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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Recovery is a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential. Even people with severe and chronic substance use disorders can, with help, overcome their illness and regain health and social function. This is called remission. Being in recovery is when those positive changes and values become part of a voluntarily adopted lifestyle. While many people in recovery believe that abstinence from all substance use is a cardinal feature of a recovery lifestyle, others report that handling negative feelings without using substances and living a contributive life are more important parts of their recovery.

Types of Recovery Programs

Some types of recovery programs include:

  • Recovery-oriented systems of care: These programs embrace a chronic care management model for severe substance use disorders, which includes longer-term, outpatient care; recovery housing; and recovery coaching and management checkups.
  • Recovery support services: These services refer to the collection of community services that can provide emotional and practical support for continued remission. Components include mutual aid groups (e.g., 12-step groups), recovery coaching, recovery housing, recovery management (checkups and telephone case monitoring), recovery community centers, and recovery-based education (high schools and colleges).
  • Social and recreational recovery infrastructures and social media: These programs make it easier for people in recovery to enjoy activities and social interaction that do not involve alcohol or drugs (e.g., recovery-specific cafes and clubhouses, sports leagues, and creative arts programs).

(National Institutes of Health)

Medications for Opioid Overdose

Medications for Opioid Use Disorder
This infographic shows the different types of medications prescribed for opioid overdose, withdrawal, and addiction.

Medications for opioid overdose, withdrawal, and addiction
Medications for opioid overdose, withdrawal, and addiction are safe, effective and save lives.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse supports research to develop new medicines and delivery systems to treat opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders, as well as other complications of substance use (including withdrawal and overdose), to help people choose treatments that are right for them.

FDA-approved medications for opioid addiction, overdose, and withdrawal work in various ways.

  • Opioid Receptor Agonist: Medications attach to opioid receptors in the brain to block withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Opioid Receptor Partial Agonist: Medications attach to and partially activate opioid receptors in the brain to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
  • Opioid Receptor Antagonist: Medications block activity of opioid receptors in the brain to prevent euphoric effects (the high) of opioids and alcohol and help reduce cravings.
  • Adrenergic Receptor Agonist: A medication that attaches to and activates adrenergic receptors in the brain and helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Four cards show medications prescribed to reduce opioid use and cravings.

  • Methadone available in daily liquid or tablets. Brand names are Dolophine® and Methadose®. Generics are available.
  • Naltrexone available in a monthly injection. Brand name is Vivitrol®
  • Buprenorphine available in daily tablet or monthly injection. Brand name is Sublocade®. Generic tablets are available.
  • Buprenorphine/Naloxone is available in daily film that dissolves under the tongue or tablet. Brand names are Zubsolv® and Suboxone® and generics are available.
  • Lofexidine treats withdrawal symptoms and is a tablet taken as needed. Brand name is Lucemyra®.
  • Naloxone reverses overdose and is available as an emergency nasal spray or injection. Brand names are Narcan® and Kloxxado® and generics are available.

Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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