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hallucinogenic drug

Introduction

hallucinogenic drug (həlōˌsənōjĕnˈĭk) [key], any of a group of substances that alter consciousness; also called psychotomimetic (i.e., mimicking psychosis), mind-expanding, or psychedelic drug. The group includes mescaline, or peyote, which comes from the cactus Lophophora williamsii ; psilocin and psilocybin, from the mushrooms Psilocybe mexicana and Stropharia cubensis ; and LSD, synthesized from lysergic acid, found in the fungus Claviceps purpurea (see ergot). These alkaloids have also been produced synthetically. Newer hallucinogens, such as PCP (phencyclidine, or "angel dust"), a drug originally used as an anesthetic, and MDMA ("Ecstasy"), an amphetamine derivative, were common in the 1980s. Marijuana has hallucinogenic properties but is pharmacologically distinct.

Hallucinogens have been used for centuries by certain peoples. The Hindus and the Aztecs used them to facilitate meditation, cure illness, and enhance mystical powers. Many North American tribal peoples still use hallucinogenic mushrooms and peyote in tribal rituals.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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