31 Aug What Are Dissociative Drugs?
Dissociative drugs are a type of drug that causes hallucinogenic effects such as an altered perception of sight and sound. They are sometimes called hallucinogenic drugs as well. The feeling of detachment from one’s self or environment is also a pronounced effect of dissociative drugs. This class of drugs includes PCP, LSD and Ketamine. You can sometimes find drugs that cause these effects in cold medicine sold over the counter without a prescription. They are also commonly used to sedate patients during surgery. However, they are also sold on the street and can become addictive.
How Do Dissociative Drugs Work?
Dissociative drugs disrupt glutamate action, which causes a blockage of signals from various parts of your brain to your conscious mind. Glutamate is a brain chemical that helps you perceive pain as well as emotion and cognition. The signal-loss is what causes sensory deprivation, hallucinations and the waking-dream trances that many people experience when using these drugs. Some dissociative drugs also cause strong depressive effects, which is why they can be used as sedatives.
Short-Term Side Effects of Dissociative Drugs
When you take dissociative drugs, you can expect a range of visual and aural distortions. You might have the feeling of floating and being detached from reality. At low to moderate doses, you can expect the following effects:
• Confusion and disorientation
• Loss of coordination
• Changes in sensory perception
• Raised heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and body temperature
High doses of dissociative drugs can have even more pronounced effects, including dangerous physical distress and psychological disturbances like panic, aggression and exaggerated strength. If you combine these drugs with high doses of alcohol, you could be at risk for respiratory arrest and death.
These are just general effects of dissociative drugs. High doses of specific dissociative drugs have their own unique effects. For example, high doses of PCP can cause psychotic symptoms and seizures. Ketamine use at high doses can result in an almost total loss of sensory perception, which has been compared to a near-death experience.
Long-Term Side Effects of Dissociative Drugs
The long-term effects of hallucinogenic drugs haven’t been extensively studied, but it is possible for the drugs to lead to tolerance and addiction. Addiction is often preceded by dependence, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms when drug use is reduced or stopped. Some withdrawal symptoms of dissociative drugs include the following:
• Suicidal thoughts
Other long-term effects include HPPD, memory loss, depression, social withdrawal and difficulties in speaking.
What Is Hallucinogen-Induced Persisting Perceptual Disorder (HPPD)?
HPPD is another problem with long-term use of dissociative drugs. This disorder causes you to keep reliving the visual portion of a hallucinogenic trip. These frequent visual disturbances can be disorienting and frustrating. You may feel anxiety as to when they might happen next. What happens when you have an HPPD flashback? You might see the following vision effects:
• Size distortion
• Bright circles
• Blurry patterns
• Changes in color perception
• Still objects appearing to move
• Visual snow
HPPD flashbacks only involve visual disturbances. They don’t replicate the actual experience of taking dissociative drugs. People who have them are typically aware that they’re having a flashback and that what they’re seeing isn’t real. There are two types of HPPD flashbacks:
1. Experiencing random, short flashbacks off and on
2. Continual vision changes that come and go
Alongside the visual disturbances, some people with HPPD also experience panic attacks, depression, anxiety and depersonalization disorder.
Can You Get Addicted to Dissociative Drugs?
In general, hallucinogens can be addictive, and you can develop a tolerance. However, not all drugs in this category are necessarily addictive. For example, LSD may cause intense trips, but it usually doesn’t cause compulsive drug-seeking. You can become tolerant of it and need more to get the same effect. PCP, on the other hand, can definitely be addictive. When you stop using it, you’re likely to experience cravings, sweating and headaches as withdrawal symptoms.
Can You Overdose on Dissociative Drugs?
Like with addiction, it depends on which drug is being used. Hallucinogens can be very unpleasant at high doses, but the dose itself is not usually life-threatening. PCP can cause coma and death at high doses, and especially when taken with alcohol or benzodiazepines. The biggest risk of taking dissociative drugs is not overdose, but the way the drugs alter your perception of reality. Hallucinogen users might engage in actions and behaviors that they would never try off the drug. Feelings of invulnerability may cause them to do something like jump off a roof or run into traffic.
Types of Dissociative Drugs
LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide) comes from fungus that grows on grains. It typically comes in the form of a clear or white material with no smell.
Psilocybin (4-phosphoryloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine) is derived from mushrooms that grow in tropical areas like South and Central America.
Peyote (mescaline) is a type of cactus, but it can also be made synthetic sources.
DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine) comes from a naturally-occurring chemical in certain types of Amazon plants. DMT can also be made in a synthetic form.
251-NBOMe is a fully synthetic hallucinogen that is similar to LSD but much more potent.
PCP (Phencyclidine) was originally intended for surgery applications when it was invented in the 1950s. However, it’s no longer used in these situations due to the side effects.
Ketamine is also used in surgery applications but is known for being used as a date-rape drug.
Dextromethorphan (DXM) is an ingredient found in various cold medicines to clear mucous and suppress coughs.
Salvia (Salvia divinorum) comes from a leafy plant found in Mexico, Central and South America.
How Dissociative Drugs Are Used
As indicated in the previous section, some types of dissociative drugs originally had a practical use, which was usually for surgery or anesthesia. However, many of the drugs from natural sources were always used to achieve a trance-like state. The most common ways to use these drugs are in pill form, liquid form or brewing into tea. Some dissociative drugs can also be snorted, smoked or injected.
Treatment For a Dissociative Drug Addiction
Addiction treatment for dissociative drugs starts through seeking help at a quality drug rehab like New Method Wellness. Detox is often a necessary first step, but the key is providing personalized addiction treatment. We use a range of evidence-based treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy as well as holistic approaches.
If you or a loved one needs treatment for an addiction to dissociative drugs, reach out to New Method Wellness today!