What About Hallucinogens?

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the type of drug known as hallucinogen is a very interesting subject among young people today. Actually, for decades we’ve been dealing with the damage from these dangerous and poorly understood chemicals.

Examples of Sheets of Doses of LSD
Examples of Sheets of Doses of the Drug LSD

Depicted in movies and popular music and pop culture as a way to “Expand Your Mind”, hallucinogens have been circulating in modern society for over fifty years and doing a lot of damage along the way. Some of the names are, shrooms, angel dust, hell’s bells, and acid.

Acid, AKA LSD, is the granddaddy of these drugs in terms of strength and unpredictability.

What exactly is LSD?

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is a listed by the Food and Drug Administration as a “schedule I” drug. Substances in this schedule have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a high potential for abuse and a lack of accepted safety for use, even under medical supervision.

First synthesized in 1938 by Albert Hofmann, a pharmacist working in the Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz, LSD was derived from a mold called ERGOT. Ergot is actually a fungus that infects wheat, rye and other grains. Hofmann was hoping to discover a medication which could be used to stimulate circulation and respiration. However, the tests he conducted were not fruitful and Dr. Hoffmann forgot about LSD for five years.

Powdered LSD
LSD in Powder Form

Historically, the first mentions of ergot were in the Middle Ages in Europe where outbreaks of massive poisonings affected thousands of persons at a time. The cause was a mystery and was assigned to superstitious sources. One such supposed source of the affliction was witchcraft. It is now widely believed that the hysteria that can accompany ergot poisoning is to blame for many of the witch trials in Europe and the New World. Witch-hunts hardly occurred where people didn't eat rye.

In 1943, five years after the development and initial tests of LSD, Hofmann accidentally ingested (or somehow absorbed) a bit of the chemical and experienced "restlessness and some dizziness". He was understandably intrigued and tried an experiment in which he purposely took what he considered to be, "the smallest quantity that could be expected to produce some effect". This was less than 25 millionths of a gram. Even that was enough to produce an overdose.

What followed was the world’s first "acid trip". In his book, LSD, MY PROBLEM CHILD, Dr. Hofmann wrote:

"Every exertion of my will, every attempt to put an end to the disintegration of the outer world and the dissolution of my ego, seemed to be wasted effort. A demon had invaded me, had taken possession of my body, mind and soul."

LSD in tiny pills called MicroDots

LSD is amazingly toxic

Even those who believe there may be some benefit to this drug admit that LSD is an incredibly powerful substance. The usual dose that a human would take is around 65 micrograms, which is less than three millionths of an ounce. This means that LSD is some 5,000 to 10,000 times more powerful than the drug Mescaline, another powerful hallucinogen that comes from a cactus named peyote.

In one report from 1962, two psychiatrists, Louis Jolyon West and Chester M. Pierce, injected a 7000-pound bull elephant with LSD. The animal collapsed in five minutes with convulsions and died in agony in less than two hours. The dose these criminals gave to the elephant was less than one third of one gram. The stated purpose of this irresponsible test was to study madness in male elephants.

Despite the known serious health effects of LSD, this compound and other similar chemicals were secretly tested as “mind-control” drugs by psychiatrists on behalf of various governments during the 1950s. One such series of tests carried out by the CIA known as MKULTRA, used LSD and several other such substances on test subjects that included mice, rabbits, rats and humans. In the end, the MKULTRA project was scrapped.

Secrecy leads to curiosity and the media kept “discovering” and promoting this drug, in effect advertising it: LSD was here to stay.

Creating Madness is What LSD Does Best

I have been in the position to see many people enter drug rehab and have seen the conditions they are in and the look in their eyes as they walk in the door. Those who have been taking LSD are recognizable in that they are less able to focus their attention; they are nervous, "not quite there" and very introverted.

In all my years as a drug counselor, I have seen no evidence to support the claims that hallucinogens inspire creativity or enlightenment. In truth, they do away with both.

What are “Shrooms”?

Another drug we have to include in this group is a type of poisonous mushroom that users just refer to as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”.

The main psychoactive chemicals in these fungi are psilocybin and psilocin. Although chemically different from LSD, the effects on the human brain and mind are roughly similar.

What is “Hell’s Bells”?

Datura Stramonium or, “Hells Bells” is another hallucinogen which is not as popular because of the likelihood of overdose and the distinctly long periods of action. A user taking hells bells can be out of it for two days.

What is Peyote Cactus?

Native to Mexico and parts of Texas, the peyote cactus has apparently been used for spiritual ceremonies by shamans and seers for many centuries. Yielding the drug mescaline, peyote is a powerful and therefore dangerous hallucinogen.

With each of these drugs there are distinct physical dangers, but the real danger lies in the psychological effects. I don’t want to play down the physical dangers, which vary from drug to drug and can include dangerous seizures and death, but the real target of hallucinogens is always the mental alterations and the strange, even frightening visions and emotions that are experienced while high, or “tripping”. The target is the mind.

The most valuable thing you own is your mind. In a very real way, your abilities, your potentials and even the quality of your life depend on your mind and how sharp and quick it is.

THAT is what a person risks when taking a hallucinogen.

Every experience, every vision or perception of any kind is recorded and stored by this amazing thing called a mind. You use it constantly and you have been programming it with data since before you were born. It is actually the biggest and fastest computer in existence.

When a person takes a drug such as acid or shrooms, they alter, purposely, the mind. Memories are altered; perceptions and recalls can be changed.

Decisions can be made during these moments, and although these decisions are based on these temporary alterations, they can become permanent.

So the trip is not just a temporary thing. The trip can change the direction of someone’s life. I’ve seen it happen.

When we do drug education in elementary schools, we also talk about tobacco and alcohol. We alert the students to how drug dealers work and how they convince people to use drugs.

And there is always some kid who asks the question, “What is the worst drug of all?”

I say, “That’s easy kid, tobacco. It kills more people than all other drugs combined”. But when I get that same question in a high school, I add this: “But what is the most dangerous drug PER DOSE? Acid.”

But Shrooms, Hells Bells, All of the hallucinogens can ruin a person with one dose. Taking one of these is like playing Russian roulette with your mind.


Tony Bylsma

Tony Bylsma has been working for Narconon as a counselor, administrator and educator in various areas of the US for many years. In addition to helping people overcome their addictions and live drug-free lives, Tony has spoken to over six hundred thousand students, parents and professionals regarding drug abuse and effective abuse prevention. This year Tony is celebrating his 40th year of sobriety!