Psychedelic drugs, also known as hallucinogenic drugs or simply hallucinogens, are a group of substances that are usually used recreationally to change and enhance sensory perceptions, thought processes, and energy levels, and to facilitate spiritual experiences. They include chemicals, such as LSD, and plants, such as peyote.
Psychedelics have also been used experimentally to mimic psychosis and to exert mind control, although they have not been found to be particularly effective in doing either. They were used in psychotherapy in the 1960s, but this was halted for mainly political reasons until quite recently. Psychological research has since revived the use of psychedelics in experimental psychological treatment.
Use of hallucinogens goes back centuries in many cultures, and some are still used in religious ceremonies. The rave culture of the 1980s brought a new wave of ecstasy use, which continues today. Here are some of the most common psychedelic substances.
Acid or LSD
Lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, is a chemically synthesized hallucinogen, developed from ergot, a kind of mold that grows on the rye grain. Also known simply as acid, LSD was widely used in the 1960s until it was made illegal. Use of LSD has continued, despite being a controlled substance, although its use has gone through phases of greater or lesser popularity.
Dimethyltryptamine or DMT
DMT is a naturally occurring plant-based psychedelic found in the bark and nuts of certain trees from Central and South America. The effects of DMT are much shorter than those of other psychedelics, typically lasting only an hour. This has lead to the term “businessman’s trip” or “businessman’s lunch” being used to describe a DMT trip.
Ololiuqui or Morning Glory Seeds
Ololiuqui is a naturally occurring psychedelic which is found in the seeds of the morning glory flower. The effects are similar to those of LSD, but the drug has many unpleasant side effects. These include nausea, vomiting, headache, high blood pressure, and drowsiness.
Psilocybin or Magic Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms contain a naturally occurring type of hallucinogen, called psilocybin, which is found in certain fungi. There is a wide variety of hallucinogenic mushrooms, and their legal status is somewhat ambiguous, as they can be found growing wild in many parts of the world.
This can make them appealing to young people, keen to experiment with these “free drugs.” But mushrooms carry particularly high risks given the toxicity of some varieties, which can even be lethal.