HPPD: Symptoms, Treatment, and More What Is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)?

HPPD: Symptoms, Treatment, and More What Is Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)?

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Understanding HPPD

Some users of hallucinogens like LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) continue to feel its effects days, weeks, or even years after their initial usage.

These memories, which are referred to as flashbacks, are experienced by those who suffer from hallucinogen persistent perception disorder (HPPD).

The term “trip” is used to describe a hallucinogenic drug-induced inner neurological experience in which sensory perception is changed.

For many people, this could be a positive experience. Hallucinogen use, however, has the potential to be highly risky, depending on:

the type of hallucinogen used, the dosage, and any interactions with drugs or underlying illnesses

It can be enjoyable to relive the trip or the drug’s effects during certain flashbacks. It might even be enjoyable and calming.

Some people, nevertheless, experience flashbacks differently. They just encounter confusing visual effects, not a pleasant vacation. These visual effects could consist of:

haloes surrounding things

distorting colors or sizes

dazzling lights that are not fading

It’s possible that those who are experiencing these disturbances are fully aware of everything else going on. The obstruction in your field of vision can be inconvenient, upsetting, and even crippling. These symptoms may be uncomfortable or unsettling because of this.

If you repeatedly experience these visual problems, you may suffer from a condition known as hallucinogen persistent perception disorder (HPPD).

Flashbacks can happen frequently, although HPPD is uncommon. Because persons who have a history of using recreational drugs may not feel comfortable confessing this to their doctor, it is unknown how many people have this disease.

Similarly, despite the condition’s official acknowledgment in medical textbooks and diagnostic guides, doctors could not aware of it.

Two types of HPPD have been identified by researchers (type 1 and type 2). The typical symptom of Type 1 HPPD is brief, sporadic “flashbacks.” Type 2 HPPD, on the other hand, is typically persistent, upsetting, and long-lasting.

Research on HPPD is scarce because relatively few instances are formally diagnosed. Because of this, what medical professionals and researchers do know about the illness is also limited.

Continue reading to find out more about HPPD, the signs you could have it, and how to get treatment.

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What flashbacks feel like

Flashbacks give you the impression that you’re reliving a prior event. A few flashbacks happen after using drugs. After a traumatic experience, others might happen.

People who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) frequently recall upsetting or even painful events.

Flashbacks from drug use and PTSD are both frequently all-encompassing. In other words, even if you’re not actually experiencing the event or vacation during these flashbacks, everything about them makes you feel like you are.

Flashbacks with HPPD, however, are not as thorough. The visual distortion is the only side effect you’ll notice from the flashback. The rest will remain unchanged.

Although you’ll be conscious of the consequences of the disturbances, you’re unlikely to appreciate the additional benefits of traveling again. The more frequently they occur, the more annoying and upsetting they can be.

Symptoms in detail

One or more of the following symptoms are frequently present in people who experience visual abnormalities brought on by HPPD:

enhanced hues. Objects with color appear more vivid and dazzling.

Colorful flashes. Bold flashes of strange color can suddenly appear in your field of view.

color ambiguity You could struggle to distinguish between colors that are similar to one another, and you might even switch colors in your head. To you, what is red to others may be a completely different color.

size disparity Peripheral vision objects may appear bigger or smaller than they actually are.

Objects with halo effects. An object may have a luminous rim around it when you’re looking at it.

the trailers or tracer. You might see lingering outlines of an image or object moving through your field of vision.

observing patterns in geometry. When you gaze at something, shapes and patterns may emerge, even though the pattern is not actually there. For instance, to you but not to anybody else, a tree’s leaves may appear to form a checkerboard pattern.

observing many images at once. You can mistakenly think something is there because of this symptom. For instance, you might notice snowflakes on glass surfaces.

reading is challenging. On a page, sign, or screen, words may seem to tremble or move. They could also seem disorganized and difficult to understand.

unsettling feeling You’ll be aware that your experience during an HPPD episode is abnormal. This could give you the impression that something strange or unexpected is going on, which could make you feel awkward or embarrassed.

An HPPD flashback could happen at any time because it’s unclear how or why they take place.

Rarely are these flashbacks as strong or protracted as a normal drug-induced trip.

People with HPPD frequently go through:

panic or anxiety disorders

Suicidal thoughts are one of the signs of depersonalization or derealization.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) does not identify these symptoms even though they are documented to occur. If the disease is directly to blame for these symptoms is still up for debate.

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Causes of HPPD

Doctors and researchers still don’t fully comprehend who gets HPPD and why. What initially causes HPPD is likewise a mystery. The clearest link between HPPD and history of hallucinogenic drug use is unclear, however, and may depend on the substance used or how frequently it was used.

There aren’t many persons with HPPD, and those who have a history of mental illness or substance abuse are more likely to have it identified. But it can happen to anyone, even after only one encounter with a medication that causes it.

People can occasionally get HPPD right away after taking a medication for the first time. Others have used these medications for many years prior to developing symptoms.

It is more well known what does not induce HPPD:

HPPD is not brought on by head trauma

a neurological condition such as epilepsy or seizures

yet another psychological disorder

An unpleasant journey is not the cause of lingering symptoms. Although not everyone with HPPD has had a horrible vacation, some people may initially encounter HPPD after a disastrous trip.

The medicine was not kept by your body and was later released as the cause of these symptoms. Although this notion is widespread, it is not real.

Additionally, HPPD is not brought on by present intoxication. Many patients begin to exhibit HPPD symptoms days, weeks, or even months after initially using drugs.

How HPPD is diagnosed

It’s crucial to see a doctor if you have inexplicable hallucinations. All hallucinogenic episodes should be taken seriously. This is especially valid if you frequently have these experiences. The doctor might examine you, order tests in the lab, and take a picture of your brain.

To track the electrical activity of the brain, they might want to conduct an electroencephalogram (EEG) in specific circumstances.

You should tell your doctor if you’ve used any hallucinogens. It’s critical to realize that your doctor’s top priority will be assisting you in addressing and treating your symptoms. They won’t pass judgment on your current or past drug use.

The doctor may suggest a psychiatric evaluation if they conduct a medical evaluation and the results of the testing and imaging are obvious. HPPD may be the conclusion of a psychiatric evaluation if it does not accord with other, more typical diagnoses.

If your doctor is aware of the illness and your prior drug use, making an HPPD diagnosis might be simpler. Your doctor will be interested in learning about your personal medical history as well as an in-depth description of your experiences.

Your doctor might ask for imaging tests or blood testing if they suspect another possible cause, including a medication’s negative effects. These tests can aid them in ruling out any additional potential reasons for your symptoms. An HPPD diagnosis is expected if another test is negative.

It’s crucial to be open and honest with your doctor about all of your habits, decisions, and medical history if you want your doctor-patient relationship to be successful. These elements will aid your doctor in making a diagnosis and assist you in avoiding any potential drug interaction-related issues.

Find a doctor who makes you feel comfortable if you believe your current physician is not providing you with the care you need or is not taking your symptoms seriously.

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Available treatment options

There is no accepted medicinal remedy for HPPD. Finding a psychiatrist who has experience treating HPPD might be challenging because so little is known about how the condition develops. It could take some trial and error to find a solution to reduce the visual disruptions and address the associated physical issues.

Some patients don’t require treatment. The symptoms could go away in a matter of weeks or months.

2021 evaluation

Despite the small number of trials, the HPPD Trusted Source advises that some drugs may be used to treat HPPD. Sometimes doctors will prescribe anti-seizure and epilepsy drugs such as clonazepam (Klonopin) and lamotrigine (Lamictal). But what functions for one individual could not function for another.

How to cope with HPPD

You may wish to arm yourself with coping mechanisms for the symptoms when they do manifest because the visual episodes of HPPD can be unpredictable. For instance, if these episodes significantly increase your anxiety, you might need to get some rest and practice calming breathing exercises.

Your likelihood of experiencing an HPPD episode may increase if you worry about having one. An episode might also be brought on by fatigue and stress.

Talk therapy may be a beneficial coping strategy. A psychologist or therapist can assist you in learning how to react to stressors when they arise.


HPPD is quite uncommon. Not every user of hallucinogens will experience HPPD. After ingesting hallucinogenic drugs, some individuals only once encounter these visual distortions. Others may experience the disturbances regularly but not to a great degree.

While some HPPD patients have symptoms for a long time, others finally get well.

There is little information on the causes of HPPD and the most effective treatments. To handle the disturbances and feel in control when they do occur, it’s crucial that you engage with a doctor to identify a therapeutic method or coping method.

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