Hallucinogens addiction

Hallucinogens have been used for centuries for everything from recreation to spiritual ceremonies. Despite their ancient roots and the mystique surrounding their use, however, hallucinogen use can lead to a number of severe consequences for health and well-being. While not as frequently discussed as other substance dependencies, hallucinogen addiction can devastate the lives of both those affected and their loved ones. The symptoms and risks of hallucinogen addiction can vary widely among different substances, but hallucinogenic users must be aware of the dangers and how to seek help if they need it.

What is a hallucinogen?

Hallucinogens are a diverse class of drugs that alter a person’s perception of reality, thoughts and feelings. They work by disrupting the communication between neurotransmitter systems across the brain and spinal cord, causing people to see, hear and feel sensations that seem real but are not.

There are several types of hallucinogens, broadly categorised into two main groups:

1. Classic hallucinogens

These include substances such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), DMT (dimethyltryptamine) and mescaline (derived from the peyote cactus). Classic hallucinogens primarily cause profound changes in thought, mood and perception.

2. Dissociative drugs

These include substances like ketamine, PCP (phencyclidine) and dextromethorphan (DXM), which produce feelings of detachment from a person’s environment and themselves.

What are the effects of hallucinogens?

The effects of hallucinogens can vary dramatically and are influenced by a wide range of factors, including the specific substance used, the dose, the individual’s psychological makeup and the context in which the drug is consumed. Effects can be both psychological and physical and often blur the lines between the user’s perception of reality and drug-induced hallucinations or alterations in perception.

Psychological effects

  • Altered perception of time and space: Users may experience time moving very slowly or rapidly, while spatial awareness may also be distorted.
  • Visual hallucinations: These commonly include vivid images and colours, geometric patterns and distorted visions of people and objects.
  • Enhanced emotional states: Emotions can be amplified, which can lead to intense euphoria, the sense of a profound spiritual experience, but also anxiety, paranoia and panic.
  • Altered thought processes: Thought patterns can also become disjointed, leading to a disrupted sense of identity or a sense of detachment from the external world.

Physical effects

  • Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite: Common with the use of some hallucinogens, especially those which are ingested.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure: These can be particularly pronounced with substances like LSD.
  • Coordination problems: Users may experience clumsiness or a lack of coordination.

The intensity and nature of these effects can lead to unpredictable behaviour, making hallucinogen use potentially dangerous, especially in uncontrolled environments. The risk of accidents increases, and in some cases, individuals may experience severe, distressing psychological reactions known as “bad trips,” causing panic, potentially life-threatening behaviours and lasting negative impacts on mental health.

What is hallucinogen addiction?

Hallucinogen addiction is a complex condition that differs in some respects from drug addiction to substances like opioids, alcohol or stimulants. Generally speaking, hallucinogens are not considered to be as physically addictive as these other substances because they do not typically cause the same compulsive drug-seeking behaviours or physical withdrawal symptoms. However, psychological dependence on hallucinogens can develop, leading individuals to use these substances repeatedly despite negative consequences to their health, social life and overall well-being.

The process of becoming addicted to hallucinogens often begins with the user’s desire to escape reality, enhance sensory experiences or explore altered states of consciousness. Over time, the psychological need for the drug’s effects becomes a driving force in the person’s life at the expense of all else. This psychological hold can be incredibly challenging to overcome and often requires professional help.

Different forms of hallucinogen addiction

While the term “hallucinogen” encompasses a broad range of substances, certain drugs are more commonly associated with patterns of abuse and psychological dependence. These addictive hallucinogens include:

LSD addiction

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a potent hallucinogen known for its powerful effects on perception, emotions and time sense. Although physical dependence on LSD is rare, users can develop a tolerance to its effects, leading to increased dosages and a strong psychological dependence.

Cannabis addiction

Cannabis is often debated for its hallucinogenic classification, but its psychoactive components, like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), can greatly alter perception and mood. Unlike other hallucinogens, cannabis can lead to both psychological and physical dependence, with regular, heavy consumption resulting in tolerance, withdrawal symptoms and compulsive use.

Ketamine addiction

Ketamine is a dissociated aesthetic that, at lower doses, produces hallucinogenic effects and feelings of detachment. Users can quickly develop a tolerance to ketamine, leading to increased dosages and a higher risk of harmful effects, including addiction.

Signs of hallucinogen addiction

The signs of hallucinogen addiction can vary depending on the substance used, but there are common indicators that may suggest a person is struggling. These include:

  • Needing larger doses of the drug to experience the same effects.
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about, obtaining, using and recovering from the effects of hallucinogens.
  • Using hallucinogens even when they cause problems in life.
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies that were once important or enjoyable.
  • Making unsuccessful efforts to reduce or stop hallucinogen use.
  • Spending significant amounts of money on hallucinogens, even if this causes financial issues.
  • Experiencing cravings or a strong desire to use hallucinogens.
  • Exhibiting mood swings, irritability or depression when not using the drugs.

Identifying these signs early can be crucial in seeking help and treatment for hallucinogen addiction. Friends, family and hallucinogen users themselves need to be aware of these indicators as they can be subtle and gradually intensify over time.

Who is most at risk of becoming addicted to hallucinogens?

While anyone can develop an addiction to hallucinogens, some people are more susceptible due to a combination of genetic, environmental and personal factors. Understanding these risk factors is crucial for prevention and early intervention:

  • Genetic predisposition: People with a family history of substance abuse are at a higher risk of hallucinogen addiction, as genetic factors can influence how a person reacts to drugs.
  • Mental health disorders: People with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or personality disorders may use hallucinogens as a form of self-medication, increasing the risk of becoming addicted.
  • Peer pressure: Especially among teenagers and young adults, the influence of peers who use drugs can significantly increase the likelihood of trying hallucinogens and potentially developing a hallucinogen addiction.
  • Early use: Starting to use hallucinogens at a young age can increase the risk of addiction as the adolescent brain is still developing.
  • Stressful life events: People undergoing significant stress or trauma may turn to hallucinogens as an escape, leading to increased usage and the risk of addiction.
  • A desire for spiritual or philosophical experiences: Individuals seeking to explore altered states of consciousness or spiritual experiences may experiment with hallucinogens, potentially leading to repeated use and addiction.

The dangers of hallucinogen abuse and addiction

The abuse of and addiction to hallucinogens can have profound and lasting effects on a person’s life. These consequences can be physical, psychological and social, impacting not only the user but also their family and community:

Physical health risks
Chronic use of hallucinogens can lead to various physical health issues, including heart problems, lung damage (from smoking substances) and neurological damage. Some hallucinogens may also cause persistent perception disorders, such as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), where the person experiences flashbacks and visual disturbances long after the drug has been consumed.
Mental health issues
Hallucinogens can exacerbate or trigger new-onset mental health disorders, including psychosis, depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia. These psychological effects can be long-lasting and may require extensive mental health treatment.
Cognitive impairments
Regular use of hallucinogens can impair memory, concentration and the ability to think clearly, all of which can affect academic performance, employment and daily functioning.
Social consequences
Addiction can strain relationships with loved ones and colleagues, leading to social isolation, family issues, unemployment and financial difficulties.
Legal problems
Possession, use and distribution of hallucinogens are illegal in the UK, leading to legal issues, including arrest, fines and imprisonment.
Risk of accidental harm
While under the influence of hallucinogens, individuals are more likely to engage in risky behaviours or experience accidents due to impaired judgement and altered perception.

How hallucinogen addiction is treated

Sanctuary Lodge’s inpatient hallucinogens rehab/detox programmes incorporate three main stages to address the complex nature of hallucinogen addiction:

1. Detoxification: While physical withdrawal is less common with hallucinogens, the first step may involve medically supervised detoxification to ensure the person’s safety and comfort, especially if they are using multiple substances.

2. Rehab therapy: These sessions incorporate various forms of individual counselling, group therapy, family therapy and holistic treatment approaches to address underlying issues and teach coping strategies.

3. Aftercare: We help our clients create and execute a relapse prevention plan and provide one year’s free weekly group therapy sessions to enable the smooth transition from rehab to normal life.

Get help for hallucinogen addiction today

If you or someone you know is struggling with hallucinogen addiction, it is crucial to seek help immediately. Sanctuary Lodge offers expert-led treatment programmes which can help you break the ties of addiction and achieve lasting recovery. Don’t let hallucinogen addiction control your life any longer. Contact Sanctuary Lodge today to start your journey towards a healthier, drug-free future.


What is the strongest and most widely abused hallucinogen?
The strongest and most widely abused hallucinogen is often considered to be LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). LSD is known for its potent effects on the mind, including significant alterations in sensory perceptions, mood and thought processes. Its powerful psychoactive properties can induce profound visual and auditory hallucinations, making it a substance with a high potential for abuse.
Is weed a hallucinogen?
Weed, also known as marijuana or cannabis, contains various psychoactive compounds, most notably THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). While primarily classified as a depressant or a mild psychedelic, these compounds can produce mild hallucinogenic effects, such as altered visual and auditory perceptions, especially at high doses. However, weed’s effects are generally less intense and less disorienting than those produced by hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin (magic mushrooms).

(Click here to see works cited)

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/psychedelic-dissociative-drugs. Accessed 28 February 2024.
  • UK-Rehab. “Information on Addiction To Hallucinogens.” UK-Rehab, https://www.uk-rehab.com/drug-addiction/hallucinogens/. Accessed 28 February 2024.
  • Grant, Jon E et al. “Hallucinogen Use is Associated with Mental Health and Addictive Problems and Impulsivity in University Students.” Addictive behaviors reports vol. 10 (2019): 100228. doi:10.1016/j.abrep.2019.100228
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