Psychedelic chemicals are a class of psychoactive chemicals which have a pronounced ability to change the way subjects think and perceive themselves and their surroundings. Most act to agonise or stimulate the serotonin receptors in human (and animal) neurons, but there are a few other mechanisms as well.
All psychedelics are hallucinogens, but not all hallucinogens are psychedelics. Other hallucinogen classes are deliriants and dissociatives, which we might cover later.
Psychedelics are not, however, stimulants products or opioids. Those produce ‘normal’ states of consciousness (alertness, sleep, euphoria, etc.) at unusual times. Psychedelicsproduce very different types of consciousness altogether, which is what makes them so interesting to researchers and hobbyists alike. These altered states of consciousness are often compared to those attainable by practices like yoga or meditation, waking dreams, near death experiences or certain types of religious ecstasy, but occur not due to circumstance to discipline, rather due to the presence in the system of a drug or other chemical that originated outside the body.
The vast majority of psychedelic chemicals fall into three categories, the lysergamides, the phenethylamines and the tryptamines.
The phenethylamines are one of the more interesting groups of psychedelic chemicals. There are several different types, some of which also belong to the stimulant, empathogen, hypnotic and/or enactogen categories, as well as a few non-psychoactive varieties used as decongestants and bronchodilators.
Within the psychedelic phenethylamines are sub-groups like the substituted methylenedioxyphenethylamines, the substituted amphetamines and the substituted phenethylamines.
Most phenethylamine psychedelics share a similar structure to phenethylamine and/or amphetamine and seem to target the same biomolecular sites. Most cause the release of both dopamine and norepinephrine. The phenethylamines also often cause the release of acetylcholine by triggering a glutamate-mediated mechanism.
Lysergic acid (LSD) is the precursor of a great many ergoline alkaloids. They were originally discovered in the ergot fungus (hence the name) and within a few plant species including morning glories and Hawaiian Baby Woodrose. The lysergamides are the amides of lysergic acid, and make up a great many useful pharmaceuticals and potent recreational drugs.
Lysergic acid itself is known as a ‘chiral compound’, as it consists of a pair of stereocenters. Isolygersic acid is one isomer, which features an inversion at the carbon 8 point near the carboxy group. Other isomers include the carbon 5 inversion (near the nitrogen) which is called L-lysergic acid.
The various amides of lysergic acid are almost too numerous to count, and nrw ones are being discovered and isolated all the time.
Tryptamine itself is a monoamine alkaloid common to human and animal neural systems. Structurally, it features an indole ring and is very similar to an amino acid called tryptophan (that many of us know from turkey dinners), but has much more interesting effects. It is understood to act as a neurotransmitter and a neuromodulator in most animals.
Tryptamine is the basic building block of a large group of chemicals called substituted tryptamines, which includes many naturally occurring neurotransmitters, research chemicals and psychedelic compounds.