Stress and Damage to Specific Systems in the Body

Some of these drugs place stresses on or damage specific systems in the body and some simply put one at risk for overdose or violent death.


Heart Rate

Many hallucinogens increase the heart rate and blood pressure and thereby create stress on the cardiovascular system. LSD and PCP both raise the heart rate and blood pressure, which can create a fatal problem for a person with an undiagnosed heart problem or if they mix this drug with others such as amphetamine, methamphetamine or cocaine.

Ketamine is also known to increase the heart rate and blood pressure. The heartbeat can become irregular as well. When the heart rate and blood pressure go up like this, any weakness can become fatal. An undiagnosed problem with the heart can cause failure under the stress, or there can be damage to the heart itself or the aorta, the main artery leading away from the heart. If this becomes damaged from the strain, a person can suffer fatal bleeding into the chest cavity.

At some dosages, PCP can cause blood pressure and breathing to drop to dangerous levels. A person may fall into a catatonic state.

At high doses by itself, DXM can cause that same increased blood pressure and a racing, pounding heart as seen with other hallucinogens. As with many drug combinations, using DXM with other drugs can cause life-threatening effects. In particular, DXM with alcohol or MDMA/Ecstasy can be very risky. A doctor in California states that of the people he saw in the emergency room who were there for problems with DXM abuse, a third had also been drinking.

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 30 cough syrups based on dextromethorphan or DXM also contain acetaminophen. The ingestion of high doses of acetaminophen that are contained in many cough formulas can cause heart attacks, stroke or death.

The panic and terror of a bad hallucinogenic experience can greatly amplify the stress on the cardiovascular system. A report from San Francisco General Hospital noted a blood pressure of 230130 (extremely high) for a man unresponsive after LSD abuse. He was vomiting blood and was severely psychotic due to hallucinations. As the drug wore off, he gradually recovered.

Kidneys/Urinary Tract

Urinary Tract

PCP in particular decreases one’s awareness of pain. Combined with the severe disorientation and even violence of one’s mood, this can lead to physical damage. A violent PCP user placed in restraints or one who is suffering severe muscle contractions from the effects of the drug risks muscle tissue breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) that floods the kidneys with toxins that can cause the kidneys to fail. This chain reaction can be fatal.

The abuse of ketamine is connected with severe damage to the bladder. Many heavy users of ketamine have needed surgery to repair or even remove their bladders. In the meantime, ketamine abusers struggle with the need to urinate multiple times per hour, severe pain on urination and even passing large clumps of blood in the urine. This destruction to the bladder affects the kidneys of some people, causing kidney failure.

But these are not the only systems of the body that can be damaged by hallucinogens. Keep reading to find out what other vital parts of your body may be attacked by these drugs.


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