Psychedelics are mind-altering or hallucinogenic drugs that alter states of consciousness.
Examples of psychedelics are LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and DMT.
In this blog article, we will discuss what psychedelics are, how they affect the body, and their potential for addiction.
What are psychedelics?
Psychedelics, also referred to as hallucinogens, are a type of psychoactive substances that can cause changes in perception, mood and cognitive processes.
Psychedelics affect all five of the senses, altering a person’s thinking, sense of time and emotions.
Another effect of these drugs is that they can also cause a person to hallucinate—seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted.
There are many different kinds of psychedelics.
Some are naturally occuring; they can be found in trees, vines, seeds, fungi and leaves.
Others psychedelics are chemically synthesized and made in laboratories.
Commonly used psychedelics
Explore psychedelics on the Drug Wheel
Types of psychedelics
- LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) is synthesized from a substance found in the fungus that infects rye, ergot.
- Psilocybin is found all over the world and is a naturally occurring compound that can be found in specific types of mushrooms.
- Mescaline is derived from the Mexican peyote and San Pedro cactus. Mescaline offers the user similar experiences as LSD would.
- DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) has a similar structure in comparison to psilocin, an alkaloid found in psilocybin mushrooms. It can be created in the laboratory but is also found in several plants as a naturally occurring component.
- DOM is a member of the DOx family of compounds. These compounds are known for their high potency, lasting duration, and mixture of psychedelic and stimulant effects.
- 2C-B (4-Bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenethylamine) is a man-made psychedelic substance first synthesised in 1974. 2C-B is considered both a psychedelic and a mild entactogenic. ‘Entactogen’ means ‘touching within’ and is a term used by psychiatrists to classify MDMA and related drugs.
- Peyote (Lophophora williamsii) is a renowned and potent psychedelic cactus, although it is very small and slow growing. Instead of growing upward to form a column, it grows as ‘buttons’ low to the ground. Native Americans have been using peyote for over 5000 years.
- 25[-x]-NBOMe NBOMe (N-methoxybenzyl) is the name for a type of drug that has psychedelic effects. Research shows that there are a number of different versions of NBOMe available – all with differing effects.
How are psychedelics utilized?
Historically, psychedelics have been used since ancient times by various cultures and religions for their mystical and spiritual aspects.
LSD, magic mushrooms, Mescaline and DMT are usually taken by swallowing, smoking or inhaling.
Mushrooms are either eaten fresh, cooked, or brewed into a ‘tea’.
Occasionally, psychedelics may be mixed with tobacco or cannabis and smoked. Mescaline is often swallowed.
Peyote buttons can be ground into a powder and smoked along with cannabis or tobacco.
The buttons can also be chewed or soaked in water to produce a liquid containing peyote buttons.
Most forms of NBOMe are inactive if swallowed, and the most common methods of taking them are under the tongue, held in the cheek or snorted.
Generally, people who use psychedelics take them infrequently, but they may take them on occasions that may be weeks or months apart.
Effects of psychedelics
There is no safe level of drug use.
Use of any kind of drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Psychedelics affect everyone differently, based on:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch).
The effects of psychedelics can last several hours and vary considerably, depending on the specific type of psychedelic and the factors listed above regarding how psychedelics affect everyone differently.
The following may be experienced while taking psychedelic drugs:
- feelings of euphoria
- sense of relaxation and wellbeing
- seeing and hearing things that aren’t there
- confusion and trouble concentrating
- blurred vision
- fast or irregular heart beat
- breathing quickly
- sweating and chills
Sometimes you can experience a ‘bad trip’, which is characterized by frightening or disturbing hallucinations.
This cause the drug user to panic and exhibit unpredictable behaviour, like running across a road or attempting suicide.
If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, the likelihood of experiencing negative effects of psychedelics is greatly increased.
The most common long-term effect of psychedelic use is the ‘flashback’.
Flashbacks are a re-experience of the drug and can occur days, weeks, months and even years after taking the drug.
Flashbacks can be caused by the use of other drugs or by stress, fatigue or physical exercise.
The flashback experience can range from being pleasant to causing severe feelings of anxiety.
They are usually visual and last for just a few minutes.
Using psychedelics with other drugs
Like all drugs, the effects of mixing psychedelics with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines, are often unpredictable and can be dangerous and in rare cases lead to fatality.
Combining psychedelics with stimulant drugs exacerbates the stimulant effects and can further increase heart rate and place the body under extreme stress.
Furthermore, stimulants can also increase anxiety which can lead to a bad trip.
Taking psychedelics with central nervous system depressant drugs such as alcohol may further reduce physical coordination and increase the likelihood of vomiting.
Alcohol may also decrease the effects of the psychedelic.
Health and safety
As psychedelic drugs can be very dangerous and are not approved for any acceptable medical purpose, there is no safe way to use them.
The best way to stay safe is simply to avoid them.
However, If you do decide to use them, it’s important to consider the following.
- It is difficult to predict the strength and effects of psychedelics (even if they have been taken before), as the strength and potency can vary from batch to batch.
- People with mental health conditions or a family history of these conditions should avoid using psychedelics.
- Taking psychedelics in a familiar environment in the company of people who are known and trusted may alleviate any unpleasant emotional effects. Anxiety can be counteracted by taking deep, regular breaths while sitting down.
Use of psychedelics is increasingly dangerous when:
- taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs, particularly stimulants such as crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) or ecstasy
- driving or operating heavy machinery
- judgement or motor coordination is required
- alone (in case medical assistance is required)
- the person has mental health issues.
Dependence and tolerance
Most psychedelics produce tolerance rapidly and psychological dependence can occur in some people.
There is little evidence to support the development of physical dependence and there is also little known to prove that there are no withdrawal symptoms even after chronic use.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about psychedelics:
Can psychedelics kill you?
The likelihood of overdosing on psychedelics is very rare, however it is important to remember that they are still dangerous substances.
You can still overdose and experience very unpleasant symptoms such as panic attacks, severe depression, seizures, or erratic behavior.
What is a psychedelic experience?
A psychedelic experience is usually called a trip and is a temporary altered state of consciousness after ingesting a psychedelic drug.
A psychedelic experience can sometimes evoke a religious or mystical awakening in users.
What is the most powerful psychedelic drug?
Dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, is the world’s most powerful psychedelic.
It is a crystalline solid that is often inhaled or brewed made from the leaves and stems of a tropical vine.
Are psychedelics hallucinogens?
Yes, psychedelics are hallucinogenic drugs that induce sensory disturbances.
One of the most well known psychedelics is lysergic acid, or LSD.
Can psychedelics trigger schizophrenia?
Psychedelic drugs themselves do not cause schizophrenia, but studies have shown that misuse of psychedelics increases the risk for developing schizophrenia or related illnesses.
LSD in particular can trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in people who are already susceptible to the disease.
Want to learn more about psychedelics? Try these recommended readings!
In this book by Colin Wills, you will learn all about different hallucinogens and their history.
It details the positive and negative effects of using hallucinogens as well as the dangers involved.
This helpful workbook gives step-by-step techniques for calming the mind and body in this overstimulated world.
People who are dealing with drug withdrawal or addiction should incorporate stress reduction techniques to help them work through this difficult time.
It gives tips to help integrate healthy relaxation habits into everyday life no matter how busy you are.
This book also helps you explore what your stress triggers are how to create a personal action plan to manage them.
As described above, journaling is a great way to give yourself a stress release.
Whether you are dealing with drug addiction, mental health issues, heartbreak, a problem at work, or any other life stressor, this journal is for you.
This Mindfulness Journal can easily be added into your daily routine and can serve as an outlet for stress-reduction that will help you appreciate every single day and moment.
It includes 365 daily writing prompts divided into 52 weekly mindfulness topics.
The prompts are extremely unique, fun, and engaging, so you will never get bored while journaling.
Additionally, each prompt is on its own separate page so you will have more than enough room for reflection and to write down all of your thoughts, big or small.
Although it is suggested to journal once a day, you can spend as much or as little time as you want on each prompt.
Neuropsychedelia: The Revival of Hallucinogen Research since the Decade of the Brain
This book examines the revival of psychedelic research in the 90s decades after the “generation of the hallucinogens”.
Psychedelics, The Alcohol and Drug Foundation
Psychedelics, David E. Nickels
Psychedelics, New Scientist