Last updated : August 20, 2018

What are hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens (also known as psychedelics) can make a person see, hear, smell, feel or taste things that aren’t really there or are different from how they are in reality.1

Some plants such as magic mushrooms can cause hallucinations. Hallucinogens such as LSD can also be made in a lab.1


Types of hallucinogens

LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide)

Also known as acid, trips, tabs, microdots, dots.

In its pure state, LSD is a white odourless powder. However, it usually comes in squares of gelatine or blotting paper that have been dipped or soaked in LSD. LSD is also sometimes sold as a liquid, in a tablet or in capsules.2

LSD is usually swallowed, but it can also be sniffed, injected or smoked.2,3

Magic mushrooms

Also known as shrooms, mushies, blue meanies, golden tops, liberty caps.

There are many different types of magic mushrooms. The most common ones in Australia are called golden tops, blue meanies and liberty caps. Magic mushrooms look similar to poisonous mushrooms that can cause a person to become very sick and can result in death.2

Magic mushrooms are usually sold as dried mushrooms, a powder or as capsules.2

Mushrooms are often eaten fresh, cooked or brewed into a tea. They are sometimes mixed with tobacco or cannabis, and smoked.2

Mescaline (peyote cactus)

Also known as cactus, cactus buttons, cactus joint, mesc, mescal.

Mescaline is the active ingredient of the peyote cactus plant. It is also known to be made synthetically in a lab.4

In its pure form, mescaline sulphate is a white crystal-like powder. Synthetic mescaline can come in different colours. The peyote cactus contains ‘buttons’ that can be cut from the root of the plant, and then dried before eating or smoking them.4

Effects of hallucinogens

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Hallucinogens affect everyone differently, based on:

  • Size, weight and health
  • Whether the person is used to taking it
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • The amount taken
  • The strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch)

The effects of hallucinogens can last for 4 to 12 hours and can be different depending on which type of hallucinogen is used. The following may be experienced during this time:

  • Feeling happy and relaxed
  • Seeing and hearing things that aren’t there
  • Confusion and trouble concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Clumsiness
  • Fast or irregular heart beat
  • Breathing quickly
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating and chills
  • Numbness1,2

Bad trips

Sometimes you can experience a ‘bad trip’, which are frightening and disturbing hallucinations. This can lead to panic and unpredictable behaviour, like running across a road or attempting suicide.

If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, you are likely to experience negative effects of hallucinogens.1,2

Coming down

In the following days after using hallucinogens, you may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression1,2

Long term effects

People who regularly use hallucinogens may eventually experience flashbacks. Flashbacks are hallucinations that occur weeks, months or even years after the drug was last taken. This can be disturbing, especially when the hallucination is frightening.1,2

Flashbacks can be brought on by using other drugs, stress, tiredness or exercise and usually last for a minute or two.1,2

In addition to flashbacks, regular use of hallucinogens may eventually cause:

  • Psychological dependence on hallucinogens
  • Financial, work and social problems1,2

Using hallucinogens with other drugs

The effects of taking hallucinogens with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:

Hallucinogens + ice, speed or ecstasy: enormous strain on the heart and body, which can lead to stroke.5

Hallucinogens + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: increased clumsiness and chance of vomiting.5


Psychological withdrawal symptoms are more common than physical symptoms, but as hallucinogens are a range of different drugs, it’s not possible to be specific about withdrawal symptoms. People withdrawing from hallucinogens may experience:

  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Reduced ability to experience pleasure1,2


Getting help

If your use of hallucinogens is affecting your health, family, relationships, work, school, financial or other life situations, you can find help and support.

Hallucinogen statistics


  • 9.4% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used hallucinogens one or more times in their life.6
  • 1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used hallucinogens in the previous 12 months.6

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try hallucinogens at 18.5 years on average.6
  • 2.8% of 12-17 year olds have tried hallucinogens such as LSD.7
  1. Brands, B. Sproule, B. & Marshman, J. (Eds.). (1998). Drugs & drug abuse (3rd ed.). Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.
  2. Upfal, J. (2006). The Australian Drug Guide. (7th ed.). Black Inc: Collingwood.
  3. Erowid. (2001). Ask Erowid.
  4. Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.) Drug Fact Sheet – Peyote and Mescaline.
  5. University of California. (2013). Alcohol and LSD/Acid.
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2016. Canberra: AIHW.
  7. White, V., & Williams, T. (2016). Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2014. Melbourne: The Cancer Council, Victoria.


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