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Scores of substances with widely varying chemical compositions are known to have similar psychoactive effects on the human brain. Some of these compounds are natural substances, some are extracts of these substances, and some are manufactured synthetically.

The effects of these drugs vary significantly with each user. These variations are due in part to expectations, environment, and other non-pharmacological factors. Several drugs, like LSD, have been previously used in psychotherapy. Today, these have little use, if any, in psychotherapy.

These drugs are usually taken orally. Tolerance to these drugs builds rapidly and significantly. The effects of these drugs varies from minutes to several hours. Effects, both undesirable and favorable, are primarily psychological. LSD was not discovered until 1938. Its effects on the brain remained unknown until 1943.

Numerous other drugs with similar effects have been around since prehistoric times and the plants that grow these drugs can grow almost anywhere. These drugs have been used by people around the world. Frequently, the use of these drugs was considered a mystical or religious phenomenon that brought the people closer to the gods and nature.

Natural Hallucinogens: Mushrooms grow all around the world. There are thousands of different types; some are safe and edible, some are poisonous, and some contain a hallucinogen. This natural hallucinogen is a chemical called psilocybin. These mushrooms can be eaten, cooked, dried, or crushed. They are often taken orally in capsules or tablets.

The psilocybin causes the senses to perceive things in ways that are not normal. Users often see very colorful hallucinations, feel light-headed, or feel very relaxed. Psilocybin can also cause diarrhea and cramps. There can also be flashbacks. The effects usually start about fifteen minutes after ingestion and can continue up to nine hours.

Peyote is a short spineless cactus with a crown or "button" and a long carrot-like root. It grows in the deserts of Mexico and the southwestern United States. The crown contains a chemical called mescaline. This crown is sliced off and dried to form a mescal button. This button is held in the mouth until soft and then swallowed whole or used to make a tea.

Mescaline can also be made synthetically. It is often found in the form of a capsule or tablet. Again, mescaline changes or interrupts the normal functions of the brain and causes hallucinations. About an hour after ingestion, nausea and vomiting are not uncommon.

Ragged breathing, increased heart rate, and tremors are also possible. These effects can last up to 12 hours. Its responses are extremely variable. Kaleidoscope type effects, "seeing" music in colors, and "hearing" of a painting as music represent some of the sensory experiences reported. The Aztecs of South America used peyote in religious ceremonies as did Native Americans.

Synthetic Hallucinogens: LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is often referred to as acid. In 1943, five years after its original discovery, Dr. Hoffman was working in his pharmaceutical laboratory when he became ill. Trying to retrace his work on fungus, he discovered he had manufactured one known as LSD-25.

This was the only variable he could find that was different. To test his theory, he administered a small amount to himself and sat down to take notes. After nearly an hour, he noted dizziness, restlessness, visual disturbance, and an uncontrollable laughter. These notes were the last in his book and were done with great difficulty.

Dr. Hoffman proceeded to experience a six-hour LSD "trip". The next day he felt well but very tired. This was the first reported and documented case of LSD effects. Since that time LSD has been tested by the military for its use in brainwashing and even disabling an enemy force.

It was quickly replaced by more specific and effective compounds. The medical profession used it in psychotherapy but the use has waned since the mid-1960's. In 1962, LSD became a popular black-market drug. Due to the tightening of supply by the manufacturer and FDA regulations, a black-market evolved very quickly.

This market actually increased supply of the drug to the point it was being exported out of the United States. Legislation was passed in 1966 making it illegal to manufacture and distribute LSD. LSD is one of the most powerful drugs made. One five gram tablet (the size of an aspirin) contains enough LSD to produce effects in three thousand people.

It is one hundred times stronger than psilocybin and more than four thousand times stronger than mescaline. LSD is a tasteless, colorless, odorless white powder. It can be made into tablets, capsules, or a liquids. It is usually swallowed but is often injected into a vein. LSD affects the way the brain functions, specifically affecting the serotonin receptors of the brain.

The effect begins thirty to ninety minutes after ingestion and can last up to twelve hours. This effect is commonly referred to as a "trip". LSD's effects are very similar to the other hallucinogens described but are stronger. Emotional swings are common and can happen rapidly.

This can be very frightening to the user. It can also cause them to lose sight of "normal" actions or consequences. The user may attempt superhuman acts or feel very out of control. Flashbacks can occur years later even if they never use the drug again. Physical effects of LSD use are sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors.

It can also raise the heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure. PCP, or phencyclidine, is often called "angel dust" or "killer weed". PCP is the most dangerous hallucinogen. It is also widely used. Unlike some other hallucinogens, users become very dependent on PCP. PCP was originally developed for use as an adjunct in anesthesia. It was soon learned that it caused confusion, hallucinations, anxiety, seizures, and even brain damage.

PCP is a pure, white crystalline powder. It is often swallowed in capsules or tablets, sniffed, or injected. It is usually sprayed or sprinkled on marijuana, tobacco, or crushed parsley and smoked. These cigarettes are called "hot", "mist", or "sherman". PCP effects begin two to five minutes after ingestion, peak in about two hours, and can last up to six hours.

The residual effects take up to two days to go away. Flashbacks are also common with PCP and can occur months later. When under the influence of PCP, things are heard and seen in a very different way. PCP affects normal motor functions like walking or talking. Increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, blurred vision, dizziness, numbness, nervousness, irritation, inability to concentrate and restlessness are frequent side-effects.

Serious side-effects range from coma, and convulsions, to heart failure, and stroke. PCP can cause unusual and unpredictable changes in behavior. They may attempt superhuman feats or commit violent crimes. They often resemble someone with serious mental problems.


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