212ch3h

Title: Drugwise: Growing Up Straight in a Chemical Culture
Author: Jim Parker
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: September 2003
Catalog Number: 212


Hallucinogens

Marijuana is just one example–and a mild one, at
that–of a broader category of drugs known as
hallucinogens.

Drugs in this group produce a
wide range of changes in thought, mood, and
perception. There are dozens of other hallucinogenic drugs, but
the two best-known are
LSD and PCP. They’re also two of the riskiest.

LSD is
one of the most powerful psychoactive drugs ever discovered.
An active dose can be as little as 30 micrograms, or about
one one-millionth of an ounce.

Still, a little LSD can go a
long way–and can cause major
changes in the way users think and feel.

Its common name is “acid,” short for its chemical name, lysergic acid diethylamide. It’s sometimes sold in tiny tablets
(called “
microdot“) or gelatin chips (“windowpane“), but more often today it’s soaked
onto small squares of paper, known as “
blotter.”

Other hallucinogenic drugs are
similar to
LSD, including psilocybin
mushrooms, and
mescaline, which comes from the peyote
cactus.

There’s an alphabet soup of other
chemicals in the group, too, including
DMT,
MDA, and MDMA (or “ecstasy”).
Known as
hallucinogenic
amphetamines
, the drugs are
similar to both hallucinogens and speed.

So how do they work? Good
question.

Because even though researchers
have been looking for answers for years, the brain
is pretty complex–maybe a million times
more complex than the
fastest computer.
And that makes it
tough to trace what, exactly, microscopic amounts of
hallucinogens do when they start doing their thing.

Still, we do
know that some–like LSD–produce their main effects by temporarily
shorting-out” the way the brain
works and
processes sensory input.

Others–including ecstasy–temporarily
tip the balance of brain chemicals that relay thoughts and feelings from one cell
to another.

Effects vary from one drug to another; so
does the length of time that drug effects last. An acid “trip”
lasts about 8-10 hours, ecstasy wears off a little faster.

One problem common to hallucinogens
is that their effects are often so strange and disorienting that
users can
panic, fearing they’ll never come down. Luckily,
most do.

Others aren’t
so lucky. Some users don’t come down on schedule and, sometimes,
they have to be hospitalized.

PCP. If
anything, PCP, and its chemical cousin,
ketamine
(or “
Special
K
“), are even weirder.

They’re hallucinogens,
like
LSD, but they also have depressant
and
anesthetic drug effects–which means they slow
the body down and block sensitivity to pain.

Because of their wide range of
effects, both can be
really risky.

Unlike LSD, users can physically
overdose on both PCP and ketamine. And because
they’re anesthetics, users can
seriously injure
themselves and not know it.

Something both PCP and LSD–and
most other hallucinogens–have in common are
flashbacks,
or recurrences of a scary drug trip.

Flashbacks don’t always happen, but when they do, they’re most often triggered
by
fatigue or other drug effects. Flashbacks are
frightening because of their sudden onset and their
intensity.

That causes more panic, and that
makes things even
worse.


Want to jump ahead (or go back)
to a particular drug or drug category? Click in the table below
to go there, or use the links, below right, to continue with
the main text.

Alcohol Downers Speed
Cocaine Marijuana Hallucinogens
Inhalants Narcotics Other Do It Now Info

Continue with Chapter 4: Locks & Keys
Go to Table of Contents


.


This is one in a series
of publications on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do
It Now Foundation. Check us out online at www.doitnow.org
.

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