Patterns of Hallucinogenic Drug Abuse

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  • 0:02 Hallucinogenic Drug Use
  • 2:57 Hallucinogen Abuse & Tolerance
  • 4:13 Hallucinogen…
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley has a JD degree and is an attorney. She has taught and written various law courses.

There are many different types of hallucinogenic drugs, many of which have long histories. This lesson takes a look at the use, abuse, tolerance, withdrawal, and overdose patterns of hallucinogenic drugs.

Hallucinogenic Drug Use

How long have people been using mind-altering, hallucinogenic drugs? According to artifacts found on islands in the Lesser Antilles, possibly 2,500 years!

Hallucinogens are drugs that cause hallucinations, or severe distortions in the user's perceptions of reality. Sometimes these drugs are called psychedelic drugs or psychoactive drugs. That's because hallucinogens are known for their mind-altering or 'mind-tripping' effects. Many users liken the experience to a dreamlike state.

There are many different types of hallucinogenic drugs used in many different ways. Historically, hallucinogenic plants were used in tribal rituals. Ancient people believed the plants brought spiritual insights and a connection to a higher power. Today, studies show that hallucinogenic drugs are mainly used by adventurous teens and young adults and for recreational purposes. Besides the lifetime prevalence rate among Native Americans, most hallucinogenic drug users in the U.S. are white males between the ages of 18 and 25. These hallucinogenic drug users are often looking for a fun 'trip,' or escape from reality.

Let's take a look at a few of the most well known:

  • Peyote is a cactus with hallucinogenic properties that's been used in ceremonies and rituals for thousands of years. Different Native American tribes are known to use peyote in different ways, including drying and eating it, making it into a tea, or smoking it in a pipe.
  • Psilocybin is a type of hallucinogenic mushroom that's been used for thousands of years. The mushrooms are usually eaten.
  • LSD stands for 'lysergic acid diethylamide' and is a synthetic, or man-made, hallucinogenic drug developed in the 1930s but made popular in the late 1960s. LSD is most associated with the hippie drug culture of the 1960s and 70s. It's typically a liquid, absorbed into small blotter papers or sugar cubes. The papers or cubes are then placed on or under the user's tongue so that the user can ingest the LSD.
  • Ecstasy, also known as 'MDMA,' is a synthetic, hallucinogenic drug first popularized in the 1970s and best known as a club drug or party drug. Ecstasy usually comes as a small pill or tablet and is swallowed.

Hallucinogen Abuse & Tolerance

Many people don't consider hallucinogens to be a major source of drug abuse. However, a 2013 study showed that well over 200,000 Americans over the age of 12 reported having used LSD in just the past month. Another 30,000 admitted to recent use of a similar hallucinogen known as PCP, or 'angel dust.'

Though use has remained steady throughout the years, some professionals don't consider the drugs to be as inherently dangerous as other types. That's because hallucinogens aren't considered to be physically addictive. However, hallucinogens aren't considered to be safe. The use of hallucinogens can lead to psychological dependence. This refers to the user's perceived need for the drug, based on a strong compulsion or urge to use the drug.

Also, note that hallucinogens are known for causing drug tolerance much more rapidly than many other types of drugs. Tolerance occurs when a user's body adjusts to a drug, requiring the user to take higher doses in order to achieve the desired effect.

Hallucinogen Withdrawal & Overdose

This adjustment to the drug means the user might experience consequences when he or she stops using. This is known as withdrawal and refers to the physical and emotional difficulties experienced as a drug-dependent user suddenly stops or drastically reduces his or her use of the drug.

Because hallucinogens aren't thought to result in physical dependence, physical withdrawal symptoms are rare. Though sometimes users experience psychological withdrawal symptoms such as:

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