Hallucinogens: An update
- Cite this article as:
- Halpern, J.H. Curr Psychiatry Rep (2003) 5: 347. doi:10.1007/s11920-003-0067-4
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Research of hallucinogen abuse rarely extends beyond epidemiology and observed pathology. Even less research has been completed on the special circumstances surrounding the religious use of hallucinogens or on potential therapeutic applications. Rather than offer another basic review on the well-known hazards of illicit hallucinogen use, this paper provides an overview and practice recommendations on compounds the clinician may be less familiar with, such as the botanical plant Salvia divinorum, the drug 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“ecstasy”) and synthetic hallucinogen analogs. The often-warned, but rarely occurring, hazard of hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (“flashbacks”) is also reviewed with treatment recommendations provided. The current status of clinical research with the hallucinogens is presented, with case vignettes suggesting hallucinogens may have anti-addictive applications. The special circumstances surrounding the religious, nondrug use of hallucinogens as sacred sacraments in the US and elsewhere are also presented. It is hoped that the reader will gain a more nuanced understanding of how these physiologically nonaddictive drugs may offer legitimate benefits in modern society. By appreciating that such benefits may one day be borne out by careful, methodologically sound research, clinicians should be better armed in raising the topic of hallucinogen use and abuse with their patients.