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A to Z of Hallucinogens


Hallucinogens are chemicals that make people hallucinate, i.e., they alter people's sensory experiences. How they affect the senses - usually of sight, sound, and touch - depends on the experiences of and the settings in which a person consumes hallucinogens.

Hallucinogens have been used throughout history for religious and spiritual purposes. But they have also been much abused; and excessively consuming them can have serious adverse effects.

Classifications

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  • Hallucinogens are classified according to their chemical structures and the compound from which they are derived. One system of classification divides hallucinogens into four: indole alkaloids, piperidines, phenylethylamines, and cannabinoids.

    Indole alkaloids include:

  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
  • Psilocin
  • Psilocybin (the active ingredient in Mexican shrooms)
  • Piperidines include:

  • Atropine
  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Ketamine (the anesthetic used by veterinarians, known as the Special K)
  • Phenylethylamines include:

  • Mescaline
  • 3,4-methylene dioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) (The famous Ecstasy)
  • Methylene dioxyamphetamine (MDA)
  • 3-methoxy-4,5-methylene dioxyamphetamine (MMDA)
  • 3,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine (STP)
  • 2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine (DOM)
  • Cannabinoids include:

  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active substance in marijuana)

    LSD or 'Acid'

    Of these, the lay person is likely to have heard of LSD. It first appeared in the US in 1949, and was believed to enhance creativity and promote well-being. Psychiatrists and psychologists used it in the 1950s as an experimental drug for treating many neuroses and alcoholism. Many people advocated LSD for intellectual and spiritual awakening and enlightenment. Studies in the early 1960s concluded that it was a safe drug. However, by the mid-1960s, the US federal government began to regulate and restrict the use of LSD because reports showed adverse effects in patients treated with it and that people were increasingly abusing it. Though the use and popularity of LSD has seen ups and downs, today its sales, and those of many substances marketed as LSD, has increased.

    PCP

    Phencyclidine (PCP) is another hallucinogen that was much abused. This 'peace pill' - as it was dubbed in San Francisco - is a potent anesthetic. Indeed, it was marketed as a veterinary anesthetic in the 1960s. But it was also distributed as LSD, and abusers usually smoked it in marijuana cigarettes. It was withdrawn from the market when reports said it induced postanesthetic dysphoria, delirium, and psychotic behavior.

    Ketamine or 'Special K'

    Ketamine is another widely used anesthetic. But, again, it is available on the streets and is often abused by many people at techno-music dance parties or raves.


    Some hallucinogens are found in plants. Psilocin and psilocybin, for example, are indole alkaloids that are found in some varieties of mushrooms. The indigenous peoples of Central America have used these hallucinogens for centuries in religious rites. Mescaline is a phenylethylamine-derived alkaloid that is found in a variety of cacti, especially the North American peyote. Again, many Native Americans have used mescaline in the cactus buttons in their rituals. One needs to have quite a few mushrooms or chew 5 to 10 peyote buttons to hallucinate.

    As with all facets of our life, one has to use drugs so that they help us, not deter our progress. Even though these drugs have been safely used for spiritual purposes, uncontrolled, ignorant recreational use may lead to detrimental effects. Abuse and excessive dependence on anything, including drugs, is harmful and should be avoided at all costs.

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