Parent Tips: Hallucinogens

Hallucinogens are among the oldest known drugs that have been used for their ability to alter human perception and mood. For centuries, many of the naturally occurring hallucinogens found in plants and fungi have been used for medical, social and religious practices.

In recent years, a number of synthetic hallucinogens have been produced, some of which are much stronger than their naturally occurring counterparts.

Physical Effects
The biochemical, pharmacological and physiological bases for hallucinogenic activity are not well understood. Even the name for this class of drugs is not ideal, because hallucinogens do not always produce hallucinations.

However, taken in non-toxic dosages, these substances produce changes in perception, thought and mood.
  • Physiological effects include elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and dilated pupils.
  • Sensory effects include perceptual distortions that vary with dose, setting and mood.
  • Psychic effects include disorders of thought associated with time and space. Time may appear to stand still, and forms and colors seem to change and take on new meaning.
This experience can be pleasurable for some and extremely frightening for others. It needs to be stressed that the effects of hallucinogens are unpredictable each time they are used.

Weeks or even months after some hallucinogens have been taken; the user may experience flashbacks of certain aspects of the drug experience without actually taking the drug. The occurrence of a flashback is unpredictable, but is more likely to occur during times of stress and seems to occur more frequently in younger individuals. With time, these experiences happen less often and become less intense.

Types of Hallucinogens
(For a description of these drugs check our posting that will be posted 3/10/2011 at 11:30 am (central time)
  • DMT
  • LSD
  • PCP
  • Peyote
  • Psilocybin
 Know the law. Hallucinogens are illegal to buy, sell, or possess.

Get the facts. Hallucinogenic drugs distort your perception of reality. Hallucinogens cause your sense of space and time to become distorted and cause you to see objects that aren't really there.

What you need to know
  • Stay informed. The body can quickly form a tolerance to a hallucinogen, so a person would have to take more and more of the drug for the same effect. This is very dangerous because taking stronger doses of any drug may cause severe side effects, including overdose.
  • Know the risks. Hallucinogens can cause flashbacks. Effects of the drugs, including hallucinations, can occur weeks, months, and even years after use.
  • Look around you.The majority of teens are not using hallucinogens. According to a 2002 study, 94 percent of teens have never even tried hallucinogens.

If you recognize any alcohol or drug use warning signs, it's time to take action. At this point parents often feel confused about whether there really is a problem and are reluctant to risk taking the first step, unsure of where it will lead them.

Parents, grandparents and other family members often feel tempted to wait things out and see if they get better. Sometimes they confront the child only to be accused of being distrustful or they hear angry denial, leaving them more confused than before.

It is important to remember that you don't have to do it alone. Following are crucial steps that will ease getting help for you and your child.

  1. Involve a professional to help determine what to do next. Your child's doctor, school counselor, a clergy, a local youth service bureau, drug treatment or counseling agency can all provide you with information and advice on what to do next. If your child is in the very early stages of alcohol or drug use, making your no-use rules clear and enforcing consequences for behaviors that concern you may stop the problem. Many schools and youth service bureaus offer drug prevention groups through their student assistance program that your child can participate in. Contact your child's school, speak to your child's guidance counselor and ask if school staff are seeing any unusual behavior or inconsistencies in performance. Ask to be contacted if they observe anything of concern. Ask if they have a student assistance program; ask to speak to a student assistance team member. The more warning signs you observe, the more likely it is that your child is facing a serious problem that requires professional help. A combination of warning signs indicate that child has been using alcohol and drugs on a regular basis. A professional evaluation will be needed to determine the best course of action.
  2. Document as much evidence as you can. Use checklists to record all the behaviors that concern you. Carefully record every behavior that concerns you during this period. Documenting your observations is important because your child will work hard to convince you that things didn't happen the way you remember. Some parents search their child's room looking for evidence of drugs or paraphernalia. You should expect that your child will be offended at your invasion of privacy. If you do find contraband, oftentimes your child will claim that it belongs to someone else.
  3. Prepare what you want to say to your child. Careful preparation will increase your confidence in dealing with the problem. Anticipating your child's response gives you time to prepare your own. Decide if you want to want anyone else to be present when you talk to your child. You might consider another family member, a school counselor, or clergy.
  4. Plan to talk with your child at a time in a setting where you can have uninterrupted discussion. Strengthen your interaction by using the following talking points:  Describe specific behaviors you and others have observed and when they occurred. The more specific you are, especially if you have written your observations down, the harder it will be for your child to deny, disagree, or argue. Express your love and concern and your desire to help your child. Emphasize your firm, non-negotiable position that you will not tolerate drug use and that you intend to determine if these behaviors are indications of drug use. It is not useful simply to ask if your child if he or she is using drugs. Almost always, children will deny using. But it's not a bad idea to voice your suspicions at some point.Use strong leverage; consequences might include no driver's license, no use of the family car, an earlier curfew.

    If you have observed multiple warning signs, discuss your immediate plan of action. It is a sound strategy to schedule a drug evaluation before you talk with your child. (You may first want to go by yourself to talk to a counselor about your concerns with your teen and the need for an evaluation.) Don't negotiate, bargain, or debate. Keep it simple. Stick with your major points and documented behaviors of concern.
  5. Don't give up if things don't go the way you want -- go the distance.  If ignored, alcohol-other-drug use will progress. Your efforts to this point have been an effective intervention. Hopefully, it will work early on. Often, parents have to continue to discuss the situation with the child, document evidence and work with other significant adults in the child's life to turn things around. This difficult intervention may take more time than you want. Persevere.

    Get help for yourself. Parent support groups such as Families Anonymous, Tough Love, and Alanon can provide effective help as you strive to provide effective help to your child.


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