Hallucinogenic drugs cause severe distortions in perceptions of reality and pose special dangers for the user. This lesson explains the risks involved with the use of ecstasy, PCP, and ketamine.

Hallucinogenic Drugs

Have you heard of ‘club drugs’ or ‘party drugs’? These are particular controlled substances that are popular among young adults. They are used mainly at concerts, in dance clubs, and at music festivals. They are often hallucinogenic drugs.

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Hallucinogens are ‘drugs that cause hallucinations, or intense distortions in the user’s perceptions of reality’. They are sometimes called ‘psychedelic drugs’. They affect the user’s brain in a way that makes them see, hear, feel, taste, or smell things that simply aren’t there. The result is sometimes compared to a dreamlike state.

Some hallucinogens are natural substances. For example, certain varieties of mushrooms can have hallucinogenic effects. Other hallucinogens are synthetic drugs, meaning they are artificial, or man-made materials. Some examples include ecstasy, PCP, and ketamine.

Let’s follow Tess, our test subject, as she experiments with a few of these drugs. We’ll take a closer look at the dangers of these synthetic hallucinogens.

Dangers of Ecstasy

One of the most popular street drugs today is ecstasy. It’s also known as ‘MDMA’ and ‘Molly’. It’s a controlled substance, typically manufactured as a small tablet, with both stimulant and hallucinogenic qualities.

Ecstasy’s effects usually last around four to six hours. During that time, the drug interrupts several of the brain’s important jobs, such as regulating body temperature and telling the body when it’s time to eat or sleep. Because of this, ecstasy users attending all-night dance parties sometimes suffer dehydration or heat stroke.

Other ecstasy dangers include:

  • Vision impairment or blurred vision
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle cramping
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Long-term dangers include:

  • Kidney failure
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Brain damage
  • Psychological addiction

Dangers of PCP

Now let’s take a look at PCP. PCP stands for ‘phencyclidine’. It’s a dissociative drug intended to be used as a sedative and an anesthetic. Dissociative drugs cause the user to feel detached from his or her surroundings and sometimes have ‘out of body’ experiences. At high doses, dissociative drugs can also cause hallucinations.

PCP is usually sold on the streets as a white, crystallized powder that’s sometimes called ‘angel dust’. It also occasionally comes as a liquid or a tablet. Users typically snort, smoke, or inject the drug. It’s important to note that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers PCP to be one of the most dangerous drugs of abuse.

Some specific dangers of PCP use include:

  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Inability to feel pain
  • Numbness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Nausea

Long-term dangers include:

  • Psychological addiction
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Psychosis

Dangers of Ketamine

Lastly, let’s examine ketamine. Ketamine is ‘an injectable anesthetic most commonly used in veterinary practices’. Like PCP, ketamine is a dissociative drug that can cause hallucinations.

Ketamine is sometimes known as ‘Special K’ or ‘Vitamin K’. It’s commonly sold on the street as a chunky white powder or as a clear liquid. Users typically crush and snort the powder or inject the liquid. Ketamine’s effects set in quickly and typically last less than one hour.

Ketamine’s dangers include:

  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Suppressed breathing
  • Catatonic state, where the user is immobile and unable to respond

Long-term dangers include:

  • Memory loss
  • Psychological addiction
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Psychological disorders

Lesson Summary

Let’s review.

Hallucinogens are ‘drugs that cause hallucinations, or intense distortions in the user’s perceptions of reality’. Some hallucinogens are synthetic drugs, meaning they are artificial, or man-made, materials.

Ecstasy is also known as ‘MDMA’ and ‘Molly’. It’s a controlled substance, typically manufactured as a small tablet, with both stimulant and hallucinogenic qualities.

PCP stands for ‘phencyclidine’ and is a dissociative drug, intended to be used as a sedative and an anesthetic. Dissociative drugs cause the user to feel detached from his or her surroundings and sometimes have ‘out of body’ experiences.

Ketamine is an injectable anesthetic most commonly used in veterinary practices. It’s a dissociative drug that can cause hallucinations.

The general short-term dangers of these drugs include numbness, high blood pressure, an inability to feel pain, and shallow breathing. Some long-term dangers of these drugs include psychological addiction, depression, psychological disorders, memory loss, and kidney failure.

Learning Outcomes

When you are done, you should be able to:

  • Explain what hallucinogenic drugs are and how they affect the human body
  • Name and provide some background on three popular hallucinogenic drugs
  • State the immediate and long-term dangers of the three mentioned hallucinogenic drugs