The dangers of hallucinogens: a review of hallucinogen persistent perception disorder

Agnė Timlerytė1

1Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Medical Academy, Faculty of Medicine


Hallucinogen persistent perception disorder is a quite rare and often misdiagnosed condition. It is characterised by reoccuring perception disorders, previously experienced after using hallucinogen drugs, which now occur while the person is sober. This disorder is most commonly caused by d-lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD. The exact mechanism of this disorder is unclear and only explained by theories. Hallucinogen persistent perception disorder is diagnosed with the help of diagnostic criteria in DSM-V classification and has a variety of clinical symptoms. Patiens may experience any perception disorder that they have experienced during previous use of hallucinogens – visual hallucinations, false perceptions of movement in the peripheral visual fields, flashes of color, intensified colors, trails of moving objects, palinopsia, depersonalization, derealization, synesthesia, etc. Most common are visual disturbancies. According to the severity of the condition and distress caused to the patient, this disorder is classified into two types: the first one – milder, not causing significant changes of functioning and usually without the demand of treatment, and the second one – more severe, intense and responsible for the impairment of the patients‘ general condition.

Due to the unclear mechanism, the treatment options for this disorder are limited. Most commonly described is the use of clonidine, which successfully reduces reoccuring perception disorders, visual disturbances and anxiety. Patients who are suffering from hallucinogen persistent perception disorder may also be aided by benzodiazepines, especially clonazepam, antipsychotics and anitepileptic drugs. SSRIs, naltrexone, calcium channel blockers and beta blockers can also be used to treat this disorder.

Keywords: hallucinogens, drugs, hallucinogen persistent perception disorder, perception disorder.