Dissociative Drugs: What are They? 

woman at the seashore.

Dissociative drugs are a class of hallucinogen that produces feelings of detachment from one’s self and the environment and also affects one’s perceptions of sounds and sight. They give rise to a sense of separation from one’s self and the immediate environment when ingested. Although the legal use of some dissociative drugs has been prohibited, some types of dissociative anesthetics are still being employed. In contrast, yet other types of dissociatives are still used in OTC cough and cold drugs and they fall under the most commonly abused otc drugs. When in a state of dissociative anesthesia due to the administration of a dissociative drug, patients might become prone to purposeless movements and euphoric or frightening hallucinations.

How Dissociatives Work

Dissociative anesthetic disrupts or blocks signals from the different parts of the brain to the mind. Some studies have suggested that this blockage might occur as a result of the drug disrupting the activities of a chemical in the brain, glutamate. It is this chemical that influences pain perception, emotion, and cognition. It is believed that the disruption of glutamate’s activities causes experiences like the hallucination, dream-like trance, and sensory deprivation that affect those who use dissociatives.

Some dissociatives are also prescribed by doctors as general anesthesia or to sedate patients who are in pain. This is because dissociatives generally function as depressants as well.

Some common dissociatives drugs include:

  • Dextromethorphan (DXM)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Salvia divinorum
  • Ketamine

The significant difference between the drugs listed above and a run-of-the-mill list of hallucinogenic drugs is that in addition to hallucination, the above-listed drugs also have dissociative effects. A dissociative hallucinogen might go as far as inducing euphoric feelings when used.

Dissociative Drugs Effects

The effects of dissociative drugs can be dependent on the dose ingested. The common effects for high doses are memory loss, hallucinations, anxiety, aggression, panic, paranoia, fear, high-risk changes in respiration, blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate. It can even result in death if combined with high doses of other depressants or alcohol.

For moderate to low doses, general effects include: hallucination, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, detachment from environment and self, numbness, confusion, loss of coordination, disorientation, distortion in sensory perceptions, increase in respiration, blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate.

Apart from the amount of illegal or legal dissociatives (in OTC cough and cold syrups or anesthetics) consumed, these unpredictable effects can last for many hours or days from the time of ingestion. They can also vary based on the particular type of dissociative drug that is consumed.

Dissociatives vs. Psychedelics

Though dissociatives and psychedelics are both classes of hallucinogens, their principal difference can be found in the way they work in the body. The psychedelics vs. dissociatives debate can not be completed without noting that psychedelics are primarily serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) 2A receptor agonists and dissociatives function as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) antagonists. This means that although psychedelics also affect mood and affect perception, they are considered to be physiologically harmless and safe as they do not cause addiction, dependence, or have fatal consequences like overdose death. Of course, this does not mean that psychedelics are not on the hallucinogen list. It merely means that they are physiologically safe Central Nervous System depressants. However, most psychedelic drugs are illegal under the United Nations Convention on Psychotropics Substances Law of 1971.

Is Alcohol a Dissociative?

According to a 1999 article by the National Library of Medicine, a clinical study has proven that alcohol does have a dissociative effect on the recollective experience. And although chronic alcohol abuse can cause alcoholic hallucinosis, alcohol is generally not classified as a dissociative drug.

Dissociatives Addiction Treatment

Dissociative addiction is the persistent use of a dissociative drug without permission from medical personnel and even at the risk of your health. Research has shown that prolonged use of some dissociative drugs like PCP can result in a substance abuse disorder by producing tolerance and causing addiction. Trying to break this addiction can lead to you experiencing withdrawal symptoms like headaches, intense craving of the drug, and sweating.

You can get help to help you break your addiction if you are struggling with breaking your addiction to dissociative anesthetics. By seeking a medical facility that offers dissociation treatment medication, and would help you through the withdrawal stage, it is possible to break an addiction to dissociatives.