Despite Potential Medical Uses, Hallucinogens Are Still IllegalThere have been a number of stories in the news lately regarding the potential medical use of hallucinogens, especially for combat veterans. Psychedelic drugs have the potential to treat depressions, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Unfortunately, they have hallucinatory side effects, which state governments and the federal government consider dangerous.

Sci Tech Daily recently reported that scientists have discovered a new psychedelic-like drug that doesn’t have the side effects of hallucinogens. The new drug, discussed in the April 28 issue of Cell, looks like it may have the benefits of being a psychedelic drug without causing hallucinations. “Researchers report they have identified one such drug through the development of a genetically encoded fluorescent sensor — called psychLight — that can screen for hallucinogenic potential by indicating when a compound activates the serotonin 2A receptor.”

The sensor, according to Lin Tian, associate professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine in the School of Medicine at University of California, Davis and senior author of the article, holds promise because the researchers understand its mechanism: “Serotonin reuptake inhibitors have long been used for treating depression, but we don’t know much about their mechanism. It’s like a black box. This sensor allows us to image serotonin dynamics in real time when animals learn or are stressed and visualize the interaction between the compound of interest and the receptor in real time.”

Because psychedelics appear to “promote neural plasticity — essentially allowing the brain to rewire itself” – there is hope that patients would only need one or few doses of the drug, as opposed to having to take it long-term. However, the research has not yet determined whether or not the “patients would be able to gain the full benefit of neural plasticity without undergoing the ‘psychedelic trip’ part of the treatment.”

Classification of hallucinogens in the drug schedule

The breakthroughs in medical science may sound wonderous, but these drugs are still in the testing stage. For now, hallucinogens are still (generally) classified as Schedule I drugs under federal law. This means they have a high potential for abuse and no medical use that is currently accepted. Schedule I drugs are considered the most serious type of drug, while Schedule V drugs are considered the least serious.

In short, hallucinogens like LSD and PCP are controlled substances, and you can face serious fines and penalties under federal or Tennessee law for possession, use, manufacture, sale, and/or distribution of controlled substances. For any serious drug crime, you will likely face imprisonment. You may be charged with a felony. A criminal conviction can affect your ability to vote, own a firearm, obtain employment, get a school loan, or rent an apartment.

There may be alternatives to imprisonment such as having your case heard in a drug recovery court where the focus is more on rehabilitation than punishment.

Your questions, answered: What are hallucinogenic drugs?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, hallucinogens include various drugs that change a person’s “awareness of their surroundings as well as their own thoughts and feelings.” There are two types of hallucinogens:

  1. Classic hallucinogens
  2. Dissociative drugs

Both types of hallucinogens can cause unreal sensations. Dissociative drugs can cause users to feel “out of control or disconnected from their body and environment.” Some hallucinogens come from plants or mushrooms. Others are man-made.

A few common “classic” hallucinogens are:

  • LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide). This is a “powerful mind-altering chemical.” Lysergic acid is “found in a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.” LSD is also called mellow yellow, dots, acid, and blotter acid.
  • Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine). This drug is mushroom based. Other names include little smoke, magic mushrooms, and ‘shrooms.
  • Peyote (mescaline)“is a small, spineless cactus with mescaline as its main ingredient.” It can also be man-made. Other names include buttons, cactus, and mesc.
  • DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine). This is a tryptamine hallucinogenic similar to LSD. It is also called fantasia, the businessman’s trip and the spiritual molecule.

A few common dissociative hallucinogens are:

  • PCP (Phencyclidine). This drugwas developed in the 1950s as a general anesthetic for surgery, but it is no longer used for this purpose due to serious side effects.” Common names include Angel Dust, Hog, Love Boat, and Peace Pill.
  • Ketamineis “used as a surgery anesthetic for humans and animals.” The illegal form of the drug usually comes from veterinary offices. “Ketamine is snorted or sometimes added to drinks as a date-rape drug.” Some of the names for ketamine are Special K and Cat Valium.
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM)is a “cough suppressant and mucus-clearing ingredient in some over-the-counter cold and cough medicines (syrups, tablets, and gel capsules).” A common name for DXM is Robo.
  • Salvia (salvia divinorum). Salvia is an herb in the mint family. It is sometimes called magic mint, Sally-D, and diviner’s sage.

How are hallucinogens used?

Hallucinogens come in many forms. They can be swallowed, inhaled, injected, or brewed. Typically, people think hallucinogens like LSD come only in little paper “tabs” that melt on the tongue, and that magic mushrooms are eaten, but today’s hallucinogens can come in pill form or liquid form, too.

If you are a parent, you should be aware of the many forms these drugs can take, so that you can identify if your children are using them, and get them the help they need.

How do hallucinogens work?

Research suggests that “classic” hallucinogens work at least partially by “temporarily disrupting communication between brain chemical systems throughout the brain and spinal cord. Some hallucinogens interfere with the action of the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates”:

  • Mood
  • Sensory perception
  • Sleep
  • Hunger
  • Body temperature
  • Sexual behavior
  • Intestinal muscle control

Dissociative hallucinogenic drugs “interfere with the action of the brain chemical glutamate.” This chemical is what regulates:

  • Pain perception
  • Responses to the environment
  • Emotion
  • Learning and memory

There are many other short-term and long-term side effects. According to NIDA, overdoses are more likely with dissociative drugs than classic drugs though deaths and serious emergencies can happen with both types of hallucinogens.

At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, we fight for defendants accused of drug crimes. We assert your Constitutional rights including seeking to suppress the evidence of the seizure of the drugs. We assert all are legal and factual defenses that apply to your case. In addition to negotiating plea agreements, we explain what alternatives such as drug courts are available. For help with any drug charge, including possession of hallucinogens, call our office at 615-977-9370 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Franklin, Columbia, or Brentwood, Tennessee.