Hallucinogen effects include a condition known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD). It occurs in some people who have used hallucinogen drugs. It can occur in people after one use of a hallucinogen drug but it generally appears and then gets worse with continued drug use. It is not possible to tell which hallucinogen users will develop HPPD. Diagnosing HPPD involves ruling out all other factors and medical conditions that also cause visual and sensory disturbances.
Hallucinogen effects of HPPD involve continued disturbances of sight or other senses. Disturbance of sight is the most common. A misconception is that HPPD is the occurrence of “flashbacks” but it is not. Flashbacks come and go; HPPD is persistent in nature. Hallucinogen effects resulting in HPPD have been reported with these drugs:
- Dextromethorphan (in high doses)
- Diphenhydramine (in high doses)
- Synthetic cannabis
Characteristics of HPPD
Hallucinogen effects of HPPD cause a variety of sensations for different people but the sensations are mostly visual since hallucinogens create mostly visual effects during use. Visual disturbances are not considered true hallucinations and people experiencing them are aware that what is being experienced is not consistent with reality.
Each person with HPPD will have different sensory disturbances from other people with HPPD. How often the disturbances occur and how intense they are varies from person to person. The disturbance being experienced might be a different disturbance every time. Some disturbances people have with the hallucinogen effects involved in HPPD are:
- Color of an objects or of the environment changing from one color to another
- Depersonalization and derealization
- Objects looking distorted from their actual shape
- Halos around objects
- Heightened awareness of floaters in the vision
- Motion trails occurring behind moving objects
- Problems with color recognition; colors blending into each other
- Seeing movement where there is none
- Textured appearance to the air (“snow”, “static”)
- Various auditory disturbances are far less common but do occur
Additional Hallucinogen Effects and Problems
Hallucinogen effects of HPPD sometimes occur along with anxiety, panic attacks, depersonalization disorder and depression. People diagnosed with HPPD report clear interactions among HPPD and their other mental health disorders. Lack of sleep and stress appear to increase HPPD symptoms as well.
Treatment of HPPD
There is no cure for the hallucinogen effects of HPPD so treatment focuses on reducing symptoms. Benzodiazepines, certain anticonvulsant medications, and some medications used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease appear to ease symptoms in some people. Learning coping strategies to deal with the persistent hallucinogen effects of HPPD is another focus of treatment.
The duration of HPPD varies among individuals so no specific time-frame for the resolution of the disorder has been identified. The condition is permanent is some people.