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Hallucinogenic drugs are not considered to be physically addictive, but they can be psychologically addictive.

Prevention and treatment programs are available. This lesson discusses drug abuse prevention and treatment programs for hallucinogens.

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Hallucinogen Abuse

In March of 2015, a white Wisconsin police officer shot and killed a biracial, unarmed teenager. Many in the community felt the incident was an unlawful use of police force brought on by racial tensions. The event sparked protests, as some wanted the police officer to be prosecuted. However, after a review of the evidence, the black district attorney dismissed the racial allegations and declined to prosecute the officer. Why? He said the victim was witnessed ‘tweaking out’ on hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The teenager was reportedly jumping in front of cars, acting aggressively and frightening onlookers.Unfortunately, this type of behavior is commonly linked to the use of hallucinogens, which are drugs that cause hallucinations, or intense distortions in the user’s perceptions of reality. They are sometimes called psychedelic drugs or psychoactive drugs. And, as you can see, they can be dangerous. They affect the user’s brain to make the user see, hear, or even feel things that aren’t there. The result is sometimes compared to a dreamlike state, where the user cannot tell what is real and what is not.Some hallucinogens are natural substances, like mushrooms.

Other hallucinogens are synthetic drugs, meaning they are artificial, or man-made, materials. Some other examples of hallucinogenic drugs include:

  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • PCP
  • Mescaline
  • Ketamine
  • Peyote

Hallucinogen Use Prevention

The use of hallucinogenic drugs, particularly LSD, became popular in the U.S. in the 1960s. Psychedelic drugs played an important role in the 1960s counterculture.

This was a cultural era marked by widespread anti-authoritarian behavior and largely spawned by anti-Vietnam war sentiments and the civil rights movement. Many of those who embraced the counterculture were known as hippies. They were mostly older teens and young adults with adventurous spirits.Hallucinogenic drug use next peaked in the 1990s with the use of ecstasy and similar drugs. Again, use was most prevalent among thrill-seeking teens and young adults.

This time, the drugs were much more highly regulated and health experts were better equipped to address prevention and treatment.Certainly, early intervention through drug abuse prevention is the key to dissuading drug use of any kind. That’s why many schools, churches and communities today use drug prevention programs.

The programs educate people, typically with a focus toward young people, on the dangers of drug use. For example, many schools use the D.A.

R.E. program. D.A.R.E.

stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education.When specifically seeking to prevent hallucinogen use, experts highlight incidents like the Wisconsin case. They hope to bring the potential dangers to the attention of those most likely to use hallucinogenic drugs, such as those who:

  • Have a drug- or alcohol-addicted family member
  • Are of lower socioeconomic status and education
  • Live in an area that has high crime or drug use
  • Have low parental supervision
  • Exhibit thrill-seeking behaviors
  • Have depression or display escapist behavior
  • Show a low recognition of the dangers of drug use

Hallucinogen Use Treatment

Sometimes users fail to recognize the dangers of hallucinogenic drugs. One reason may be that, unlike many other drugs, hallucinogenic drugs are not considered to be physically addictive.However, users can develop a hazardous psychological dependence on hallucinogens. This refers to a perceived need for the drug based on a strong compulsion or urge to use the drug.

The body does not depend on the hallucinogen, but the mind does. Signs of this type of addiction can include:

  • Consistent signs that the user is high, such as dilated pupils and incoherent speech
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Euphoria or misplaced emotions
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Aggression and violent behavior

Because hallucinogens aren’t considered physically addicting, certain treatment options, like detoxification programs, often aren’t prescribed. Most hallucinogen treatment programs are conducted on an outpatient basis. This means the user does not spend the night at the treatment facility. However, some treatment programs are still lengthy and intense.

The programs vary in intensity according to the user’s needs, though all use therapy as the main component. There are several different therapy options. Often, two or more types of therapy are combined in order to tailor a treatment that best suits the needs of the user. The therapy options include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a treatment therapy designed to help the user replace negative behaviors with positive behaviors
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, is a treatment therapy focused on teaching the user alternative stress management techniques
  • Interpersonal therapy, or IPT, is a treatment therapy that addresses the user’s interpersonal relations in order to help the user find positive ways to deal with relationship issues
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that uses mindfulness strategies to bring about positive changes in the user’s behavior
  • Support programs are various classes and meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous’s 12-Step Program, that offer group therapy, community-based support, family therapy and other treatment options

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Hallucinogens are drugs that cause hallucinations, or intense distortions in the user’s perceptions of reality. They can be natural or synthetic and include hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD, PCP, peyote, ecstasy and ketamine.

Drug abuse prevention programs educate people, typically with a focus toward young people, on the dangers of drug use. Experts must first identify who is most likely to use hallucinogenic drugs. History tells us it’s adventurous, thrill-seeking young adults.Hallucinogens aren’t considered to be physically addicting, but they can lead to psychological dependence, which is a perceived need for the drug based on a strong compulsion or urge to use the drug. This is treated through therapy, often combining more than one of the following options:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT
  • Interpersonal therapy, or IPT
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT
  • Support programs

Learning Outcomes

Embark upon a course of study that will allow you to achieve these goals when the lesson concludes:

  • Sum up the meaning of ‘hallucinogens’
  • Offer examples of hallucinogens
  • Name a program designed for drug abuse prevention
  • Identify those populations who are most likely to use hallucinogens
  • Highlight several options for therapy

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