Alcohol and Hallucinogens
Using alcohol and hallucinogens together is highly dangerous. The combined effects of alcohol and hallucinogens can provoke serious health complications and cause co-occurring addictions.
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Mixing Alcohol and Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are a group of drugs which have the potential to inflict harm and cause addiction. They are not a harmless way to have fun, and they are even more dangerous when combined with alcohol. Using hallucinogens and drinking alcohol at the same time is risky for a person’s physical and mental health.
Nevertheless, some people who use hallucinogens also drink alcohol. This is because they believe that alcohol will improve their hallucination experiences and because the lifestyles and settings which encourage alcohol abuse also encourage experimenting with drugs.
What Are Hallucinogens?
The term “hallucinogens” applies to a variety of mind-altering drugs. As their name suggests, hallucinogens cause hallucinations, or false perceptions of reality. Some hallucinogens are also dissociative drugs, which have the additional effect of causing users to feel detached from reality. Some dissociative hallucinogens even cause people to lose control of themselves and behave violently and recklessly. Common non-dissociative hallucinogens include DMT (or ayahuasca), LSD, mescaline (or peyote), and psilocybin mushrooms. Common dissociative drugs include PCP, ketamine, and salvia. All of these drugs are illegal in the United States.
Hallucinogens work by interacting with the serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which plays an important role in the regulation of cognition and emotion. Some dissociative drugs also disrupt the functions of glutamate, another chemical in the brain which influences cognition as well as sensations of pain. Each hallucinogen affects the mind and body differently, and each user will have a different experience. In general, people who use hallucinogens expect the drugs to make them feel relaxed, stimulated, and even “enlightened.” A typical “trip” on most hallucinogens lasts anywhere from two to twelve hours.
How Are Hallucinogens Dangerous?
Some people who try hallucinogens may suffer a “bad trip.” Such an experience might involve terrifying hallucinations, extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. Many people who have used hallucinogens have been traumatized by “bad trips,” which some of them describe as living through a nightmare. Repeatedly using hallucinogens can have long-term consequences, such as memory loss, weakened cognition, and depression. It is even possible to overdose on certain dissociative drugs, such as PCP, which can cause seizures.
Since hallucinogens distort the mind, they impair people’s judgment and compel them to engage in risky behaviors. People who are under the influence of hallucinogens have been known to attack others or harm themselves. Furthermore, hallucinogens can be addictive. Most hallucinogens cause tolerance, which compels users to take more hallucinogens in larger doses to continue experiencing their effects. A heavy hallucinogens user who develops an addiction to the drugs will experience withdrawal when they stop using them. The symptoms of hallucinogens withdrawal include intense cravings, depression, and psychosis.
How Alcohol Interacts With Hallucinogens
Since the effects of hallucinogens are unpredictable, the ways in which hallucinogens will react to alcohol are also unpredictable. Nevertheless, it is certain that alcohol and hallucinogens are a high-risk combination. Someone who uses DMT, LSD, peyote, or any other hallucinogen and also drinks alcohol may suffer from nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms of combining hallucinogens with alcohol include faintness, headaches, and panic attacks. Mixing the two substances may also increase a person’s heart rate. In more serious cases, the combination of alcohol and hallucinogens might even cause someone to lose consciousness or have a seizure. Mixing alcohol with certain hallucinogens, such as Ecstasy, can also raise the body’s temperatures to dangerous levels.
Additionally, alcohol increases a person’s likelihood of suffering a “bad trip” by enhancing frightening hallucinations and worsening feelings of depression which often accompany unpleasant hallucinogen experiences. The effects of hallucinogens, many of which impair self-awareness, sometimes prevent people from realizing how much alcohol they’ve already consumed, thereby causing them to drink more. This places hallucinogen users at risk for alcohol poisoning. Finally, since both alcohol and hallucinogens impair judgment, a person who uses them together is likely to behave recklessly and endanger others, especially by driving.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Alcohol and Hallucinogen Addiction
Both alcohol and hallucinogens are addictive substances, and it is possible for a person to be addicted to both of them. If someone is addicted to both alcohol and one or more hallucinogens, they are suffering from co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring disorders are more complicated to treat than stand-alone addictions because two addictions often thrive upon one another. In other words, breaking away from using hallucinogens is often difficult unless someone is committed to also breaking away from alcohol abuse, if they are accustomed to using alcohol and hallucinogens together. Otherwise, using one substance might be the catalyst for using the other substance again.
For this reason, many treatment facilities across the country specialize in treating co-occurring disorders together. Treatment for co-occurring alcohol and hallucinogen addiction will vary from person to person, but will likely involve detox and inpatient and outpatient rehab with medication and therapy.
Get Help Today
If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome addiction to alcohol and hallucinogens, contact a dedicated treatment professional today to learn more about the options for treatment. Recovery is possible with the right approach and the right support.
- Medical Reviewer — Last Reviewed: July 10, 2019
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (revised 2019). What are Hallucinogens? Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (updated 2015). How do Hallucinogens (LSB, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body? Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/what-are-effects-common-dissociative-drugs-brain-body
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (updated 2015). What are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body? Retrieved on May 23, 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/what-are-effects-common-dissociative-drugs-brain-body
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