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by Dr Mariam Doreen Joseph, Australia

Posted: Friday, June 16, 2000 04:33 PM CST

(LSD (Acid, Trips, Blotters) Psilocybin, Mescaline, Psilocybin, STP, DMT)

Hallucinogens (also known as "psychedelic" drugs, ancient Greek for mind revealing) are drugs which change the way a person perceives the world. Hallucinogens affect all the senses and cause hallucinations-seeing or hearing things that do not exist. They can also distort a person's thinking, sense of time and emotions, and produce feelings of unreality.

There are many kinds of hallucinogens. Some hallucinogens occur naturally, in trees, vines, seeds, fungi and leaves. Other are manufactured in laboratories.


hallucinogens include: LSD, Psilocybin, Mescaline, Psilocybin, STP, DMT and PCP. Others are considered as hallucinogens are Ecstacy and Cannabis.

Psillocybin ("magic mushrooms") is the hallucinogenic chemical found in certain mushrooms. In its pure state, psilocybin is a white powder. It is usually sold as dried mushrooms or in mushroom preparations.

PCP (phencyclidine or "angel dust"), originally developed as an anaesthetic, and mescaline, made from the pulp of the peyote cactus.


In the 1920s Dr Albert Hoffman first made L.S.D. as we know it today. However, he did not experience its mind Altering effects until April 1943 when he wrote his famous account of riding home on his bicycle while tripping.

It was experimented with by the governments of various countries (most notably the British and US governments) mostly in the 50s in dubious experiments that often included giving LSD to unsuspecting soldiers, hospital patients and as some people have claimed to members of the public. However, it quickly became clear that LSD was not an entirely suitable drug for treating mental conditions.

The use of LSD as a recreational drug was started by the 60s psychedelic movement which was championed by people such as ex-Harvard professor Timothy Leary and authors such as Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and Ken Keesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest). This was a basis of a great deal of the hippy movement which used LSD extensively. After the 60s and early 70s LSD use declined and it wasn't until the 80s with the sudden arrival of Acid House parties caused LSD to become more popular again. Although ecstasy and speed are now more commonly used at raves, parties and clubs, LSD has gained a foothold in youth culture again and is used by a wide range of people.


The effect of LSD on the body varies from person to person and it depends on the amount of the drug is taken, the way is taken, bodt's size and weight, previous usage of the drug, taking it with other drugs, person's mood and type of the drug.

Immediate effects

The effect of LSD begin whithin half an hour of taking the drug, are at their strongest in 3 to 5 hours, and last for up to 12 hours.

  • seeing things in a distorted way or that don't exist. The person usuallyknows that what they are seeing is not real. Also, distorted perception of sounds, smells, touch and taste intense sensory experience (eg brighter colours, sharper sounds)
  • mixing of the senses (eg colours are heard or sounds seen)
  • distorted sense of time (eg minutes can be as slow as hours; reliving old events)
  • distorted sense of space
  • distorted body image. Person feels as if they are floating or being pulled down by gravity.
  • boundary between self and surroundings becomes blurred changed and intense thoughts
  • swings in emotions (from intense happiness to deep brooding)

A number of physical effects, mild to moderate in strength, sometimes occur. They include: numbness, muscle weakness, twitching, dilated pupils, shakiness, poor coordination, nausea, vomiting, increased heart beat and blood pressure, increased body body temperature and sweating, sometimes alternating with chills and shivering, abnormally rapid, deep breathing.

Bad Trips while using LSD or "tripping", the person may experience strong feelings of anxiety or fear. The hallucinatory effects can be unpleasant (eg spiders crawling on the skin). Or they can be so intense that the person feels as if they are losing control and "going crazy".

Panic can lead to risky behaviour (eg running across a busy street). Also, paranoia (intense fear of persecution and feelings of superiority) sometimes develops. Suicides have been reported too.

When negative feelings dominate the experience it is described as a "bad trip". The reasons for bad trips occuring are not known. They are particularly common among first time users.

When a "bad trip" occurs the user needs to be reassured and calmed until the immediate effects have passed, although this can take many hours. Medical assistance is occasionally required if the user becomes violent toward themselves or others, or becomes excessively anxious.

Long term effects

The most disturbing long term effects of LSD is the potential for "flashback" experiences. A "flashback" is a spontaneous and unpredictable recurrence of the drug experience. Flashbacks can occur days, weeks and even years after the drug was last taken. Regular users are more likely to experience flashbacks. There is some evidence that heavy use of LSD can impair a user's memory and concentration. Using LSD may increas the risk of certain people developing severe mental disturbances.

Because Hallucinogens are illegal drugs, it can cause long term legal and social problems - for instance in work, relationships and financial.

References CEIDA - health service/ NSW, Australia. Drugs information on web sites.

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