give the user the impression of floating or the impression that they are able to communicate with inanimate objects, like trees. As with LSD, mescaline users build up a tolerance to the point where more of the drug is required to get the same effects.


Psilocybin is a naturally occurring hallucinogen found in over 200 species of mushrooms, commonly referred to as psilocybin mushrooms. Psilocybin has mind-altering effects that are similar to LSD and mescaline and include an altered sense of time, feelings of euphoria and distorted visual and mental images. Psilocybin mushrooms can be eaten raw, cooked, brewed in tea or dried. Psilocybin mushrooms can easily be mistaken for poisonous lookalikes, which, if eaten, can cause death. As with LSD and mescaline, psilocybin use builds a tolerance that leads to greater amounts being used to achieve the same effect.

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