hallucinogenic drug


hallucinogenic drug həlo͞oˌsənōjĕnˈĭk, 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 Psilocybe 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. During the 1950s and 60s a number of hallucinogenic drugs were investigated in studies, but such drugs were largely discredited by association with the so-called drug culture that developed in the 1960s. Under the Controlled Substances Act (1970) they have been classified as having a high potential for abuse, having no accepted medical use in treatment, and not having accepted safety for use under medical supervision. In the 21st cent., however, there has been some experimental investigation into the potential use of psilocybin and, to a lesser degree, LSD in the treatment of anxiety, stress, and severe depression in certain patients and of addiction.

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