Psychedelics are drugs that produce changes in perception, mood, and cognitive processes. Common effects include altered states of consciousness, visual and auditory hallucinations, synesthesia, an improved sense of well-being, and spiritual experiences. Many psychedelics also produce physiological changes such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature.
Psychedelics can be divided into two broad categories: classic psychedelics and serotonergic psychedelics. Classic psychedelics include LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline, and DMT. Serotonergic psychedelics include MDMA, ketamine, and ayahuasca.
Psychedelic drugs interact with the brain’s serotonin system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood, perception, and cognition. Psychedelics mimic the brain’s serotonin molecules and bind to serotonin receptors. This binding produces the changes in perception and mood that are characteristic of psychedelic experiences.
Psychedelics affect different people in different ways. The effects of a particular psychedelic depend on many factors, including the person’s personality, mindset, and expectations; the drug’s dosage; and the environment in which the drug is taken.
Psychedelic experiences can be positive or negative. Positive experiences are often described as “mystical” or “spiritual” and can lead to personal insights and epiphanies. Negative experiences, known as “bad trips,” can be terrifying and may include anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Most psychedelics are not addictive and do not produce tolerance (the need for increased doses to achieve the same effect). However, some people may develop a psychological dependence on psychedelics.
Psychedelics are generally considered safe when used responsibly and with caution. The most common risks associated with psychedelic use are bad trips and accidental injury. Psychedelics can worsen preexisting mental health conditions and trigger latent mental health problems. For these reasons, it is important, to be honest with your doctor about your mental health history before taking psychedelics.
Here is a head-to-toe guide to how psychedelics affect the body:
Head: Psychedelics can cause changes in cognition, perception, and mood. These changes are caused by the drug’s interaction with the brain’s serotonin system.
- Eyes: Psychedelics can cause visual hallucinations, which may be pleasant or disturbing.
- Nose: Psychedelics can cause a change in sense of smell.
- Mouth: Psychedelics can cause dry mouth and increased heart rate.
- Throat: Psychedelics can cause increased blood pressure and sweating.
- Chest: Psychedelics can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate.
- Stomach: Psychedelics can cause nausea and vomiting. In some cases, they can also lead to diarrhea.
- Skin: Psychedelics can cause goosebumps and increased body temperature.
- Muscles: Psychedelics can cause muscle relaxation or tension.
- Joints: Psychedelics can cause changes in joint sensation.
- Limbs: Psychedelics can cause tingling or numbness in the extremities.
- Heart: Psychedelics can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
- Lungs: Psychedelics can cause shallow breathing and an increase in body temperature.
- Brain: Psychedelics interact with the brain’s serotonin system, which plays a role in mood, perception, and cognition. This interaction causes changes in perception and mood that are characteristic of psychedelic experiences. Psychedelics can also cause visual and auditory hallucinations.
Psychedelics are generally safe when used responsibly and with caution. However, they can worsen preexisting mental health conditions and trigger latent mental health problems. For these reasons, it is important, to be honest with your doctor about your mental health history before taking psychedelics.
If you have any questions about how psychedelics might affect your body, please consult a medical professional.