What are hallucinogens?
Hallucinogens (also known as psychedelics) are a category of drugs that cause perceptual distortions such as hallucinations. Hallucinations are experiences where people hear or see things that aren’t really there, or where perception is altered. For example, colours or shapes may appear to be changing, more brightly coloured or moving. Users may also experience unusual thoughts, feelings, or beliefs.
Hallucinogens can be naturally occurring or synthetic. The most commonly known synthetic hallucinogen is LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), also known as acid, trips or tabs. Naturally occurring hallucinogens include magic mushrooms, DMT (Dimethyltryptamine), mescaline (found in peyote), or salvia.
“Me and a few mates decided to take a few tabs of acid. Fifty minutes later I collapsed and thought I saw shadows coming towards me. I was screaming and crying for help, but my friends were also high and unable to help.” —Alice, 16
How many young people have tried it?
According to the 2014 Australian secondary schools' survey, 1 in 45 students (2.2%) aged 12-17 used hallucinogens last year.
What are the effects?
The effects of hallucinogens are extremely variable and unpredictable, even if the person has used the same substance before. Factors that influence the drugs’ effects include the person using (e.g. mood, personality), the setting, and the particular drug itself.
Effects of hallucinogens may include:
- Increased heart rate and body temperature
- Dilated (enlarged) pupils
- A trance-like state
- Feeling of euphoria (a ‘high’)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Hallucinations (e.g. seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there)
- Stomach cramps
- Disorientation (increasing the risk of injury)
- Tiredness, dizziness and amnesia
- Anxiety, panic attacks, fear or terror (a ‘bad trip’)
- Loss of consciousness
- Paranoia (feeling extremely suspicious) and psychosis, lasting up to several hours after the drug effects have worn off
- Poisoning, particularly with magic mushrooms if the wrong type is used. This can be fatal.
- Flashbacks (spontaneous recurrences of a specific experience). Sometimes these can last for days, weeks or sometimes even years after taking the drug
- Dependence (addiction)
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Memory problems
- Personality changes
- Psychosis (see glossary).
Hallucinogens: Effects on the Body & Mind
This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use and National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. See detailed attachment for a list of sources for this information.
- Credit to the Home Office for quotes adapted from Talk to Frank
- Credit to 2and2 for Trapped in a nightmare infographic