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What are hallucinogens?
These are substances which affect a person’s feelings or perceptions and can distort reality.
As well as producing visual hallucinogens, many of these substances can affect other senses like hearing, touch and taste. Hallucinogenic experiences are often referred to as ‘trips’.
In most cases hallucinogens will not be taken on a day-to-day basis and many of them are seen as non-addictive (although there are exceptions).
Why would people use hallucinogens?
It is easiest to separate hallucinogens into two main categories:
Psychedelics (such as LSD, magic mushrooms, DMT) – these can heighten people’s senses, enhance their experiences and have been associated with a desire to develop creativity.
Dissociatives (such as ketamine, MXE, PCP) –can produce feelings of separation and some people may experience ‘out of body’ sensations.
What are the risks of hallucinogens?
Hallucinogens can massively affect people’s perception and their awareness of the environment around them. This can leave individuals vulnerable to accidents as they may not see the world as it really is.
There is also the risk of deliberate self-injury relating to specific experiences of hallucinogens. Some bad ‘trips’ can induce feelings of extreme anxiety or agitation with users scratching or cutting at themselves in reaction to what they think they are experiencing.
If people are not seeing or experiencing the world around them accurately this can leave them very vulnerable. This is especially true of dissociatives as they can have anaesthetic or sedative properties. People under the influence of ketamine or MXE can leave themselves open to theft or sexual assault if they lose consciousness or are not capable of looking after themselves.
Your surroundings will affect your experience. Places like beaches, towns and cliffs or high places present risks of drowning, traffic or falls. Chances of having a bad trip are much higher if you are with people you don’t know and in a place where you don’t feel safe or that you can’t control.
As well as the environment, a person’s mood can determine the nature of their trip. If someone is already feeling angry or depressed it is likely that taking a substance will only make these feeling worse.
Bad trips can be very frightening. What might only be a few minutes in the real world can feel like much longer and trips like these can leave people feeling scared, anxious and withdrawn.
Certain hallucinogens have been linked to a range of mental health issues. These include feelings of anxiety, mood swings, depression, paranoia and psychosis. It is likely that these problems will be worse for younger users and those with existing mental health problems. Some of these can be long term problems.
Most hallucinogens are not generally considered to be addictive but this is not true of all of them. For example, some regular users of ketamine can become dependant.
The majority of psychedelic substances are categorised as Class A drugs. These include LSD, (most) magic mushrooms, DMT, 2-CB and MDMA- related substances (phenethylamine compounds).
This means that if you are caught in possession of these substances you get sent to prison for up to 7 years.
If you are found dealing any of them you could get a life sentence. Sentences can also come with an unlimited fine.
Other substances have lesser classifications or are as yet unclassified because they are new on the scene.
Remember- just because a drug is legal does not mean it is safe.
There is no reason to assume hallucinogens are safe to use.
The safest thing to do is not to take hallucinogens at all, but if you do take any, here are some ways to reduce the risks:
- Consider your environment. Try and make sure you are somewhere that you know and where you feel safe.
- Think about having a ‘sitter’ in your group; someone with an awareness of how to help look after those that might be under the influence. It is important to be with friends that you trust and who can help to reassure those who might be having a bad experience.
- Avoid mixing hallucinogens with other drugs, especially alcohol. Using substances together increases the risk of losing control, having a bad time or putting your health at risk.
- Do your research. Find out as much as you can about the substance and the dosage. More than any other group of drugs, tiny amounts can have an overwhelming affect. Start small- you can add but you can’t take away.
- If someone is having a bad experience or reaction to hallucinogens, try and reassure them and consider seeking emergency help. Get to A&E or call an ambulance.