Hallucinogens and LSD

Perception to misperception

Hallucinations are alterations in one’s sensory perception. They involve discernments and interpretations without the presence of any real sensory stimulus. Thus one may see or hear or feel things that are not really there. As the name suggests, hallucinogens give rise to a transient loss of contact with reality, and may be accompanied by heightened and expanded awareness. Unlike other drugs that simply produce euphoria, wellness, and a sense of contentment these drugs actually generate an alternate consciousness.

Common culprits

There are 3 categories of hallucinogens: the psychedelics like LSD, MDMA, MDEA and psilocybin (shrooms) alter sensory perception, dissociatives like dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ketamine and phencyclidine engender a sense of environmental detachment and deleriants like mandrake and nutmeg actually produce altered awareness which in many ways is similar to a delirious fever. Since hallucinogenic substances have always been present in natural plants, many cultures used them for recreation and in fact culturally sanctioned them.

How they act

Hallucinogens can get absorbed in the body through all means-oral ingestion, inhalation, smoking or intravenous injection. Their effects last for a few hours and tolerance develops fast. This tolerance is reversible and the person can give up the substance and have the neurotransmitters reach baseline within 7 days. However the memory of the experience is vivid and produces significant psychological dependence. The pleasurable ecstatic reminiscence is what the user deeply craves for in its absence.

Acid that burns

Well known as ‘acid’ LSD is scorching the lives of many. Commonly taken through drops on sugar cubes or blots of filter paper, effects of LSD begin in one hour, lasting 8 to 12 hours.
 Perceptions become unusually brilliant and intense; colors 
become richer, contours get sharper, music more profound and
 smells and tastes get heightened. Synesthesiae are 
common, colors are heard, and sounds are seen, emotions are touched. Changes in 
body image and alterations of time and space occur. Emotions 
become intense, at the same time they change frequently so the reaction of the person may seem odd. Introspective reflection and feelings of religion and philosophical insight are also common. The sense of the self changes, sometimes leading to a depersonalization of the soul from the body and uniting with the world. Most people feel that a single dose of LSD alters their perspectives and talents, gives relief from psychosomatic complaints, makes them creative, and generates newer insights. This however is not true. Single use of LSD can permanently damage the serotonin neurons and set people into incorrigible depression.

MINDFRAMES: Reframing perception

The treatment of the psychoses, depression and behavior alterations associated with use of hallucinogens, involves comforting and talking down the individual in the acute phase. Such people require care, patience, companionship, and reassurance. Subsequently, co-existing depression or psychoses can be managed effectively with suitable medication, counseling and behavior modification strategies to assist in abstinence and attain remission. Substance dependence is an illness. People with diabetes, cancer and cardiac conditions get sympathy and understanding from their loved ones; sadly this is not the case with these drugs. Here the best person who can help oneself is oneself. It makes sense to do it sooner than later.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are synesthesiae?
Synesthesiae are transformed perceptions that occur with the use of hallucinogens. Syn=synthesis and esia= sensation. Thus the sensation modalities here are confused. The person may feels that he or she is seeing sound and hearing colors. These perceptions are difficult to comprehend by non-users, but are consistently reported by hallucinogen consumers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are amphetamines the same as hallucinogens?
Amphetamines are a group of psychoactive substances but they are chemically different from the hallucinogen class. Some of the synthetic amphetamines although different in structure do produce similar symptoms that are seen with the use of LSD and are thus considered to be hallucinogenic amphetamines (MDMA-Adam, MDEA-Eve). The psychological impacts seems quite alike though.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hallucinogens dangerous to physical health?
Hallucinogens do not produce physical dependence, i.e. the body does not demand them, however the euphoria and the altered experience make them addictive. Besides these, the physical effects can include toxic damage to the brain with degeneration and (HPPD) hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) even after single use with prolonged sensory misperceptions. This makes these drugs very dangerous.