Is cannabis a hallucinogen

Drug lexicon



The term hallucinogens includes a number of psychoactive substances with a similar effect. There are hallucinogenic plants such as the fly agaric or psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Hallucinogenic effects also develop through the consumption of the Mexican magic sage Salvia divinorum or the Hawaiian woodrose. The peyote cactus with the active ingredient mescaline or the brew ayahuasca, which contains the active ingredient DMT, also has a hallucinogenic effect. Certain nightshade plants such as thorn apple, angel's trumpet, henbane or deadly nightshade also produce hallucinogenic effects, but can easily be overdosed and thus be fatal.

Other hallucinogens are made artificially. Examples of this are the active ingredient PCP, which is also known as "Angel Dust", or the anesthetic ketamine, which produces hallucinogenic effects in low doses. One of the best known man-made hallucinogens is LSD. The chemist Albert Hofmann first produced LSD and accidentally discovered its hallucinogenic effects. In fact, LSD is a semi-synthetic substance. The basic substance comes from ergot, a fungus that attacks the ears of grain.

Effects and Risks

Deep changes in consciousness are typical for the effects of hallucinogens. In the process, entrenched thought structures are broken through and replaced by associative chains of thought. After analyzing trip reports, a research team came to the conclusion that the state of intoxication caused by hallucinogens could best be compared with the state of dreaming.

Perception is also in disarray. Colors appear much more intense than usual. Things that normally don't move suddenly start to flow or form wavy structures. This effect was already described by Albert Hofmann, who tried LSD on himself. He spoke of colorful, fantastic shapes that formed in front of his inner eye and of spraying fountains of paint and a phenomenon known as synesthesia. Two or more sensory channels that are actually separate from one another are coupled with one another. As a result, noises, for example, can trigger optical sensations.

The most massive intervention in consciousness is likely to be the loss of the sense of self. In the process, the sense of self-limitation that is so natural in everyday life is lost. Depending on the person and cultural background, these experiences are interpreted differently. Some perceive this as being one with the world or even ascribe a religious dimension to the experience. Others, however, feel threatened by the extreme psychological situation and sometimes experience fear of death. Colloquially, these people run the risk of “falling”.

The basis for this effect is presumably a change in information processing in the brain. Usually our brain is made up of independent networks that perform various special functions such as seeing, feeling or hearing. However, under the influence of LSD, separate information processing no longer works. The brain seems to be activated as a whole and works more like a unit.

In contrast to most psychoactive substances, it is difficult to predict in which direction the effects of hallucinogens will unfold. The noise curve is highly dependent on the person, their expectations and the situation. The experiences can be carried by a basic euphoric mood. The mood can also turn into panic and horror if the experiences cause fear. The term horror trip was coined for this.

Flashbacks and psychoses

As a rule, the threatening changes in consciousness decrease again as the effect subsides. In rare cases, long-lasting psychoses have also been observed that require psychiatric help. Paranoid delusions, i.e. the feeling of being observed or followed, can occur. There are studies dating back to the 1960s that have linked hallucinogens to the onset of schizophrenia.

In science, however, it is controversial whether the "classic" hallucinogens LSD, psilocybin and mescaline can cause a longer-lasting psychosis. It is often assumed that those affected were already at risk of developing psychosis. Current studies suggest that there is probably no causal connection between hallucinogens and persistent psychoses.

On the other hand, it is considered certain that hallucinogens can result in a so-called hallucinogen-induced persistent perception disorder. The disorder, abbreviated as HPPD, is popularly known as flashbacks. However, an HPPD is not completely congruent with flashbacks. The latter are often only entertaining. Usually these are visual effects that also occur in a state of intoxication. This can be the perception of objects that appear to be moving, of intense colors or luminous geometric shapes. HPPD is referred to when the flashback symptoms put a heavy strain on the everyday life of those affected and they sometimes seek medical help for it.



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Information as of October 2019

All entries in the drug lexicon for the letter "H"