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Also called psychedelics or psychotomimetics, hallucinogens are a class of substances that induce altered states of consciousness, loss of contact with reality, delusions and hallucinations, and feelings of expanded or heightened consciousness.

Some of the more well-known hallucinogens include LSD, mescaline (from the peyote cactus), psilocybin (from certain mushrooms, also called "magic" mushrooms) and ayahuasca.

How Hallucinogens Work

Each hallucinogenic substance is consumed in its own way, either ingested, smoked, inhaled or injected, and each has its own mechanism of action, though much about this still remains unknown. The effects of these substances usually last for several hours. LSD is thought to exert its effects by interacting with the brain's serotonin system, though the precise details of these interactions have not yet been clarified.

Hallucinogen Intoxication

In addition to the effects described above, hallucinogens can also induce depressed or anxious moods, confusion, impaired judgment, the feeling of losing one's mind, intensification of perceptions, depersonalization, derealization, and synesthesia.

Physical symptoms include rapid heart rate and palpitations, sweating, tremors, blurred vision, incoordination and pupillary dilation. Life-treatening reactions can include heart attacks or strokes from markedly increased blood pressure or irregular heart rhythms, and serotonin syndrome can also occur. In addition, the alterations in perceptions and reality-testing caused by these substances can lead people to act in dangerous ways.

It has been suggested that individuals can experience flashbacks lasting several minutes or longer of the symptoms of hallucinogen intoxication, which can occur months or even years after the hallucinogen use. This is known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder. It has also been suggested that hallucinogens can cause Psychotic, Depressive or Anxiety Disorders. However, the evidence for these phenomena is very weak and, even if true, these syndromes would be very rare occurrences [ref, ref].

Hallucinogen Withdrawal

Hallucinogens do not seem to cause any withdrawal symptoms.

Treating Hallucinogen Abuse and Dependence

Treating hallucinogen use disorders follows the general treatment principles as outlined here. There are no medications that have been shown to be effective for this purpose

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