Hallucinogens In History Essay

1261 words - 6 pages

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that share a vast history, and were used for spiritual and religious practices since the prime of early civilization. They are referenced in the Hindu holy book, Rig Veda, the healing rituals of the Aztecs of Pre-Columbian Mexico, and are often attributed to the illicit practices of those prosecuted during the Salem Witch Trials. The first synthetic hallucinogens were discovered by a Swiss chemist named Albert Hoffman in 1938, and were originally manufactured to psychiatrists to help their patients access repressed emotions. Other uses considered for early hallucinogens included ingestion by doctors to better understand schizophrenic patients, and as an antibiotic. Their recreational use peaked in the 1960s, but began to decline after they were declared illegal in 1966, except in Native American churches where hallucinogens continued to be used as a spiritual tool. Though their popularity is not as prevalent as it had been in the “hippie movement”, their use continues to be recorded within a minority of the high school and college aged population.
Drugs considered to be within the category of hallucinogens include LSD, mushrooms (psyilocybin), mescaline, and N-Bomb. They can be smoked, made into liquor, injected, ingested, snorted, or even licked from the backs of certain toads such as the Sonoran Desert Toad (Erowid.org). Some common “street names” for the substances include acid, blotter, sugar cubes, shroom, zoom, and angel dust. While some hallucinogens are synthetic, others, like peyote and salvia, are derived from natural plants and substances. Though hallucinogens are not physically addictive, users have the potential to become psychologically dependent, and thus they are classified as a schedule I drug, ie, an agent with high abuse potential and no documented medical indication.
The probability of death from a hallucinogen remains unlikely. However, these drugs have severe physical and psychological effects, particularly when on “a trip”, as the high one experiences on it is often called. Physical effects include accelerated heartbeat, nausea, an increased blood pressure, dizziness, sweating, numbness, tremors, and headaches. In extreme cases, convulsions, comas, and heart/lung failure have been reported. The more insidious effects of hallucinogens are found not in their potential for physical impairment, but in that of their psychological danger. The hallucinations, or something that is seen, heard, smelt, felt, or tasted without really existing, that accompany this genre of substances are strong, vivid, and can last for up to 12 hours. Hallucinogen users’ brains are altered in such a way that they are unable to separate reality and the effects of their trip. This can cause severe anxiety, intense mood swings, impaired time perception and the sense that objects around you are distorted. In addition, those under the influence experience a God Complex, described as a feeling that a person is superior...

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