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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.
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.
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.
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