Drug abuse has been a problem for many years, and the truth remains that many will abuse different drugs for a variety of reasons – some do it for pleasure, others will do it as a means of escape from the pressure of everyday life. 

This also determines the kind of drug the person eventually uses; for relaxation someone may choose alcohol or opiates, while for others stimulating drugs are the real deal, such as cocaine or marijuana.

There is another class of drugs that is a recent phenomenon compared to the others on the list – hallucinogens. These make an individual see, sense or hear things that are not there. While some people think that they are safer compared to other drugs, there are still risks that come with their usage. In fact, many of their negative effects will continue to linger long after you stop using the hallucinogen, which makes them even more dangerous.

Because of this, it is important to understand how they work in the brain, and this will help in assisting someone struggling with the addiction.

What are hallucinogens?
These are drugs that specifically aim to make the user enter a state of fantasy experiences, in other words, you are feeling, seeing and experiencing things that do not exist or are not present. This is also called ‘tripping’ because the person feels as if they have left their body and experiencing things through their spirit on some other dimension or plane.

These drugs are usually used in specific reasons like religious ceremonies that involve extensive rituals, and there are plants that have these chemicals in their natural form. These have been used by various indigenous people for thousands of years. 

However, the technology of today means that things can now be created in the laboratory, leading to the increase of synthetic hallucinogens. Now, people are using them in party settings, especially in clubs, to make all the sounds and sights more intense.

Regardless of the reasons you are using hallucinogens, it is essential to know and understand their effects on the brain and your body when they create these fantasy experiences. This can cause a number of problems, including that of hallucinogen abuse and addiction.

The effects ion the brain
There are many kinds of hallucinogens, but they all have similar effects on the brain through interference with two important pathways in the brain – the glutamate system, and the serotonin pathway.

Serotonin is an important neurochemical that regulates man of your bodily functions, including digestion, cognition, sleeping patterns, as well as thought processes. When hallucinogens such as LSD interact with the system, they stop the activities of this important chemical. In fact, the effects are similar to when you are dreaming in your sleep, even though the exact effects are not known.

There is a school of thought that states other systems could be involved when you are going through this state of hallucination. Serotonin itself is a major component of how other body systems work anyway, so the interference will cause problems that include your heart rate, sleep patterns, digestion (leading to vomiting and/or nausea), perception of time, and cognitive ability.

On the other hand, glutamate is an essential chemical that gives your brain the ability to communicate with other parts of your body through nerve communication, and it also plays a major role in memory and learning ability. Hallucinogens that include ketamine tend to suppress this chemical, although how they do this is not exactly understood.

Types of hallucinogen drugs
Even though the variety of hallucinogens is wide, as well as the specific regions of the brain they affect, their overall effects on the body is still the same. Here is a summary on some of them.

An acronym for Lysergic acid Diethylamide, this is probably the most widely known hallucinogen. It affects the serotonin system in particular. 

It is synthetic in nature, and its popularity began during the ‘hippie culture’ of the 1960s. It makes the user feel a sense of disconnect from themselves, as well as experiencing distortions of space and time. The effects are long lasting as well, as they can last for up to twelve hours after the initial use.

PCP/angel dust
This is also known as phencyclidine, and has a history of being a powerful anesthetic in the past. It is normally in crystalline and pill forms, and is classified as a Schedule II drug due to some limited medicinal use. Its main effects are on the glutamine system, and the main effects are in sedative form.

This is another popular hallucinogen because of the effects it has – a sense of empathy, warmth, and overall happiness. It is commonly used in parties when combined with a stimulant drug such as marijuana, so that it releases the inhibitions of the users.

It can be snorted in its powder form, swallowed in liquid form, or taken as a pill (the usual method). It mainly affects the serotonin system, as well as the norepinephrine system (which is why it can act as a stimulant).
Vitamin K/Ketamine
This was originally a dissociative and very strong anesthetic, making it a useful drug when handling wounded soldiers in combat and performing quick surgery while in the field. It creates a trance-like state within the brain, since it interferes with the glutamate system.

It apparently works by making the user feel disconnected from their body, and it can even make the person unable to move completely. This has unfortunately led to its increasing use as a date rape drug, and many times used when sexually assaulting someone. Its effects can also raise a sense of euphoria and hallucinations within the party club atmosphere.

Magic mushrooms
Another drug that was popularized in the 1960s, also acts on the serotonin system. It creates connections between the hemispheres of the brain that are usually not there, making the user enter a trance-like state and feeling at one with nature.

Final thoughts
As various studies on hallucinogens shows, the effects of these drugs on the brain is extensive, and it brings great challenges during withdrawal because the effects are long lasting – unless you go through extensive rehab treatment.