Many people are under the assumption that hallucinogenic drugs are fairly harmless – you experience some psychedelic effects, maybe have a spiritual awakening – and the worst that can happen is you have a bad trip that you’ll eventually forget, like a vivid nightmare. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It’s possible for you to have visual hallucinations while on drugs that will persist well after ceasing use. These don’t involve sound or any other part of the experience, and they can happen frequently and at any time, interfering with your vision. A person who experiences these episodes is said to have hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder, or HPPD.

How bad is it? Bad enough that one magazine wrote an article about it titled “When Drugs [expletive] You Up Forever.” This article in Vice detailed the experience of a young man named Alex, who had taken over the counter cough medicine to get high. That same day, he also took Adderall, and he was struggling with amphetamine addiction at the same time. The next day – past the point when he should have been feeling the effects of any of the drugs – he noticed trails of light in his vision. From then on, his vision was interrupted by these comet-like streaks, which only worsened with time. At the time of the article – September 2017 – it had been happening for four years.

There was another case in the United Kingdom where a man suffered from HPPD for over 20 years. His symptoms included seeing red objects having a green shimmer around them (like 3-D glasses), being unable to properly estimate distances, it appearing as though people’s faces changed shape when he looked at them, changes in his own reflection, words moving around while he was reading, and vehicles seeming to stretch as they drove past. He was unable to cross the road on his own or even read, and he was frequently unable to tell if what he was seeing was real or a hallucination.

Researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes some people to develop HPPD. Although everyone with the condition has used a hallucinogenic drug, the duration of use and the amount consumed varies.

It’s not only streaks that people with HPPD see. They can also perceive halos around objects, see things in their peripheral vision that aren’t there, and see afterimages after looking away from something. It’s not life-threatening, but it can affect daily life as one never knows when their vision will suddenly be impaired. People with the condition also commonly suffer from depression and anxiety. There are currently no medical treatments, although people can manage the distress causes by HPPD by practicing breathing techniques and other means of relaxation.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.


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