Hallucinogens are a diverse group of drugs that alter perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions), thoughts, and feelings. They cause hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real though they are not. Hallucinogens can be found in some plants and mushrooms (or their extracts) or can be made by humans. People have used hallucinogens for centuries, mostly for religious rituals. Learn about the health effects of hallucinogens and read the DrugFacts.

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What is the link between drug use and viral infections like HIV and hepatitis?

Drug use increases a person’s risk for getting a viral infection, like HIV or hepatitis, in two ways:

  • When people inject drugs and share needles or other drug equipment. This can transfer viruses from one person to another, because bodily fluids like blood stay on the equipment in tiny amounts—even if the equipment is wiped “clean.”
  • When drug use leads to poor judgment and risky behavior. Using drugs and alcohol can affect the choices a person makes. For example, it can lead to unsafe sex. This puts a person at risk for getting hepatitis from—or giving it to—someone else.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Drugs can also make it easier for HIV to enter the brain and trigger an immune response and the release of toxins in the nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). This can cause a kind of brain disorder called NeuroHIV.
  • Drug use and addiction can also speed up the progression of HIV and its consequences, especially in the brain, making AIDS-related deaths more likely.
  • Drug and alcohol use can also directly damage the liver, increasing risk for chronic liver disease and cancer among those infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). AIDS is the final stage of an HIV infection when the body can no longer fight off diseases. Most people say “HIV/AIDS” when talking about either the virus (HIV) or the disease it causes (AIDS).

HIV destroys certain cells in the immune system—called CD4+ cells. The immune system helps the body fight diseases, but HIV weakens the body’s ability to heal itself. AIDS is diagnosed when people have one or more of these infections and a low number of CD4+ cells in their body.

HIV/AIDS has been a global epidemic for more than 30 years. People born after 1980 have never known a world without it. More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV.1 It is thought that 1 in 7 people are unaware they have the condition.

A person can have HIV for many years, and the virus may or may not progress to the disease of AIDS. This is why a person may appear healthy when, in fact, they carry the HIV virus and can pass it on to others through sexual activity or needle sharing. A medical test is the only way to know if a person has HIV.


There is no cure for HIV. But, with proper care, HIV can be managed. Learn the link.

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