Psychedelic drugs, better known as hallucinogens, have been used for centuries by various cultures for spiritual, religious, and recreational purposes. These substances are known for their profound effects on perception, cognition, and mood, often inducing auditory and visual hallucinations. Recently, there has been a budding interest in the possible therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs to treat various mental health disorders. This article extensively lists psychedelic drugs, their effects, potential therapeutic uses, and the associated risks.
Psychedelics Classified According to Schedule
The Controlled Substances Act in the United States classifies drugs into five schedules based on their potential for abuse, medical use, and safety. Here is a list of popular hallucinogens organized by their respective schedules:
- LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide): A potent synthetic psychedelic known for its powerful hallucinogenic effects and altered perception of reality.
- Psilocybin: The active compound present in “magic mushrooms,” which induces hallucinations, mystical experiences, and changes in perception.
- DMT (Dimethyltryptamine): A naturally occurring compound in some plants and animals, known for its intense and short-lived hallucinogenic effects.
- Mescaline: It is the active compound in the peyote cactus, which produces visual and auditory hallucinations, along with altered perceptions and emotions.
- MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine): Commonly known as a component of the street drug “Ecstasy” or “Molly“, the drug MDMA is a synthetic substance with both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects, often used recreationally for its euphoric and empathogenic properties.
- PCP (Phencyclidine): Originally developed as an anesthetic, PCP is now a dissociative hallucinogen known for its unpredictable effects and potential for inducing violent behavior.
There are no popular hallucinogens classified as Schedule III substances.
- Ketamine: A dissociative anesthetic with hallucinogenic and sedative effects, used medically for pain management and as a recreational drug for its dissociative properties.
- Salvia divinorum: A plant native to Mexico with dissociative and hallucinogenic effects, used traditionally for spiritual and healing purposes.
Classic psychedelics are a group of naturally occurring and synthetic substances that primarily interact with serotonin receptors in the brain. For this reason, they are also called serotonergic psychedelics. They are known for inducing profound alterations in perception, behavior, and thought. Here is a list of some of the most well-known classic psychedelics:
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a synthetic psychedelic drug. Its first synthesis took place in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. It comes from ergot, a fungus that grows on some grains. LSD is known for its potent effects on sensory perception, mood, and cognition.
- Effects and duration: The effects of LSD typically last between 8 and 12 hours and can include hallucinations, warped perception of time and space, synesthesia (e.g., “seeing” sounds), and intense emotional experiences.
- Therapeutic potential: Research has shown promise in using LSD to treat anxiety, depression, and alcohol use disorder. However, we will need more clinical trials to understand its therapeutic potential.
- Risks: LSD is non-addictive. However, it can cause “bad trips,” characterized by intense anxiety, paranoia, and panic. Additionally, the long-term use of LSD may lead to persistent hallucinations and other perceptual disturbances known as hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder (HPPD).
Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms)
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in more than 200 species of mushrooms, commonly referred to as “magic mushrooms.” The use of psilocybin-containing mushrooms dates back to ancient times, with evidence of their use in religious and spiritual rituals in Central and South America.
- Effects and duration: The effects of psilocybin typically last between 4 and 6 hours and can include vivid visual hallucinations, emotional shifts, and altered perceptions of reality.
- Therapeutic potential: Psilocybin has shown promise in clinical trials for treating depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. It can also reduce symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Risks: While psilocybin is considered relatively safe and non-addictive, it can cause uncomfortable experiences, such as paranoia and confusion. Additionally, there is a risk of ingesting toxic mushrooms when foraging for psilocybin-containing species in the wild.
Mescaline (Peyote and San Pedro Cacti)
Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic alkaloid found in several cactus species, notably the Peyote and San Pedro cacti. Native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, these cacti have been used for centuries by indigenous peoples in spiritual and religious ceremonies.
- Effects and duration: The effects of mescaline generally last between 8 and 12 hours and can include visual hallucinations, emotional shifts, and heightened sensory experiences.
- Therapeutic potential: Mescaline has been used traditionally for personal growth, self-exploration, and healing. However, current research on this is limited. As such, it is difficult to determine its potential therapeutic applications in modern medicine.
- Risks: Mescaline is not addictive, but it can cause nausea, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure. Additionally, some users may experience psychological distress, such as anxiety or paranoia, during the experience.
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound in some plants and animals. It has been used traditionally in South America as part of the Ayahuasca brew, a plant-based mixture consumed during spiritual and healing ceremonies.
- Effects and duration: DMT is known for its rapid onset and short duration. The effects typically last between 15 and 45 minutes when smoked or vaporized. Users often report intense visual hallucinations, mystical experiences, and profound personal insights.
- Therapeutic potential: Some preliminary research suggests that DMT may treat addiction, depression, and anxiety. However, more clinical trials are necessary to understand its therapeutic potential.
- Risks: DMT is non-addictive. However, it can cause intense and overwhelming experiences that may be psychologically distressing for some users. Additionally, the long-term effects of DMT use are not well understood.
Ayahuasca is a traditional Amazonian plant brew. The brew consists of Banisteriopsis caapi vine and the Psychotria viridis leaves, containing DMT. Indigenous communities in South America have used it for centuries for spiritual purposes.
- Effects and duration: The effects of Ayahuasca typically last between 4 and 8 hours and can include vivid visual hallucinations, deep emotional insights, and profound spiritual experiences.
- Therapeutic potential: Ayahuasca has shown promise in treating addiction, depression, and trauma-related disorders. However, we need more research to understand its potential therapeutic applications.
- Risks: Ayahuasca can cause nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. Additionally, there is a risk of negative interactions with certain medications, such as antidepressants, and individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions should approach Ayahuasca cautiously.
Empathogens and Entheogens
Empathogens and entheogens are a group of psychoactive substances that primarily produce feelings of empathy, emotional openness, and spiritual connectedness. Research shows that some of these substances have potential therapeutic uses. Here are some notable examples:
MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, is a synthetic drug known for its empathogenic effects. It is commonly known as “Ecstasy” in pill form or “Molly” in powder form. MDMA was first synthesized in 1912 but gained popularity in the 1980s as a party drug.
Effects and duration: The effects of MDMA typically last between 3 and 6 hours and include feelings of euphoria, emotional closeness, and heightened sensory experiences.
Therapeutic potential: MDMA has shown promise as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when used with psychotherapy. Clinical trials are currently underway to further explore its potential therapeutic applications.
Risks: MDMA can cause dehydration, overheating, and electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, one can abuse it, leading to psychological dependence. Long-term use of MDMA may also cause neurotoxicity, impairing memory, and cognitive function.
Ibogaine is a naturally occurring alkaloid present in the root bark of the African shrub Tabernanthe iboga. It has been used traditionally in West African spiritual practices and has recently garnered recognition for its potential to treat addiction.
- Effects and duration: The effects of ibogaine can last between 24 and 48 hours, with users experiencing vivid visions, introspection, and emotional processing.
- Therapeutic potential: Preliminary research suggests that ibogaine may treat alcohol addiction and other harmful substances. However, more research can isolate its potential therapeutic applications and safety profile.
- Risks: Ibogaine can cause potentially dangerous side effects, like cardiac arrhythmias and paralysis. Additionally, it is illegal in some countries, including the United States.
Dissociative drugs are a class of hallucinogens that primarily induce feelings of detachment from one’s self and environment. They act on the brain’s N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which play a role in learning and memory. Some common dissociative drugs include:
Ketamine is a synthetic dissociative drug. It was initially an anesthetic in the 1960s. Moreover, it has become famous as a recreational drug and, more recently, a possible depression treatment.
- Effects and duration: The effects of ketamine can last between 1 and 2 hours and include feelings of detachment from the body, altered perceptions of reality, and vivid hallucinations.
- Therapeutic potential: Ketamine is effective in treating treatment-resistant depression and may also have potential as a treatment for PTSD and other mental health disorders. However, more clinical trials and research are ongoing.
- Risks: Ketamine can cause side effects, such as nausea, sedation, and poor memory. Additionally, it has the potential for abuse and can lead to psychological dependence and bladder problems with long-term use.
Effects and duration: The effects of DXM can last between 4 and 8 hours and include feelings of detachment from the body, altered perceptions of reality, and hallucinations.
Therapeutic potential: DXM is mainly a cough suppressant. There are no in-depth studies for other therapeutic applications.
Risks: DXM can cause side effects, such as blurred vision, vomiting, and severe irritability. Additionally, it has the potential for abuse and can lead to psychological dependence and health problems with long-term use.
Salvia divinorum, also known as diviner’s sage or simply salvia, is a naturally occurring hallucinogenic plant endemic to the cloud forests of the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, Mexico. The plant has been used for centuries by the Mazatec people for healing purposes. Traditionally, one would chew the leaves or brew them into tea for consumption during religious ceremonies and shamanic rituals. In recent years, Salvia divinorum has gained notoriety in the Western world for its potent psychoactive effects.
- Effects and Duration: Salvia divinorum effects vary depending on the consumption method and individual factors. When the leaves are chewed or consumed as a tea, they are typically milder and last longer, ranging from 1 to 2 hours. When smoked or vaporized, the effects are more intense and rapid in onset, with the peak of the experience lasting between 5 to 20 minutes.
You can describe the effects as dissociative and hallucinogenic, often inducing intense sensory distortions, a sense of detachment from reality, and vivid visual and auditory hallucinations. Some users report mystical or spiritual experiences, while others may experience feelings of fear, panic, or confusion.
- Therapeutic Potential: The therapeutic potential of Salvia divinorum is still relatively unexplored compared to other psychedelic substances. Some anecdotal reports and early research suggest that the active compound in Salvia divinorum, salvinorin A, may have potential applications in treating addiction, depression, and anxiety. However, research into the therapeutic benefits and safety profile of Salvia divinorum and its active compounds is scanty.
- Risks: As with any psychedelic substance, using Salvia divinorum has risks. Some include:
- Psychological distress: Salvia divinorum can induce intense and sometimes frightening experiences, leading to panic, paranoia, or lasting anxiety for some users.
- Impaired motor function: The dissociative effects of Salvia divinorum can impair coordination and balance, increasing the risk of accidents or injury during use.
- Legal risks: The legal status of Salvia divinorum varies depending on the region. You must know the laws surrounding the substance before considering its use.
Reducing the Risks Associated with Using Psychedelic Drugs?
To minimize the risks associated with using psychedelic drugs, consider the following harm-reduction strategies:
- Research the specific substance and its effects, risks, and proper dosage.
- Ensure you get the substance from a reliable source to avoid contamination or misidentification. MDMA connects those who need the drug for therapeutic purposes with certified and trusted suppliers.
- Use the substance in a safe, comfortable, and familiar environment.
- Have a trusted and sober “trip-sitter” present to provide support and help manage any negative psychedelic effects.
- Be aware of any personal mental health or medical conditions that psychedelic drugs may exacerbate.
Getting Treatment for Psychedelic Drug Abuse
While most psychedelic drugs may have therapeutic potential for certain mental health conditions, they can also pose risks when used improperly or recreationally. Individuals who struggle with psychedelic drug abuse may benefit from seeking professional help and exploring various treatment options to support their recovery. Here are some steps to consider when seeking treatment for psychedelic drug abuse:
The first step in addressing psychedelic drug abuse is recognizing the signs and symptoms, which may include:
- Frequent or compulsive use of psychedelic substances
- Neglecting responsibilities or relationships due to drug use
- Using psychedelics in dangerous situations, such as driving or operating heavy machinery
- Developing a tolerance or experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Prioritizing drug use over other aspects of life
If you notice any of these signs, a mental health professional, such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, can help assess the severity of the individual’s drug abuse and recommend appropriate treatment options. They can also provide support and guidance for addressing any underlying mental health concerns that may contribute to substance abuse.
When it comes to treatment options, there are various options available including:
- Inpatient treatment: In severe cases or when the individual requires a structured and supportive environment, inpatient treatment centers may help. These facilities provide round-the-clock care and support, including medical supervision, individual and group therapy, and structured daily routines.
- Outpatient treatment: Outpatient programs allow individuals to attend therapy sessions and other treatment activities while continuing to live at home. This option may suit those with less severe drug abuse cases or who require a more flexible schedule.
- Counseling and therapy: Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), can help people develop healthier strategies to cope and address the underlying causes of their drug abuse.
- Support groups: Peer support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, can provide a valuable source of encouragement, shared experiences, and mutual help for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder.
- Medication: In some cases, other drugs may help manage withdrawal symptoms, cravings, or co-occurring mental health conditions.
Recovery from psychedelic drug abuse often requires ongoing support from friends and family.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Are all psychedelic drugs illegal?
The legal status of hallucinogenic drugs varies depending on the region and the substance. Some psychedelic drugs, such as LSD and MDMA, are illegal in most countries, while others, like psilocybin mushrooms, are legal or decriminalized in some jurisdictions. Familiarize yourself with the laws in your country or region before considering using any psychedelic substance.
2. Can psychedelic drugs be used safely?
While some psychedelic drugs have therapeutic potential, they also come with risks. Prioritize safety and harm reduction strategies when using these substances. This includes understanding proper dosing, being aware of potential drug interactions, and seeking professional guidance when considering their use for therapeutic purposes. You should not mix psychedelics with other psychedelics, prescription medications, or alcohol. They may be fatal to the user.
3. Are there any long-term side effects of using psychedelic drugs?
The long-term effects of psychedelic drugs can vary depending on the substance, frequency of use, and individual factors. Some potential long-term effects include psychological dependence, cognitive impairment, and exacerbation of pre-existing mental health conditions. Use caution and consider the potential risks before using any psychedelic substance.
4. Can psychedelic drugs be used to treat mental health issues?
Recent research has shown promise for using some psychoactive drugs, such as psilocybin and MDMA, in treating mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. However, there is ongoing research to isolate their therapeutic applications and safety profile. Consult with an experienced professional before considering psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes.
5. How can I handle a bad trip on a psychedelic drug?
A bad trip, or a negative psychedelic experience, can be distressing and possibly dangerous. If you or someone you know is experiencing a bad trip, it is essential to remain calm, provide reassurance, and create a safe and comfortable environment. If the situation becomes unmanageable or dangerous, seek professional help immediately.
Psychedelic drugs have century-long use for their profound effects on perception, cognition, and mood. Recent research has shown promise for the therapeutic potential of some psychedelics in treating various mental health disorders. However, it is crucial to recognize that these substances also come with risks, such as adverse psychological effects and potential for abuse. Further research is needed to fully understand the benefits and risks associated with psychedelic drug use, its long-term effects, and its potential applications in modern medicine.
As interest in psychedelic drugs grows, it is essential to prioritize safety, education, and harm-reduction strategies. These strategies include understanding the legal status of these substances and being aware of potential drug interactions. Information about many psychedelic drugs remains largely unknown. However, their immediate effects are obvious. As a result, seek professional guidance when considering their use for therapeutic purposes.