A Deep Dive Into The Visual Effects Of Psychedelics

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A Deep Dive Into The Visual Effects Of Psychedelics

If you want to know exactly what visual phenomena you will experience while tripping, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for a comprehensive overview of all the visual effects psychedelics can induce, and why there is more to the world than meets the eye.

Psychedelics can make you see the world in weird and wonderful ways (sometimes really weird). However, to understand what visual changes you can expect from psychedelics, we need to take a closer look at how our brain processes information.

What we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste is influenced by our brain's interpretation of the signals received. What we see may not be what is physically in front of us. Our mind may also interpret surroundings differently to someone else, even if they are standing right next to us.

When consuming magic mushrooms, truffles, LSD, or any psychedelic substance, it is speculated that they disrupt regular activity in the prefrontal cortex and default mode network (DMN). This disruption allows the brain to have "visionary experiences". Rather than being focussed on interpreting useful visual cues, we experience a surge of visual predictions. Our minds desperately try to process as much information as possible. The disruption in our typical brain function, combined with overexcited neurons, can lead to a wide range of visual enhancements, distortions, and hallucinations.


The type—and intensity—of visual phenomenon experienced will depend mostly on your setting, mental state, and substance taken. Each potential occurrence is separated into five major categories:


Visual Effects Of Psychedelics: Enhancements

Visual enhancements represent an improved perception of our environment. The first, and arguably the most impactful, of these effects is a heightened clarity of vision. It is common to notice details in your surroundings you may have never seen before.

Alongside improvements in visual clarity, users may experience a “zooming in” effect. You will see objects that are far away more clearly, and be able to focus on the tiniest details. You may also start to see patterns or faces among inanimate objects and vague stimuli.

Colour enhancements are also widespread while tripping—imagine an Instagram filter layered over your environment. The contrast and vibrancy have been turned up and colours appear brighter.


Visual Effects Of Psychedelics: Suppressions

Visual suppression effects are the opposite of the enhancements listed above; whenever the brain interprets an object, its clarity and colour appear dull. You may also struggle to focus as vision becomes blurred or distorted. That distortion can become more pronounced, developing into double vision, frame rate distortion, and a lack of peripheral vision.

Double vision is like seeing an image placed over top of itself—slightly off centre. If you've ever worn 3D glasses, then you'll know what to expect from double vision. Frame rate suppression is when your brain only interprets a handful of an object's movements. It may seem as though they are teleporting, or moving erratically. Finally, a lack of peripheral vision affects your depth perception and sense of perspective, so your surroundings appear flat.


Visual Effects Of Psychedelics: Distortions

Visual distortions are where things start to get really interesting. Whereas visual suppression and enhancement are changes in how we perceive objects in front of us, visual distortions can add, remove, or replace the world around us. Although there are dozens of different ways that objects can appear distorted, we will cover off some of the most common effects.

Expect after-images, changes to brightness, colouration (or complete removal of colour), altered depth perception, and drifting or melting. Of all the possible distortions, drifting or melting is the effect most commonly associated with psychedelics. Paintings appear to move, solid objects begin to pulse, and patterns swirl as if they are coming to life.


Visual Effects Of Psychedelics: Geometry

Geometric visual effects sit somewhere between distortions and full-blown hallucinations. At their lowest level, these effects are classified as “visual noise”, changes to motion, colour, and patterns forming among simple structures or objects. Embrace psychedelics from the stronger end of the spectrum and geometric visuals can reach otherworldly levels.

Users report reaching a level of visual distortion that transports them to another dimension. The environment around you fades into the background, replaced by intense, geometric forms. Two final levels of visual geometry are 8A geometry and 8B geometry. The former is an infinite mass of geometric forms taking shape (often influenced by our subconscious), and the latter is a single mass of geometric structures.


Visual Effects Of Psychedelics: Full Hallucinations

Last, but by no means least, are full hallucinations. Although not exclusive to psychedelics, hallucinations can manifest in many ways. Not all will be positive, and it is not uncommon to hear of people having their worst fears manifest during a bad trip.

Fortunately, these instances are rare, and it is more likely you will experience autonomous entities or shadow people, many of whom will try to communicate with you. Hallucinations are also the only visual effect that can be experienced with your eyes open or closed. Individuals have reported visual hallucinations in the back of their eyelids, such as surreal settings, landscapes, and object activation.


There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to defining what you will experience visually when tripping. Your previous experience with psychedelics, the substance taken, its potency, and external stimuli all play a crucial role. However, having a general idea of what to expect can help you prepare for the introspective journey ahead.