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Article Summary


Hallucinogenic compounds are found in mushrooms and some plants. Hallucinogens are acquired as extracts of mushrooms and some plants. Hallucinogens have been in use for centuries in religious rituals. They contain nitrogen which makes them alkaloids. Most hallucinogens have a chemical structure that is similar to that of natural neurotransmitters. The exact ways/mechanisms used by hallucinogens to exert their effects still remain unclear to date. Research studies however suggest that hallucinogens work by temporarily interfering or altering neurotransmitter actions. Some studies suggest that hallucinogens work by binding to receptor sites.

Types of hallucinogens

There are four main common hallucinogen types. They include;

1. D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): This is one of the most effective mood changing chemical known to man. D-lysergic acid diethylamide was first discovered in the late 1930's. It is manufactured or made from lysergic acid found in a fungus known as ergot that grows on grains such as rye.

2. Peyote: This is another common hallucinogen. Peyote is spineless cactus small in size. It is the principal or main active ingredient found in mescaline. Peyote has been in use for centuries by natives living in northern Mexico and south-west of the United States. The plant was commonly used in the past in religious ceremonies. Mescaline is produced from peyote through chemical synthesis.

3. Psilocybin: This hallucinogen is obtained from some specific mushrooms which are indigenous to the tropical and sub-tropical areas of Mexico, South America and the US. The mushrooms that make psilocybin contain a very little percentage i.e. less than 0.5% psilocybin and traces of psilocin which is another hallucinogen.

4. Phencyclidine (PCP): This is also a common hallucinogen. PCP was developed over five decades ago (in the 50s) as an anesthetic (intravenous). It is no longer in use today i.e. using PCP is illegal because it has very serious adverse side effects.

How hallucinogens are abused

The same characteristics exhibited by hallucinogens that led to their use in rituals and spiritual traditions also led drug abuse. Unlike most drugs, it is important to note that hallucinogen effects vary a lot and they are very unreliable. Hallucinogens may therefore produce very different effects on different people using them at different times.

This is attributed to the fact that there is a significant variation in the composition and amount of active compounds especially in hallucinogens that have been derived from mushroom and plants. Because of this unpredictable characteristic, hallucinogen use is very dangerous. Below are ways in which all the four common hallucinogens are abused.

1. LSD:

This hallucinogen is sold in various forms i.e. capsules, tablets or in liquid form although occasionally. LSD is usually added to absorbent paper and then divided into equivalent doses. The experiences produced by LSD are usually referred to as trips. These "trips," are usually long and typically last 12 hours.

2. Peyote:

Peyote is derived from the top/tip of the peyote cactus. This top part or tip is called the crown. It consists of buttons that are disc-shaped. These buttons are cut and dried. They are taken by chewing or soaking them in water to make an intoxicating liquid. The hallucinogenic mescaline dose is approximately 0.3 - 0.5 grams. It produces affects which last approximately 12 hours. Because Peyote extract is very bitter, some people prefer preparing tea with it by boiling the peyote cacti for a few hours.

3. Psilocybin:

The mushrooms containing psilocybin can be taken fresh or dried. Psilocybin is typically taken orally. Psilocybin and psilocin which is its biological active form can't be inactivated through freezing or cooking. Psilocybin can therefore be brewed like tea or it can be added to foods to avoid its bitter taste. Psilocybin effects last for approximately 6 hours. The effects start being felt 20 minutes after ingestion.

4. PCP:

Phencyclidine or PCP looks like a white crystalline powder. PCP is soluble in both water and alcohol. PPC has a very distinctive bitter taste. It is usually mixed with dyes and then sold to illicit drug markets in many forms i.e. tablets, capsules, or in powder forms. PCP can be smoked or orally ingested. Most people however prefer snorting it. When PCP is smoked, it is applied to leafy materials i.e. mint, marijuana e.t.c. PCP effects last for 4 to 6 hours depending on the route one uses to take the drug.

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