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Long-Term Effects of Hallucinogenics

Overall, two long-term effects have been associated with use of classic hallucinogens: persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD, often referred to as flashbacks).

Although occurrence of either is rare, it is also unpredictable and may happen more often than previously thought, and sometimes both conditions occur together. While the exact causes are not known, both conditions are more often seen in individuals with a history of psychological problems but can happen to anyone, even after a single exposure.

Persistent Psychosis:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Disorganized thinking
  • Paranoia
  • Mood disturbances

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD):

  • Hallucinations
  • Other visual disturbances (such as seeing halos or trails attached to moving objects)
  • Symptoms sometimes mistaken for neurological disorders (such as stroke or brain tumor)

There is no established treatment for HPPD, in which flashbacks may occur spontaneously and repeatedly although less intensely than their initial occurrence. Some antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs can be prescribed to help improve mood and treat psychoses, however. Psychotherapy may also help patients cope with fear or confusion associated with visual disturbances or other consequences of long-term use. More research on the causes, incidence, and long-term effects of both disorders is being conducted.