Author: Gary Jackson

Hallucinogen Drug Use: Effects, Addiction & Dangers

Hallucinogenic drugs—particularly naturally occurring substances such as mescaline, ibogaine, or magic mushrooms—have played a role in human life for thousands of years. Numerous indigenous cultures around the world have used hallucinogenic plants to induce states of detachment from reality, to precipitate “visions” or mystical insight, as medicines, or as adjuncts to social and religious rituals. Preclinical evidence, case reports, and preliminary human data indicate that cannabinoids, and particularly CBD, may be useful in reducing seizures in epilepsy with limited adverse effects (Cunha et al., 1980; Devinsky et al., 2014; Maa & Figi, 2014). Effects of CBD on the G-protein-coupled receptor GPR55, serotonin 1A receptor, α3 and α1 glycine receptors, vanilloid type-I Channel, and equilibrative nucleoside transporter are among the hypothesized mechanisms by which CBD may exert acute anticonvulsant effects (Devinsky et al., 2014), though data from well controlled trials are still forthcoming. A secondary analysis found that ketamine produced dose-related increases in a measure of mystical experience which were significantly correlated with changes in motivation to quit (Dakwar et al., 2014), similar to findings from psilocybin-facilitated addiction treatment pilot studies (Bogenschutz et al., 2015; Garcia-Romeu et al., 2014). Furthermore, mystical experience predicted motivation to quit with greater accuracy than a clinician administered scale of dissociative symptoms, suggesting a mediating role of mystical-type effects in ketamine’s addiction treatment outcomes (Dakwar et al., 2014).

are hallucinogens addictive

None of these studies reported serious adverse events or sustained negative effects. Peak plasma levels of inhaled SA were found to occur 2 minutes after inhalation, and to directly correspond with participant and observer ratings of subjective effects (Johnson et al., 2016). Inhaled SA has not been shown to lead to anxiogenic effects (MacLean et al., 2013), or significant changes in physiology such as heart rate or blood pressure (Addy, 2012; Johnson et al., 2011; Ranganathan et al., 2012).


NIDA is a biomedical research organization and does not provide personalized medical advice, treatment, counseling, or legal consultation. Information provided by NIDA is not a substitute for professional medical care or legal consultation. Among people aged 12 or older in 2020, 0.2% (or about 493,000 people) had a hallucinogen use disorder in the past 12 months. Ibogaine has also shown sex differences in rodent models, with female rats showing higher levels of ibogaine metabolite and greater antagonism of morphine-induced locomotor activity than male rats (Pearl et al., 1997). Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and long-lasting changes in the brain. The changes can result in harmful behaviors by those who misuse drugs, whether prescription or illicit drugs.

are hallucinogens addictive

Peyote is a small, spineless cactus containing the hallucinogenic ingredient mescaline. Also called “buttons” and “mesc,” the substance can be chewed, swallowed or smoked with marijuana or tobacco. More research is needed to determine the potential for hallucinogens to cause tolerance or addiction. Evidence shows that certain hallucinogens, such as PCP and ecstasy, can be addictive. As with chronic physical conditions like diabetes, with adequate treatment, those struggling with addiction can learn to control their condition and live normal, productive lives. Treatment for drug addiction should incorporate behavioral changes to help patients manage cravings and triggers; patients may also take medications as part of their treatment regimen.

Hallucinogen Addiction: Types & Effects of Mind-Altering Drugs

Auditory hallucinations and the sensed presence of other entities in the room have also been observed in human SA laboratory research (Addy et al., 2015; MacLean et al., 2013). The clinical research available on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy consists of data collected by MDMA therapists in the U.S. before the scheduling of MDMA in 1985 (Greer & Tolbert, 1986), data from a Swiss team collected between 1988 and 1993 (Gasser, 1994), and a more recent wave of preliminary clinical trials in the 21st century. The early data consists largely of retrospective, qualitative analyses of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions, which were proposed to “reduce or somehow eliminate the neurophysiological fear response to a perceived threat to one’s emotional integrity” (Greer & Tolbert, 1998, p. 377), thereby facilitating therapeutic outcomes. Follow-up data collected from 29 subjects who underwent MDMA-assisted psychotherapy found the most commonly reported benefits to be positive changes in attitudes or feelings, expanded mental perspective, increased insight into personal problems, and positive changes in their relationships. Common negative effects of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy included undesirable emotional symptoms such as anxiety during and following the session and undesirable physical symptoms such as jaw clenching. Consistent with psychedelic research from two decades prior, the importance of set, setting, and careful preparation were also cited as crucial factors in effective MDMA-assisted psychotherapy (Greer & Tolbert, 1986).

  • Although these classes do not share a common primary mechanism of action, they do exhibit important similarities in their ability to occasion temporary but profound alterations of consciousness, involving acute changes in somatic, perceptual, cognitive, and affective processes.
  • Current methods of evaluating the subjective and mystical-type effects of hallucinogens, as well as their relative contribution to clinical treatment outcomes are still in need of further refinement.
  • Dextromethorphan, or DXM, is an over-the-counter cough suppressant and anti-mucus ingredient often found in cold medicines.
  • Recent neurobiological models for MDMA in the treatment of anxiety disorders have drawn on this body of work proposing three mechanisms by which MDMA may be an effective pharmacotherapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

This new approach ought to take into account not only the adverse effects of various drugs, but should also acknowledge their possible beneficial uses (Werb et al., 2016). This conceptual shift is further accompanied by the realization that the legal status of a drug does not always accurately reflect its actual harm to the user or to society (Nutt et al., 2007, 2010, 2013; Van Amsterdam et al., 2010, 2011). Current legal classification of cannabis, psychedelics, and entactogens place them in the most restricted class of drugs (Schedule I in the U.S.), indicating a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision (Nutt et al., 2013). Based on the evidence presented here, preliminary data indicate safety and feasibility of hallucinogen-facilitated treatments when conducted under appropriately structured conditions (Johnson et al., 2008).