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Drug Information

Hallucinogens

LSD, Acid, Trips, Mushies, Tabs

Description:

Hallucinogens describe a class of drugs that produce hallucinations. A hallucination is an illusion of seeing or hearing something that is not actually there.

Hallucinogens can be produced naturally or synthetically. The most commonly known hallucinogen is synthetic lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) which is sold as a liquid or an absorbent tab or small square of paper. Natural hallucinogenic chemicals are found in plants such as the peyote cactus (mescaline) and some mushrooms (psilocybin).

Certain drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy may produce hallucinogenic effects at high doses or in other circumstances.

Where Hallucinogens Come From:

Lysergic acid diethylamide is the most commonly used hallucinogen in Australia. LSD was first produced in 1938 by Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist.

The drug is usually sold on small pieces of absorbent paper (tabs) decorated with popular designs, such as smiley faces and cartoons. It may also be sold on sugar cubes, small squares of gelatine or in capsule, tablet or liquid form.

Mescaline is native to Mexico and was used by the Mexican Indians in their religious ceremonies. Mescaline is usually dried and refined into a powder, which varies from white to brown in colour.

Psilocybin is a chemical found in mushrooms, known as magic mushrooms or golden top mushrooms, which are commonly found growing in Australia. Psilocybin may be sold as crude mushroom preparations or whole dried brown mushrooms.

How Hallucinogens are Used:

Lysergic acid diethylamide is usually swallowed. When swallowed, the effects start within 30 to 60 minutes and peak in three to five hours. The effects usually last for up to nine hours, but they can last for 24 hours.

Mescaline can be chewed or boiled into a liquid and drunk. Its effects last from four to six hours.

Magic mushrooms are either eaten raw, cooked, made into a drink or dried for later consumption. The effects usually last from four to six hours.

Health Effects of Using Hallucinogens:

The effects of hallucinogens will vary from person to person depending on characteristics of the:

  • Individual (user) – Mood, physical size, health, gender, previous experience with hallucinogens, expectations of the drug, personality, whether the person has had food and whether other drugs have been taken.
  • Drug – The amount used, its purity, and the way it is taken.
  • Setting (environment) – Whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving.

Short-term effects

  • Dilation of pupils
  • Increase in heart-rate and blood pressure
  • Increase in body temperature and sweating
  • Seeing things in a distorted way or seeing things that do not exist
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Intense sensory experiences – bright colours, sharper sounds
  • Impaired coordination and tremors
  • Distorted sense of time - minutes can seem like hours
  • Varying emotions
  • Distorted sense of space and body
  • Tension and anxiety leading to panic attacks

Long-term effects

  • Flashbacks – a spontaneous and unpredictable recurrence of prior drug experience ('tripping') without taking the drug. Flashbacks may occur days, weeks or years after the drug was last taken. They can be triggered by the use of other drugs, stress, fatigue, and physical exercise or for no apparent reason
  • Increased risk of developing severe mental disturbances in those who have a predisposition to the condition
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Tolerance
  • Psychological dependence

Overdose

While there are no reported cases of fatal overdoses directly from hallucinogens there are still significant risks associated with the use of these drugs. When consuming hallucinogens, such as LSD, a person's perception is affected, which can lead to people placing themselves in risky situations.

With magic mushrooms it is often difficult to distinguish between them and poisonous look-alikes. Some poisonous mushrooms can cause permanent liver damage or death within hours of being consumed. It is very dangerous to pick and eat wild mushrooms.

Hallucinogens and Other Drugs:

Hallucinogen users sometimes take more than one drug at the same time (polydrug use). Effects can be unpredictable when two or more different drugs are combined.

Using hallucinogens with other drugs such as alcohol or amphetamines (speed) increases the risk of complications and side-effects, and can lead to a variety of serious physical and psychological problems.

Hallucinogens and Mental Health Problems:

Hallucinogen use can cause anxiety, depression, paranoia and psychosis in those people who have a vulnerability to mental health problems.

Watershed acknowledges the traditional custodians of country and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future.

Watershed holds accreditation with the Australian Council on Health Care Standards (ACHS).

Formerly: Wollongong Crisis Centre


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