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Hallucinogens: Effects, Symptoms, & Treatments

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
Updated: March 24th, 2020


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Hallucinogens, or psychedelic drugs, are substances whose primary action is to alter the cognition and perception of people who take them. According to Princeton University, psychedelics are part of a wider class of drugs called hallucinogens, which also includes dissociatives and deliriants. These drugs affect the senses and how people see the world.

​Psychedelic drugs each have different effects, depending on which type is taken, but they all share certain qualities. According to Columbia University, the effects also vary depending on where a user is experiencing them, their mood, expectations, and level of experience with the drug. The drug’s effects can be different, for example, if someone is in a noisy and stressful situation like at a concert or party rather than at home or in a quieter setting. The sense of doubt or uncertainty someone may feel, especially someone who has never taken the drugs, can also affect their experience. This doubt could magnify into extreme anxiety and can be dangerous for the user.

​Commonly Used Psychedelic Drugs:

  • LSD, or Acid
  • Psilocybin and psilocin, the active chemicals in Magic Mushrooms
  • Mescaline, the active component in Peyote
  • DMT, which is one of the active components of Ayahuasca
  • Salvia Divinorum
  • Ketamine
  • ​MDMA
  • ​Ecstasy


Some commonly reported hallucinogen effects include:

  • Colors may seem more intense, textures richer, and contours sharpened
  • People may feel a keener awareness of their bodies
  • Depth perception is heightened
  • Synesthesia, which is a blending of the senses and can cause people to ‘see colors’ or ‘hear sounds’ etc., is common
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Seeing things when eyes are closed (can be things that were there before, patterns, or entirely new images)
  • Hallucinating when eyes are open, also can be seeing things as different than they are or seeing entirely new images
  • Heightened sensitivity to changes in the environment
  • More profound emotions and feelings, possibility to have swift mood shifts
  • Introspective reflection often with feelings of deep insight into oneself or the nature of humanity and the universe
  • Alterations in memory, usually with impaired short-term memory at the time.

Some people who take psychedelic substances end up having a very distressing time while under their influence. This is referred to as a ‘bad trip’ and can be very dangerous due to the alarming effects it causes. Bad trips are often brought on by fear or doubt in the beginning of the drug experience, or an unexpected event while the drugs are being felt. While that is true, there are no exact known causes of bad trips. Bad trips are associated with the following feelings:

  • Panic or intense anxiety
  • Intense fear
  • Overheating
  • Episodes of psychosis
  • Disorientation
  • The desire to cause self harm or harm to others

The effects of psychedelics are largely unpredictable, which makes them dangerous. Hallucinations have been known to lead people to do very serious things, such as jumping off of roofs or running into traffic. Some people, however, report religious, spiritual, and enlightening experiences while using psychedelic drugs.

Psychedelic drugs can be said to be “pleasing” and “enlightening” to users. The reality is, they are extremely harmful to the physical and mental state of each addict who abuses them. The approach of traditional therapy mixed with wellness programs covering more in depth talk of spirituality has a strong impact on psychedelic drug users. Approaches of this sort are highly recommended as a treatment plans that represents an addict’s needs are can be life changing. Types of treament consist of:

  • IOP
  • Individual and Group Therapy
  • Wellness Services
  • Focus on spirituality
  • EMDR

Treatment centers of different sorts are located all over the country and consist of several different services. Many successful individuals at overcoming the disease of addiction also suffer from some sort of behavioral health issue such as: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc… While some of these symptoms may be a direct result of their use and addiction, and many can disappear over a period of abstinence; it is important to have a licensed medical professionals asses these cases and handle them as needed. Arizona’s Phoenix and Scottsdale areas are becoming a rapidly growing space for detox center, rehabilitation centers, and aftercare planning -such as sober living space. As of late, a couple of the most popular and most sought after center’s are the Arizona treatment centers of Valor Behavioral Health, and Pathfinders Recovery Center.

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Photo of Karl Perera, MA, DipLC Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run since 1997 and is an expert in Self Esteem and Self Confidence.