Habits and Behaviors - Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens or psychedelics were the most popular class of drugs in the 1960s. Timothy Leary (1920–1996), a doctor from Harvard University, coined the phrase, "Tune in, turn on, drop out," encouraging young people everywhere to experiment with psychedelics. Hallucinogens affect people by distorting reality, and, at higher doses, often cause hallucinations (the illusion of seeing or hearing something that doesn't really exist). (Other drugs, even alcohol and marijuana, can cause hallucinations, too.)

Synthetic hallucinogens are LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), mescaline (peyote), and DOM and STP (2,5-dimethoxy-4methylamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative. LSD is also called acid. The synthetic hallucinogens are manufactured in underground laboratories that exist only to serve the illegal drug market. Natural hallucinogens include mescaline, or peyote (this can also be synthetically produced), morning glory seeds, and psilocybin mushrooms (these are often called "shrooms" or "magic mushrooms"; they are not the kind of mushrooms found in supermarkets).

The slang term for taking hallucinogens is "tripping." The experience an individual can have on psychedelics varies widely. The emotional and mental state of the user at the time of "dropping" or taking the drug sets the tone for the trip. If the individual has any feelings of doubt or fear, the drug often exaggerates these emotions. This can cause a nightmarish experience, called a "bad trip." Trips can last anywhere from four to twenty-four hours depending on dosage and circumstances.

LSD. LSD can be taken in different forms. Because it is highly potent, only small amounts are necessary. It is sometimes produced in pill form. More commonly, sheets of LSD called blotter paper are produced. The user puts a tiny piece of the sheet in his or her mouth. These pieces are called dots, tabs or doses. Sometimes acid is taken in liquid form.

The effects of LSD are usually felt within an hour. Physical effects include increased blood pressure, dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, muscular weakness, trembling, nausea, chills, and hyperventilation. (Sometimes LSD is mixed with amphetamines, and the effects match the speedy physical effects of that class of drugs.) Another possible effect of taking LSD is the flashback. Up to a year after the acid trip, users can have hallucinations caused by LSD left in their systems.

MESCALINE. Mescaline is made from the peyote cactus. The heads or "buttons" of the cactus are dried and put into capsules. It is usually taken orally but can be smoked or injected. It is less potent than LSD. Physical effects include dilated pupils, high body temperature, nausea and vomiting, and muscular relaxation. Mental effects include euphoria, heightened sensory perception, hallucinations, and difficulty in thinking. Higher doses can cause headaches, dry skin, hypotension (lowering of the blood pressure), cardiac depression, and slowing of respiration.

Designer Drugs

Designer drugs, called such because they are "designed" in a laboratory, were created in the 1970s by underground chemists attempting to subvert the drug laws of the day. The designer drugs were only a molecule or two different than some of the synthetic drugs then listed as illegal according to the Controlled Substance Act.

MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, is a very popular designer drug. Some street names for Ecstasy are X, E, XTC, Rave or Adam. It's related to amphetamines and mescaline. It's also called the "love drug" or the "hug drug" because it enhances empathy and relatedness. It also causes a positive mood change, a drop in defense mechanisms, and elevated mood. Some of the negative effects of Ecstasy are the potential for overdosing, extreme fatigue, dilated pupils, dry mouth and throat, tension in the lower jaw, grinding of the teeth and over-stimulation. It can also cause extreme paranoia and panic that call for emergency care.

Special K is one of the newer, deadlier designer drugs. It is actually ketamine hydrochloride, a drug widely used as an animal tranquilizer by veterinarians during pet surgery. It is a very powerful hallucinogen. Special K is usually snorted, but it is sometimes sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana cigarettes and smoked. Special K is frequently used in combination with other drugs, such as Ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.


GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), an unpredictable, often deadly, designer drug has recently become popular with young adults. It has been used for euphoric, sedative, and anabolic (body building) effects, and is available in liquid or powder forms. Users report it induces a state of relaxation. Known as "liquid ecstacy," "Georgia Home Boy," "scoop," or "grievous bodily harm," GHB, taken alone or with other drugs (such as alcohol), can depress the central nervous system. Serious side effects include: coma, seizures, vomiting, tremors, dizziness, and difficulty breathing or respiratory arrest.

GHB is odorless and colorless with a slightly salty taste. This makes it easy to slip into someone's drink without detection (for this reason, GHB has reportedly been used in cases of date rape). Due to the unpredictable nature of the drug, there is little difference between a dose that will get a person high and one that will kill. Experts agree that there is no safe level of use of GHB.

Those high on Special K can enter a "K-hole" and never come out of it. Users describe the "Khole" as a space where profound hallucinations may occur that include visual distortions and a lost sense of time, sense and identity. Some report experiencing total temporary paralysis (loss of the ability to move or feel sensation). Because users generally become unable to speak or even see what is happening around them, it is not a social drug. One of the other dangers of Special K is that it's hard to determine that the dosage one has bought from a dealer is authentic. Like some of the other designer drugs, Special K is often cut with other drugs and poisonous agents.

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