A Hallucinogen is defined as a substance that causes excitation of the central nervous system, characterized by hallucination. Mood change, anxiety, sensory distortion, delusion, depersonalization; increased pulse, temperature, increased blood pressure, and dilation of the pupils are the many effects that occur. Psychic dependence may occur, and depressive or suicidal psychotic states may result from the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances.
Some kinds of hallucinogens are lysergic acid, commonly know as LSD, phencyclidine, known as PCP, peyote cactus known as mescaline, psychedelic mushrooms, and methylene dioxy methamphetamine, or commonly known as Ecstasy. These psychedelic or mind-altering drugs interfere with normal sensations, perception comprehension, emotions, and a persons self-awareness. An individual who is using hallucinogens often becomes disoriented, paranoid, has visual hallucinations, euphoria, and an increased pulse rate.
Symptoms of an overdose can include agitation, extreme hyperactivity, violence, psychosis, convulsions, and possible death. The word psychedelic was first used in 1956 by a British psychiatrist named Humphrey Osmond. Osmond referred to the mind-altering properties of the naturally occurring hallucinogenic plant substances such as peyote, psilocybin and LSD. Psychedelic became the name for journeys into inner experiences or the expansion of the consciousness. After World War II, scientists were using LSD to study brain chemistry and to determine its affects on patients with mental disorders.
Scientists also studied the effects of LSD in relationship to alcoholics and cancer patients, but stopped because of the drugs unpredictable effects. In the 1960s LSD was seen as the drug, which could help people live better lives. The psychology professor Timothy Leary encouraged students to use LSD in order to expand their horizons. Leary believed that by using LSD all problems would be solved. However, for most people LSD was not a problem solver but for many caused permanent trips. For many young adults in the 60s LSD use was unpredictable, erratic and often brought about violent behavior that sometimes lead to injury or death.
Most hallucinogens tend to stimulate the central nervous system and can cause time distortion. The user finds that sensations and feelings change rapidly and dramatically. The users sense of time may change and sensations may seem to cross over, so that the person may think they hear colors and see sounds. For some people these changes can be too frightening and may cause panic. These drugs also cause a loss of judgment and impaired reasoning. Some users experience flashbacks, which are a recurring aspect of past trips, even after they have stopped taking the drug.
Flashbacks can occur suddenly, without warning, and with in a few days or more then a year after use. Some of the physical risks associated with hallucinogen use are increased heart and blood pressure, sleeplessness, lack of muscle coordination, incoherent speech, decreased awareness of touch and pain, impaired memory and difficulty with abstract thinking. Psychological risk can include a sense of distance and depersonalization, depression, anxiety, suspicion, and terrifying thoughts and feelings. There seems to be a new interest in the use of hallucinogens.
People under thirty seem to be using new designer drugs, such as ecstasy, for recreational use. In particular, raves seem to attract users of psychedelic drugs. Raves are defined as high-tech, high-decibel, computer generated music in which participants dance for as long as two to three days at a time. These designer drugs allow the user to party all night long. Scientific research of hallucinogens is still permitted by the U. S. government, but is limited to mostly animal studies. Many scientists hope that medical benefits will be found from studies of psychedelic drugs.
Some researchers are exploring the use of LSD to accelerate the process of psychotherapy in the treatment of such problems as obsessive-compulsive behavior and depression. In conclusion, hallucinogens are once again becoming more popular as a recreational drug and as a possible benefit for psychiatric use. As hypnosis, meditation and yoga are all popular forms of altering a persons consciousness, so to is the use of psychedelic drugs by an increasing number of people who want to explore the possibilities of mind-alteration.