Hallucinogen & Dissociative Drug Use: Effects & Addiction

In 2021, an estimated 8% of young adults aged 19 to 30 reported using any hallucinogen. This was the highest percentage ever reported since data collection began for this category in 1988.1

On this page, you’ll learn more about hallucinogen and dissociative drugs, including their effects, health risks, and how to find hallucinogen addiction treatment.
Overview: Hallucinogen and Dissociative Drugs

What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens, also referred to as psychedelics, are psychoactive substances mainly derived from plants or fungi, though some are produced synthetically. Hallucinogens distort or amplify senses including sight, sound, taste, and smell. Certain hallucinogens have been used in religious or traditional ceremonies for thousands of years.1

Additional research is needed to better understand how hallucinogens work. However, studies suggest they influence how the neurotransmitter serotonin is processed in the brain.1

Many hallucinogens are classified as Schedule I controlled substances, which means they:2,3

  • Are federally illegal.
  • Have a high potential for misuse.
  • Are known to have the potential for severe physiological dependence.
  • Have no accepted medical uses.

However, there is ongoing research to determine if some hallucinogens can treat medical conditions or mental health disorders.1 Psilocybin, known as “magic mushrooms,” has been decriminalized or legalized by some cities and states, including Washington, D.C., and Oregon.1,4

Common Hallucinogenic Drugs

There are several different hallucinogens, and each can result in different experiences.1 Some common hallucinogens are:1

  • LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide).
  • Psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”).
  • Mescaline (Peyote).
  • Ayahuasca.
  • Ecstasy or MDMA (acts as both a stimulant and hallucinogen).
  • DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine).
  • NBOMes (N-Benzylphenethylamines, which are lab-made compounds).

What Are Dissociative Drugs?

Dissociative drugs are a subclass of hallucinogens as they share similar properties in that they distort and amplify senses but also affect how reality is perceived. Dissociative drugs can cause someone to feel disconnected from their body or environment, which is called dissociation.1

Much like hallucinogens, more research is needed to understand how dissociative drugs work. It appears dissociatives affect how the brain processes the neurotransmitter glutamate.1

The schedule of dissociative drugs is mixed, with some being:3

  • Schedule II drugs—those known to have a high potential for misuse and severe physiological dependence and no medical uses.
  • Schedule III drugs—those known to have a moderate to low potential for physiological dependence with some approved medical uses.

Common Dissociative Drugs

There are many different dissociatives and, like hallucinogens, the effects of each dissociate vary.1 Common dissociative drugs include:

  • Ketamine.1
  • PCP.1
  • DXM.5
  • Salvia.1
Effects & Risks

Effects of Hallucinogens & Dissociatives

Hallucinogens and dissociatives can have differing effects that depend on several factors, including:1

  • The strength and concentration of the substance.
  • The person’s age, sex, and unique biology.
  • The person’s mood and expectations for the experience.
  • The environment or setting where the substance use takes place.

Hallucinogen effects may include:1

  • Experiencing an altered perception of reality, thoughts, and mood.
  • Feeling a range of strong emotions, such as intense happiness or fear and anxiety.
  • Seeing vivid visions, like vibrant colors, shapes, and scenes.
  • Reliving vivid memories.

Like hallucinogens, dissociatives can also alter a person’s mood, thoughts, and perception of reality. Dissociative effects can include:1

  • Feeling disconnected from a person’s body and surroundings.
  • Experiencing distorted hearing and vision.

Dangers of Hallucinogens & Dissociatives

There are several health risks associated with hallucinogen and dissociative use. Some of these adverse effects include:1

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Trembling.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Confusion.
  • Agitation.
  • Fear.
  • Anxiety.

Psychedelic and dissociative drugs have been associated with dangerous behaviors and injuries due to impaired cognition and perception.1 Overdoses from dissociatives can occur but are rare and typically associated with the addition of other drugs or alcohol.1

Long-term dangers of hallucinogens and some dissociatives  include:

  • Persistent psychosis, which is characterized by symptoms of paranoia, mood and visual instabilities, and disorganized thinking.5
  • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), also known as flashbacks, which includes symptoms of visual distortions (such as seeing halos) and hallucinations.1,5

Both of these disorders are rare and are more common in people with prior psychological problems.5

Hallucinogen/Dissociative Overdose Symptoms

The use of hallucinogens and dissociative drugs rarely results in overdoses. However, there have been some rare deaths associated with dissociatives such as PCP and NBOmes.1

When deaths occur from these substances, it is most likely due to taking extremely high doses or combining dissociatives with other substances such as alcohol. Additional research is needed to understand how ingesting various substances with dissociatives may result in overdose and death.1

There is also a risk of dissociatives and hallucinogens being contaminated with other drugs.1 Illicitly manufactured drugs are increasingly contaminated with substances like fentanyl, which increases the risk of overdose and death.1

Some potential overdose symptoms of dissociatives such as ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP) include:

  • Abnormalities in blood pressure and heart rate.6
  • Slowed or stopped breathing.6
  • Seizures.7
Addiction & Withdrawal

Are Hallucinogens/Dissociates Addictive?

Hallucinogens and dissociatives can be addictive, though some research suggests the use of psychedelic drugs does not typically lead to addiction due to their limited reinforcement.1

Most hallucinogens and dissociative drugs are scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and have the potential for misuse and physiological dependence.4 There is some evidence showing tolerance to hallucinogens may develop quickly, meaning a person would need to take more of the drug to achieve the same effects.1

For some people, hallucinogen or dissociative drug use can lead to addiction, which is the continued compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences.8

Signs of Hallucinogen or Dissociative Misuse

Medical professionals use the following criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) to help them diagnose dissociative or hallucinogen use disorder—the clinical term for dissociative or hallucinogen addiction:9

  • Taking more of a substance than was intended, and/or taking it for a longer time than was intended
  • A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use
  • A considerable amount of time is spent acquiring the substance, consuming it, and recovering from its effects
  • Craving, or a strong desire to use the substance
  • Difficulty fulfilling responsibilities, such as at home or work, because of substance use
  • Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent interpersonal or social problems caused or made worse by the effects of the substance
  • Giving up or reducing participation in important recreational, social, or occupational activities once enjoyed
  • Recurrent substance use in physically dangerous situations (such as driving a vehicle)
  • Continued substance use despite having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused by the substance or exacerbated by it
  • Development of tolerance (when you need to take more of a substance to get the same effects)

Hallucinogen & Dissociative Withdrawal Symptoms

The DSM-5 does not include a defined withdrawal syndrome for hallucinogens or dissociative drugs because withdrawal symptoms are not established and further research is needed.1,9

Some research indicates misuse of the dissociative drug ketamine may be associated with withdrawal symptoms such as:1,6

  • Anxiety.
  • Fatigue.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Cravings.

Treatment for Drug Misuse at AdCare

If you or a loved one are struggling with hallucinogen misuse or dissociative drug misuse, treatment is available at AdCare. Treatment centers are located throughout the New England region with both outpatient and inpatient addiction treatment in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

AdCare facilities offer several effective hallucinogen addiction treatment programs. Contact a compassionate and understanding admissions navigator at for more information.

Our caring team will walk you through the rehab admissions process and answer any questions you may have about how to use health insurance for addiction treatment.

You can also quickly and confidentially .

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