Hallucinogens (Forensic Science)
Hallucinogenic drugs, or hallucinogens, are capable of altering the perceptions of those who ingest them. Historically, some hallucinogens have been important parts of cultural rituals, particularly spiritual ceremonies and developmental rites of passage, and their use has been socially sanctioned because of these associations. Most hallucinogen use in the United States, however, is recreational in nature.
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Effects (Forensic Science)
As the name implies, hallucinations—internal perceptions that separate the individual from reality and that are not perceptible to others—are common effects of hallucinogen usage. The hallucinatory experiences associated with these drugs may include increased awareness of surroundings and perceptual distortions, such as perceived heightened visual ability or changes in the way motion is perceived. Any and all of the senses may be affected simultaneously, creating often illogical and nonlinear observations. Some users of hallucinogens have reported experiencing synesthesia, a phenomenon in which one sense overlaps with another. For instance, the notes, melodies, and harmonies of music may be perceived both as sounds and as colors.
Users of hallucinogens may also experience a different sense of themselves as persons, with the drugs affecting their perceptions of consciousness and their bodies in relationship to others. Some experience greatly increased empathy and feelings of connection to others and the environment. In fact, in some users, the perceived dissolution of personal boundaries may proceed to such an extent that they cannot perceive any sense of self—in essence, they feel they become their surroundings.
The experience of taking a hallucinogen is often referred to as a trip. Some trips are brief; others are long. Experiences can vary substantially from one use session to the next in terms of length of time a...
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Substances (Forensic Science)
Hallucinogens include human-made drugs, such as psychedelic “club drugs,” as well as substances derived from certain plants and fungi. In the United States, these substances are classified as having no medical uses, although this is a matter of some debate. Some have argued that particular hallucinogens may be useful for treating trauma, psychopathology, and even conditions such as headaches.
Common hallucinogens include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine (known as DOM or STP), and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (also known as MDMA or ecstasy). Also popular are psilocybin, a hallucinogen derived from mushrooms (sometimes known as magic mushrooms), and peyote. Peyote, which is derived from the mescal cactus and contains mescaline, has a long history of being used in Native American spiritual ceremonies. Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), another substance found in plants and seeds but that also may be synthesized, is used for its hallucinogenic properties.
Users seeking hallucinogenic properties in their recreational drugs of choice also sometimes abuse substances that were originally seen as anesthetics, such as ketamine (known as special K) and phencyclidine (known as PCP or angel dust). These drugs’ dissociative properties lead users to experience feelings of being detached from themselves or their experiences.
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Associated Problems (Forensic Science)
The experiences, or trips, that individuals have when they take hallucinogens can be pleasant or unpleasant. When pleasant, a trip can be a memorable experience, but when unpleasant, it can be like living trapped in a nightmare. Either circumstance can be dangerous, particularly if the individual under the influence is unsupervised. When experiencing pleasant hallucinations, users of hallucinogens may believe they can do things they cannot physically do (such as fly), and this may result in accidental injury or even death. Negative hallucinations may lead to aggression and paranoia that can spur attacks on others or objects, which may result in property damage, injuries, or—in extreme cases—deaths. In addition, users have reported the phenomenon of flashbacks—that is, the reexperiencing of trips well after the drugs’ initial effects have passed. Such unexpected experiences may lead to confusion, aggression, and accidental injury.
Hallucinogen use disorders follow the same pattern of problems as do use disorders associated with other substances of abuse. The use of hallucinogens may lead to daily functioning problems at work, home, or school, as trips and their associated recovery times may be lengthy. Hallucinogens can sometimes exacerbate preexisting psychological problems, and research indicates that they may even cause psychological problems, such as psychosis, in some users.
Like other substances of...
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Further Reading (Forensic Science)
Holland, Julie. Ecstasy: The Complete Guide—A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions International, 2001. Presents data and arguments pertaining to the typical risks that may be expected from ecstasy and other club drugs. Includes discussion of research perspectives on the potential benefits of these drugs.
Jansen, Karl. Ketamine: Dreams and Realities. Ben Lomond, Calif.: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, 2004. Provides a historical perspective on the uses of ketamine, a hallucinogenic substance, and addresses the risks and benefits related to the drug.
Julien, Robert M. A Primer of Drug Action: A Comprehensive Guide to the Actions, Uses, and Side Effects of Psychoactive Drugs. 10th ed. New York: Worth, 2005. Presents full coverage of the topic of hallucinogens, including information on these drugs’ effects on mind and body and at the level of neurotransmitters.
Schultes, Richard Evans. Hallucinogenic Plants. New York: Golden Press, 1976. Illustrated field guide describes many different kinds of hallucinogenic plants and offers a historical perspective on their use.
Stafford, Peter. Psychedelics. Oakland, Calif.: Ronin, 2003. Provides broad descriptions of drugs that affect perception, focusing on what these substances may look like and how they may affect users. Also discusses the...
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Hallucinogens (Encyclopedia of Science)
Hallucinogens are natural and human-made substances that often cause people to believe they see random colors, patterns, events, and objects that do not exist. The hallucinatory experiences can either be very pleasant or very disturbing. Many different types of substances are classified as hallucinogens because of their capacity to produce such hallucinations. These substances come in the form of pills, powders, liquids, gases, and plants that can be eaten. In the body, hallucinogens stimulate the nervous system. Effects include the dilation (widening) of the pupils of the eyes, constriction of certain arteries, and rising blood pressure.
Hallucinogens have long been a part of the religious rites of various cultures throughout history. Tribal shamen or medicine men swallowed the hallucinogenic substance or inhaled fumes or smoke from a burning substance to experience hallucinations. They believed that such a state enhanced their mystical powers. Separated from reality, they were better able to communicate with the gods or their ancestors. These hallucinogens were mostly natural substances. Among the oldest are those from mushrooms or cactus that have been used in Native American rites since before recorded time. The use of such compounds still forms a central part of tribal ritual in some Native American tribes.
Certain species of...
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Hallucinogens (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Substances that cause hallucinationerception of things or feelings that have no foundation in realityhen ingested.
Hallucinogens, or psychedelics, are substances that alter users' thought processes or moods to the extent that they perceive objects or experience sensations that in fact have no basis in reality. Many natural and some synthetic substances have the ability to bring about hallucinations. In fact, because of the ready market for such chemicals, they are manufactured in illegal chemical laboratories for sale as hallucinogens. LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and many so-called designer drugs have no useful clinical function.
Hallucinogens have long been a component in the religious rites of various cultures, both in the New and Old Worlds. Among the oldest are substances from mushrooms or cactus that have been in use in Native American rites since before recorded history. Hallucinogenic mushrooms have been used for centuries in rites of medicine men to foresee the future or communicate with the gods. The mushroom is consumed by eating it or by drinking a beverage in which the mushroom has been boiled. The effects are similar to those experienced by an LSD userenhancement of colors and sounds, introspective interludes, perception of nonexistent or absent objects or persons, and sometimes terrifying,...
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Hallucinogens (Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive Behavior)
The term hallucinogen literally means producer of HALLUCINATIONS. A variety of drugs and medicines as well as various disease states can lead to the development of hallucinations. They can occur during a high fever, after acute brain injuries, or as part of a DELIRIUM, accompanied by confusion in judgment, intellect, memory, emotion, and level of consciousness. The patient is said to be "out of it"ot in touch with reality. In fact, many infections affecting the brain, conditions that disrupt the availability of nutrients essential for brain function, or direct brain injury can cause transient or prolonged delirium. Disease states not directly involving the brain also can alter brain function. For example, the overproduction of thyroid or adrenal hormones in endocrine disease can cause psychotic mental symptoms. In addition, poisoning or other toxic reactions can produce hallucinations.
Some drugs used to treat certain illnesses, although not prescribed for their behavioral effects, may be PSYCHOACTIVE and cause auditory and/or visual hallucinations in some but not all patients. High doses of the adrenal hormone, cortisone, which is prescribed to reduce inflammation in arthritis or allergies, can produce elation or depression and mood-related hallucinations. Similarly, the administration of thyroid hormones for the treatment of thyroid grand deficiencies can cause restlessness, nervousness, excitability and irritability, and psychotic mental symptoms. Drugs derived from the belladonna plant, such as atropine and SCOPOLAMINE, have many uses in clinical medicine but in high doses can cause memory lapses and illusions. Delirium also may result from the sudden withdrawal after the chronic administration of certain drugs, especially ethanol (ALCOHOL) and SEDATIVE drugs of the BARBITURATE class. The vivid hallucinations of DELIRIUM TREMENS (DTs) during the WITHDRAWAL from alcohol have been vividly portrayed in the cinema and television.
Many drugs that affect behavior can alter the level of consciousness or the perception of the environment. PHENCYCLIDINE (known as PCP or "angel dust") can produce a state of altered consciousness in which sensations from the body and relationship to the environment are misinterpreted. The subject may experience numbness in the limbs and feel as though they are removed from their bodies. These distorted perceptions of the real world can lead to confusion, delusions, and hallucinationsnd violent behavior can occur with the slightest provocation. There is controversy as to whether these varied reactions are psychotomimetic (imitating mental illness with psychoses), but not about the extent to which, depending on the dose, subjects are out of it. High and/or frequent doses of stimulants such as AMPHETAMINE, METHAMPHETAMINE ("speed" or "ice"), or COCAINE can cause paranoid thought or delusions. Moreover, high doses of MARIJUANA or HASHISH can lead to dreamy illusions or hallucinations. Thus, many drugs under certain conditions can cause hallucinations as part of the production of a complex behavioral syndrome, which may include a general alteration of the level of consciousness and the disruption of the ability of the brain to process information and appreciate the real world.
The term hallucinogens has come to mean a group of compounds that reliably, temporarily, and universally alter consciousness without delirium, sedation, excessive stimulation, or any intellectual or memory impairment as prominent effects. Indeed these altered mental effects are the main effects of such drugs. There are a number of synonyms for drugs that produce hallucinations that occur with clear consciousness, but the term psychedelic has come into wide use. In the 1960s the term was coined by Humphrey Osmond, a British psychiatrist who came to North America to continue studies of the psychiatric effects of MESCALINE and LSD, and was enthusiastic about their use in enhancing insight in psychotherapy. The term psychedelic was invented from greek roots to mean "mind manifesting," from psyche (mind, soul) + deloun (to show). This refers to the convincing clarity with which a subjective experience is compellingly revealed to the subject who has taken a hallucinogen. What is seen, thought, and felt is vividontrasting sharply with the normally ordered perceptions of the world in which we move about and perform our practical tasks. Key to the hallucinogenic experience is that drab everyday reality, while clearly perceived in this drug state, has simply lost its importance in favor of vivid subjective sensations and perceptions and interpretations of them that absorb attention. A door is recognized but not simply for its utility; rather the grain of the wood and its fine detail becomes fascinating, and the grain of the wood seems to move and flow. Thus, during the hallucinogenic experience, it is not the utility of what is seen but rather some aspect of shapes and colors and passing thoughts or memories that take on a life of their own, commanding attentive interest. The color of an object is more important than the object. The subjective impact is that thoughts and sights have some uncanny, undeniable, but inexplicit meaning. The sense of great truth is present, but not an urge to test the truth of these images. Rather, one is a spectator of a "TV show in the head." These events are not only clearly "seen" but remembered without confusion. This has been called "consciousness expanding," implying control over a vast span of experiencing. That is wrong, since judgment is not enhanced. Rather, the effect is of enhancing the sense of importance of normally unimportant subjective experiences of sensations and perceptions.
Since with hallucinogens everythingven the most familiar sceneseems novel and is seen in a new way, the experience is in startling contrast with our normal view of the world. Such effects invite many uses. The intrinsic effects of hallucinogenic drugs not only shift perceptions, making the old new, but evoke a loosening of emotions and thoughts. Hence there were efforts to use hallucinogenic drugs therapeuticallyo stimulate and enhance new ways of examining problems. But in spite of the alluring promise, no lasting improvement in learning or problem solving has been found after numerous studies. Similarly, the effects produced by hallucinogens seem so significant and strikingly different from everyday life that they can readily be used to enhance mystical thought and belief. Some Native American groups thus use the hallucinogen PEYOTE in religious ceremonies. The intent is to dispose the celebrants to higher thoughts (to be "in the mind of God"); they are told not to attend to the odd perceptions and rather to relax and contemplate higher thoughts. Because with hallucinogens one is not interested in tracking detail, there is greater suggestibility and dependence on structure, on a leader, on a prior belief, or on the flow of music to guide, interpret, or "carry" one through the experiences.
Whether these drugs produce actual hallucinations or, more commonly, illusions (which the subject usually feels are very real but knows are not) has sometimes been debated, but not the fact that these perceptions occur. Seeing geometric abstract designs is not unusual. A characteristic effect is the experience of sound triggering color and of the mixing rather than the clear separation of different sensory modalitiesalled synesthesia. For example, sounds may be "seen," or colors "heard." What has just been seenay, a wall clockometimes persists as one focuses on a face. Rather than suppressing a previous perception as we normally do, it may linger. Perceptual boundaries are thus loosened.
The commonly abused hallucinogenic substances can be classified according to their chemical structure. All these hallucinogens are organic compounds, and some are found in nature. Hallucinogenic drugs can be placed in two major groups. The first is known as the indole-type hallucinogens. This family of hallucinogens has in common some structural similarities to the NEUROTRANSMITTER SEROTONIN, suggesting that their mechanism of action could involve the disruption of or some alteration in neurotransmission in NEURONS (nerve cells) that use serotonin as the chemical messenger. The indole-type hallucinogens include lysergic acid derivatives such as LYSERGIC ACID DIETHYLAMIDE (LSD) and other compounds that have structural similarities, such as DIMETHYLTRYPTAMINE (DMT), PSILOCYBIN, and psilocin (see Figure 1).
The second major group of hallucinogens is the substituted phenethylamines (see Figure 2). These are MESCALINE, 2, 5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine (DOM or STP), 3, 4-methylenedioxy-amphetamine, (MDA), and 3, 4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy). These hallucinogens are structurally related to the phenethylamine-type neurotransmitters, NOREPINEPHRINE, epinephrine, and DOPAMINE. As with the indole-type hallucinogens, the structural similarities of the phenethylamine-type hallucinogens to these natural neurotransmitters may indicate that at least
The overall psychological effects of the hallucinogens are quite similarut the rate of onset, duration of action, and absolute intensity of the effects can differ. As the various hallucinogens differ widely in potency and in the duration of their effects, some of the apparent qualitative differences between hallucinogens may be due, at least in part, to the amount of drug ingested. Aside from their behavioral effects, the hallucinogens also possess significant autonomic activity, meaning that they can affect the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The autonomic effects can include marked pupillary dilation and exaggerated reflexes. There may be increases in blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Some of the hallucinogens may initially cause nausea. These autonomic effects of the hallucinogens are variable and may be due, at least in part, to the anxiety state of the user. Acute adverse reactions include panic attacks and self-destructive behavior.
(SEE ALSO: Ayahuasca; ; Hallucinogenic Plants; Ibogaine; Plants, Drugs from)
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R. N. PECHNICK