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My girlfriend is studying Psychology, and when she and i were talking about some stuff, we discovered that Post Hallucinatory Perception Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome have some strikingly similar symptoms. It makes since that most people report this disorder and/or flashbacks after a 'bad trip' - With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, one is unable to concentrate, is often irritable, has short-term memory loss and , the big one, constantly mentally relive the traumatic situation in dramatic detail...
Doesnt explain those bloddy tracers though!!:-)
Pathological flashbacks (which are NOT the kind of flashbacks that psychedelic users talk about) can be caused by PTSD. The working theory is that the extreme stress caused by an emotionally traumatic event changes your brain chemistry. Basically, the event is "marked" by the chemicals released when under that stress and make it easier for your consciousness to access the memories of the event and for them to resurface spontaneously.
The other pathological features of PTSD (inability to concentrate, etc.) show just how damaging extreme stress/trauma can be to the human nervous system.
The "flashbacks" that psychedelic users talk about are a temporary re-experiencing of perceptual aspects of the psychedelic experience. Extreme forms of these perceptual changes, where they get to the point that they interfere with your functioning (which is EXTREMELY RARE) is called HPPD (Hallucinogen Persisting Perceptual Disorder). People have complained of serious changes to their vision that really fuck them up, but again this is really rare. Some people will tell you this is a myth, or that visual changes ("flashbacks") are only due to the fact that psychedelics "open the doors of perception".
Even terminology like "psychedelics open the doors of perception", or "they cause you to see things that were always there but never noticed", still indicate a cause and effect between the psychedelic and the visual changes. I suspect people are using such terms to deny that physical changes within the brain are responsible for these visual phenomenon. The empiricist, however, will only accept that any mental change (psychological, mood wise, consciousness altering, etc.) must have a direct physical cause. You have to believe in Cartesian dualism to accept that "opening the doors of perception" has no physical basis.
[something, which in a community oriented around non-physical, a.k.a spiritual beliefs, is probably easy to do]
As for the actual mechanisms of what causes "flashbacks" (in the psychedelic user's sense), this is unknown. It could be entirely due to the drug itself, or partly due to genetic factors, or even sociocultural suggestion may play a role (more probably, all three).