class of drugs that distorts how we feel, hear, see, smell, taste, and think.
sensations, these drugs are also known as psychedelic, or mind-bending, drugs.
Some hallucinogens come from natural sources; others are made in laboratories.
Examples of natural hallucinogens are mescaline, psilocybin, DMT, and marijuana.
ingested, psilocybin is converted to psilocin, which is responsible for the
drug’s hallucinogenic sensations. DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is a short-acting
In the form of snuff, called cohoba, it has been used in religious ceremonies in
responsible for the drug’s effects is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), obtained from
the amber-colored resin of the flowering tops and leaves of the plant. Hashish
is also made from this resin.
Of all drugs, synthetic and natural, the most powerful is LSD, or lysergic
acid diethylamide. Twenty micrograms, an almost infinitesimal amount, is
sufficient to produce a hallucinogenic effect; just 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms)
extraordinary potency makes LSD especially dangerous since it is usually
impossible to determine how much is contained in doses offered by drug dealers.
and other grains. An odorless, colorless, and tasteless substance, LSD is sold
on the street in tablets, capsules, and sometimes liquid form. It is usually
taken by mouth but can be injected. Often LSD is placed on a blotter or other
Synthetic hallucinogens with effects resembling those of LSD include DET
(diethyltryptamine), a synthetic compound similar to DMT, and DOM (2,5-
dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine), a compound that combines some of the properties
of mescaline and amphetamines, as do the drugs MDA (3,4-
methylenedioxyamphetamine) and MMDA (3-methoxy-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine).
same effect. Psychological dependence on hallucinogens is well documented.
hallucinogens such as LSD and synthetics such as DOM that consist of a single
chemical, marijuana has been found to contain more than 400 separate substances.
chemicals, and the effects of these chemicals on the user are poorly understood.
It has been found, however, that the most potent of these chemicals are
Studies indicate that frequent marijuana users may experience impaired short-
suggest that frequent or chronic marijuana use may contribute to damage of the
The most pronounced psychological effects induced by hallucinogens are a
time and a distorted body image. Sensations may seem to “cross over,” giving the
place to such an extent that they may believe it possible to step out of a
Frightening or even panic-producing psychological reactions to LSD and similar
serious mental or emotional problems, though it is unclear whether the drug
simply unmasked a previously undetected disorder or actually produced it.
Among the short-term physical effects of hallucinogens are dilated pupils,
of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors. The long-term effects are
less certain. LSD users may experience involuntary flashbacks during which the
drug’s effects reappear without warning. Such flashbacks can occur days, months,
or even years after the drug was last used. Some LSD users develop organic brain
damage, manifested by impaired memory and attention span, mental confusion, and
be reversed when LSD use is halted.
Although hallucinogens can pose a threat to health when used indiscriminately,
they may also have therapeutic uses in medicine when administered under
controlled circumstances. A synthetic form of THC, the active principle in
marijuana, has been approved for prescription use by persons who suffer from the
antinausea drugs are unsuitable or ineffective. LSD was once used to treat
persons with certain mental disorders, but such use was abandoned because of the
drug’s harmful effects.