Hallucinogens
by Julian Heicklen
 

The hallucinogens included in federal and Pennsylvania statutes are cocaine, marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinols (THCs), amphetamines, its derivatives and immediate precursors, bufotenine, tryptamine derivatives, ibogaine, lysergic acid and its derivatives, mescaline, piperidyl benzilate derivatives, psilocybin, psilocyn, peyote, phenylcyclidene (PCP) and its derivatives, and methaqualone. It is misleading to include marijuana and THCs in this list. Though a small percentage of users have reported hallucinations from marijuana use, these users have discontinued use. Marijuana is not used as a hallucinogen.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drugs in five schedules. All of the hallucinogens are in included in Schedules I–III.

Schedule I. Drugs with no accepted medical use in the United States and having high probability for abuse: amphetamine derivatives, marijuana, mescaline, peyote, phenylcyclidine analogs, psilocybin, tetrahydrocannabinols, and methaqualone For a first offense, possession with intent to distribute can produce sentences of 20 years to life and fines of one to five million dollars.

Schedule II. Drugs with a high probability of abuse and causative of severe dependence: cocaine, immediate precursors to amphetamines, methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP). These have medicinal use under close supervision. Penalties for violation are the same as for Schedule I drugs.

Schedule III. Drugs with lesser probability for abuse, such as amphetamines, lysergic Acid, lysergic acid amides. These are available only by prescription.

However these classifications are somewhat arbitrary, and do not necessarily have any correlation with reality. Marijuana has been used as a medicine for 4800 years. It still is used for this purpose legally in some parts of the world and illegally in the United States. THCs are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration as a prescription medicine under the trade name of Marinol. It can be purchased at your local pharmacy.

The use of the hallucinogens lysergic acid diamide (LSD) and PCP by high-school seniors is analyzed in detail in Figure 1. This figure shows usage in the past year, in the past 30 days, and by casual users (the difference between past year and past 30-day users). The usage of these hallucinogens follows trends similar to those for marijuana and cocaine. Usage among high-school seniors declined to minima 1989 or 1990, and then rose again, reaching peak usage in all three groups in 1995. The percentage of high-school seniors using these hallucinogens in 1994 was: 3.2% for current users (within the last 30 days), 4.6% for casual users (within the last year, but not the last 30 days), adding up to 7.8% for users within the last year. The current use of hallucinogens among high-school seniors is higher than that for cocaine or for all the opiates combined.

Figure 1: Use of Hallucinogens by High-School Seniors. Casual users are defined as the difference between last-year users and last 30-day users. Hallucinogens include LSD and PCP. Data from Bureau of Justice Statistics Report NCJ–158900 (1996).

The use of hallucinogens, and illicit drugs in general, has shown a dramatic rise in the 1990s despite the fact that the population in state prisons for drug violations has risen equally dramatically: from 38,900 in 1985 to 148,600 in 1990 to 224,900 in 1995. These numbers do not include those incarcerated in federal or county prisons. It could be argued that incarceration actually spreads the use of illicit drugs.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a synthetic drug that triggers perceptual and thought changes. Users report that colors seem brighter, shapes are distorted, and boundaries shift and dissolve. LSD increases blood pressure and body temperature, and accelerates heart and reflex rate. It can produce feelings of great insight as well as anxiety, depression, and acute panic. LSD is not addictive.

Phencyclidine (PCP) is a synthetic drug that was used as an anesthetic in veterinary medicine. It probably is the most unpredictable of the psychoactive drugs. Its effects include euphoria, numbness, reduced inhibitions, paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. In high doses, it can cause convulsions, coma, and death. PCP's effects are intensified by alcohol and depressants, increasing the risk of overdose. Like LSD, PCP can cause "bad trips" that recur later through flashbacks.

Goldstein and Kalant (1990) have summarized the harmful medical effects of drugs. For cocaine and amphetamines, these are: sympathetic overactivity: hypertension, cardiac arrhythermias, hyperthermia, anorexia, and acute toxic psychosis (delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, violence) from acute toxicity; and paresthesias, stereotypy. seizures, withdrawal depression, chronic rhinitis, and perforation of nasal septum from chronic toxicity. For LSD and PCP, these are: sympathetic overactivity. visual and auditory illusions, hallucinations, depersonalization, and for PCP only: muscle rigidity, hyperpyrexia, ataxia, agitation, violence, stereotypy, and convulsions for acute toxicity; and flashbacks, depression, and prolonged psychotic episodes for chronic toxicity.

The number of hospital emergency department drug mentions per year are given in Figure 2. Drug mentions for all drugs went through minima in 1990 and have been rising each year since then.

Figure 2: Hospital Emergency Department Drug Mentions. Data from Office of National Drug Control Policy (1996).