Psychedelics are generally not addictive. However, at least one psychedelic, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), can cause tolerance. Tolerance means that a person may need to take higher dosages to achieve the same effect.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that increasing the dosage can be an “extremely dangerous practice.” The reason for this is that more side effects and risks are associated with higher dosages.
Psychedelics have certain effects, such as mystical experiences, that make them attractive for recreational use. Limited
Keep reading to learn more about the recreational and medical use of psychedelics, including the side effects and risks of these drugs.
Some serotonergic hallucinogens are present in nature, including psilocybin, a compound in mushrooms of the genus Psilocybe, or N,N-dimethyltryptamine, a compound in the botanical beverage ayahuasca. They can also be synthetic, such as the recreational drug LSD.
The effects that psychedelics produce are dependent on various factors, such as dosage and the personality of an individual. However, they include the following:
- hallucinations, mainly visual
- blissful mood or euphoria
- changes in cognition, or thinking, such as:
- mystical experiences
- altered time passage
Psychedelics have both recreational and medical uses:
In addition to producing visual hallucinations, euphoria, and mystical experiences, psychedelics have other effects that underlie their recreational use. According to one clinical trial, these include derealization, which is when a person feels detached from their surroundings, and depersonalization, which is when they feel detached from their body or mind.
According to the NIDA, people may misuse psychedelics with the hope of:
- detaching from reality
- coping with stress
- entering a spirit world or a more enlightened way of thinking
More research is necessary to provide proof, but a few studies suggest that psychedelics may have a few uses relating to mental health and substance use disorders.
Reduce depression and anxiety
Help with smoking and alcohol abstinence
However, the NIDA warns that LSD produces tolerance. This means that a person has to take larger dosages to receive the same effect. LSD also can cause tolerance to other hallucinogens, such as psilocybin.
Psychedelics have various side effects and risks, including:
The NIDA cautions that short-term side effects of psychedelics include:
- increased heart rate
- changes in the sense of time, such as a feeling that time is passing slowly
- heightened feelings and sensory experiences, such as seeing brighter colors
Long-term side effects include persistent psychosis. The effects of psychosis may involve:
- visual disturbances
- disorganized thinking
- mood changes
Another long-term effect is a phenomenon called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). This involves flashbacks of a prior drug experience that can happen without warning and cause
The following risks are associated with psychedelics:
Risks from a bad trip
- frightening illusions
- troubling thoughts about one’s life or evil forces
- hyperawareness of physiological processes
Risks from dangerous behavior
Psychedelics can impair judgment, which
Risks from high dosages
- thrombus formation
- accumulation of platelets
- coronary artery spasms
Risk of death
According to the Department of Justice, an overdose of LSD or psilocybin rarely causes death. When death does occur, it usually stems from:
- inadvertent ingestion of poisonous plant material
Risks from contaminants
Drugs of abuse
People with a history of a substance use disorder should not use psychedelics. Repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that make self-control more challenging.
Some psychedelics, such as LSD, can cause tolerance, which can increase the risk of an overdose and potentially cause death.
The bottom line is that psychedelics are drugs that can be very dangerous if a person uses them without proper medical guidance. As those with a history of harmful drug use may find it more difficult to limit their dosage, it is safer for them to abstain.
Seeking help for addiction may seem daunting or even scary, but several organizations can provide support. If you believe that you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction, you can contact the following organizations for immediate help and advice:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 800-662-4357 (TTY: 800-487-4889)
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Psychedelics are generally not addictive, but LSD may cause tolerance, which creates the need to take larger dosages.
Research on the possible medical uses of psychedelics is still at a preliminary stage, but early studies suggest that psychedelics may decrease depression and anxiety. These drugs may also help a person quit smoking or abstain from alcohol.
There is certainly a lot of potential, but many more studies are necessary to confirm the safety and benefits of using psychedelics as a medical treatment.
Despite their general safety, psychedelics pose a number of risks and dangers, which increase with higher dosages.