Skip to content


Hallucinogens Defined, Effects, Types, Withdrawal Symptoms & Addiction Treatment

What are hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause hallucinations—profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be man-made, and they are commonly divided into two broad categories: classic hallucinogens (such as LSD) and dissociative drugs (such as PCP). When under the influence of either type of drug, people often report rapid, intense emotional swings and seeing images, hearing sounds, and feeling sensations that seem real but are not. Repeated use of hallucinogens such as LSD or ecstasy leads to tolerance and substance abuse, where the drug has reduced or no effect.

Are hallucinogens addictive?

In some cases, yes. Evidence suggests that certain hallucinogens can be addictive and that people can develop a tolerance to them.

For example, LSD is not considered an addictive drug because it doesn’t cause uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior. However, LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take higher doses to achieve the same effect. This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug. In addition, LSD produces tolerance to other hallucinogens, including psilocybin.

The term hallucinogen refers to many different drugs, which are often called “psychedelic” drugs. 

The misuse and addiction potential of DMT is currently unknown. Unlike other hallucinogens, DMT does not appear to lead to tolerance. There is also little evidence that taking it in the form of ayahuasca tea can lead to addiction. On the other hand, PCP is a hallucinogen that can be addictive. People who stop repeated use of PCP experience drug cravings, headaches, and sweating as common withdrawal symptoms.

Hallucinogens Effects

While the exact mechanisms by which hallucinogens and dissociative drugs cause their effects are not yet clearly understood, research suggests that they work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between neurotransmitter systems throughout the brain and spinal cord that regulate mood, sensory perception, sleep, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior, and muscle control.

Short Term Effects of Hallucinogens

Ingesting hallucinogenic drugs can cause users to see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist. Their effects typically begin within 20 to 90 minutes of ingestion and can last as long as 12 hours. Experiences are often unpredictable and may vary with the amount ingested and the user’s personality, mood, expectations, and surroundings.

The effects of hallucinogens like LSD can be described as drug-induced psychosis—distortion or disorganization of a person’s capacity to recognize reality, think rationally, or communicate with others. Users refer to LSD and other hallucinogenic experiences as “trips” and to acute adverse or unpleasant experiences as “bad trips.” On some trips, users experience sensations that are enjoyable and mentally stimulating and that produce a sense of heightened understanding. Bad trips, however, include terrifying thoughts and nightmarish feelings of anxiety and despair that include fears of losing control, insanity, or death. [1]

How long does the feeling last?

Classic hallucinogens can cause users to see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem real but do not exist. The effects generally begin within 20 to 90 minutes and can last as long as 12 hours in some cases (LSD) or as short as 15 minutes in others (synthetic DMT).

Types of Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens are among the oldest known group of drugs. They alter human perception and mood. Under the influence of hallucinogens, people see images, hear sounds, and feel things that seem real but are not. Some hallucinogens are also able to produce rapid, intense mood swings. These compounds are typically found in some plants, fungi, mushrooms (or their extracts) or are synthetically produced. [2] Common hallucinogens include LSD, PCP, Psilocybin, and Salvia:


LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the most potent perception-changing chemicals. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. Users may call it acid, blotter, cubes, microdot, yellow sunshine, blue heaven, cid, dots, mellow yellow, or windowpane.

Some hallucinogens come from mushrooms (psilocybin), cacti (mescaline), and other plants (cannabis, salvia). Of these, cannabis and psilocybin are almost always used in their natural form. 

How Is LSD Used?

LSD is sold in tablets, capsules, and, occasionally, liquid form. It is usually taken orally. LSD is often added to absorbent paper, which is then divided into decorated pieces, each equivalent to one dose.

LSD changes sensations and feelings in people under its influence. Users may feel several emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. Experiences may seem to ‘cross-over’ different senses, giving the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds.

What Are the Risks Associated with LSD Use?

In large doses, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations and causes the user’s sense of time and self to be altered. The experiences and changes may be frightening and can cause panic.

Some LSD users experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings of despair, fear of losing control, or fear of insanity and death while using LSD. Users can also experience flashbacks or recurrences of certain aspects of the drug experience for years after use.


PCP (phencyclidine) was developed as an intravenous anesthetic. It is no longer used medically due to serious adverse effects. It is misused for its hallucinogenic effects. Users may call it angel dust, embalming fluid, killer weed, rocket fuel, or supergrass.

How Is PCP Used?

PCP is a white crystalline powder that dissolves in water or alcohol. It can easily be mixed with dyes and sold on the illicit drug market in a variety of tablet, capsule, and colored powder forms that are snorted, smoked or swallowed. For smoking, PCP is often applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana.

PCP use causes users to feel detached, distant, and estranged from their surroundings. Users may hear things that are not happening.

What Are the Risks Associated with PCP Use?

Users may develop severe mood swings, anxiety, paranoia, and hostility, as well as psychosis. Other effects include numbness, slurred speech, and loss of coordination accompanied by a sense of strength and invulnerability. A blank stare, rapid and involuntary eye movements and an exaggerated gait are among the more observable effects.


Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine) is the active chemical in hallucinogenic mushrooms. This chemical is found in approximately 190 species of edible mushrooms that are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. These mushrooms typically contain less than 0.5 percent psilocybin plus trace amounts of psilocin, another hallucinogenic substance. Users may refer to this drug as magic mushrooms, mushrooms, shrooms, caps, or boomers.

How Is Psilocybin Used?

Mushrooms containing psilocybin are available fresh or dried and are typically taken by mouth. They may be brewed as tea or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor. The effects include hallucinations, an altered perception of time, and an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

What Are the Risks Associated with Psilocybin Use?

Psilocybin has LSD-like properties and changes the function of smooth muscles of the heart, lungs, and glands, motor reflexes, behavior, and perception. Panic reactions and psychosis also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a large dose. Long-term effects such as flashbacks, risk of psychiatric illness, impaired memory, and tolerance have also been described.


Salvia divinorum is an herb in the mint family misused for its hallucinogenic effects. It is not processed and looks like small dried leaves. Users may call it salvia, shepherdess’s herb, diviner’s sage, seer’s sage, Maria Pastora, magic mint, or Sally-D.

How is Salvia Used?

Salvia leaves can be chewed, smoked, or heated and turned to gas that can be inhaled (vaporized). Salvia’s psychic effects include perceptions of bright lights, vivid colors, shapes, and body movement, as well as body or object distortions.

What Are the Risks Associated with Salvia Use?

Salvia may also cause fear and panic, uncontrollable laughter, a sense of overlapping realities, and hallucinations. Adverse physical effects may include loss of coordination, dizziness, and slurred speech.

Hallucinogens Withdrawal Symptoms

Like many other drugs, it is possible to build up a tolerance to hallucinogens. This means larger and larger doses need to be taken to achieve the same effect.  Some people develop psychological dependence and feel that regular drug use is an important part of their lives. Research indicates that people can become physically dependent on hallucinogens like PCP or ketamine. If a person stops taking the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Some people may experience ‘flashbacks’, which can happen days, weeks, months, or even years after taking the drug. They briefly relive the hallucinations of a previous trip so powerfully that it seems as if they have been transported back in time and space, or they may experience distortions of their present reality.  Having hallucinations when not under the influence of any hallucinogenic drugs can be very frightening.

How is a hallucinogen addiction treated?

LSD users quickly develop a high degree of tolerance to the drug’s effects, such that repeated use requires increasingly larger doses to produce similar effects. The use of hallucinogenic drugs also produces tolerance to other drugs in this class, including psilocybin and peyote.

The use of classic hallucinogens does not, however, produce tolerance to drugs that do not act directly on the same brain cell receptors. In other words, there is no cross-tolerance to drugs that act on other neurotransmitter systems, such as marijuana, amphetamines, or PCP, among others. Furthermore, tolerance for hallucinogenic drugs is short-lived—it is lost if the user stops taking the drugs for several days—and physical withdrawal symptoms are not typically experienced when chronic use is stopped.

Hallucinogens affect perception and behavior. Taking them may cause people to become disoriented, have poor judgment, and take risks. Contact us today to get help.

There are no FDA-approved medications to treat addiction to hallucinogens. While behavioral treatments can be helpful for patients with a variety of addictions, scientists need more research to find out if behavioral therapies are effective for addiction to hallucinogens.

Hallucinogen addiction is a complex issue that requires long-term treatment – not a quick fix. Therefore, the first step in drug abuse treatment is to seek help from your medical provider or a trained professional.

If you are addicted to drugs, your first step in recovery should be medical detox in a safe and medically supervised setting. We Level Up TX detox & substance abuse treatment center medically assist clients in clearing their systems of addictive substances. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life with a comfortable hallucinogens addiction treatment. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists.