Updated on April 23, 2024
10 min read

Types of Dissociatives, Addiction & Treatment

Dissociative drugs are a class of psychoactive substances that can induce a sense of detachment from your surroundings, body, and identity. They can lead to powerful experiences of distorted perceptions and altered states of consciousness.

Evidence suggests misusing them can cause mental and long-term consequences due to substance abuse and addiction. Dissociative drugs are a sensitive topic and can be complicated to talk about, so you should approach the topic with empathy and understanding.

If you or someone you know is going through a struggle with dissociative drugs, please seek help from your healthcare provider immediately. You might also find it helpful to learn about the signs of addiction and potential treatments for managing abuse to combat the effects.

What Are Dissociative Drugs?

Dissociative drugs belong to a class of hallucinogens or psychedelic drugs.

These substances can have powerful effects on the mind, which some people crave. Some may have legitimate medical uses, but there are still significant risks like addiction you must consider.

Dissociative drugs can cause:

  • Feelings of detachment or disconnection
  • Disassociation from the user’s environment and self
  • Separation anxiety
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Distorted perception
  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Speeding up or slowing down of time
  • A sense of timelessness (rarely)

Are Dissociative Drugs Dangerous?

Dissociative drugs can be dangerous. Their effects can be unpredictable and lead to serious health problems. Some risks include:

  • Addiction: Dissociative drugs can be highly addictive, both physically and psychologically.
  • Mental Health Problems: Dissociative drug use can worsen existing mental health conditions or trigger new ones, such as anxiety or psychosis.
  • Physical Health Problems: These drugs can damage the bladder, kidneys, and brain. They can also increase the risk of accidents and injuries due to impaired coordination and judgment.

Symptoms of Dissociative Drug Addiction

Addiction to dissociative drugs is a serious medical condition that requires professional treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please seek help from your healthcare provider.

Addiction is a complex and chronic issue that affects the brain's reward, motivation, and memory functions. It creates changes in the brain that can make it incredibly difficult to fight cravings and stay on track.

Addiction symptoms of dissociative drugs may include:

  • Aggression
  • Blurry or red eyes
  • Compulsive drug use
  • Decreased socialization
  • Dropping hobbies or interests
  • Drug-seeking behavior
  • Financial problems
  • Increased drug tolerance
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Secrecy and solitude
  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration
  • Memory loss
  • Numbness
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Anxiety, mood swings, and depression
  • Psychotic symptoms like hallucinations
  • Isolation and social withdrawal
  • Doctor shopping or trying to get more prescriptions for drugs
  • Stealing or thinking about stealing prescriptions or the drugs themselves
  • Prioritizing drug use over the rest of your day-to-day

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, get medical intervention immediately. Your doctor can help you get off the drug and get back on track.

What Are the Most Common Dissociative Drugs?

You may encounter a few common dissociative drugs. These drugs often have street names that may not sound as serious as the potential risks they carry. However, misusing them and developing addictions to them can be dangerous and sometimes fatal.

Learn their street names, and understand their effects, potential risks, and legal status.

Here are some common dissociative drugs:

1. Phencyclidine (PCP)

Doctors developed PCP in the 1950s as a dissociative anesthetic. However, they discontinued using it due to its serious adverse effects.

Today, it’s a Schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II substances have a high potential for abuse, and consistent use may lead to psychological or physical dependence.

PCP’s street names include:

  • Angel dust
  • Love boat
  • Rocket fuel
  • Ozone
  • Super weed
  • Super grass
  • Embalming fluid
  • Crystal t
  • Magic dust

Short-Term Effects of PCP

People feel the short-term effects of PCP after 30 to 60 minutes if ingested orally. The high lasts five to 10 minutes if smoked.

The immediate effects may wear off after four to six hours. However, returning to a completely normal state may take up to 24 hours. 

As a dissociative anesthetic, its effects include:

  • A numb, trance-like state
  • Analgesia (pain relief)
  • Body distortion
  • Depersonalization
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations

PCP use poses concerning effects, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Intense sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Slurred speech
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Unpredictable and often violent behavior

At high doses, PCP can have dangerous effects like:

  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Coma
  • Death

Long-Term Effects of PCP

Prolonged use of PCP can lead to addiction. Users may also experience withdrawal symptoms if they abruptly stop taking the drug.

Some long-term effects of PCP include:

  • Depression
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) or flashbacks
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Memory loss
  • Mood disorders
  • Weight loss

PCP can also negatively affect the hormones necessary for healthy growth and development. It may stunt learning abilities in young people.

Legal Status of PCP

PCP is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States, reflecting its high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence. Its use is illegal except for very limited research purposes.

2. Ketamine

Doctors and veterinarians use ketamine as dissociative anesthetics for inducing sedation and pain relief in surgical procedures.

However, due to its dissociative properties, people may use it illicitly. It’s a Schedule III controlled substance, so it has a potential for abuse and may cause addiction.

Ketamine’s street names include:

  • K
  • Special K
  • Vitamin K
  • Super acid
  • Bump
  • Cat Valium
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Honey oil
  • Jet

Short-Term Effects of Ketamine

The short-term effects of ketamine can include:

  • Hyperesthesia (A heightened sense of touch)
  • Auditory and visual distortions
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Slurred speech
  • Numbness

The potential adverse effects of ketamine include panic, rage, and paranoia.

Many people have also described their usage as a near-death experience. This sensation is called a “K-hole,” wherein people report the following effects:

  • Profound dissociation from their body
  • Altered perception of time and space
  • Feelings of weightlessness
  • Disconnection from reality, including hallucinations

Long-Term Effects of Ketamine

Ketamine is an addictive drug and can cause severe withdrawal symptoms. This effect is especially true for people who develop a dependency on the drug. 

Potential long-term effects of ketamine are:

  • Amnesia
  • Fatal respiratory problems
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Impaired motor functions

Legal Status of Ketamine

Ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance in the United States, indicating a potential for moderate to low physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Its legal status means it is available for medical use under strict regulation but is illegal for non-prescribed use.

This drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an anesthetic and, more recently, in a nasal spray form (esketamine) for treatment-resistant depression.

3. Dextromethorphan (DXM)

Dextromethorphan is often present in over-the-counter cold and cough medications. This means that anyone in the United States can purchase it without a prescription from a health professional.

This drug’s street names include:

  • CCC (Triple C)
  • Dex
  • Robo
  • Rojo
  • Skittles
  • Velvet
  • Poor man’s PCP

Short-Term Effects of DXM

The short-term effects of DXM may include:

  • Auditory distortions
  • Change in the perception of gravity
  • Altered sensory perception 
  • Altered perception of time and space
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Vivid imagination

The potential adverse effects of DXM may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting

High doses of DXM may induce the following:

  • Slowed breathing
  • Seizures
  • Temporary paralysis
  • Central nervous system suppression
  • Death

Cough medicines with DXM also contain several other active ingredients that can interact with other drugs, which may have very dangerous effects.

Long-Term Effects of DXM

Prolonged use of DXM can lead to abuse and addiction and result in withdrawal symptoms if the user cannot continue using the drug.

The other long-term effects of DXM include:

  • Cerebral hemorrhages
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Stroke

Legal Status of DXM

DXM is a cough suppressant. While not a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, its potential for abuse, especially among teenagers, has led some states to regulate its sale. This includes restricting purchases to those over a certain age.

4. Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide has numerous medical uses in surgery and dentistry, especially as dissociative anesthetics.

Under federal law, nitrous oxide is legal to possess. Many states have laws regarding nitrous oxide possession, sale, and distribution.

Its street names include:

  • Whippits
  • Nitro
  • NOS
  • Balloons
  • Buzz Bombs
  • Nangs
  • Laughing gas
  • Hippie crack
  • Chargers
  • N20
  • Sweet air

Short-Term Effects of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is a gas when inhaled, may have the following effects:

  • Euphoria
  • Fits of laughter
  • Hallucinations
  • Relaxation
  • Incomprehensible/incoherent speech

The effects can occur almost immediately after use but only last briefly.

Potential adverse effects of nitrous oxide are:

  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating or shivering
  • Inability to think 
  • Irrationality
  • Paranoia
  • Severe headaches
  • Sleepiness

Long-Term Effects of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide isn’t always physically addictive but can be psychologically addictive. Due to its short duration, users may abuse it repetitively and frequently to experience the pleasurable sensations it causes.

Prolonged use of nitrous oxide may result in:

  • Body spasms
  • Brain and nerve damage
  • Depression
  • Incontinence
  • Memory loss
  • Potential congenital disabilities if used during pregnancy
  • Psychosis

Legal Status of Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is not scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act but is regulated under the FDA when intended for human consumption. Its recreational use is illegal under various state laws.

5. Salvia Divinorum

Salvia divinorum is a leaf native to Central and South America. It has various legal statuses around the U.S.

Currently, 29 American states consider it an illegal drug. Salvia divinorum’s street names include:

  • Salvia
  • Leaves of mary
  • The shepherdess
  • Maria pastora
  • Sage of the seers
  • Diviner’s mint
  • Sally-D
  • Magic Mint

Short-Term Effects of Salvia Divinorum

Salvia divinorum is a leaf that users can chew, drink, or smoke. Its effects typically occur almost immediately after consumption and last less than 30 minutes.

The typical short-term effects of salvia divinorum include:

  • Intense hallucinations
  • Intense laughter
  • Visual distortions

The potential adverse effects of salvia divinorum include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Dysphoria
  • Fear
  • Acute distress or panic
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea

Long-Term Effects of Salvia Divinorum

Salvia isn’t physically addictive. Its long-term effects remain unknown. However, users have reported the following after the immediate effects wear off:

  • Feelings of tiredness
  • Memory loss
  • Spatial and temporal distortion

Legal Status of Salvia Divinorum

This dissociative drug is not controlled under the Federal Controlled Substances Act but is banned or regulated in several states.

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Dissociative Drug Abuse Treatment

People may develop certain mental health issues after active dissociative drug use. If you or someone you know shows signs of dissociative drug abuse, they must get treatment immediately. In some cases, ongoing maintenance treatment might be necessary.

The potential treatment options for dissociative drug abuse available for those in need are:

  • Medical detox: Doing a medical detox may be necessary to prevent or minimize harmful withdrawal symptoms from dissociative drugs
  • Inpatient treatment: In some cases, checking yourself into a rehab facility for 24-hour medical supervision may prove to be effective
  • Outpatient treatment: Some people may benefit from a treatment plan where they can freely leave the healthcare facility
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: This treatment option addresses co-occurring mental health conditions alongside addiction
  • Support groups: Organizations like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide a much-needed community to help maintain sobriety after treatment

Talk to your healthcare provider to create a treatment program that meets all your needs. You should keep in mind that follow-ups are critical to the success of drug abuse treatments to prevent relapses.

Get matched with an affordable mental health counselor

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Updated on April 23, 2024
10 sources cited
Updated on April 23, 2024
  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “HALLUCINOGENS AND DISSOCIATIVE DRUGS.” NIDA Research Report Series, 2014. 
  2. Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine. “The Legacy of Dissociative Drugs.” American Association for Clinical Chemistry, 2019. 
  3. Dissociatives.” Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2022.
  4. Morgan et al. “Ketamine use: a review.” Addiction, 2012.
  5. U.S. Department of Justice. “PCP Fast Facts.” National Drug Intelligence Center, 2003.
  6. Dissociative Drugs.” NYC Health.
  7. Dissociatives.” Alcohol and Drug Foundation, 2023.
  8. Psychedelic and Dissociative Drugs as Medicines.” National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  9. FDA Approves New Nasal Spray Medication for Treatment-Resistant Depression; Available Only at a Certified Doctor’s Office or Clinic.” US FDA, 2019.
  10. Gardner, E. L. “Introduction: Addiction and Brain Reward and Anti-Reward Pathways.” National Library of Medicine, 2011.

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