Drug Facts - Hallucinogens

Overview

Hallucinogenic substances are characterized by their ability to cause changes in a person's perception of reality. Persons using hallucinogenic drugs often report seeing images, hearing sounds, and feeling sensations that seem real, but do not exist. In the past, plants and fungi that contained hallucinogenic substances were abused. Currently, these hallucinogenic substances are produced synthetically to provide a higher potency.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the major drugs making up the hallucinogen class of drugs. It was discovered in 1938 and is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.

PCP (phencyclidine) was developed in the 1950s as an intravenous anesthetic, but its use in humans was discontinued in 1965, because patients often became agitated, delusional, and irrational while recovering from its anesthetic effects. PCP is now being illegally manufactured in laboratories. It is a white crystalline powder that is readily soluble in water or alcohol. It has a distinctive bitter chemical taste. PCP can be mixed easily with dyes and turns up on the illicit drug market in a variety of tablets, capsules, and colored powders. It can be snorted, smoked, or ingested. For smoking, PCP is often applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana.

Psilocybin is obtained from certain mushrooms found in South America, Mexico, and the U.S, although the substance can also be produced synthetically. Mushrooms containing psilocybin are available fresh or dried with long, narrow stems topped by caps with dark gills on the underside. These mushrooms are usually ingested orally, but can also be brewed in a tea or added to food to mask the bitter flavor. Once ingested, psilocybin is broken down in the user's body to produce psilocyn, another hallucinogenic substance.

Mescaline is the active hallucinogenic ingredient in peyote. Peyote is a small, spineless cactus historically used by natives in Mexico and the southwestern U.S. as part of religious rites. Mescaline can also be produced synthetically.

DMT is found in a number of plants and seeds, but can also be produced synthetically. DMT is usually ingested by snorting, smoking, or injecting the drug. DMT is not effective in producing hallucinogenic effects when ingested by itself and is therefore used in conjunction with another drug that inhibits its metabolism.

Foxy, also know as Foxy Methoxy, is available in powder, capsule, and tablet form and is usually ingested orally (although it can be snorted or smoked). Foxy capsules and tablets vary in color and logos sometimes appear on tablets. AMT is often found in tablet and capsule form.

Dextromethorphan (sometimes called "DXM" or "robo") is a cough-suppressing ingredient in a variety of over-the-counter cold and cough medications. At the doses recommended for treating coughs, the drug is safe and effective. At much higher doses, dextromethorphan produces dissociative effects similar to those of PCP and ketamine.

Extent of Use

According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 36 million Americans aged 12 or older reported trying hallucinogens at least once during their lifetimes, representing 14.4% of the population in that age group. Approximately 3.7 million (1.5% of the population) reported past year hallucinogen use and approximately 1.1 million (0.4%) reported past month use of hallucinogens.

The 2008 NSDUH also provides specific survey results for LSD and PCP use. Regarding LSD use, 23.5 million Americans (9.4% of the population aged 12 or older) reported lifetime use, 802,000 (0.3%) reported past year use, and 154,000 (0.1%) reported past month use. Concerning PCP use, 6.6 million (2.7%) reported lifetime use, 99,000 (0.0%) reported past year use, and 24,000 (0.0%) reported past month use.

Results of the 2008 Monitoring the Future survey indicate that 3.3% of eighth graders, 5.5% of tenth graders, and 8.7% of twelfth graders reported lifetime use of hallucinogens. In 2007, these percentages were 3.1%, 6.4%, and 8.4%, respectively.

Approximately 1.9% of eighth graders, 2.6% of tenth graders, and 4.0% of twelfth graders surveyed in 2008 reported lifetime use of LSD.

Among high school seniors surveyed in 2008, 1.8% reported lifetime use of PCP (PCP use among eighth and tenth graders is not captured by the Monitoring the Future study).

Approximately 9.1% of college students and 16.0% of young adults (ages 19-28) surveyed in 2007 reported lifetime use of hallucinogens.

According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 32.9% of State prisoners and 25.9% of Federal prisoners surveyed in 2004 indicated that they used hallucinogens (includes LSD, PCP, and ecstasy) at some point in their lives.

Health Effects

Hallucinogens can produce physiological effects including elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and dilated pupils. These drugs are often unpredictable and a user may experience different effects compared to other users or past usage. Users often experience changes in perception, thought, and mood.

The effects of LSD are unpredictable. They depend on the amount of the drug taken; the user's personality, mood, and expectations; and the surroundings in which the drug is used. Usually, the user feels the first effects of the drug within 30 to 90 minutes of ingestion. These experiences last for extended periods of time and typically begin to clear after about 12 hours. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors. Sensations may seem to "cross over" for the user, giving the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds. If taken in a large enough dose, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations.

The effects of PCP use are unpredictable, can be felt within minutes of ingestion, and can last for many hours. Physical effects can include shallow, rapid breathing; increased blood pressure; elevated heart rate; and increased temperature. Nausea, blurred vision, dizziness, and decreased awareness can also occur. High doses of PCP can cause convulsions, coma, hyperthermia, and death. PCP is an addictive drug that can cause psychological dependence, cravings, and compulsive drug seeking behaviors.

Physical effects of psilocybin are usually experienced within 20 minutes of ingestion and can last for 6 hours. Negative physical symptoms of psilocybin use can include vomiting, muscle weakness, drowsiness, and panic reactions. Frequent use of this drug can result in the development of a tolerance.

AMT and Foxy share many chemical and pharmacological characteristics with other Schedule I hallucinogens and produce similar effects.

Dextromethorphan users describe a set of distinct dose-dependent "plateaus" ranging from a mild stimulant effect with distorted visual perceptions at low (approximately 2-ounce) doses to a sense of complete dissociation from one's body at doses of 10 ounces or more. The effects typically last for 6 hours.

Of an estimated 113 million emergency department (ED) visits in the U.S. during 2006, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) estimates that 1,742,887 were drug-related. DAWN data indicate that LSD was involved in 4,002 ED visits; PCP was involved in 21,960 visits; and miscellaneous hallucinogens were involved in 3,898 visits.

Treatment

From 1997 to 2007, the number of admissions to treatment in which hallucinogens (LSD, DMT, STP, mescaline, peyote, etc.) were reported as the primary drugs of abuse decreased from 2,672 in 1997 to 1,502 in 2007. The hallucinogens admissions represented 0.2% of the total drug/alcohol admissions to treatment during 1997 and 0.1% of the treatment admissions in 2007.

Admissions for PCP increased over the same time period from 1,896 admissions in 1997 to 3,124 admissions in 2007, representing 0.1% and 0.2%, respectively, of all treatment admissions during 1997 and 2007.

Arrests & Sentencing

On March 31, 2003, William Leonard Pickard and Clyde Apperson were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 10 grams of LSD from August 1999 to November 2000 and one count of possession with the intent to distribute more than 10 grams of LSD on November 6, 2000. The case involving these two individuals included the largest LSD lab seizure ever made by the DEA. Agents seized 41.3 kilograms of LSD and 23.6 kilograms of iso-LSD, a by-product from the manufacture of LSD. In the history of the DEA, there have only been 4 seizures of complete LSD labs. Three of these seizures involved Pickard and Apperson.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported 25 LSD-related arrests during 2006. This is up from 2005, when the DEA reported 8 LSD-related arrests. The DEA also reported 60 PCP-related arrests during 2006, which is up slightly from 57 in 2005.

Production & Trafficking

PCP production and distribution is limited and based primarily in southern California. PCP laboratory seizure data indicate that domestic PCP production is relatively low and decreasing. From January through October 12, 2007, authorities reported 2 LSD lab seizures. During full year 2006, authorities reported 5 such seizures.

The availability of LSD has declined to very low levels since the seizure of a large LSD laboratory in Kansas and the arrest of its operators in late 2000. From January 1, 2006 through October 12, 2007, authorities reported no seizures of LSD labs.

A gram of AMT or Foxy, in bulk powder form, costs less than $150 and can be obtained via the Internet. Dealers have tried to capitalize on the club drug trend and are selling non-controlled synthetic substances in raves and nightclubs.

Legislation

LSD is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), meaning it has a high potential for abuse, there is no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the substance under medical supervision.

PCP is a Schedule II substance under the CSA. Schedule II substances indicate that the drug has a high potential for abuse, is currently accepted for medical use in treatment in the United States, and may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Psilocybin and psilocyn are both Schedule I substances under the CSA although mushrooms are not scheduled under the CSA. Mescaline, peyote, and DMT are also Schedule I substances under the CSA.

In April 2003, the DEA temporarily designated Foxy as a Schedule I substance under the CSA. AMT was also placed under a temporary designation as a Schedule I substance by the DEA in 2003.

Street Terms

Drug Terms
LSD Acid, Blotter, Dots, Mellow Yellow, Widow Pane
PCP Angel Dust, Boat, Tic-Tac, Zoom
Psilocybin Magic Mushrooms, Musk, Shrooms