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Hallucinogens

two teens Hallucinogens are among the oldest known group of drugs. They alter human perception and mood. Under the influence of hallucinogens, people see images, hear sounds, and feel things that seem real but are not. Some hallucinogens are also able to produce rapid, intense mood swings. These compounds are typically found in some plants, fungi, mushrooms (or their extracts) or are synthetically produced. Common hallucinogens include LSD, PCP, Psilocybin, and Salvia:

  1. LSD: LSD (d-lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the most potent perception-changing chemicals. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. Users may call it acid, blotter, cubes, microdot, yellow sunshine, blue heaven, cid, dots, mellow yellow, or window pane.

    How Is LSD Used?
    LSD is sold in tablets, capsules, and, occasionally, liquid form. It is usually taken orally. LSD is often added to absorbent paper, which is then divided into decorated pieces, each equivalent to one dose.

    LSD changes sensations and feelings in people under its influence. Users may feel several emotions at once or swing rapidly from one emotion to another. Experiences may seem to “cross-over” different senses, giving the user the feeling of hearing colors and seeing sounds.

    What Are the Risks Associated with LSD Use?
    In large doses, the drug produces delusions and visual hallucinations and causes the user’s sense of time and self to be altered. The experiences and changes may be frightening and can cause panic.

    Some LSD users experience severe, terrifying thoughts and feelings of despair, fear of losing control, or fear of insanity and death while using LSD. Users can also experience flashbacks, or recurrences of certain aspects of the drug experience for years after use.


  2. PCP: PCP (phencyclidine) was developed as an intravenous anesthetic. It is no longer used medically due to serious adverse effects. It is misused for its hallucinogenic effects. Users may call it angel dust, embalming fluid, killer weed, rocket fuel, or supergrass.

    How Is PCP Used?
    PCP is a white crystalline powder that dissolves in water or alcohol. It can easily be mixed with dyes and sold on the illicit drug market in a variety of tablet, capsule, and colored powder forms that are snorted, smoked, or swallowed. For smoking, PCP is often applied to a leafy material such as mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana.

    PCP use causes users to feel detached, distant and estranged from their surroundings. Users may hear things that are not happening.

    What Are the Risks Associated with PCP Use?
    Users may develop severe mood swings, anxiety, paranoia and hostility, as well as psychosis.

    Other effects include numbness, slurred speech, and loss of coordination accompanied by a sense of strength and invulnerability. A blank stare, rapid and involuntary eye movements, and an exaggerated gait are among the more observable effects.


  3. Psilocybin: Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) is the active chemical in hallucinogenic mushrooms. This chemical is found in approximately 190 species of edible mushrooms that are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico, and the United States. These mushrooms typically contain less than 0.5 percent psilocybin plus trace amounts of psilocin, another hallucinogenic substance.

    Users may refer to this drug as magic mushrooms, mushrooms, shrooms, caps, or boomers.

    How Is Psilocybin Used?
    Mushrooms containing psilocybin are available fresh or dried and are typically taken by mouth. They may be brewed as a tea or added to other foods to mask their bitter flavor.

    The effects include hallucinations, an altered perception of time, and an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

    What Are the Risks Associated with Psilocybin Use?
    Psilocybin has LSD-like properties and changes the function of smooth muscles of the heart, lungs, and glands, motor reflexes, behavior, and perception. Panic reactions and psychosis also may occur, particularly if a user ingests a large dose. Long-term effects such as flashbacks, risk of psychiatric illness, impaired memory, and tolerance have also been described.

  4. Salvia: Salvia divinorum is an herb in the mint family misused for its hallucinogenic effects. It is not processed and looks like small dried leaves. Users may call it salvia, shepherdess's herb, diviner's sage, seer's sage, Maria pastora, magic mint, or Sally-D.

    How is Salvia Used?
    Salvia leaves can be chewed, smoked, or heated and turned to gas that can be inhaled (vaporized).

    Salvia’s psychic effects include perceptions of bright lights, vivid colors, shapes, and body movement, as well as body or object distortions.

    What Are the Risks Associated with Salvia Use?
    Salvia may also cause fear and panic, uncontrollable laughter, a sense of overlapping realities, and hallucinations. Adverse physical effects may include: loss of coordination, dizziness, and slurred speech.

Hallucinogen Use in NYC
  • In 2008-2009, an estimated 19,000 New Yorkers aged 12 or older used LSD in the past year
  • In 2008-2009, about 2000 New Yorkers aged 12 or older used PCP in the past year

► See Related NYC Health Department Publications

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Last Updated: May 29, 2013