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The dissociatives are a class of substances comprised of various psychoactive compounds that result in a distorted sense of reality and, characteristically, dissociation—or a sense of feeling disconnected or detached from one’s environment and body.1,2
Dissociative drugs, some of which have legitimate medical uses, are sometimes abused for their psychoactive effects including:1,2
The most widely abused dissociative drugs include:1,2,3,4
Dissociative drugs are associated with a range of physical and psychological effects. The psychoactive effects of these drugs and how quickly they set in can vary depending upon the dose and route of use (e.g., snorting, swallowing, injecting).1 In some cases, the effects may begin within a few minutes of taking the drug and can persist for several hours or even days.1,2
At low to moderate doses, dissociative drugs can have several effects such as: 1,4
At higher doses, these effects become more severe and can lead to dangerous changes in blood pressure, pulse, respiratory rate, and body temperature.1
Other effects associated with high doses include:1,2
Combining dissociative drugs with alcohol or other depressant substances can lead to potentially fatal respiratory depression.1
Specific types of dissociative drugs may have their own severe and dangerous effects:1
The long-term risks of dissociative drugs are not fully understood.1 However, repeated use of certain dissociative drugs like PCP can lead to addiction,2 which involves continued drug use despite consequences, such as the drug having a negative impact on a person’s health and relationships. 2 Users of dissociative drugs may also develop physical dependence and suffer withdrawal when they attempt to stop using.1
Long-term use of dissociative drugs, such as PCP, may result in may result in persisting negative effects on a person’s mental and physical health such as:1,2
These effects can continue for a year or more after a person has stopped using.1
Overdose can occur when consuming certain dissociative drugs:
Polysubstance use can increase the risk of overdose when dissociative drugs are mixed with other classes of drugs or alcohol. Taking PCP with central nervous system depressants, including benzodiazepines and alcohol, can increase the risk of coma.2 Overdoses involving DXM and MXE are more likely to result in death when other drugs are also involved.3,6 Taking DXM with certain antidepressants can also be deadly.3
Dissociative drugs can profoundly alter a person’s sensory perceptions and mood, which can lead someone to engage in behaviors that may be harmful and potentially fatal.2 For example, users of dissociative drugs may act on suicidal or violent thoughts.2 People under the influence of dissociatives may also be at risk for accidental deaths involving motor vehicle accidents or drowning.3,6
Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder programs such as the one at Desert Hope specialize in treating both addiction and mental health conditions.
Dissociative drugs can be addictive.1 Some people may require treatment when attempting to quit. If you’re having a difficult time quitting dissociative drugs, addiction treatment could help. Different types of programs are available depending upon your needs:
People who use dissociative drugs may have pre-existing mental health conditions. Other times, users may develop certain mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, that persist beyond the period of active drug use.1 Dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder programs such as the one at Desert Hope specialize in treating both addiction and mental health conditions. If you think you might be experiencing mental health issues, this type of program may be right for you.
When searching for the right treatment program, you may want to be sure that the program provides certain services such as:
Seeking help for addiction to dissociative drugs is a step in the right direction. While the sensory-distorting high may seem appealing, these drugs carry serious risks. Quitting sooner rather than later can prevent dangerous and potentially fatal consequences.