People use psychedelic drugs (also called hallucinogenic drugs) in many different ways. Some psychedelics can be eaten raw or brewed in tea, while others can be snorted, smoked, or swallowed in pill or liquid form.
Although much less common, some people also inject psychedelics into their veins. Here’s what you should know about this dangerous form of drug use.
What Happens When You Inject Shrooms & Other Psychedelic Drugs?
Because intravenous psychedelic use is uncommon, there have been very few studies on its effects. However, anecdotal evidence shows that the practice poses serious health risks.
For example, in 2021, a man injected a tea made from psilocybin mushrooms. He then developed a variety of side effects, including:
- jaundice (yellow skin)
- hematemesis (vomiting blood)
When the man was taken to the emergency room, doctors discovered that the mushrooms had begun growing in his blood.
As a result, some of his organs, including his liver and kidneys, were starting to fail. He also experienced acute respiratory failure. The man survived after spending 22 days in the hospital, 8 of them in the intensive care unit.
This story highlights just some of the dangers of intravenous psychedelic use. Other dangers include:
Bad Trips, Psychosis, & Other Adverse Effects
Like other psychoactive substances, psychedelics can have extremely unpleasant side effects. Psychedelic experiences that involve these effects are often called “bad trips.” The most common negative effects include:
- increased heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, or body temperature
- mood swings
- anxiety and panic
- paranoia (irrational distrust of others)
- delusions (beliefs that conflict with reality)
- poor memory
Psychedelics can also cause psychosis. Psychosis is a temporary loss of connection with reality. It typically involves hallucinations, paranoia, and delusions. It’s often associated with mental health conditions like schizophrenia.
In most cases, psychedelic-induced psychosis is short-term, fading once the drug leaves your system. However, some people have recurring flashbacks of psychotic symptoms, especially hallucinations. This is called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD).
Other long-term effects of hallucinogens may include:
- suicidal thoughts
- memory loss
- speech problems
Injection-Related Health Problems
Injecting psychedelics poses many of the same risks as injecting heroin, cocaine, and other illicit drugs. These risks include:
- collapsed veins
- bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream)
- endocarditis (infection of the heart valves)
- infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis C, from sharing needles and other injection equipment
If you inject high doses of a psychedelic, you may overdose. That means the drug will cause serious or life-threatening symptoms.
For example, people who use high doses of PCP (one of the most commonly injected psychedelics) may experience seizures, loss of consciousness, and death.
Symptoms Of Addiction
Most psychedelics are not considered addictive. However, some of them can cause symptoms of addiction (also called substance use disorder).
For instance, if you regularly use PCP, you may become physically dependent on it. In other words, your body will start relying on the drug to function. If you stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache, sweating, and drug cravings.
In addition, repeated LSD use can cause tolerance. That means you will need increasingly higher or more frequent doses of the drug to feel the desired effects. This significantly raises your risk of negative side effects.
Is Injecting Psychedelics Ever Safe?
Some neuroscience studies suggest that certain psychedelics may have a place in psychiatry. For example, psilocybin might help ease anxiety and depression in some people.
According to some of these studies, doctors have safely injected patients with psilocybin. However, these injections don’t contain any fungi, which means mushrooms can’t grow in the patient’s blood.
Ultimately, intravenous psychedelic use may sometimes be safe, but only when administered by a doctor.
Understanding Psychedelic Drugs
Psychedelic drugs are mind-altering substances that impact your thoughts, feelings, and sense of your surroundings. They do this by affecting brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are two main types of psychedelic drugs: classic hallucinogens and dissociative drugs.
Classic hallucinogens are psychedelics that can make you hallucinate (see, hear, or feel things that aren’t really there). They can also cause distortions of time and space. They include:
- psilocybin mushrooms, also called “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms”
- LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), also called “blotter” or “microdots”
- peyote (mescaline)
- DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine)
Dissociative drugs are psychedelics that can make you feel detached from your body and surroundings. They include:
- PCP (phencyclidine)
- dextromethorphan (DXM)
- salvia (salvia divinorum)
Other drugs that can have psychedelic effects include MDMA (ecstasy) and cannabis (marijuana).
If you or someone you love struggles with psychedelic abuse, please reach out to Northeast Addictions Treatment Center.
Drug Enforcement Administration — Drug Fact Sheet: Hallucinogens
Journal of the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry — A “Trip” to the Intensive Care Unit: An Intravenous Injection of Psilocybin
National Institute on Drug Abuse — Hallucinogens DrugFacts