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Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teen Hallucinogen Use

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

Navigating the teenage years can be complex, both for teens and their parents. In a world where curiosity often intersects with risk, it can be difficult to know how to handle it if you discover your teen has been using  hallucinogenic drugs. While these substances are sometimes wrapped in the guise of exploration or escapism, they carry profound risks that can leave lasting imprints on a young person’s life. This article aims to shed light on the realities and risks associated with hallucinogen drugs, especially among teens. We also offer essential information on hallucinogens, how to recognize use in teenagers, and advice on how to address and treat this form of drug abuse. Our goal is to offer a compassionate understanding of this issue, providing guidance and support.

Understanding Teen Hallucinogen Use

What Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality, leading to visual and auditory hallucinations. These substances can be naturally occurring or synthetic and are known for their ability to alter sensory experiences and cognitive processes.

Common Street Names of Hallucinogens

Parents should be aware of common street names for hallucinogens, including Acid, Tabs, Blotter, Shrooms, Magic Mushrooms, Caps, Molly, E, Angel Dust, Rocket Fuel, Special K, K, Vitamin K, DMT, and Salvia. Recognizing these names can help in identifying potential drug use.

What Drugs Are Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens range from naturally occurring compounds to synthetically produced chemicals. Understanding the variety of hallucinogens, including their effects and potential risks, is crucial, especially when it comes to safeguarding your teen. Below is an overview of several types of drugs that fall under the category of hallucinogens, each with unique properties and effects.

LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide): A powerful synthetic hallucinogen, LSD is known for causing significant alterations in perception and mood, often leading to visual hallucinations and a distorted sense of time.

Psilocybin Mushrooms: Commonly known as magic mushrooms, they contain psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound that induces vivid hallucinations and an altered state of consciousness.

MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxy​methamphetamine): Often associated with feelings of increased energy, euphoria, and emotional warmth. While primarily a stimulant, MDMA has hallucinogenic qualities, especially at higher doses.

PCP (Phencyclidine): Originally developed as an anesthetic, PCP can cause hallucinations, distorted perceptions of sounds, and an altered sense of self and environment.

Ketamine: Used both as an anesthetic and a recreational drug, Ketamine is known for inducing a trance-like state, pain relief, and hallucinations, often described as a near-death experience.

DMT (Dimethyltryptamine): A powerful psychedelic found in several plants, DMT is known for its rapid onset and intense, but relatively short-lived, psychedelic effects.

Salvia Divinorum: A plant native to Mexico, containing salvinorin A, which induces intense but short-lasting effects, including visual distortions and feelings of being in a different place or time.

2C-B: A synthetic psychoactive substance, 2C-B is known for its stimulating effects combined with hallucinogenic experiences, often resulting in intense color enhancement and emotional shifts.

N-Bomb (NBOMe): A class of potent synthetic hallucinogens, known for their strong visual and auditory hallucinations, with effects that can be much more unpredictable and dangerous than other hallucinogens.

Peyote: A small cactus containing mescaline, Peyote induces colorful visual hallucinations and has been used for centuries in native rituals and spiritual practices.

Ayahuasca: A brew made from plants containing DMT and an MAOI inhibitor, Ayahuasca is used traditionally in spiritual ceremonies and is known for its profound psychoactive effects.

Ibogaine: A naturally occurring psychoactive substance found in the African iboga plant, Ibogaine is known for its use in treating addiction and its intense psychological and visual effects.

Each of these hallucinogens carries its own set of risks and effects, and their use can be particularly harmful to teens, whose brains are still developing. Understanding these substances is a step toward preventing their misuse and addressing the challenges they pose to young people.

Signs My Teenager is Using drugs

Signs My Teenager is Using Hallucinogens

Here’s an overview of common symptoms and signs that may indicate hallucinogen abuse:

Visual Distortions: Hallucinogens commonly cause altered visual perceptions, which can include seeing bright colors, geometric patterns, or visual ‘trails’.

Auditory Hallucinations: Users may hear sounds or voices that are not present, contributing to a distorted sense of reality.

  • Intense Emotional Swings: Rapid and intense changes in emotions, ranging from euphoria to intense fear or sadness, are common.
  • Disorganized Thinking: Hallucinogens can disrupt logical thought processes, leading to confusion and difficulty in making sense of thoughts or conversations.
  • Impaired Judgment: The ability to make safe, rational decisions is often compromised, potentially leading to risky behaviors.
  • Distorted Sense of Time: Users may experience a warped perception of time, with minutes feeling like hours or vice versa.
  • Increased Sensory Sensitivity: Heightened sensitivity to lights, sounds, and touch can occur, often leading to an overwhelming sensory experience.
  • Loss of Reality: Users may find it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not, leading to disorientation.
  • Unusual Body Sensations: Feelings of numbness, tingling, or a sensation of floating or detachment from the body are common.
  • Incoordination and Clumsiness: Physical coordination may be impaired, leading to clumsiness or difficulty with motor tasks.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Some hallucinogens can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, leading to nausea and vomiting.
  • Paranoia: The user may become overly suspicious or feel persecuted, even in safe and familiar environments.
  • Panic Attacks: Intense fear or dread can manifest suddenly, often leading to panic attacks.
  • Flashbacks: Users may re-experience aspects of a hallucinogen trip long after the drug’s effects have worn off.
  • Social Isolation: Regular hallucinogen use can lead to withdrawal from social interactions and relationships.
  • Depersonalization: A sense of detachment from oneself or feeling as though one is observing oneself from outside the body is a possible effect.
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD): In some cases, users experience ongoing visual disturbances or flashbacks, a condition known as HPPD.
  • Mood Swings After Use: Following the use of hallucinogens, users may experience significant mood swings, ranging from depression to anxiety.

Awareness of these symptoms is crucial for parents, educators, and peers in order to recognize potential hallucinogen abuse. Early detection and intervention can be key to preventing long-term psychological and physical damage associated with these substances.

Risks of Using Hallucinogenic Drugs

​​The use and abuse of hallucinogenic drugs among teens is a growing concern, given the profound and often unpredictable risks associated with these substances. Hallucinogens can lead to severe psychological and physical consequences, especially in the developing brains and bodies of teenagers. Understanding these risks is crucial for parents, educators, and healthcare providers to effectively communicate the dangers and prevent harm. Here are some of the key risks associated with teen hallucinogen use and abuse:

  • Accidents and Injuries: Due to distorted perception and impaired judgment, there’s an increased risk of accidents and injuries while using hallucinogens.
  • Hallucinogen-Induced Psychosis: Extended or intense use can lead to hallucinogen-induced psychosis, characterized by disordered thinking, paranoia, and hallucinations.
  • Negative Impact on Mental Health: Hallucinogens can exacerbate underlying mental health issues or trigger new psychiatric disorders.
  • Synthetic Variants and Contaminants: Synthetic hallucinogens or contaminated drugs can have unpredictable and potentially more harmful effects.
  • Harmful Physical Effects: Physical side effects can include nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, and coordination problems.
  • Risk of Accidental Poisoning: Mistaking toxic substances for hallucinogens can lead to accidental poisoning, with potentially fatal consequences.
  • Legal Consequences: Possession and use of hallucinogens are illegal in many jurisdictions, leading to legal issues for teens caught with these substances.
  • Social Consequences: Hallucinogen abuse can lead to strained relationships, social isolation, and issues in school or other social settings.
  • Unpredictable Reactions: Individual reactions to hallucinogens can vary greatly, making it difficult to predict how a teen will respond to the drug.
  • Physical Discomfort: Users might experience uncomfortable physical sensations, including chills, sweating, or tremors.
  • Addiction and Tolerance: While less common than with other substances, some hallucinogens can lead to psychological addiction and increased tolerance, requiring higher doses for the same effect.
  • Risk of Accidental Injury or Death: In extreme cases, the impaired judgment and hallucinations can lead to accidental injury or death, particularly in unsafe environments.
  • Psychological Distress: Hallucinogens can cause severe anxiety, fear, and confusion, leading to significant psychological distress during and after use.
  • Flashbacks: Users may experience sudden, unexpected reoccurrences of aspects of the hallucinogenic experience, often without warning and long after the drug’s effects have subsided.
  • Impaired Judgment: While under the influence, teens may have impaired judgment, making them more prone to risky and dangerous behaviors.

Early and open conversations about these risks can be a critical step in ensuring the safety and well-being of young individuals.

The Side Effects of Hallucinogenic Drugs in Teens

Hallucinogenic drugs can have both short-term and long-term effects on your teen. Here are some:

Short-Term Effects of Teens Using Hallucinogenic Drugs

Altered Perception: Hallucinogens can cause significant changes in perception, including visual and auditory hallucinations.

Mood Swings: Users can experience intense and unpredictable emotional responses, ranging from euphoria to intense fear.

Impaired Judgment: Hallucinogens can impair judgment and decision-making, potentially leading to risky behaviors.

Physical Side Effects: Short-term use can cause nausea, increased heart rate, chills, muscle weakness, and dilated pupils.

Disorientation and Confusion: During and shortly after use, teens may experience confusion and a distorted sense of time and space.

Anxiety and Paranoia: Hallucinogen use can induce feelings of paranoia and severe anxiety, sometimes culminating in panic attacks.

Risk of Injury: Impaired judgment and altered perceptions can increase the risk of accidental injury or death.

Long-Term Effects of Teens Using Hallucinogenic Drugs

Psychological Dependence: Teens may develop a psychological dependence on hallucinogens, leading to persistent cravings and preoccupation with drug use.

Cognitive Impairments: Prolonged use can result in impairments in memory, concentration, and decision-making abilities.

Mental Health Issues: There’s an increased risk of exacerbating or triggering psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD): Some users experience ongoing visual disturbances or flashbacks, a condition known as HPPD.

Social Withdrawal and Isolation: Chronic use can lead to social withdrawal, impacting relationships and normal social functioning.

Educational and Career Impact: Long-term hallucinogen use can affect academic performance and future career prospects due to cognitive impairments and decreased motivation.

Co-occurring Disorders: The likelihood of developing co-occurring substance use disorders increases with chronic hallucinogen use.

How To Talk To Your Teen About The Dangers of Hallucinogens

First, be sure to approach the conversation with empathy and factual information. Discuss the risks of drug use, including the potential for psychosis, overdose, and long-term effects, and encourage an open dialogue about peer pressure and decision-making.

Preventing Your Teen From Hallucinogen-Related Use

If you want your teen to hear you, it’s crucial to create an environment of open communication. Calmly educate your teen about the risks, and keep an eye out for changes in behavior or their friends using drugs. Encourage healthy coping strategies and stay involved in your teen’s life to understand their challenges and pressures. Early warning signs could include changes in behavior, academic performance, social circles, and physical signs like dilated pupils or erratic sleeping patterns. Recognizing these signs early can be crucial in intervening before a pattern of drug abuse develops.

How To Seek Help For Your Teen Facing Addiction from Hallucinogen-Related Use

If your teen is struggling with hallucinogen-related addiction, it’s crucial to seek professional help. At Evolve Treatment Center, we specialize in treatment for teens, including therapy and support for co-occurring disorders, in a compassionate and understanding environment. We’re one of the top treatment centers for teens in the country, and we’ll walk you through every stage of the process, from insurance to logistics and family involvement. Contact us to learn more about what we treat and how we can assist your family in this challenging time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Teen Hallucinogen Use 

Are hallucinogens addictive?

Hallucinogens can be psychologically addictive, with users developing a strong desire to continue using the drug despite knowing its harmful effects. However, they generally do not cause physical addiction in the way substances like opioids do.

What are the signs of hallucinogen abuse withdrawal?

Signs of hallucinogen abuse withdrawal can include depression, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and a strong craving for the drug. In some cases, users may also experience hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), where they have flashbacks to their hallucinogenic experiences.

Can hallucinogen use lead to mental health issues?

Yes, hallucinogen use can lead to mental health issues by triggering or exacerbating conditions like anxiety, depression, and psychosis, especially in individuals with a predisposition to these disorders.

What should parents do if they suspect their teen is using hallucinogens?

If parents suspect their teen is using hallucinogens, they should address the issue openly and non-judgmentally, express their concerns for their child’s health, and seek professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist.

Is there treatment available for teens struggling with hallucinogen abuse?

Yes, there is treatment available for teens struggling with hallucinogen abuse, including therapy, counseling, and support groups that address the psychological aspects of addiction and help develop coping strategies.

Are all hallucinogens illegal?

Most hallucinogens are illegal in many countries, including LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA. However, some substances with hallucinogenic properties may fall into legal gray areas or be used for religious or medicinal purposes in specific contexts.

Can occasional use of hallucinogens be safe for teens?

Occasional use of hallucinogens is not safe for teens, as their brains are still developing and the use of these substances can lead to unpredictable psychological effects, potential for harm, and the risk of triggering underlying mental health issues.

What should parents know about peer pressure related to hallucinogen use?

Parents should understand that peer pressure can play a significant role in a teen’s decision to try hallucinogens, and it’s important to equip teens with skills to resist peer pressure and make informed choices about their health and safety.

Are there educational resources for parents on teen hallucinogen use?

Yes, there are educational resources available for parents on teen hallucinogen use, including websites like the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), pamphlets, books, and seminars offered by schools and health organizations.

What role does social media play in teen hallucinogen use?

Social media can play a role in teen hallucinogen use by exposing teens to drug use normalization, misinformation about the safety of these substances, and connections to peers or others who use or promote hallucinogens.

How do I discuss the risks of hallucinogens with my teen without alienating them?

To discuss the risks of hallucinogens without alienating your teen, approach the conversation with understanding, provide factual information, and encourage an open dialogue that allows them to express their thoughts and questions.

Can teens develop a tolerance to hallucinogenic substances?

Teens can develop a tolerance to hallucinogenic substances, requiring them to take larger doses to achieve the same effect, which can increase the risk of overdose and other dangerous side effects.

Are there specific signs of hallucinogen use in a teenager’s academic performance?

Signs of hallucinogen use in a teenager’s academic performance might include a sudden drop in grades, lack of interest in schoolwork, difficulty concentrating, and increased absenteeism.

How do I address hallucinogen use if my teen is already using other substances?

If your teen is using hallucinogens in addition to other substances, it’s important to seek professional help immediately as this indicates a higher risk of substance abuse disorders and the need for a comprehensive treatment approach.

Can hallucinogen use impact a teen’s academic and career future?

Yes, hallucinogen use can impact a teen’s academic and career future by affecting their cognitive abilities, decision-making skills, and potentially leading to disciplinary actions or legal issues that can hinder future opportunities.

What is the connection between hallucinogen use and risky sexual behaviors in teens?

Hallucinogen use in teens can lead to impaired judgment and disinhibition, increasing the likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviors, which can result in unintended consequences like sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancies.

How can parents differentiate between experimentation and a serious issue with hallucinogens?

Parents can differentiate between experimentation and a serious issue with hallucinogens by assessing the frequency of use, changes in behavior, impact on daily activities, and signs of dependence or inability to stop using.

Is there a link between hallucinogen use and other mental health disorders in teens?

Yes, there is a link between hallucinogen use and other mental health disorders in teens; hallucinogen use can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and potentially trigger new psychiatric disorders.

What role can schools play in preventing and addressing teen hallucinogen use?

Schools can play a significant role in preventing and addressing teen hallucinogen use by providing drug education programs, creating a supportive environment for students to discuss substance use issues, and having protocols for early intervention and referral to appropriate services.

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