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Ages & Stages


Hallucinogenic drugs, on the wane throughout the 1980s, found a receptive constituency in 1990s adolescents. By the end of the decade, annual use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) by high-school seniors was the highest it had ever been: one in twelve.

The effects of most hallucinogens are unpredictable. They depend on the amount taken; the user’s personality, mood and expectations; and the surroundings in which the drug is used. Usually, a teenager begins to feel the initial effects of the drug within thirty to ninety minutes. In addition to producing physical symptoms, psychedelics can bring about rapid mood swings, delusions, visual hallucinations, distortions of time and a phenomenon called synesthesia, in which the user “tastes” sounds or “hears” colors.

Hallucinogenic “trips” range from less than an hour on DMT, to six hours on psilocybin, to twelve hours on LSD and peyote. On a bad trip, which can happen the first time the drug is taken or anytime thereafter, users are entombed in terrifying thoughts and feelings, panic, fear of going insane or dying and despair that they’ll be trapped in this state forever like passengers on an endless ride through an amusement-park house of horrors.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, today’s acid is about one-third as strong as it was during the drug’s original heyday in the late 1960s. The lower dose, or tab, produces milder effects and fewer horrific trips. Many LSD users experience what are called flashbacks, in which their minds briefly replay the visual hallucinations of a previous trip. A flashback comes on without warning and may occur a few days or many months after their last psychedelic excursion. It may never recur again or happen repeatedly. It’s not known why some people are tormented more than others, but stress, fatigue and drug abuse are all believed to trigger episodes.

Related Paraphernalia

  • Vials
  • Resealable plastic bags and bottles of pills, powder, liquid
  • Syringes
  • Eyedroppers

Legal or Illegal

Illegal. No medical uses.

Signs of Hallucinogen Use

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • “seeing” sounds and “hearing” colors
  • A trancelike state
  • Excitation
  • Euphoria
  • Seesawing emotions or feeling several emotions at the same time
  • Distortions of time, space, body image
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Sleeplessness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors
  • Appetite loss
  • Profuse sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Slurred speech
  • Bizarre, irrational, paranoid and/or aggressive behavior
  • Detachment from others

Effects of PCP (phencyclidine)

At Low To Moderate Doses:

  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate, flushed skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Numbness of the arms and legs
  • Lack of coordination
  • Feeling of detachment, estrangement

At High Doses:

  • Drop in blood pressure, pulse rate and respiration
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid, involuntary eye movements
  • Drooling
  • Garbled, incoherent speech
  • Dizziness, loss of balance
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Hallucinations
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Distorted images
  • Amnesia
  • Delusions
  • Paranoid, violent behavior
  • Enhanced muscle strength and lowered pain perception, a dangerous
  • Combination
  • Jumbled thinking
  • Time and body movements seem to occur in slow motion

Possible Long-Term Effects

  • Unpredictable flashbacks to a previous “trip”
  • Schizophrenia
  • Severe depression
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired speech
  • Weight loss
  • Irregular menstruation

In teenagers, chronic PCP use may interfere with hormones related to normal growth and development, and impair their ability to learn.

Last Updated
Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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