A hallucinogen is a drug that tends to induce hallucinations and changes in thought, perception, or consciousness.
What is a Hallucinogen?
Many well-known drugs are classified as hallucinogens, including:
- MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy)
Hallucinogens are generally broken down into sub-classes:
- Dissociative drugs, which cause a sense of detachment and may produce memory problems including amnesia.
- Psychedelic drugs, which are commonly used interchangeable with the term hallucinogen and which can produce trancelike states, hallucinations, and altered states of consciousness.
- Deliriants, which cause a sense of confusion and reduced impulse control.
Medical Use of Hallucinogens
In the early 20th century, the field of psychiatry became increasingly interested in the use of hallucinogens, particularly LSD. Because of their unpredictable side effects, however, hallucinogens are no longer in use as part of psychiatric treatment, and hallucinogens may even induce psychiatric problems such as psychosis, memory loss, and delusions in some people.
Hallucinogens can be addictive and the potential for overdose is high. Because hallucinogens cause altered states of consciousness and different assessments of reality, hallucinogens also put users at use for making dangerous decisions. Cough medications such as Dextromethorphan are classified as hallucinogens.
Some hallucinogens have traditional or shamanic uses. For example, peyote was historically used by some native peoples to induce religious hallucinations. Native people’s use of peyote is protected by federal law.
Legal Status of Hallucinogenic Drugs
There are very few hallucinogens that are legal in the United States, and most are classified as Schedule 1 drugs, which means they have no recognized medical use. Possession of hallucinogens can be punished with stiff penalties including prison time. Dimenhydrinate, an nausea medication, Diphenhydramine, an allergy medication and Dextromethorphan, a cough medicine, are legal hallucinogens that are heavily controlled. Children under 18 and people with a history of addiction may not be allowed access to these drugs. Some states place limits on the quantity of these drugs a person can buy at one time.
- Drug facts: Hallucinogens. (n.d.). National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens-lsd-peyote-psilocybin-pcp
- Parish, B. S. (n.d.). Hallucinogens. Medscape. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/293752-overview
Last Updated: 08-7-2015
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