Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants

Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants

The general group of pharmacological agents commonly known as hallucinogens can be divided into three broad categories: psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants. These classes of psychoactive drugs have in common that they can cause subjective changes in perception, thought, emotion and consciousness. Unlike other psychoactive drugs, such as stimulants and opioids, the hallucinogens do not merely amplify familiar states of mind, but rather induce experiences that are qualitatively different from those of ordinary consciousness. These experiences are often compared to non-ordinary forms of consciousness such as trance, meditation, conversion experiences, and dreams.

One thing that most of these drugs do not do, despite the ingrained usage of the term "hallucinogen", is to cause hallucination. Hallucinations, strictly speaking, are perceptions that have no basis in reality, but that appear "entirely" realistic. A typical "hallucination" induced by a psychedelic drug is more accurately described as a modification of regular perception, and the subject is usually quite aware of the illusory and personal nature of their perceptions. Deliriants, such as diphenhydramine and atropine, may cause hallucinations in the proper sense.Fact|date=February 2008

Psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants have a long history of use within medicinal and religious traditions around the world. They are used in shamanic forms of ritual healing and divination, in initiation rites, and in the religious rituals of syncretistic movements such as União do Vegetal, Santo Daime, and the Native American Church.When used in religious practice, psychedelic drugs, as well as other substances like tobacco, are referred to as entheogens.

Starting in the mid-20th century, psychedelic drugs have been the object of extensive attention in the Western world. They have been and are being explored as potential therapeutic agents in treating depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, alcoholism, opioid addiction, cluster headaches, and other ailments. Early military research focused on their use as incapacitating agents. Intelligence agencies tested these drugs in the hope that they would provide an effective means of interrogation, with little success.

Yet the most popular, and at the same time most stigmatized, use of psychedelics in Western culture has been associated with the search for direct religious experience, enhanced creativity, personal development, and "mind expansion". The use of psychedelic drugs was a major element of the 1960s counterculture, where it became associated with various social movements and a general atmosphere of rebellion and strife between generations.

Despite prohibition, the recreational, spiritual, and medical use of psychedelics continues today. Organizations, such as Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies and the Heffter Research Institute, have arisen to foster research into their safety and efficacy, while advocacy groups such as the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics push for their legalization. In addition to this activity by proponents, hallucinogens are also widely used in basic science research to understand the mind and brain. In some cases, this includes research in humans, like that conducted by Roland Griffiths and colleagues [ [ Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance] ] .


The word psychedelic (From Ancient Greek ψυχή (psychê) "mind, soul" + δηλος (dêlos) "manifest, visible" + -ic) was coined to express the idea of a drug that makes manifest a hidden but real aspect of the mind. It is commonly applied to any drug with perception-altering effects such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, 2C-B, mescaline, and DOM as well as a panoply of other tryptamines, phenethylamines and yet more exotic chemicals, all of which appear to act mainly on the 5-HT2A receptor. Common herbal sources of psychedelics include psilocybe mushrooms, various ayahuasca preparations, peyote, San Pedro cactus, and the seeds of morning glory, and Hawaiian baby woodrose.

Much debate exists not only about the nature and causes, but even about the very description of the effects of psychedelic drugs. One prominent tradition involves the "reducing valve" concept, first articulated in Aldous Huxley's book "The Doors of Perception". [cite book |last=Huxley |first=Aldous |title=The Doors of Perception |url= |format=htm |accessdate=2006-03-08 |year=1954 |publisher=Harper & Bros |location=London |pages=63] In this view, the drugs disable the brain's "filtering" ability to selectively prevent certain perceptions, emotions, memories and thoughts from ever reaching the conscious mind. This effect has been described as "mind expanding", or "consciousness expanding", for the drug "expands" the realm of experience available to conscious awareness. A large number of drugs, such as cannabis and Ecstasy, produce effects that could be classified as psychedelic (especially at higher doses) but are not considered to be strictly psychedelic drugs due to other effects that may be more (or equally) prevalent, such as sedation or disinhibition. In addition, drugs such as cannabis do not affect serotonin receptors like "true" psychedelics.

Psychedelic effects can vary depending on the precise drug, dosage, set, and setting. "Trips" range between the short but intense effects of intravenous DMT to the protracted ibogaine experience, which can last for days. Appropriate dosage ranges from extremely low (LSD) to rather high (mescaline). Some drugs, like the auditory hallucinogen DIPT, act specifically to distort a single sense, and others have more diffuse effects on cognition generally. Some are more conducive to solitary experiences, while others are positively empathogenic.

Many psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and numerous others) are non-toxic, making it difficult to overdose on these compounds.

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