Whenever you watch your favorite CSI TV show, you may have heard of the victim being jacked up on mind-altering drugs such as hallucinogens that were found in a toxicology screen.
What are hallucinogens and how do they differ from hallucinations and delusions?
In this article, I will attempt to explain what each of these terms is.
Hallucinogens are drugs responsible for changing one’s perceptions and mood, contribute to delusions, and promote hallucinations. Delusions are false beliefs that have very little basis in reality. For instance, one may believe that his dead mother is coming back from the grave when in reality she has been dead for many years.
Hallucinations are false experiences that affect our senses. They are not real and may affect all of our senses such as sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. For instance, one could claim to feel ants crawling all over his skin when in reality there ARE no ants whatsoever. This is an experience that has affected a person’s touch.
The most commonly encountered hallucinogenic drugs occur naturally from plants such as marijuana, mushrooms, and peyote. Other types of hallucinogens are synthesized in a laboratory. They include LSD, PCP, and STP.
Hitting on Mary Jane
Thus far, the mildest and perhaps the most frequently used hallucinogenic drug is marijuana. Marijuana has several nicknames, which include Mary Jane, pot, and grass. It is a derivative of a plant called Cannabis sativa. The active ingredient sought after in this plant is a molecule called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is found in marijuana at a concentration between 2 and 6 Cannabis sative plant is called hashish which contains about 12 percent THC.
The human body catabolizes THC into one of several products, the most important being 9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (9-carboxy-THC), which shows up in one’s urine. When somebody is subjected to a urinalysis, the drug test will be positive for that the person has been using marijuana lately. The drawback of this drug test is that someone can still test positive for the presence of 9-carboxy-THC in minute levels if he is exposed to second hand marijuana smoke.
You may have seen the CSI: Miami episode in which Eric Delko was asked to do a urinalysis that yielded a positive result. Later, his sister, Marie, attested that Eric is not a marijuana smoker but rather she is, and Eric was only around when she blazed up to self-medicate herself since she suffers from cancer.
Mushrooms and Cacti
Possession of marijuana is illegal in many states but the acheter lsd possession of mushrooms is not. If somebody is caught with mushrooms, it is up to a toxicology laboratory to determine if psilocin and psilocybin, the psychoactive chemicals found in mushrooms, are present for the mushrooms to be considered illegal.
Peyote is the Spanish word that refers to a small Mexican cactus. The sought after ingredient in peyote is a molecule called mescaline, which is a hallucinogen. Many Native American tribal cultures have used peyote in social gatherings for centuries. The external surface of the peyote plant is covered with small round bumps called peyote buttons. These bumps are compartmentalized like an orange. Every compartment contains a cottonlike tuft within.
Experimentally, gas chromatography (GC) or thin layer chromatography (TLC) can identify the presence of mescaline. Unlike mushrooms, further testing is not needed because possession of the peyote plant, just like marijuana, is considered illegal.
There exists a wide array of laboratory produced hallucinogens. The most common is lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and phencyclidine (PCP). PCP is sometimes known angel dust. LSD is very strong. As little as 25 micrograms can produce a high that lasts up to 12 hours. Hallucinations associated with this popular 60’s drug are vivid. Even though LSD is not fatal, there have been cases in which LSD users have harmed others or themselves because of their changes in perceptions. A chemical test called the Van Urk Color Test can test for the presence of LSD.
A forensic toxicologist can use either blood or urine to check for the presence of PCP. For PCP users, a urinalysis can yield a positive result for up to a week after the last use.
The next time you watch your favorite CSI TV show, you will have a better understanding of the drugs and the drug tests used to determine if a user is positive for a certain hallucinogen.