Addiction Drug Use Hallucinogens Are Psychedelics Addictive? By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry Facebook Twitter Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 12, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print David Buzzard - media-centre.ca/Moment/Getty Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Are Psychedelics Addictive? What Do Psychedelics Do? How Do Psychedelics Work? Potential Side Effects Other Risks to Consider Psychedelics are hallucinogenic substances that lead to changes in perceptions, sensations, moods, and cognitions. These drugs can have various effects, including feelings of euphoria, changes in perception and cognition, and visual hallucinations. Evidence suggests that psychedelics are generally not addictive. However, some psychedelics may lead to tolerance. They can also have other health risks. This article discusses whether any psychedelics pose the risk for addiction, how these substances work, and why they may have some potential in treating mental health conditions. It also covers other potential health risks. What Happens To Your Brain When You're On Psychedelics Are Psychedelics Addictive? Psychedelics are generally not considered addictive. This means that people do not become physically dependent on them and do not engage in compulsive drug-seeking behavior. They also do not experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using psychedelics. What Is Addiction? The "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-5-TR) defines addiction as a chronic and relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite adverse consequences, and long-lasting changes to the brain. However, some psychedelics, such as LSD, can produce tolerance. Tolerance means that a person has to keep taking higher doses of a substance to experience the same effects. This can be potentially dangerous because the effects of the drug can be unpredictable. LSD also creates a cross-tolerance to some other psychedelics, including psilocybin and mescaline. This means that if a person takes LSD, they would experience decreased effects if they took magic mushrooms. What Do Psychedelics Do? When people take psychedelic substances, they experience visual hallucinations. Changes in thinking and perception accompany these hallucinations. Euphoric moods, an altered sense of time, feelings of introspection, and spiritual experiences are also common. Types of Psychedelics LSD: This psychedelic is clear or white and made from lysergic acid. It can cause profound changes in perception, mood, and cognition that can last as long as 12 hours. Psilocybin: This substance is found in certain types of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Mescaline: This substance is found in certain types of cactus, including peyote. DMT: This is a naturally-occurring psychedelic found in the nuts and barks of certain types of trees. The therapeutic uses of psychedelics were an early interest in the 1950s and 1960s, but research on their effects was halted with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. These substances are still classified as Schedule I drugs, which indicates that they have a high potential for misuse. There has recently been a resurgence of interest in their therapeutic potential. Research suggests that psychedelics may be effective in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including: Anxiety disorders: Studies have found that psychedelics may help relieve anxiety symptoms and other mood disorders. Depression: Ongoing research has shown that psychedelic therapy has promise in treating depression. Alcohol and substance use disorders: Emerging research indicates that psychedelics might be helpful for people recovering from substance use disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Research indicates that MDMA, also known as ecstasy or molly, may be beneficial for people with treatment-resistant PTSD. While MDMA is not a classic psychedelic drug, it does have psychedelic effects. Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Verywell Mind Survey How Do Psychedelics Work? Psychedelic drugs impact the neural circuits in the brain that utilize the neurotransmitter serotonin, particularly those in the prefrontal cortex. Their action in this area of the brain leads to mood, perception, and cognition changes. Psychedelics act as agonists or partial agonists on serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine 2A receptors in the brain. In addition to affecting serotonin receptors, psychedelics also impact areas of the brain that play a role in regulating arousal and stress responses. Potential Side Effects While psychedelics are not addictive, they can produce short-term and long-term effects. Shortly after taking a psychedelic substance, people begin to experience hallucinations. Such effects begin within 90 minutes of ingesting the substance and can last as long as 12 hours. In addition to these psychedelic effects, people may also experience side effects such as: AnxietyDespairDizzinessDry mouthIncreased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperatureImpulsivenessPanicParanoiaRapid changes in emotionSleeplessnessTremors or weakness Combining psychedelics with other substances that affect serotonin levels may increase the risk of developing serotonin syndrome. This condition occurs when there is too much serotonin in the body, leading to symptoms such as muscle spasms, confusion, tremors, nausea, and rapid heartbeat. Serotonin syndrome can also lead to high fever, muscle breakdown, seizures and death. Other Risks to Consider The effects of psychedelics can be highly variable and unpredictable. Factors such as the substance used, the quantity ingested, mood, expectations, personality, and setting can all play a part in how a psychedelic experience takes place. In some instances, people may experience what is known as a "bad trip," where they have intense feelings of panic and frightening thoughts. While it is possible to overdose on psychedelics, it is rare. An overdose that results in death is also unlikely. According to NIDA, other serious effects may include persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD). Persistent psychosis is marked by visual and mood disturbances, disorganized thinking, and paranoia. HPPD is marked by hallucinations, visual disturbances, and symptoms often mistaken for neurological symptoms. These two side effects are rare but serious. A history of psychological problems may increase the risk of experiencing these effects, but they can also occur following a single use. However, other research has found no link between LSD and other psychedelics and psychosis. Based on population surveys of people who had used LSD, psilocybin, and peyote (mescaline), researchers found no increased risk for mental health problems, including schizophrenia, psychosis, anxiety disorder, depression, or suicide attempts. Summary Psychedelics can lead to intense hallucinogenic experiences, but they are not addictive since they do not lead to compulsive use. However, people can develop a tolerance, meaning they will need to take more of the drug to achieve the same psychedelic effects. While they are not addictive, they have risks, including the possibility of a bad trip. Research into their use in treating mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance use disorders is ongoing. A Word From Verywell Psychedelics are not considered addictive, but this does not mean they are safe or without side effects. While these substances show promise in treating various mental health conditions, this does not mean you should use them on your own for such purposes. If you are interested in psychedelic therapy, your best bet at this time is to sign up for an ongoing research trial. after consulting with your primary care doctor. 12 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Nichols DE. Psychedelics. Pharmacol Rev. 2016 Apr;68(2):264-355. doi:10.1124/pr.115.011478 American Psychiatric Association (APA). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed, text revision. Washington, D.C.; 2022. National Institute on Drug Abuse. What are hallucinogens? United States Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug scheduling. Tupper KW, Wood E, Yensen R, Johnson MW. Psychedelic medicine: A re-emerging therapeutic paradigm. CMAJ. 2015;187(14):1054-1059. doi:10.1503/cmaj.141124 Forstmann M, Yudkin DA, Prosser AMB, Heller SM, Crockett MJ. Transformative experience and social connectedness mediate the mood-enhancing effects of psychedelic use in naturalistic settings. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2020;117(5):2338-2346. doi:10.1073/pnas.1918477117 Garcia-Romeu A, Davis AK, Erowid F, Erowid E, Griffiths RR, Johnson MW. Cessation and reduction in alcohol consumption and misuse after psychedelic use. J Psychopharmacol. 2019;33(9):1088-1101. doi:10.1177/0269881119845793 Mithoefer MC, Feduccia AA, Jerome L, et al. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: Study design and rationale for phase 3 trials based on pooled analysis of six phase 2 randomized controlled trials. Psychopharmacology. 2019;236:2735–2745. doi:10.1007/s00213-019-05249-5 National Institute on Drug Abuse. How do hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin, peyote, DMT, and ayahuasca) affect the brain and body? National Institute on Drug Abuse. How do hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin, peyote, DMT, and ayahuasca) affect the brain and body? Solof B. The Therapist's Guide to Addiction Medicine: A Handbook for Addiction.Central Recovery Press. 2013. Johansen PØ, Krebs TS. Psychedelics not linked to mental health problems or suicidal behavior: A population study. J Psychopharmacol. 2015;29(3):270-279. doi:10.1177/0269881114568039 By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.