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Whether the use of hallucinogens is encouraged, unregulated, regulated, or prohibited, and whether hallucinogens are used for recreational, medicinal, or spiritual purposes, varies from culture to culture. Hallucinogen use is relatively rare in most current societies. In most countries of the world, common hallucinogens are illegal and their posession is considered a crime as of 2003. Rarely, an exception will be made for religious purposes. In the United States, posession of peyote cactus is illegal for most purposes, but the cactus is legally grown and used for religious rituals among various Southwestern Native American tribes.
In contrast to most modern societies, many tribal societies actively encourage the use of hallucinogens, usually as part of a religious ritual. In others, hallucinogen use, while not exactly encouraged, is tolerated and not seen as uncommon.
Many sects of Christianity associated hallucinogenic drug use with witches and the devil. Rumours circulated among medieval Europeans that belladonna was a key ingredient of various magical flying ointments. When applied to mucous membranes, alkaloids in the plant induce (among other effects) hallucinations, nausea, and a sensation of flying. Witches were commonly believed to fly on broomsticks after using the ointment. Consequently, any association with the belladonna plant could have proven extremely dangerous and lead to one's execution as a practitioner of witchcraft.
Peyote cactus has been used in various Native American religious practices in the Southwestern United States and Mexico since long before Europeans arrived. The ghost dance religion that developed in the 1880s among Native Americans in the region involved peyote use. Rain forest tribes in the Amazon River basin[?] have been known to make use of various hallucinogenic plants, as well.
Most Spanish missionaries in the New World condemned the natives' use of hallucinogenic plants as the work of the devil, and attempted to eliminate the practice through forced conversion to Christianity and banning the transmission of knowledge about the plants.
In most Western societies, hallucinogenic drugs have been used for research and therapy, and perhaps some military/intelligence applications. Military research was done in the 1950s and 1960s, such as the CIA's MKULTRA program. But by far the most common use of hallucinogens in the West has been for recreational use.
LSD was first synthesized in 1937 by Dr. Albert Hoffmann[?]. The recreational use of hallucinogens, especially LSD, became popular among certain segments of the Western youth counterculture in the 1960s, led by countercultural icons such as Dr. Timothy Leary and Carlos Castaneda, who encouraged the use of LSD and other hallucinogens as a psychedelic, or mind-revealing, tool for spiritual growth and exploration.
As a result of the growing popularity of LSD, and, some contend, establishment disdain for the hippies with whom it was heavily associated, LSD was banned in the United States in 1967. Despite being scheduled as a controlled substance in the mid 1980s, Ecstasy's popularity has been growing since that time in western Europe and in the United States.
As of 2003, most hallucinogens are controlled substances[?] in most Western countries. One notable exception to the current criminalization trend is the Netherlands, where hallucinogenic mushrooms are considered to be soft drugs, along with marijuana. While the posession of soft drugs is technically illegal, the government has decided that using law enforcement resources to combat their use is a waste of time and money. Thus, public "coffeeshops" in the Netherlands openly sell hallucinogenic soft drugs for personal use. See Drugs policy of the Netherlands.
This attitude has been spreading throughout Europe in the latter part of the 20th century; many European countries no longer actively pursue anti-drug policies, and rarely enforce extant legal penalties for personal-use quantities of hallucinogenic drugs. This is especially true with mild hallucinogens such as marijuana, which is rapidly gaining acceptance in western Europe as a harmless and relatively safe intoxicant, such as alcohol is considered.
Pharmacology Hallucinogens can be classified by quality of action, mechanisms of action or simply by chemical structure. These classifications correlate to a quite high extent. The classes shown here are combined to make them as clear and easy to grasp as possible.
A classical classification is that of Lewin (Phantastica, 1928):
Class I Phantastica roughly correspond to the psychedelics, which is a more modern term usually used as synonym to "hallucinogen" by people with positive attitudes towards them. Here the term is used a bit differently to discriminate one particular class of hallucinogens which it seems to describe best. They typically have no sedative effects and there is usually a clearcut memory to their effects.
Class II Phantastica correspond to the other classes in this scheme. They tend to sedate in addition to their hallucinogenic properties and there often is an impaired memory trace after the effects wear off.
Classes of Hallucinogens:
Hallucinogenic Plants and Fungi
Among the most well-known hallucinogenic plants and fungi are: