What is HPPD (hallucinogenic persisting perception disorder)?

Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) is a chronic (and often permanent) condition where a person feels or sees what they felt or saw during a psychedelic trip. Often it causes problems with vision and sound perception. HPPD is only caused by the prior use of hallucinogens.

There are two types of HPPD:

  • Type 1 HPPD This is where people experience HPPD in the form of random, brief flashbacks.

  • Type 2 HPPD People with this kind of HPPD experience ongoing changes to their vision, which may vary in intensity.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is a relatively rare condition that involves the persistence of perceptual changes or hallucinatory experiences long after the use of hallucinogenic substances. It is typically associated with the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, mescaline, and MDMA (ecstasy), although it can also occur after using certain other substances or even spontaneously without any apparent cause.

The specific cause of HPPD is not yet fully understood, but it is believed to result from alterations in the functioning of the visual system and the way the brain processes sensory information. It is thought to involve changes in the levels or activity of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which play a role in mood regulation and perception.

Symptoms of HPPD can vary in their nature and severity. Visual disturbances are the most common symptoms and may include:

  • Visual Snow: Persistent static-like or grainy vision.
  • Trailing or Trails: The perception of trails or afterimages following moving objects.
  • Enhanced Colors: Intensified or altered colors.
  • Geometric Patterns: Seeing geometric shapes or patterns, even without the use of hallucinogens.
  • Flashbacks: Recurring visual disturbances similar to those experienced during the drug use, which can occur spontaneously or be triggered -by various stimuli, such as stress, fatigue, or substances like caffeine.
  • In addition to visual symptoms, some individuals with HPPD may also experience auditory disturbances, such as hearing sounds that are not present or altered in some way.

The duration and impact of HPPD can vary widely among individuals. While some people may only experience mild and infrequent symptoms, others may have more severe and persistent visual disturbances that significantly affect their daily functioning, quality of life, and psychological well-being.

There is no specific cure for HPPD, and the treatment mainly focuses on managing symptoms and providing support. Some approaches that may be used include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), medications to manage specific symptoms (such as anti-anxiety or anti-epileptic drugs), and lifestyle modifications to reduce triggers and improve overall well-being.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of HPPD, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional, preferably one with experience in treating substance-related disorders or neuropsychiatric conditions, for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management strategies.