Psychedelic Drug Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Psychedelics belong to a specific category within the broader class of substances known as hallucinogens. These substances have the unique ability to significantly modify a person’s conscious perception and cognitive thought processes. The result is an altered conscious experience of the world, distinct from the effects produced by other types of drugs.

Can Psychedelic Drugs Be Abused?

While psychedelic drugs are known for their potential therapeutic and mind-altering properties, they are not immune to misuse. The abuse of psychedelic substances can trigger health complications, even though they are generally considered to have a lower potential for physical dependence than some other classes of drugs like opioids or stimulants.

Psychedelic drugs can produce intense and profound experiences that some people may seek repetitively. This psychological dependence can prompt a pattern of frequent use which may impede daily life and responsibilities.

With repeated use of psychedelic drugs, tolerance may develop, meaning that higher doses are required to deliver the same effects. This can contribute to a cycle of escalating use. The potential for psychedelic drug abuse varies from person to person, and not everyone who uses these substances will develop problematic use patterns. If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse, seek professional help and support to address any potential issues.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Psychedelic Drug Abuse?

Symptoms of psychedelic drug abuse can differ depending on the substance and individual factors, but may include:

  • Repetitive use: Individuals who abuse psychedelic drugs may engage in frequent and repetitive use, often seeking out these substances even when it is detrimental to their health, responsibilities, or relationships.
  • Increased tolerance: A person abusing psychedelic drugs may develop tolerance, meaning that they need increasingly higher doses to deliver the desired effects. This may provoke a pattern of escalating use.
  • Unpredictable behavior: Psychedelic drug abuse can result in unpredictable and erratic behavior. People may display mood swings, impulsivity, or uncharacteristic choices while under the influence of psychedelics.
  • Social isolation: Some people who abuse psychedelic drugs may withdraw from social activities, hobbies, and relationships they once enjoyed, prioritizing drug use over interpersonal connections.
  • Neglecting responsibilities: Abuse of these substances can lead to the neglect of important responsibilities at work, school, or home. Some people may struggle to meet their obligations due to their preoccupation with drug use.
  • Psychological symptoms: Signs of abuse may include the presence of psychological symptoms like anxiety, paranoia, or depression, especially when the person is not under the influence of the drug.
  • Risk-taking behaviors: Abuse of psychedelic drugs can cause people to engage in risky behaviors like driving while impaired, engaging in unprotected sex, or taking other drugs simultaneously.
  • Physical signs: Some physical signs of psychedelic drug abuse may include dilated pupils, changes in appetite, sweating, or fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Change in appearance: Individuals abusing psychedelic drugs may neglect personal hygiene and grooming, resulting in a noticeable deterioration in their physical appearance.
  • Secrecy and deception: Some people may become secretive about their drug use, hide their substance abuse from loved ones, or engage in deceptive behaviors to conceal their habit.
  • Withdrawal from reality: In cases of frequent abuse, individuals may exhibit a preoccupation with altered states of consciousness, spending significant amounts of time contemplating or pursuing psychedelic experiences.

If you or a loved one is showing signs of psychedelic drug abuse, seeking professional assistance and support is advisable to address any potential issues and ensure their safety and well-being.

A man appears distressed, depicting the Signs and symptoms of psychedelic drug abuse

Potential Dangers of Psychedelic Drug Abuse

While psychedelic drugs have shown promise in various therapeutic contexts, their misuse and abuse can lead to a range of potential dangers and risks, including:

Polysubstance use

Abuse of psychedelic drugs often involves combining them with other substances, such as alcohol, opioids, or stimulants. This polydrug use can amplify the risks associated with drug interactions, increase the unpredictability of effects, and potentially trigger adverse physical and psychological outcomes.

Unpredictable effects

Psychedelic drugs can have highly variable effects and effects can vary significantly based on factors such as dosage, mindset, setting in which the drug is taken, and individual differences in brain chemistry. This unpredictability can lead to people making impulsive decisions and engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence, increasing the potential for accidents or harm.

Risk of harmful self-administration

Some people may attempt to self-administer psychedelic drugs without proper guidance or in unsupervised or inappropriate settings. This can lead to accidents, dangerous situations, and psychological distress, especially when the person is not adequately prepared or supported.

Anxiety and panic attacks

Some people may experience overwhelming anxiety or panic attacks during a psychedelic experience, which can be distressing and emotionally traumatic.

HPPD (hallucinogen persisting perception disorder)

This rare condition involves the persistence of visual disturbances or flashbacks long after the drug has worn off, impacting a person’s perception of reality.

Psychotic reactions

In extreme cases, psychedelic drug abuse can trigger acute psychotic reactions characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and impaired thinking. These episodes may require medical intervention and hospitalization.

Legal consequences

In most countries, including the United States, the possession, sale, or distribution of psychedelic substances is illegal. People caught abusing these drugs may face legal consequences, including criminal charges, fines, or imprisonment.

Lack of regulation

Black market psychedelic substances lack quality control and regulation. They can vary widely in terms of purity, content, and potency. This variability increases the risk of adulteration with other harmful substances, potentially leading to adverse reactions or health problems.

Potential for escalation

While psychedelics may have a lower potential for physical dependence than some other drugs, chronic abuse can still lead to escalating use. Over time, people may prioritize obtaining and using these substances over other important aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and physical well-being.

Approach the use of psychedelic drugs with caution, respect, and responsible decision-making. If someone is considering using psychedelics or is struggling with substance abuse related to these drugs, seeking professional guidance and support is advisable to minimize potential dangers and ensure safety and well-being.

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Table of Contents

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn