Hallucinogens are a broad class of drugs that induce visual and auditory hallucinations, or profound distortions in a person's perceptions of reality. These drugs can be naturally occurring, such as psilocybin mushrooms, morning glory seeds, and peyote cactus (mescaline); they may also be chemically synthesized, such as phencyclidine (commonly known as PCP or angel dust), ketamine, dizocilpine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA (commonly known as Molly or ecstasy).
Hallucinogens may cause profound changes in the perception of time, space, or consciousness. In some cases, the hallucinations caused by this class of drug are purely visual or sensory; in other cases, they include delusions and false notions. Certain kinds of hallucinogens can also produce rapid, intense mood swings. Some report that these transitions occur so quickly that users feel as if they are experiencing several emotions simultaneously. Hallucinogens can also cause physiological symptoms such as increased heart rate and blood pressure and may induce convulsions and seizures when used at high doses. Some hallucinogens, like PCP, have been known to cause death when taken in high doses (though many PCP-related deaths are a result of its behavioral effects).
Hallucinogenic drugs—particularly naturally occurring substances such as mescaline, ibogaine, or “magic mushrooms”—have played a role in human life for thousands of years. Numerous indigenous cultures around the world have used hallucinogenic plants to induce states of detachment from reality, to precipitate "visions" or mystical insight, as medicines, or as adjuncts to social and religious rituals.
LSD and other manufactured hallucinogens were first synthesized in the early to mid-20th century. They first became widely used in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Many of the individuals who used hallucinogens expressed a desire to expand their own consciousness and experience spiritual or psychological insight.
Chemically manufactured hallucinogens include:
- LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide; also called acid
- MDMA, an amphetamine; also called ecstasy or Molly
- PCP, or phencyclidine; often called angel dust
- DXM, or dextromethorphan; most commonly found in cough medicine