Hallucinogens and Alcohol

Are you wondering if alcohol is a hallucinogen? If you’ve ever consumed a lot of alcoholic beverages at one time or tried to stop using alcohol after a prolonged period of excessive consumption, like in the case of individuals with alcoholism, you may have experienced hallucinations. However, alcohol is not classified as a hallucinogen. Instead, it’s classified as a depressant. Let’s take a look at the drug classifications and the instances where your alcohol consumption or lack thereof could produce hallucinations.

Drug Classifications

Depending on the scale you use, there are four to seven classifications of drugs. The main four are stimulants, hallucinogens, narcotics or opioids and depressants. You may also see some sites include categories for cannabis, disassociate anesthetics and inhalants, and the DEA classifies controlled substances according to a schedule ranging from Schedule 1 to Schedule V.

Main Four Drug Classifications

  • Depressants – These are substances and medications that slow down the body and brain. Alcohol is one such substance that does this. Other depressants include tranquilizers, sleep medications, barbituates and some anti-depressants.
  • Hallucinogens – Hallucinogens cause the individual to see, feel or hear things that are not there or to perceive reality differently. Examples of hallucinogens include LSD, MDMA and peyote. While alcohol can produce hallucinations under some conditions, it’s not a hallucinogen.
  • Narcotics or Opioids – These drugs help relieve pain. Examples of narcotics include Heroin, opium, codeine, Vicodin and morphine. In addition to reducing pain, these substances may also induce feelings of euphoria.
  • Stimulants – Stimulants increase the responses in the body and brain. The most common stimulant is caffeine, which can be found in coffee and sodas. Other stimulants include cocaine, crack, amphetamines and methamphetamine.

The Other Three Classifications

  • Cannabis – This category includes marijuana and synthetic marijuana as well as its derivatives, like CBD oil.
  • Disassociate Anesthetics – These substances work by adjusting the brain’s ability to perceive pain. Examples of these drugs include PCP and dextromethorphan.
  • Inhalants – Inhalants are substances or drugs that are inhaled. Examples of inhalants include plastic cement, paint thinner, canned air, hairspray and gasoline.

DEA’s Drug Schedule

Unlike the previous classifications, the DEA’s drug schedule seeks to rank drugs according to their potential for addiction and misuse. The drugs, medications and substances that make it into these classifications are controlled substances.

  • Schedule 1 – Drugs that have no medical use and a high potential for misuse and abuse. Drugs that fall into this category include heroin, LSD, peyote and ecstasy.
  • Schedule 2 – These drugs and medications have some medical use and a high chance for misuse, abuse and addiction. Substances that fall into this category include Vicodin, hydrocodone and Adderall.
  • Schedule 3 – These are medications and substances with a low chance of misuse and addiction. These drugs include Tylenol with codeine, steroids, testosterone and ketamine.
  • Schedule 4 – These substances and medications have a low risk of dependency and include Xanax, Darvocet and Valium.
  • Schedule 5 – These medications and drugs have an even lower risk of abuse than the medications classified as Schedule 4. This list tends to include cough syrups and medications that contain less than 200 milligrams of codeine.

You’ll notice that in the list of DEA scheduled drugs, substances and medications alcohol is not mentioned, but some hallucinogens are, like LSD and peyote. This is because alcohol is not a controlled substance, even though it is a regulated substance in the fact that individuals must be 21 years of age or older to buy alcoholic beverages, and limits are placed on the number of alcoholic beverages a household may get delivered to their door. There are also laws prohibiting drinking and driving and having open containers in a vehicle.

Why Would Alcohol Be Misunderstood as a Hallucinogenic?

If you’ve ever been extremely intoxicated, you may have experienced confusion as well as delusions. It’s important to understand that this is a medical emergency, and the individual should be taken to the nearest emergency room at a hospital because they could have an alcohol-induced psychosis.

Understanding Alcohol-Induced Psychotic Disorder

Severe, prolonged and chronic alcohol abuse can lead to the individual developing Alcohol-Induced Psychotic disorder (AIPD). This ailment is typically classified in three ways.

Acute Intoxication as the Cause of AIPD

When an individual is diagnosed with Alcohol-Induced Psychotic Disorder as the result of excessive consumption, it means that they’ve consumed a very large quantity of alcohol in a short time. An individual suffering from AIPD due to excessive consumption may display abnormal aggression, delusions, hallucinations and impaired consciousness. They may also sleep for prolonged periods of time. It’s important to understand that this is an emergency medical situation, and the individual may have also consumed enough alcohol to cause alcohol poisoning.

AIPD as the Result of Alcohol Withdrawal

AIPD which is caused by the sudden cessation of alcohol consumption is known as delirium tremens. Like AIPD caused by consuming an excessive amount of alcohol within a short timeframe, delirium tremens constitutes an emergency medical situation. Symptoms of delirium tremens include agitation, irritability, sudden mood swings, anxiety, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, excessive sweating, nightmares, hallucinations, delusions and seizures. It’s important to understand that when AIPD is caused by withdrawal symptoms, they do not begin immediately upon the cessation of alcohol consumption. Instead, individuals may start to experience these withdrawal symptoms about 6 to 12 hours after their last drink.

AIPD as the Result of Chronic Consumption

AIPD which is the result of chronic consumption can occur years after the development of alcohol use disorder. After many years of chronic high alcohol intake, the structures of the brain are changed. This can be exasperated by malnutrition, whereby the individual opted to drink rather than eat nutritious food. In fact, some alcoholics forego eating in lieu of drinking in order to prevent excessive weight gain. When excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed with little to no food, it can damage the digestive tract, exasperate symptoms and lead to dementia. Individuals with AIPD caused by chronic consumption can develop alcohol hallucinosis and alcoholic paranoia. Alcohol hallucinosis typically causes individuals to hear sounds that are not there. They may also have rapid and unpredictable mood swings and symptoms that resemble schizophrenia. Alcoholic paranoia occurs when the individual displays extreme anxiety in relation to being followed or watched.

What to Do if Someone You Love Is experiencing Symptoms of AIPD

If you suspect someone you love, like an immediate family member, roommate or partner is experiencing symptoms of AIPD, they need immediate medical attention in order to avoid life-threatening complications.

What to Do Once the Medical Emergency Has Passed

Once the AIPD has been treated and the individual is no longer having a medical emergency, it’s time to seek treatment for alcohol use disorder at Long Island Treatment Center. We offer many types of treatment programs, including partial hospitalization, outpatient and intensive outpatient, MAT, dual diagnosis and aftercare programs that can help you prevent a relapse once you’ve completed your treatment program.

What to Do if Your Loved One Can’t Break the Cycle of Negative Behavior

If you’re having trouble convincing your loved one that they need help for their alcohol abuse, even after experiencing one or more medical emergencies due to their excessive alcohol consumption, we offer addiction intervention services. Having an intervention in a calm location with an experienced counselor from our treatment center can help your loved one realize the harm they are causing by continuing their alcohol consumption, and the benefits of receiving treatment and regaining their sobriety.

To get the help you need to overcome your dependence on alcohol or to get help with an intervention, give us a call at 516788-5470. Our team of caring professionals are ready to take your call and help you get the treatment you need.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Long Island Treatment Center