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What are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are a type of drug that causes changes in the way you see, hear, taste, and feel things around you. Also referred to as psychedelics, these drugs can make you experience visual and auditory hallucinations. There are many different hallucinogenic drugs out there, including LSD (acid), magic mushrooms (psilocybin), MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine, and more.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 7.4 million people in the United States reported using hallucinogens in the past year.[1]

While some hallucinogens are used for religious purposes among native Americans and spiritualities in Central and South America, many people use them recreationally. Most experts agree that you cannot become addicted to psychedelic drugs, however, frequent use can lead to a variety of health concerns. For example, abusing hallucinogens can lead to mental health effects like psychosis and hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD).[2]

In this article, you will learn:

  • What hallucinogenic drugs are
  • The common types of psychedelic drugs and how they affect you
  • Whether you can get addicted to hallucinogens

Understanding Hallucinogenic Drugs

Hallucinogen is the official term for “psychedelic” drugs. This class of drugs includes a wide variety of different substances, each one causing unique side effects. The main thing that connects these drugs is mind-altering effects that lead to changes in the way you see, hear, feel, and think.

Psychedelic drugs can come from fungi (psilocybin), cacti (mescaline), and other plants. Some of them (like MDMA or ketamine) are created in laboratories for research. Even further, hallucinogens like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) are created in a laboratory even though there is a similar substance found naturally (LSA).

Every single hallucinogenic drug alters a person’s mood, thoughts, and sensory perceptions. While the side effects of each drug vary, long-term effects can include increased mental health symptoms, injuries from accidents, and overdoses from taking high doses.

Common Types of Hallucinogens

Now that you have a general understanding of what hallucinogenic drugs are, it’s time to look at specific substances and how they can affect you.

The most common types of hallucinogens include:


LSD (acid) is the shortened name for lysergic acid diethylamide. Most of the time, LSD is a liquid that is dropped onto square pieces of paper. You allow the paper to absorb into your tongue to experience the effects.

Acid can cause the following effects:[3]

  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremors
  • Impaired depth and time perception
  • Distorted perceptions of the shape and size of objects, movements, colors, sound, and touch
  • Changes in one’s perception of self, mood, and thoughts
  • Introspection and feelings of euphoria
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic

It is possible to have a pleasurable or scary experience when taking LSD. Typically, the effects begin within an hour of consuming acid and last for up to 12 hours.


Psilocybin is the active ingredient in a type of mushroom that causes hallucinogenic effects. You might have heard of this substance referred to as “magic mushrooms.” The psilocybin mushroom can lead to potent hallucinations, changes in sensory perceptions, and alterations in your mood and thoughts.

The common effects of psilocybin include:

  • Seeing colors, shapes, or scenes that are not real
  • Having auditory hallucinations
  • Losing your sense of time or space
  • Dilated pupils
  • Agitation or confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting

Many researchers have begun looking at the positive effects of low doses of psilocybin. The substance is being researched to determine if it can treat a wide variety of conditions, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Alzheimer’s, and even addiction.[4]

Phencyclidine (PCP)

Phencyclidine is both a hallucinogenic and a dissociative drug. This means it can cause hallucinations and a detachment from reality when consumed. While many hallucinogens can lead to dangerous mental health effects, PCP has a reputation for causing paranoid and aggressive behavior.

The effects of PCP might include:[5]

  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Time may speed up or slow down
  • Feelings of happiness and excitement
  • Panic and paranoia
  • Experiencing delusions or believing something that is not real
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Increased body temperature and sweating
  • Loss of coordination
  • Convulsions


MDMA or ecstasy is a hallucinogenic drug that also acts as a stimulant. This substance is well-known for increasing empathy, libido, and feelings of closeness with others. In fact, ecstasy was used therapeutically to enhance communication between couples between the 1970s and 1980s.[6]

The common effects of MDMA include:

  • Increased energy and alertness
  • A rush of euphoria
  • Seeing bright colors or traces of light
  • Increased empathy and closeness with others
  • Heightened sensory perceptions
  • Increased libido
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Increased heartbeat and body temperature
  • Dilated eyes

Can You Get Addicted to Hallucinogens?

While hallucinogens are dangerous to abuse, they are not considered to be addictive. That being said, some people report experiencing a psychological dependence on certain hallucinogenic drugs. For example, you might feel like you need to use hallucinogens to feel certain emotions or have spiritual experiences.

Long-term use of psychedelic drugs can be extremely dangerous for your mental health. If you have pre-existing mental health conditions, abusing hallucinogens will only make your symptoms worse. Even further, you could develop a condition like hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD), which causes hallucinations even when you are sober.[7]

If you or a loved one frequently abuses hallucinogenic drugs, you should seek professional substance abuse treatment.

Find Help for Hallucinogen Abuse

At the Mandala Healing Center, we offer a range of tools and services to help you overcome substance abuse. If you cannot stop abusing psychedelics, we are here to support you. Additionally, we can treat any co-occurring mental health conditions you might be struggling with.

Contact us today to learn more about our drug abuse treatment programs.


  1. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs
  2. Hallucinogen use is associated with mental health and addictive problems and impulsivity in university students
  3. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): LSD
  4. American Society for Microbiology: Psilocybin and Mental Health: The Magic in the Mushrooms
  5. Phencyclidine Intoxication and Adverse Effects: A Clinical and Pharmacological Review of an Illicit Drug
  6. Harvard University: Let Go and Surrender: Considerations on MDMA Couples Therapy and Coercive Control
  7. Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder: Etiology, Clinical Features, and Therapeutic Perspectives