What are Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens (also known as ‘psychedelics’) are a class of drugs that cause hallucinations - can make a person see, hear, smell, feel or taste things that aren’t really there or are different from how they are in reality - profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality.
These drugs are either synthetically manufactured or derived from plants. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), PCP (phencyclidine, or 'angel dust'), ketamine and 'magic mushrooms' are all hallucinogenic drugs.
When under the influence of either type of drug, people often report rapid, intense emotional swings and seeing images, hearing sounds, and feeling sensations that seem real but are not.
Some depressant and stimulant drugs also have a hallucinogenic effects in high doses, including cannabis and ecstasy. Since a person’s sense of distance, time and objective reality are warped when under the influence of hallucinogens, serious injury and accidental death are real risks.
How Hallucinogens Work
Hallucinogens target specific centres of the brain to alter its understanding of sensory input. For instance, a person may be looking at a blank wall, but their hallucinating brain may interpret the blank wall as moving and swirling, or perhaps covered in insects.
The effects of hallucinogens depend on the type of drug, the strength of the dose, the functioning of the person taking them and their state of mind.
Generally, some of the common effects of hallucinogens include:
hallucinations of sight, sound, taste and touch
a blurring of the senses, such as sounds being ‘felt’ or colours being ‘heard’
feeling detached from the body
distortions of time, direction and distance
accelerated heart rate
nausea and loss of appetite.
How Are Hallucinogens Abused?
The effects of hallucinogens are highly variable and unreliable, producing different effects in different people at different times. This is mainly due to the significant variations in amount and composition of active compounds, particularly in the hallucinogens derived from plants and mushrooms. Because of their unpredictable nature, the use of hallucinogens can be particularly dangerous.
LSD is sold in tablets, capsules, and, occasionally, liquid form; thus, it is usually taken orally. LSD is often added to absorbent paper, which is then divided into decorated pieces, each equivalent to one dose. The experiences, often referred to as “trips,” are long; typically, they end after about 12 hours.
The top of the peyote cactus, also referred to as the crown, consists of disc-shaped buttons that are cut from the roots and dried. These buttons are generally chewed or soaked in water to produce an intoxicating liquid. The hallucinogenic dose of mescaline is about 0.3 to 0.5 grams, and its effects last about 12 hours. Because the extract is so bitter, some individuals prefer to prepare a tea by boiling the cacti for several hours.
Mushrooms containing psilocybin are available fresh or dried and are typically taken orally. Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) and its biologically active form, psilocin (4-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine), cannot be inactivated by cooking or freezing preparations. Thus, they may also be brewed as a tea or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor. The effects of psilocybin, which appear within 20 minutes of ingestion, last approximately 6 hours.
PCP is a white crystalline powder that is readily soluble in water or alcohol. It has a distinctive bitter chemical taste. PCP can be mixed easily with dyes and is often sold on the illicit drug market in a variety of tablet, capsule, and colored powder forms that are normally snorted, smoked, or orally ingested. For smoking, PCP is often applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana. Depending upon how much and by what route PCP is taken, its effects can last approximately 4–6 hours.
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