What is the difference between hallucinogenic and  dissociative drugs?

Hallucinogens are a class of drugs that cause hallucinations—profound distortions in a person’s perceptions of reality. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be man-made, and they are commonly divided into two broad categories: classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs.

Essentially, hallucinogens, also known as psychedelics only cause visual, auditory and sensory hallucinations. Popular hallucinogenic drugs include LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote. Dissociative drugs will cause a sense of detachment from your body along with the visual, auditory and sensory hallucinations. PCP, Ketamine, and DXM are the most popular dissociative drugs.

The exact mechanisms by which hallucinogens and dissociative drugs cause their effects are not yet clearly understood, but research suggests that they work at least partially by temporarily disrupting communication between neurotransmitter systems throughout the brain and spinal cord that regulate mood, sensory perception, sleep, hunger, body temperature, sexual behavior, and muscle control. While for some, the experience felt can sound like an exciting way to view the world through a different lens, using these substances do not come without its risks.

What are the effects of dissociative and hallucinogenic drugs?

Dissociative drugs can have varying effects on people and everyone’s experience is different. However, users report experiencing the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired motor function
  • Body tremors
  • Numbness 

In addition, individuals who take lower doses may experience:

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Changes in sensory perceptions (sight, sound, shapes)
  • Hallucinations
  • Feelings of detachment 
  • Increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and body temperature

Those who take high doses may further experience:

  • Hallucinations
  • Physical distress
  • Extreme paranoia, panic, fear, anxiety, aggression
  • Overdose when mixed with other depressants such as alcohol

It is extremely difficult to accurately determine how individuals will react to dissociative and hallucinogenic drugs because everyone’s experience is different. Some long term effects of these drugs such as PCP can be speech difficulties, memory loss, suicidal thoughts and social withdrawal. In addition, some people report using a hallucinogenic drug once and never fully recovering from its effects, a condition called, Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) which is essentially a never-ending ‘trip.’ People who take dissociative drugs with alcohol or other CNS depressants run the risk of experiencing fatal respiratory problems that can eventually result in death.


Dealing with dissociative drug addiction can be a major issue. This category of drugs provides an easy escape from reality and some people may begin to rely on it just to get through their day. If you or a loved one is struggling with dissociative and hallucinogenic drug addiction, please contact us for treatment information.