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How are Hallucinogens Dangerous?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that hallucinogens are sometimes addictive, and it is possible to overdose on them. How are hallucinogens dangerous? Well, the fact that they can lead to addiction, or cause an overdose is enough to classify them as dangerous drugs. These drugs alter the user’s perception of reality, as well as their mental state. Predispositions to addiction can cause this class of drugs to lead to addiction, and addiction oftentimes leads to overdose. Hallucinogens are dangerous drugs, and understanding those dangers is crucial to overcoming addiction to these drugs. 

What are Hallucinogens?

Simply put, they are a special class of drugs in which the user tends to have an altered perception of reality. As such, they can affect the way a person views their surroundings, as well as their thoughts and feelings. Hallucinogens are often categorized by two different names: classic and dissociative hallucinogens. They both cause hallucinations, and dissociative hallucinogens can cause users to feel an almost disconnected state of being. Some of the common forms of each, classic and dissociative, are listed below.


  • Psilocybin
  • LSD
  • Peyote


  • Salvia
  • PCP
  • Ketamine

Each of these drugs causes its own set of effects, and side effects that can be dangerous, and lead to severe long-term effects.

How Hallucinogens Work

Hallucinogens work by altering the brain’s production of essential chemicals that are used to regulate most bodily functions. Classic hallucinogens tend to have shorter-term effects than dissociative hallucinogens do. However, both forms can cause drastic changes in the brain, as well as the behaviors of the user. 

These drugs can build tolerance and lead to addiction in the user. For example, while LSD does not produce the usual drug-seeking behaviors often seen in drug addiction, it can build that tolerance and cause the user to require more and more of the drug to reach the desired effect. Furthermore, continuous and repeated PCP use can lead the user to feel intense cravings, headaches, and sweats, all of which are withdrawal symptoms of the drug. Therefore, how hallucinogens are dangerous can be determined with this knowledge. Moreover, any illicitly created drug comes with dangers. Because one can never really know exactly what is in these drugs. 

Commonly Used Hallucinogenic Drugs

Just like most other drugs, hallucinogens come in different forms. As such, these drugs are classified as hallucinogens based on the way they affect the brain. Here are some commonly used hallucinogenic drugs:

  • LSD/Acid
  • MDMA
  • Mushrooms
  • Peyote
  • Ketamine

These drugs all come with different side effects, and most have no medical use. However, a specific form of ketamine called esketamine has, in recent years, proven to be effective in the treatment of resistant depression. Aside from this, there is no known medical benefit to these hallucinogenic drugs.

How do Dangerous Hallucinogens affect the Brain?

It is commonly believed that classic hallucinogens work in the brain by changing the way that serotonin is received and processed. Serotonin is crucial to many of the body’s physical functions. Also, it regulates things like mood, sleep, hunger, body temp, and sexual behaviors. Similarly, dissociative hallucinogens adversely affect the glutamine produced in the brain. Glutamine helps to regulate bodily functions such as perception of pain, learning, memory, and emotions. So, how hallucinogens are dangerous is answered by the way they negatively impact the brain’s production and use of vital chemicals. 

It is more commonly heard of in classic hallucinogens for users to refer to their experience as “trips”. The effects can begin in as little as 20 minutes and last for as long as 12 hours, depending on the substance being used. Further, with dissociative hallucinogens, the effects can seem more intense as the user often disconnects, or dissociates, from their own body in their mind. In fact, frequent use of hallucinogens can deteriorate a person’s mental health. Additionally, other effects of classic and dissociative hallucinogens can include things like:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Heightened sensory perception
  • Nausea
  • Slowed sense of time
  • Psychosis
  • Sleep problems
  • Paranoia
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Uncoordinated movement

Are Hallucinogens Dangerous?

The short answer is- yes they are dangerous. How are hallucinogens dangerous? Well, the fact that they alter a person’s personal perception of reality, as well as the production of essential chemicals in the brain can be dangerous to the user. As such, drugs that alter perceptions of reality can cause users to do things they would never usually do.  This is especially true when they act out on suicidal thoughts and feelings. Hallucinogen use can also lead to addiction, especially in those who are predisposed to an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Overuse of these drugs, more commonly with dissociative hallucinogens, can lead to overdose. When someone overdoses on these drugs it can lead to coma, seizures, and even death. Anyone struggling with these drugs should consider seeking help to address the underlying causes of drug use. 

Get Help for Hallucinogen Abuse in Louisville, KY

Hallucinogen use can lead to fatal consequences. If you or a loved one are struggling, there is hope, and there is help. Louisville Addiction Center aims to give those under our care the treatment they need for substance use disorders. Reach out to us today and begin your journey to recovery from addiction to these dangerous drugs.