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Psychedelics, also known as Hallucinogens, are a class of psychoactive substances that produce changes in perception, mood and cognitive processes. Psychedelics affect all the senses, altering a person’s thinking, sense of time and emotions. They can also cause a person to hallucinate—seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted. This class of drugs can temporarily alter a person’s mood, thoughts, and perceptions of reality. Among other health effects and safety concerns, people who use psychedelic and dissociative drugs report feeling strong emotions, ranging from intense happiness and a feeling of connectedness to fear, anxiety, and confusion. People who use these drugs also report experiencing intense or distorted visions or sensations.

There are many different kinds of psychedelics. Some occur naturally, in trees, vines, seeds, fungi and leaves. Others are made in laboratories. They come in many forms including tablets, blotter paper, dried mushrooms, powders and crystalline powders.

Psychedelics have been used since ancient times by various cultures throughout the world for their mystical and spiritual associations. LSD, magic mushrooms, Mescaline and DMT are usually swallowed, smoked or inhaled. Mushrooms are usually eaten fresh, cooked or brewed into a ‘tea’.

Many psychedelic drugs derive from plants and fungi, and some have been used for thousands of years in traditional or religious rituals. Some psychedelic and dissociative drugs are also synthetic (lab-made). People report using psychedelic and dissociative drugs for a variety of reasons, including seeking new, fun, healing, or spiritual experiences.


Short-term effects

Physical effects:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Feelings of euphoria 

  • Blurred or impaired vision

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Dry mouth

  • Loss of appetite

  • Inability to sleep

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Increased body temperature

  • Excessive sweating

  • Dilated pupils


Mental or emotional effects:

  • Intensified sensory experience, such as brighter colors

  • The blurring of senses, such as hearing colors or visualizing sounds

  • Altered perception of time, such as feeling time passing by slower than usual

  • Spiritual experiences, such as unification or ego death

  • Panic

  • Paranoia

  • Psychosis

  • Bizarre behavior

Long-term effects

  • Persistent psychosis
  • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD)
  • Flashbacks
  • Speech issues
  • Memory loss
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation

Other effects

Sometimes user can experience a ‘bad trip’, which is frightening and disturbing hallucinations. This can lead to panic and unpredictable behavior, like running across a road or attempting suicide. Another side effect and one of the most common is the ‘flashback’. Flashbacks are a re-experience of the drug and can occur days, weeks, months and even years later. Flashbacks can be triggered by the use of other drugs or by stress, fatigue or physical exercise. The flashback experience can range from being pleasant to causing severe feelings of anxiety. They are usually visual and last for a minute or two.


  • In 2019, over 5.5 million people in the U.S. used hallucinogens.
  • Of those, 440,000 were between the ages of 12 and 17, 2.4 million were between the ages of 18 and 25, and 3.1 million were age 26 or over.
  • Between 2002 and 2019, LSD use increased overall and in all age groups
  • In 2020, 7.5% of 12th graders used a hallucinogen at some point in their life.


NIDA. 2023, April 14. Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs. Retrieved f
rom on 2023, May 1
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