Hallucinogens and Addiction

Popular myths among drug users are prevalent, and perhaps none of these myths are as well-established as the misconception that it is not possible to become addicted to hallucinogens. While physical dependence and addiction shroom capsules to hallucinogens does not occur as rapidly as addiction to opiates, barbiturates, benzodiazepines or alcohol, it does happen and can have severe results. Because people who use hallucinogens experience significant distortions in what they see, hear and feel, chronic use of these substances can lead to a host of psychological and physiological problems, including addiction syndrome.

Hallucinogens are a difficult class of drug to define but generally include any drugs that cause prominent altered states of perception that greatly distort a user’s ability to differentiate between what is a hallucination and what is reality. The most common and well known hallucinogen is LSD or Lysergic Acid Diethylamide – a powerful hallucinogen synthesized from spurned wheat or corn ergot. Other hallucinogens include Ecstasy, PCP, Psilocybin, Mescaline, Ketamine and Dextromethorphan. And while some people might argue that not all of these drugs are true hallucinogens, they all cause addiction.

In general LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin and mescaline are considered true hallucinogens and work by disrupting the brain’s ability to produce and utilize serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate sleeping patterns, mood and sexual desire, among other things. Other drugs that are not true hallucinogens – like Ketamine, PCP and Dextromethorphan – block the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is responsible for controlling cognitive functions like learning and memory.

Whether true hallucinogen or not, all of these drugs cause major disruptions in the senses and deprive the brain of its ability to operate normally. In response the body will make changes in the central nervous system to adapt to and mitigate the effects of these drugs. Over time and with continued use these changes become more permanent, culminating at a point where the body only functions “normally” when the drug is in the system. This is known as physical dependency. While not the same as addiction, some people consider physical dependency and addiction to be synonymous with each other.

However, while addiction is a clinical, neurological disease, it is most often classified by a group of behaviors rather than physical signs or symptoms. This is because hallucinogens cause the pleasure and reward center in the brain to be stimulated. Once the brain associates a drug with a feeling of “reward,” it will work to recreate that feeling whenever possible. Therefore, the longer a person uses a hallucinogen like LSD or ecstasy, the more associations are built in the brain that not only “remembers” the pleasurable feeling of hallucinating, but also the environments in which the use took place.