Title:   Drug Proofing the Family
 Authors:   Erica Wittenberg & Jim Parker

 Publication Date:

  September 2003

 Catalog No:


..LSD, Ecstasy & Other Hallucinogens

This group includes a hodge-podge of chemicals that cause a range of sensory distortions, emotional changes, and hallucinatory effects. In fact, the word psychedelic (mind-manifesting) was coined by an early researcher to label the drugs, whose effects were thought to be otherwise indescribable.

Today we know they may be remarkable, but they are describable, at least in general terms. Still, it is a tricky task, because unlike other drugs we've discussed thus far, psychedelics don't necessarily act alike -- or even look much alike.

LSD (AKA "acid"), for instance, is an odorless and tasteless liquid that's dripped onto squares of blotter paper (often imprinted with such youth-culture icons as Beavis and Butt-head or Bart Simpson), while psilocybin mushrooms (AKA "shrooms") and the mescaline-bearing buttons of the peyote cactus are plants native to North America.

There's also an alphabet soup of speed-based psychedelics, including MDMA ("ecstasy," "XTC," or just "E"), DMT, and 2C-B ("U4EA"), that are sold in tablet form and produce more-or-less similar effects, and such anesthetic-deliriants as ketamine ("Special K") and phencyclidine (or PCP), that can turn up as a tablet, capsule, powder, or even soaked into cigarettes.

Short-term effects really are hard to generalize about the psychedelics, since they're largely shaped by specifics of drug and dosage and the interplay of psychological set -- user experience, expectations, and mood -- and physical setting. Emotional effects can range from pleasant, even "cosmic," feelings of serenity to intense fear and panic.

Psychedelics most used by teens today are LSD and ecstasy, often in raves -- all-night dance parties aimed at triggering a trance-like, communal vibe via a continuous current of pulsating techno music.

According to a national survey in 2002, 8.4 percent of high school seniors reported trying LSD, while 10.5 percent admitted using MDMA.

The good news about that is the drugs they're trying are less potent (and thus less likely to cause serious, lasting harm) than similar drugs in the past.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, current average LSD dosage ranges from 20-80 micrograms, down sharply from the 150-250 mcg common a generation ago.

And the tablet form of MDMA makes "ecstasy" a lot less likely to cause agony -- and accidental overdose -- than powder MDA, its 1960's ancestor.

That's probably a main reason that psychedelic use has been on the upswing in recent years. That doesn't mean problems can't happen -- they can and do.

In fact, "behavioral toxicity" -- drownings, falls, auto fatalities -- is one of the most serious risks associated with high-dose LSD use.

MDMA is more likely to cause high body temperature, which when combined with the frenzied dancing that takes place at raves, has put some young users in the hospital, and at least a handful in the morgue.

In addition, some psychedelics -- especially high-dose forms of LSD and PCP -- also trigger "flashbacks" -- usually recurrences of panic and other aspects of a bad trip, days or weeks after taking the drug. According to the best evidence, flashbacks aren't caused by traces of the drug in the body, but are more likely to be an instant-imprint conditioned response to panic.

Still, even if a flashback is just an anxiety attack and only plays itself out in a user's head, that doesn't make the experience any easier to take, particularly for a younger person.

If anything, it can seem more intimidating than a real drug freak-out, since a panic-stricken teen can assume the problem is in his or her own mind, and is likely to be permanent.

And even though such panic rarely lasts more than an hour or so, big trees can grow from little seeds.

Marijuana Alcohol/Downers Heroin/Narcotics Stimulants
....Cocaine/Crack Hallucinogens Inhalants Other Resources


Continue with Chapter 7: Starting Points
Go to Table of Contents

This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health by Do It Now Foundation. Check us out online at www.doitnow.org.