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Psychedelic Drug Effects on The Brain

Psychedelic Drug Effects on The Brain

Classic psychedelics (hallucinogens) like LSD and psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) are drugs that alter the perceptions of users by acting on neural circuits in the brain.

Hallucinations and an altered perception of time, color, shape, and sound are all common psychedelic drug effects on the brain. While many people believe the worst of their side effects is a “bad trip,” the side effects are more dangerous than they may seem. Our drug and alcohol treatment center in Boca is looking into the negative effects of psychedelics and how they affect the brain.

How Do Psychedelics Work?

Researchers believe that psychedelics (or hallucinogens) work by acting on neural circuits in the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is associated with perception, mood, and thinking. Specifically, hallucinogens work by targeting a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, which is a key hormone in stabilizing our mood, feelings of well-being, and pleasure, explaining why users may experience a high characterized by euphoric, pleasurable, or rewarding side effects. However, psychedelics also affect regions of the brain that play a role in regulating physical arousal and responses to stress and panic. That could explain why some people experience anxiety and terrifying drug highs, also known as “bad trips.”

Common types of psychedelic drugs include:

  • Acid (LSD)
  • Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
  • Ololiuqui (Morning Glory Seeds)
  • Psilocybin (Magic Mushrooms)
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • Peyote (Mescaline)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP or “Angel Dust”)

A person who’s high on psychedelics may see images, hear sounds, and feel sensations that seem to be real but aren’t, which are also known as hallucinations. The side effects of psychedelics usually begin within 20 to 90 minutes of use, depending on the kind and the dose taken, and can last as long as 12 hours. Because these substances often contain various ingredients, their side effects can be unpredictable, often ranging from mild to severe. Effects of hallucinogens like LSD or DMT can be described as drug-induced psychosis, characterized by a distorted sense of reality, ability to think rationally, and ability to communicate.

Are Psychedelics Addictive?

In some cases, yes, psychedelics or hallucinogens are addictive, and people can develop a tolerance to them. For instance, LSD is not considered an addictive drug because it doesn’t cause uncontrollable urges to use. However, LSD abuse can contribute to physical tolerance, which is when a person has to use a higher dose of a drug to experience the same side effects. This is an extremely dangerous practice, especially considering the unpredictability of these drugs. Additionally, LSD can produce a tolerance to other psychedelics like psilocybin. PCP is another psychedelic drug that can be addictive and can also result in tolerance to other psychedelics and physical dependence. Many people who stop using PCP after long-term abuse experienced withdrawal symptoms like drug cravings, headaches, and excessive sweating. Our medical detox at Banyan Boca treats drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevents any physical complications that can occur when these symptoms are left untreated.

Truth Behind Psychedelic Brain Damage

Many researchers who have studied psychedelic drug effects on the brain have found that these drugs can disrupt functions like thinking and communication. Because these drugs open up communication in all areas of the brain, affect mood, and affect a person’s response to stress, the side effects are often unpredictable.

Some common long-term effects of psychedelic drugs on the brain include:

  • Poor coordination
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulties with concentration and speech
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Visual and auditory disturbances
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Tolerance
  • Physical dependence

The extent of brain damage caused by psychedelics depends on how long the person has been using, which hallucinogens they’ve used and whether they’ve also used other types of drugs. Oxygen deprivation is also a common side effect of hallucinogen use and can lead to brain damage. While many states like Denver have decriminalized magic mushrooms, their side effects are predictable and dangerous. Tolerance can also lead to extensive and heavy abuse, increasing the individual’s risk of overdosing.

Often, one form of drug abuse opens the door to another. Long-term substance abuse of any kind can have serious consequences. If you or someone you know struggles with drug addiction or alcoholism, call Banyan Treatment Centers Boca now at 888-280-4763 for more information about our residential drug treatment in Florida.

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.