Definition of a psychedelic drug (Lester Grinspoon): "a psychedelic drug is one which has small likelihood of causing physical addiction, craving, major physiological disturbances, delirium, disorientation, or amnesia, produces thought, mood, and perceptual changes otherwise rarely experienced except perhaps in dreams, contemplative and religious exaltation, flashes of vivid involuntary memory and acute psychoses".
Psychedelic drugs have been generally defined to include those that have an LSD- or mescaline-like action on serotonin receptors, which technically excludes the larger categories of hallucinogens and dissociatives, including but not limited to: NMDA receptor agonists (DXM, ketamine, PCP), kappa-opioid receptor agonists (Salvia divinorum), and Cannabis sativa (which will be discussed as pertains to its psychedelic properties). All will be included here.
Common Members of this Category: LSD, Psilocybin (mushrooms), DMT, DXM, Mescaline, Salvia divinorum, Nitrous, Morning Glory, PCP, ketamine, Cannabis sativa. Due to the broad nature of these categories (psychedelic, hallucinogenic, dissociatives), there are a large number of other chemicals that fall under these labels, but these are the members more frequently obtained and used by the non-chemist/physician.
It is important to note that with the exception of Salvia divinorum, the possession and use of these drugs for recreational purposes is illegal and, in many cases, a felony, so the possession, acquisition, or use of these items is not to be taken lightly.
All of the members of the category of psychedelic drugs, due to their mind-altering nature, carry several common dangers. Because they all are used essentially to create uncommon perceptions and states of mind, they can also alter the mind in ways that may have long term effects. Flashbacks and memory impairment may be associated with chronic use of psychedelic drugs. Since many of these drugs act on serotonin receptors, they may have other effects associated with serotonin levels, including the control of behavioral, perceptual, and regulatory systems, including mood, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior, muscle control, and sensory perception.
Since the use of psychedelics may be associated with acute and sometimes persistent psychopathology, especially in those predisposed to mental illness, those who are in treatment or have been treated for illnesses including depression, schizophrenia, and paranoia should avoid use of psychedelics. Also if one is on ANY kind of prescription medication for any type of mental illness, it is not advisable to use these drugs while on or still under the effects of these medications. While many have no interference, many will, and the effects range from unknown to unpredictable, and while having spoken to someone who has in fact mixed the substances in question may give a better idea, the experience may vary between persons.
LSD: This is the most widely known and widely researched psychedelic. The acronym stands for d-lysergic acid diethylamide, its full chemical name. It is synthesized from lysergic acid, from the toxic rye fungus ergot. Although initially synthesized in 1938 during a quest to extract useful compounds from ergot fungus, animal tests proved unpromising, and its study was discontinued until Albert Hofmann felt a "peculiar presentiment" to return to work on the chemical, and on April 16, 1943, he absorbs a tiny amount and reports "an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscope-like play of colors." Three days later he is the first person to intentionally ingest the substance (at approximately 10 times the threshold level) on the day now known as Bicycle Day, due to his psychedelic ride home from the laboratory.
Ingestion: The most common forms of this substance include blotter (pieces of paper, usually with designs, that have been soaked in pre-measured quantities) and liquid (usually in the form of gel-tabs), both of which are orally ingested by holding in the mouth and swallowed. As LSD is originally a liquid, it should be noted that it can be absorbed directly through the skin and incidents of people dropping it into their eyes for fast absorption, etc. are not uncommon. Also one should be careful not to accidentally ingest it and therefore one should always be cautious while handling it. All of these methods are relatively safe and effective in a general sense, as the effectiveness of this drug is mostly dependent on quantity consumed.
Effects/Side effects: The basic effect of LSD is to bind to serotonin receptors in the brain, and, by a process that is not fully understood (dopamine systems may also be involved in more complex trips), initiate a trip. This means, in a way, that the user's mind may be considered "super activated", e.g. additional electrical stimulation in the brain. What this means is that colors will become brighter and more interesting, the boundaries of objects will blur, sounds will become more acute and foods will taste/smell in new ways, etc. One will frequently see kaleidoscope-like effects but visual hallucinations (as opposed to illusions) are much less common. A sense of euphoria is frequently experienced. An interesting effect of LSD is something known as synæsthesia, which is "a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway." This means that a user will see music or feel colors, or things like numbers or people will have a color, or even that points in time will be given a specific point in space. In essence it is a rearranging of the neural pathways and associations in what is usually a non-harmful manner.
There are few unique side effects, though, and the most common is referred to as a "bad trip." This is when, due to the combination of a super-activated mind and some unpleasant stimulus (idea, location, emotion, sensation, etc.), the person gets caught in a heightened experience of negative feeling and begins to panic and act irrationally- "freak out."
The best way to deal with this is simply to remove, if possible, whatever is causing the person to freak out and take the person to a peaceful place and talk calmly. You should reassure the person that everything is alright, that the situation is temporary, and remind them that they are tripping, etc. Stay calm and speak calmingly and it should be relatively effective. The only complete solution is letting the trip run its course, though it has been theorized that antipsychotic tranquilizers (Thorazine), depressants such as "benzos" (Valium), and other similar pharmaceuticals can help bring a person down. These seem to work sometimes, but since the reason this may work is not known in depth, there are no guarantees.
Adulterants: There are very rarely adulterants found in the liquid or blotter forms, though if you are purchasing/using any other form the number is infinite, if it even contains LSD at all; therefore one should avoid them unless one knows exactly where it came from. Especially with LSD blotters, adulteration is difficult because the threshold level for LSD is so much lower than for other drugs-even if a blotter contained half LSD and half meth, the quantity of meth would be much too small to feel any effect. Adulterants are also likely to be absent because it's just as easy to simply sell someone a blank piece of paper or some water, as either is much less costly than selling another drug instead.
Interactions: For the most part, mixing with other psychedelics will amplify and occasionally alter the effects, and so this is mostly the realm of more experienced users. If one is to take stimulants or "uppers" during the trip, they have been reported to enhance the experience and hallucinations, if only because it is speeding up the way the body is working. Also, marijuana calms the trip and can also amplify it if taken during the trip, and if taken during the come down, it will ease the reintroduction to reality and the scatterbrained effects many feel; therefore, it is recommended by many frequent trippers to have for this use.
A common urban legend states that LSD is stored in the spinal fluid or some other kind of tissue, possibly for years, causing side effects and horrible flashbacks. This is untrue-LSD is processed by the liver with a half-life of approximately 2.5 hours.
Morning Glory: These are essentially a naturally occurring form of LSD in the seeds of the morning glory flower. Though the chemical LSA (d-lysergic acid amide) is illegal to possess in pure form, the seeds are found in many gardening stores.The effects and cautions are much the same as for LSD so referring to the above section will be useful. The only major difference is the method of ingestion and the effects this may have.
Ingestion: The main method of use is ingesting large quantities of the seeds. This is essentially what sets it apart from LSD. This is because it frequently causes an upset stomach and sensations that can interfere with your trip and make it more unpleasant. Because of this, it is generally advisable that one should seek to acquire LSD (though this is much more difficult) because of the ‘cleaner' feeling it will produce.
Psilocybin (mushrooms): These are a naturally occurring psychedelic from a large number of different mushrooms that are collectively referred to as ‘shrooms or magic mushrooms or any other number of names. They had been used by Central American cultures for religious ceremonies before the invasion of the Spanish, and their use was lost to the western world until 1957, when Life magazine famously documented a mushroom-induced trip.
Ingestion: The most common method of ingestion is simply eating the mushrooms. This can be done with any number of different foods as taste modifiers, but it is generally not recommended that you eat too much other food the day of the trip, as that may interfere with its intensity. Also, they are frequently bought pre-cooked into chocolates, though this can be troublesome, as it is hard to know the exact quantity in each chocolate. Because of this uncertainty of strength, and therefore inability to gauge how much one is consuming, as well as increased inclination to nausea, chocolates are often seen as untrustworthy.
Effects/side effects: These will take anywhere from half and hour to and hour before they will take effect, but there are several things that may occur in this time and at the very beginning of the trip. Many people report feeling mildly to very nauseous, and will occasionally vomit-this may be due to the presence of other kinds of alkaloid in the mushrooms. Despite this, it will not happen with everyone and will pass fairly quickly. At first, one will feel a sense of building energy and the tense feeling that comes when you are just about to begin some kind of vigorous activity. The effects usually include heightened mental stimulation, reevaluation of your surroundings based on new perceptions, increased interest and insight into things around you, euphoria, some visualizations, and intense emotions. At times, this will cause paranoia, but that is fairly rare. Also, mushrooms have a tendency to cause very strong closed-eye visualizations. All of these things are heightened at higher doses, and open eye visuals become much more common at those levels. The entire experience can also be very strongly affected by recent experiences in a person's life, so it may often be advisable to avoid these if one has had an emotionally trying event recently in one's life, as this can turn the trip to a state of strong negative emotions and intense reactions to this emotional trauma. After the trip, one will often feel a strange state that is still different from normal life, but can be described as a kind of scatterbrained reevaluation of whatever crosses your path.
Adulterants: There are no common adulterants to this drug, but the main concern is that many psychedelic mushrooms look very similar to their closest relative, Amanita, which is deadly. It pays to be incredibly careful with the mushrooms that you are receiving and to trust the people from whom you get them. They tend to bruise slightly bluish when handled, but other than that you are always running the risk of eating the wrong kind of mushroom and getting very sick, or possibly dying. The picking of wild mushrooms is therefore not recommended.
Interactions: Much the same as LSD, the effects of mushrooms can be strengthened and altered by taking other psychedelics with them, and consumption should be avoided when on prescription medication. Marijuana has similar effects, but it is also useful in the beginning of the trip when the nausea tends to set in as marijuana has the added benefit of helping calm nausea.
DMT: Otherwise known as N,N-dimethyltryptamine, is an extremely strong visual hallucinogen; a Psychedelic Tryptamine. It is naturally found in the human brain and many plants, and due to the difficulty in finding it is highly prized among connoisseurs of hallucinogenic drugs. Since it is so rare, it is not tested for in any drug test.
Ingestion: It is usually smoked (the user taking hits until it is impossible to continue) but can also be injected, snorted, or swallowed when taken with an MAOI (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors [strong antidepressants which limit the body's ability to break down the drug]). The dose is generally 15-60 mg.
Effects/side effects: The effects of DMT are incredibly intense and have an almost instantaneous effect. To quote Terence McKenna, "The feeling of doing DMT is as though one had been struck by noetic lightning. The ordinary world is almost instantaneously replaced, not only with a hallucination, but a hallucination whose alien character is its utter alienness. Nothing in this world can prepare one for the impressions that fill your mind when you enter the DMT sensorium." It is a strong dissociative that will essentially remove one from one's usual reality and create a new one to live in for about 5-20 minutes.
While it shares the scatterbrain side effect of Psilocybin and LSD, the effect is much more intense and has the potential to be much more dangerous. Since this is a chemical that can occur in one's brain, the brain has to integrate it as one are coming down. With some individuals, this is a difficult process and can cause trouble with sleeping and anxiety, and in extreme cases (as most famously documented in a chapter of The Electric Koolaid Acid Test) can producing reoccurring psychosis which will require medical attention.
Adulterants: the issue of adulterants to DMT is an interesting one. They are not overly common, as it is a chemical that has a distinct production process and appearance. But as with any drug that require chemical extraction/manufacture there is always the possibility that you can receive an adulterated product. Despite this, it is not a common process.
DXM: Otherwise known as dextromethorphan hydrobromide, is a strong dissociative/ psychedelic that is also the active ingredient in many cough suppressants including Robitussen, hence the name "robo-tripping" for the experience of taking it.
Ingestion: The most common method of ingestion is through the ingestion of much higher than recommended amounts of cough syrup or cough pills, although DXM-only products are available.
Effects/Side Effects: It is an NMDA receptor agonist, which at lower levels has similar euphoric effects as alcohol, but at much higher levels it has these plus strong dissociative effects. Many people feel empathetic towards others and experience dreamlike states. It can also cause visual and aural hallucinations, as well as having similar effects as alcohol consumed at much higher levels. These include sexual difficulties, being uncoordinated, confusion, disorientation, and losing agility. One may also experience skin sensitivity and zombie "robo" walking.
Amongst side effects many experience vomiting, dizziness, itching, diarrhea, fever, tachycardia, and occasionally people feel disconnected from other people and get depressed in the days after use. Unfortunately there are many possible side effects that have not been investigated in depth that could be potentially very serious.
Adulterants: Adulterants are not overly common in this drug, since most containing substances are regulated by the FDA. The real threat comes from choosing the incorrect cough medication. Were one to be attempting to try this, one has to make sure that the product they choose contains only DXM. Many different brands add other things to the medicine that when taken in high doses can make a person very, very sick. Occasionally, medicines will include acetaminophen (Tylenol) or chlorpheniramine maleate (present in Coricidin Cold & Cough, the abuse of which has been linked to several deaths), both of which are potentially fatal in high doses. One should never attempt to recreationally use a substance which contains an unfamiliar ‘active ingredient'.
Interference: One should avoid use of DXM while on any MAOIs or SSRIs; these include harmine, harmaline, prozac, celexa, lexapro, paxil and many other antidepressants. These will cause "serotonin syndrome" as well as fever, hypertension, arrhythmias, and many other symptoms. It is basically not wise to take this if you are on any kind of anti-depressant, and avoid it if you are on prescription medication just in case.
Mescaline: Mescaline is a strong psychedelic phenethylamine that is best known for being found in the now illegal peyote cactus, but can also be found in the legal San Pedro and Peruvian Torch cacti. It has been used for centuries by the Native Americans in various religious activities. The Native Americans are the only peoples in the United States allowed to possess this for use in their religious activities.
Ingestion: There are several ways to ingest mescaline, depending on where it is obtained and how much effort is put into its production. The cacti can be eaten directly, though many choose to distill it down so that it is easier on the stomach. Either way, it is said to be rather unpleasant tasting. The threshold dose is 100 mg, 100-200 is light, 200-300 is normal, 300-500 is strong, and 500-700 is an extremely heavy dose.
Effects/Side Effects: The actual effects of mescaline are intense and can vary from person to person, based on the dosage. It takes about an hour to kick in and can last for up to 8 hours. Effects can range from intense self analysis to visions of god. A fairly in depth description of a trip can be found at http://www.erowid.org/library/books_online/pihkal/pihkal096.shtml.
This is really the best description of the experience that I have come across. Further reading includes Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell.
Adulterants: The possible presence of adulterants is mostly dependent on where the mescaline comes from. There usually are no adulterants, especially if one distills it themselves, but as with anything one should be wary of unknown sources.
Salvia divinorum: The scientific name of the plant more commonly known as Salvia, this is the hallucinogen mentioned here that is completely legal to own and use under federal law, although its legality is being challenged in many states (including Virginia). It is a sage-type plant that has been used for centuries, much like psilocybin and mescaline, by Native Americans in various religious rituals. It is a fairly potent psychoactive when taking in concentrated doses, though its effects are very short-lived.
Ingestion: There are two main ways to ingest Salvia. If fresh leaves are available, they can be chewed to feel a mild high and slight dissociative effect. Dry leaves are also available at tobacco stores, etc, which can be smoked out of a bowl, water bong, or any similar smoking devices. Extract, or extremely concentrated leaves, are meant to be smoked out of a water bong, as indicated on their packaging.
Effects: The psychoactive effects of Salvia depend on the dosage consumed. Smoking the leaves, which have a stale taste, produces a slight dissociative feeling and a high that has been described as a faster, higher marijuana. If one were to smoke more, the effect nears that of the extract. The extract is commonly available in concentrations of 5, 10, and 20 times, though stronger concentrations are infrequently available. With the extract, one will usually pull about 2 hits before feeling any effects. For a moment, the user will feel a strange separation from the world, but will remain in said world. Very quickly afterward one will feel removed from the world as and experience intense hallucinations. Some feel drawn into things they are sitting on, some report feeling aware of only their movements or strongly drawn into some certain object around them. The effect lasts only for a few minutes, after which one returns to a semi regular state of conscious, but will still feel very confused and tired and unwilling to do anything immediately. This, too, will pass in about half an hour. Beyond this, there really is no strong side effects beyond a lack of desire to do it again any time soon.
Adulterants: There are no known common adulterants to Salvia diviniorum because it is legal to sell and obtain, so any adulterants are probably added by the user.
Nitrous: or nitrous oxide (known as laughing gas), is a gas that is used as a anesthetic and propellant in canned whipped cream. While not a psychedelic, actually a dissociative, it has many similar euphoric effects to psychedelics and is often confused with them.
Ingestion: there are two main ways of ingestion, depending on how the nitrous is obtained. The most common by far is through the inhalation of the nitrous off of new, unshaken whipped cream cans. The other method is coming into possession of a large container of medical grade nitrous. This is very illegal for both the user and the medical professional that somehow facilitates the acquisition.
Effects: One will feel the effects almost immediately as it is inhaled, but on the same note it doesn't last for very long (30 sec-1 min) unless a steady supply is available. It creates a strong sense of euphoria and giggling, surroundings become dreamlike and most users experience some sound distortion and occasional hallucinations. One also becomes clumsy and occasionally feels a strange buzzing sensation in various places on the body.
If combined with alcohol it can create nausea and blacking out and as the effects recede one may experience headaches. It can also cause numbness with heavy use (as it is an anesthetic) and can limit the uptake of vitamin B-12.
Adulterants: As it is a gas and a single chemical, adulterants are more or less non-existent.
Marijuana (as pertains to its psychedelic effects): By far the most common illegal substance consumed in both the U.S. and the world, marijuana is a drug that is hard to classify. The active ingredient, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), is an aromatic terpenoid that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, activating opioid pathways and precipitating a release of dopamine. In high doses (generally of higher quality), it can have psychedelic effects and in any amount it has ******+ interactions with other psychedelics.
Ingestion: The most common ingestion method of marijuana is through smoking it from any number of different devices, or in a marijuana cigarette, a ‘joint.' It can be vaporized so that the relevant chemicals form a gas, which may release more pure THC and eliminate the hazards of smoking. It can also be baked into foods and eaten, and when concentrated into a resin, it is called hashish and can be smoked for a much stronger effect.
(Psychedelic) Effects/side effects: Only come into play when large amounts of marijuana have been ingested. More commonly, one has a strong feeling of euphoria, relaxation, and changes in perception. Music and colors become much more meaningful and vivid, and occasionally one will mildly hallucinate. Most of these effects are very similar to those that are experienced with lower levels of use, but are more pronounced. One of the more significant effects is the feeling that many get of being in far less control of their body. This has caused trouble for inexperienced users who have ingested too much and can send them into a state of panic.
Adulterants: There are very rarely adulterants added to marijuana that a buyer is not made aware of or add themselves. Occasionally, it will be coated with substances like cocaine or PCP or any number of other things that people might think would be interesting to add, but while it is being obtained, most sellers will make a buyer aware of it.
by Conor Harris + Rachel Anderson