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Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)

Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) | Just Believe Recovery PA

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Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is a side effect of taking hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, “magic mushrooms” (psilocybin), or peyote. HPPD occurs when a user experiences the effects of the drug weeks, months, sometimes even years after taking it.

HPPD is commonly referred to as having a “flashback”. Sometimes, this experience can be enjoyable for the user. But, this isn’t always the case. Some users only experience distorted visual effects that can confuse and disorient them. If these “flashbacks” occur often enough they can be upsetting, frustrating, or even debilitating. When a user experiences these “flashbacks” often, it is referred to as HPPD.

It’s not certain how many people will experience HPPD after the use of hallucinogenic drugs, but it’s rare. There hasn’t been much research conducted on this condition since very few people have been diagnosed with HPPD.

How Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder Feels

When a person experiences a “flashback”, they typically are reliving an event from their past. More often than not, these events come after hallucinogenic drug use. But, they have been known to surface after a traumatic event.

Whether a flashback occurs from hallucinogenic drugs or PTSD, the event can involve all of he senses. Individuals are made to feel like they are reliving the entire experience. But, with HPPD, flashbacks aren’t as intense.

Most people experiencing HPPD will only experience the visual interruptions of a flashback. As these flashbacks become more frequent, they can start to affect a person’s daily life.

HPPD Symptoms

People experiencing HPPD can suffer from a variety of symptoms. Colorful objects may seem more vivid while experiencing a flashback. They may even experience bright flashes of colors, or have trouble telling similar colors apart.

Someone suffering from HPPD may also have trouble determining the size of objects. During a flashback, objects may seem to appear larger or smaller than they actually are. This typically occurs with objects in the person’s peripheral vision.

Seeing geometric patterns, seeing images within images, and seeing tracers or trailers, can also occur when suffering from HPPD. An example would be seeing a checkerboard pattern on the leaf of a tree. This pattern isn’t really there, but it appears like it is to the person experiencing HPPD.

When the person focuses on something, the outline or shadow of what they looked at may follow them through their field of vision. In addition, while looking at one image (like a pane of glass), another object may appear (like a snowflake).

When you look at an object, a halo may also appear around the object when experiencing HPPD. Words on a screen or page you are trying to read may appear to move, shake, or seem jumbled also.

In addition to visual disturbances, HPPD is also accompanied by feelings of paranoia or uneasiness. People experiencing HPPD know when it’s happening. They know what they are going through isn’t normal and it can cause them to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Flashbacks experienced when suffering from HPPD happen at random. But, they are typically not as long or intense as trips experienced from originally taking the drug.

HPPD Causes

Because of the limited diagnoses of HPPD, limited research has been done. Experts are unable to pinpoint what exactly causes HPPD to occur in a particular person. They are also unable to definitively determine what causes the disorder, or why it occurs in the first place.

The onset and severity of HPPD vary from person to person. Some people have experienced HPPD after one use of a drug, while others have used hallucinogenic drugs for years before experiencing the effects of the disorder.

Most of what the medical community knows is what doesn’t cause HPPD. Experts can be fairly certain that HPPD is not caused by any sort of mental disorder. It also isn’t linked to brain damage.

The lingering visual effects associated with HPPD are also not the result of a bad trip. People may develop HPPD after a bad trip, but the disorder is not always associated with a bad trip from the drugs.

Many people also believe that these visual disturbances are caused by drugs stored in the body that become released at a later date. This isn’t the case. This myth is common, but is not true by any means.

Experts are also certain that HPPD isn’t caused by current drug use or intoxication. These symptoms surface days, weeks, months, and sometimes years after initial hallucinogenic drug use.

Diagnosing HPPD

If you, or someone you know, experience hallucinations or visual disturbances that can’t be explained, please consult a medical professional.

What you tell your doctor, counselor, or medical professional is confidential. There is no shame in letting them know whether or not you’ve used hallucinogenic drugs in the past. This information is vital in achieving a proper diagnosis. Especially in the case of HPPD.

The more familiar your doctor is with HPPD, your medical history, and the history of your past drug use, the easier it can be to reach the proper diagnosis. Once your doctor has all of the important information, they may request imaging scans or blood tests to rule out other options. Someone could possibly be suffering from HPPD, or the visual disturbances could be the cause of another medication or condition. A complete panel of testing, and providing your doctor with all of the correct information will help to narrow things down.

Treatment Options

Unfortunately, there is no official treatment for HPPD that is endorsed by the medical community. Because of this, your doctor becomes a vital part of the treatment process. You and your doctor may have to go through a series of different treatment options before finding what’s best to treat the visual disturbances and physical symptoms associated with HPPD.

Symptoms can persist for years or be over in a matter of days. There is some research to suggest that anti-seizure medications like Klonopin or Lamictal can work as possible treatment options. Treatment options are highly individual, and what works for one person’s symptoms may not work another.

Your doctor may also suggest coping techniques such as breathing, yoga, and meditation.

For more resources on this disorder, or to explore other treatment options, contact Just Believe today.

We Believe Recovery Is Possible For Everyone.
If you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse and/or treatment, please call Just Believe Recovery PA at (888) 380-0342. Our recovery specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.
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