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Signs & Symptoms of Hallucinogenic Drug Dependence

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  • 0:01 Use of Hallucinogens
  • 2:22 Hallucinogen Dependence
  • 3:35 Signs & Symptoms of Dependence
  • 5:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

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

Hallucinogenic drug use has risen over the last two decades. Many users mistakenly believe the drugs are safe and cannot cause drug dependence. This lesson takes a look at the most common signs and symptoms of hallucinogenic drug dependence.

Use of Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens were first popularized in the 1960s, when hippies were urged to 'turn on, tune in, drop out' as part of a harmonious lifestyle, one that promoted the use of LSD. LSD is just one type of hallucinogenic drug. Hallucinogens are drugs that cause hallucinations, or severe distortions in the user's perceptions of reality. Some of these drugs have been around since ancient times, including peyote. Others are newer, synthetic drugs, like ketamine and ecstasy.

The drugs are called psychoactive or psychedelic because they interact with the user's brain and alter the user's senses. The resulting event is known as a trip, which refers to a hallucinogen-induced experience that can include visual and auditory hallucinations in addition to dramatic, rapid mood swings. Experiences may vary from pleasant to extremely unpleasant.

The use of LSD dropped significantly after the passage of the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA, in 1970. The CSA classified LSD as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is considered to have no medical benefit and a high potential for abuse, and carries stiff criminal penalties. However, a 2010 study showed the use of hallucinogenic drugs was on the rise, especially among young drug users.

Statistics show fairly recent increases in the abuse of LSD, ketamine and dextromethorphan, or DXM. DXM is an ingredient found in some cough medicines. When ingested in high quantities, the drug can cause hallucinations. Recent changes have more strictly regulated the use of dextromethorphan, making some of these medicines available by prescription only. Many states prohibit the sale of medicines containing DXM to minors under the age of 17.

Hallucinogen Dependence

Many users mistakenly believe hallucinogenic drugs are safe. That may be because hallucinogens aren't generally thought to be physically addictive. However, hallucinogenic drugs can still lead to psychological dependence. This type of drug dependence describes a perceived need for the drug, based on a strong compulsion or urge to use the drug. Let's take a quick look at how psychological dependence develops.

Hallucinogens are popularly used as 'club drugs' or 'party drugs.' These drugs can rapidly cause drug tolerance, which is when a user's body adjusts to a drug, requiring the user to take higher doses in order to achieve the desired effect. As a result, some users quickly reach a point at which they feel they cannot enjoy a party or gathering without a strong dose of a hallucinogenic drug. Others simply crave the 'trip' or feeling experienced from taking the drug. Fortunately, hallucinogen rehabilitation programs are widely available.

Signs & Symptoms of Dependence

The first step in rehabilitation is identifying the need. That can be difficult because there are many different signs and symptoms of hallucinogenic drug abuse and dependence. Most importantly, keep in mind that hallucinogens cause an altered state of mind. The drugs cause the user's brain to see, hear, feel, taste and smell things that simply aren't there. This sign is unlike other types of drugs. In particular, users might describe:

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