Many hallucinogens are unknown outside of enthusiast circles. We list 5 powerful hallucinogens that you may or may not have heard of.
Psychedelic drugs have been around for decades, and they have been a subject of fierce debate this entire time. Opponents have often pointed out how their use may lead to episodes of dangerously reckless behavior and even permanent insanity, while numerous experts (and amateurs) claim that hallucinogens can be spiritually enlightening and psychologically beneficial when administered properly.
Obviously, there is no shortage of opinions on this topic, but actual knowledge about this diverse group of chemical compounds is not nearly as abundant. The only psychedelic that is commonly discussed in the mainstream is LSD (and magic mushrooms to a lesser extent), and even then the conversation rarely touches on biochemical details. Ignorance of this kind is one of the main reasons why this category of psychoactive drugs is so thoroughly misunderstood and why prejudice commonly replaces facts.
In order to change this unfortunate state of affairs, we are presenting you five extremely potent mind-altering substances that have been largely ignored by the academic public.
Hallucinogenic cacti from North America, such as peyote (Lophophora williamsii) and San Pedro (Echinopsis pachanoi), are one of the oldest drug-containing materials known to humans. They have been used for centuries by the natives, who treasured the vision-inducing properties of these plants and believed them to be associated with divine spirits. The active substance that made those visions possible was mescaline, an alkaloid phenethylamine capable of causing longer-lasting and more powerful effects than LSD. First identified in the late 19th century, mescaline was used by a long array of artists and independent thinkers, from Aldous Haxley to hippies.
In addition to occurring naturally, mescaline can also be produced in the lab and is sometimes available on the black market in this chemically pure form. Intoxication with natural or synthetic mescaline lasts for a long time, with around 50% of the compound metabolized within the first six hours of intake. Psychological effects include intense richness of color, distorted perception of physical objects, altered patterns of thinking and deep spiritual insights. As you might have guessed, powder mescaline is illegal practically everywhere, while mescaline-rich cacti could be legal to possess in some jurisdictions.
South American tribes had their own version of a ‘magic potion’ that contained a natural hallucinogen. Ayahuasca or yage is a liquid mixture that causes realistic audiovisual hallucinations lasting for multiple days. This potent drug is made by brewing pieces of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine together with leaves of another plant, Psychotria viridis. In this way, two substances with a strong synergistic effect are consumed together, with DMT from Psychotria viridis providing the main punch and MAO inhibitors from the vine acting as activators of the drug.
The resulting sensory nirvana is so overwhelming that most people who tried the brew reported a transformative experience that may include many bizarre or frightening elements. Originally used by shamans to heal the soul and perform religious rituals, ayahuasca remains an integral part of the culture in the Amazonian region and can still be obtained from locals in Brazil and neighboring countries. Due to intensity and unpredictability of the effects, it is not recommended to consume this drug without the guidance of a shaman. However, ayahuasca is frequently sold in developed countries where such assistance can’t be provided and exact content of the mixture is nearly impossible to determine.
Technically speaking, Salvia is classified as a dissociative rather than true hallucinogen. It deserves to be included in this group because it produces a similar type of ‘reality distortion’, albeit based on different chemical principles. The drug is another gift of nature – Salvia Divinorum is a plant from Mexican hinterlands that can grow up to a meter high. An active substance present in this plant is known as Salvinurim A, a kappa opioid receptor agonist that can trigger hallucinatory experiences even at extremely small doses.
As opposed to tryptamine-based and indole-based hallucinogens, this strange drug doesn’t accelerate mental processes or produces psychedelic euphoria. Instead, it literally transports the user to another ‘place’ that seems just as real as everyday items. Contacts with entities from this realm are regularly reported, which doesn’t happen with most other hallucinogens. The effects wear off completely after just 5-15 minutes, but their symbolic impact on the psyche can be long-lasting.
While all of the other substances discussed above are found in plants, 2C-B is created only by artificial synthesis in a laboratory. It was discovered in 1974 by the legendary underground chemist Alexander Shulgin, who synthesized and tested dozens of psychoactive compounds during his illustrious career. It was used by psychiatrists as a therapeutic aid and advertised as an aphrodisiac for a short while before it was outlawed, but is now considered to be a recreational drug and is available through illegal channels either as a white powder or in tablet form.
Chemically speaking, 2C-B belongs to the family of phenethylamines, and acts as a partial agonist of the serotonin receptors in the nervous system. For this reason, it produces subjective effects that have often been described as a mixture of hallucinogenic and euphoric, fitting in between two established classes of drugs. It is relatively mild when compared to LSD and has been used as a club drug in smaller doses.
This is a recent addition to the family of hallucinogenic drugs, having been synthesized only shortly before 2004 when it become widely available to order over the internet. Manufactured on an industrial scale in China, it was temporarily in high demand as a legal replacement for better-known psychedelics, although it didn’t take long for the authorities in most countries to catch on and add 5-Meo-DALT to the lists of prohibited substances.
As a tryptamine-based compound, 5-MeO-DALT is capable of causing convincing audiovisual mirages and stimulating the mind in strange and sometimes inspiring ways. However, it is largely untested and its side-effects are poorly understood at the moment, which makes it a more dangerous choice than old-school such as acid or psilocybin mushrooms. Since it is produced clandestinely for a very brief time, serious literature about this substance is practically non-existent and most of what we know about it comes from amateur sources.
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