Mushrooms, acid, salvia, peyote, DMT, PCP

College is a time of experimentation for many students. For some, that means opening up to new ways of thinking about the world, like existentialism and nihilism. Others prefer their experimentation to be of the sexual variety, hooking up with multiple partners (often at the same time). Still others prefer to have new sensory and spiritual experiences. It’s these students who are generally drawn to hallucinogenic drugs.

Hallucinogenic drugs are sometimes called psychedelic drugs, but the two terms are not actually synonymous. There are three types of hallucinogens: psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants. Unlike many other drugs, hallucinogens don’t simply enhance a familiar experience. Instead, they introduce entirely new experiences that are considered by many to be closer to dreams or a trance than to ordinary consciousness. They cause users to experience a subjective change in their perception of reality.

Ten Things You Need To Know About Hallucinogens

  • Their use isn’t widespread. It’s estimated that 7.5 percent of college students experiment with hallucinogenic drugs.
  • There are many different kinds. The most popular hallucinogens on college campuses are magic mushrooms (psilocybin and amanitas) and acid (LSD). DMT, salvia, PCP and peyote are also used, albeit by a very small minority of students.
  • Most students only try mushrooms. Of all college students who have tried one or more hallucinogenic drugs, 85 percent have tried psilocybin. Of this 85 percent, 50 percent have tried only psilocybin.
  • Most hallucinogens don’t actually cause hallucinations. Hallucinations are subjective experiences that aren’t based in reality but that appear completely realistic. Users of hallucinogens are usually fully aware that their sensory perceptions aren’t real (i.e., you see Lucy in the sky with diamonds but are cognizant of the fact that Lucy only exists in your mind).
  • How they work is a mystery. Scientists are unable to explain exactly why hallucinogenic drugs affect us the way they do.
  • They can cause negative short-term physiological effects. Common effects include dilated pupils, increased body temperature, faster pulse, decreased appetite, restlessness, muscle tremors, headache, nausea and blurred vision.
  • They can cause negative long-term physiological effects. Hallucinogen use can cause flashbacks, unexpected mood swings, decreased cognitive abilities and severe depression down the road.
  • You probably won’t get hooked. Most hallucinogens carry very little or no risk of addiction.
  • Tolerance to hallucinogens can develop quite quickly. Many users increase the dosage of their drug for subsequent uses but never attain a high comparable to the first time they used it.
  • They may have influenced the Bible. Hallucinogens have a long history of use in religious and medical rituals around the world. Some scholars consider use of them to be the root of many of the world’s predominant religions.

Bad Trips

Hallucinogenic experiences are not always positive. Bad trips are always a possibility and can be very unpleasant experiences. To minimize the chances of having a bad trip, start with a low dose of your drug (and always wait at least a few hours for the effects to take hold before you even consider ingesting more). Take the drug in a safe environment, surrounded by a small group of people you know and trust.

If you encounter someone who’s having a bad trip, calmly remind them that the experience is temporary and everything will be back to normal in a few hours. If the situation escalates to the point where anyone is in danger, phone 911.

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