Hallucinogens: Definitions – Effects – Legal Status

Hallucinogens are a class of naturally occurring or synthetic substances that distort the perception of reality, change sensory experiences and alter a user’s sense of time, space, and consciousness. These drugs are commonly referred to as psychedelics because of the distorted and sometimes vibrant reality people experience while using them.

Here’s a list of some of the common types:

  • Psilocybin – they are naturally occurring psychedelic with roots in ancient religious ceremonies. Better known as magic mushrooms, it usually activates in about 30 minutes. The effects are often visual, tactical, and auditory experiences. A user’s dosage and tolerance to the drug determines how long it lasts. They can last anywhere from 3 to 8 hours.
  • MDMA – a synthetic that has gained immense popularity on the music festival circuit and the rave scene. Use results in the sense of euphoria, reduced anxiety, empathy for others, heightened sensory experiences, and mild hallucinations.
  • LSD – lysergic acid diethylamide is a synthetic hallucinogenic. Once ingested, it can send users on a trip lasting up to 12 hours. Popularized in the 60s, it can alter a person’s thoughts, feelings, sense of time and cause visual hallucinations.
  • Peyote – native to Southwestern Texas and Mexico, this small cactus’s main psychoactive ingredient is mescaline. Indigenous North Americans for ritual ceremonies. Ingesting it can cause vibrant visuals and heightened auditory effects. It can last up to 10 to 12 hours.
  • Ayahuasca – an organic, psychedelic brew made from the plant of the same name. With a history of ancient indigenous South Americans using the mixture for traditional medicine and cherished rites of passage. This hallucinogen is well known for its spiritual and emotional effects. It makes users feel as if they’ve had an awakening or rebirth.

It’s important to note that while these drugs are not considered physically addictive, none of them is risk-free. It is true, especially for first-time users. The risks also increase psychedelics people combine them with other substances, such as alcohol or marijuana.

  • There is always the danger of a bad trip, where a user experiences intensely negative and horrifying visions.

For this reason, people with existing mental health conditions should avoid taking these drugs. But, unfortunately, that reality might not be far-fetched either.

Advocates in several states are working on several initiatives that would decriminalize or legalize mushrooms for recreational or medicinal use.

In Denver, Colorado, magic mushrooms are now decriminalizing.

Proponents in Oregon seek to decriminalize and legalize the psychedelic substance for adults provided by a licensed facility. This measure would mark the possibility of medicinal use under the care of a physician. Residents are in the process of obtaining the 140,000 signatures to get the initiative on the state’s 2020 ballot.

The California campaign stalled after it could not get enough signatures from residents to make the 2018 ballot. Golden State activists are not discouraged, though. Instead, they point to the failed marijuana initiative from just a few years ago, before residents reconsidered and voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2017.

  • The growing research on the benefits of some of these drugs and greater public awareness mirrors the domino effect of legalizing pot.

Now, there is a growing mainstream movement to legalize them. So it is despite the Drug Enforcement Administration classifying them as Schedule I narcotics.

“We are in a psychedelic renaissance,” Kevin Matthews, the director of a Colorado-based advocacy group, tells Vice News. “I think they are becoming more common because the results – at least the initial results from these studies – are so powerful, and they came out of left field.”

“In the future, we can start talking about some regulatory framework,” says Matthews, “and I think that would look like perhaps psychedelics treatment centers, but nothing like where you can walk into a dispensary and walk out with them. They’re mighty, and individuals should at the very least know what they’re getting into.”

Some studies recommend the government reclassify naturally occurring mushrooms for medicinal use. However, researchers at John Hopkins believe that they might help treat anxiety, depression, and even addiction to cigarettes.

A 2018 study, published in the British journal The Lancet, focused on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment using the synthetic hallucinogen MDMA.

  • Scientists reported a profound improvement in symptoms for combat veterans who did not benefit from traditional therapy methods.

Though advocate believes in the value of legalizing or decriminalizing, they remain in the realm of illegal recreational use.

  • There are two legal hallucinogens, though they are allowed with severe restrictions.

Peyote and ayahuasca, two organic psychedelic plants, are legally allowable for various Native American tribes that use them in ritual ceremonies.

This exception is a result of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. As a result, a number of these tribes “have even won the right for non-indigenous people to participate in peyote ceremonies legally,” as Calvin Hughes, a contributor for Civilized reports.