SciCombinator

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Concept: Psychedelic drug

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Despite the general consensus that synaesthesia emerges at an early developmental stage and is only rarely acquired during adulthood, the transient induction of synaesthesia with chemical agents has been frequently reported in research on different psychoactive substances. Nevertheless, these effects remain poorly understood and have not been systematically incorporated. Here we review the known published studies in which chemical agents were observed to elicit synaesthesia. Across studies there is consistent evidence that serotonin agonists elicit transient experiences of synaesthesia. Despite convergent results across studies, studies investigating the induction of synaesthesia with chemical agents have numerous methodological limitations and little experimental research has been conducted. Cumulatively, these studies implicate the serotonergic system in synaesthesia and have implications for the neurochemical mechanisms underlying this phenomenon but methodological limitations in this research area preclude making firm conclusions regarding whether chemical agents can induce genuine synaesthesia.

Concepts: Scientific method, Chemistry, Serotonin, Knowledge, Psychoactive drug, Psychedelic drug, Psilocybin, Mescaline

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Many psychoactive drugs are used recreationally, particularly by young people. This use and its perceived dangers have led to many different classes of drugs being banned under national laws and international conventions. Indeed, the possession of cannabis, 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA; also known as ecstasy) and psychedelics is stringently regulated. An important and unfortunate outcome of the controls placed on these and other psychoactive drugs is that they make research into their mechanisms of action and potential therapeutic uses - for example, in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder - difficult and in many cases almost impossible.

Concepts: Drug, Opioid, Serotonin, Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Recreational drug use, Psychedelic drug, Prohibition

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Acute adverse psychological reactions to classic hallucinogens (“bad trips” or “challenging experiences”), while usually benign with proper screening, preparation, and support in controlled settings, remain a safety concern in uncontrolled settings (such as illicit use contexts). Anecdotal and case reports suggest potential adverse acute symptoms including affective (panic, depressed mood), cognitive (confusion, feelings of losing sanity), and somatic (nausea, heart palpitation) symptoms. Responses to items from several hallucinogen-sensitive questionnaires (Hallucinogen Rating Scale, the States of Consciousness Questionnaire, and the Five-Dimensional Altered States of Consciousness questionnaire) in an Internet survey of challenging experiences with the classic hallucinogen psilocybin were used to construct and validate a Challenging Experience Questionnaire. The stand-alone Challenging Experience Questionnaire was then validated in a separate sample. Seven Challenging Experience Questionnaire factors (grief, fear, death, insanity, isolation, physical distress, and paranoia) provide a phenomenological profile of challenging aspects of experiences with psilocybin. Factor scores were associated with difficulty, meaningfulness, spiritual significance, and change in well-being attributed to the challenging experiences. The factor structure did not differ based on gender or prior struggle with anxiety or depression. The Challenging Experience Questionnaire provides a basis for future investigation of predictors and outcomes of challenging experiences with classic hallucinogens.

Concepts: Psychology, Factor analysis, Major depressive disorder, Fear, Psychedelic drug, Psilocybin mushrooms, Altered state of consciousness, Bad trip

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Potent and potentially harmful new psychoactive substances (NPS) are continuously introduced on the recreational drugs market. This report from the Swedish STRIDA project describes analytically confirmed cases of intoxication involving the fentanyl analogs acetylfentanyl, 4-methoxybutyrfentanyl, and furanylfentanyl.

Concepts: Drug, Opioid, Morphine, Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Ketamine, Recreational drug use, Psychedelic drug

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The aim of this study was to summarise the scientific evidence on the prevalence of psychoactive substance use and on the factors associated with their intake among truck drivers. A systematic review was performed in the databases PubMed, Scientific Electronic Library Online, Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences, and Cochrane and 36 cross-sectional studies were identified with quantitative results about the use of psychoactive substances by truck drivers. Out of these, 28 were carried out in countries with large land areas and 23 obtained their information through self-reporting. The most frequently studied substances were alcohol (n=25), amphetamines (n=17), marijuana (n=16) and cocaine (n=13). The prevalence of the use of these substances greatly varied: alcohol (0.1-91.0%); amphetamines (0.2-82.5%), marijuana (0.2-29.9%), cocaine (0.1-8.3%). The frequency of substance use was lower in studies that investigated the presence of these substances in biological samples than in those based on self-reported use. In 12 studies that evaluated factors associated with the intake of psychoactive substances, the following stood out: younger age, higher income, longer trips, alcohol consumption, driving in the night shift, travelling interstate routes, long or short sleep, fewer hours of rest, little experience of the driver, connection with small and medium sized companies, income below levels determined by labour agreements, productivity-based earnings and prior involvement in accidents. The frequency of psychoactive substance use by truck drivers seems to be high, although that greatly varies according to the type of substance and the method of collecting the information. The use of these substances was mainly associated with indicators of poor working conditions.

Concepts: Ethanol, Morphine, Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Cocaine, Recreational drug use, Psychedelic drug, Insufflation

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Ecstasy (MDMA) in the US is commonly adulterated with other drugs, but research has not focused on purity of ecstasy since the phenomenon of “Molly” (ecstasy marketed as pure MDMA) arose in the US.

Concepts: Drug, Magnesium sulfate, Opioid, Psychoactive drug, Recreational drug use, Illegal drug trade, Psychedelic drug

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Serotonergic psychedelics act as agonists at cortical 5-HT2Areceptors and seem to induce personality changes. We conducted a systematic review of studies assessing the effects of these drugs on personality. Papers published from 1985 to 2016 were included from PubMed, LILACS, and SciELO databases. Three hundred and sixty-nine studies were identified, and 18 were included. Specific personality traits, such as Absorption and Self-Transcendence, seem to influence the effects of psychedelics, and psychedelic drug users and nonusers appear to differ in some personality traits. Psychedelics administered in controlled settings may induce personality changes, such as increased Openness and Self-Transcendence. Increases in global brain entropy induced by acute psychedelic administration predicted changes in Openness, and Self-Transcendence was negatively correlated with cortical thinning of the posterior cingulate cortex in long-term religious ayahuasca users. Acute and long-term use of psychedelics is associated with personality changes that appear to be modulated by 5-HT2Areceptors. These changes seem to induce therapeutic effects that should be further explored in randomized controlled studies.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Cerebrum, Serotonin, Psychoactive drug, Cingulate cortex, Psychedelic drug, Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants, Psychedelic

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In a large-scale ( N = 1487) general population online study, we investigated the relationship between past experience with classic psychedelic substances (e.g. LSD, psilocybin, mescaline), nature relatedness, and ecological behavior (e.g. saving water, recycling). Using structural equation modeling we found that experience with classic psychedelics uniquely predicted self-reported engagement in pro-environmental behaviors, and that this relationship was statistically explained by people’s degree of self-identification with nature. Our model controlled for experiences with other classes of psychoactive substances (cannabis, dissociatives, empathogens, popular legal drugs) as well as common personality traits that usually predict drug consumption and/or nature relatedness (openness to experience, conscientiousness, conservatism). Although correlational in nature, results suggest that lifetime experience with psychedelics in particular may indeed contribute to people’s pro-environmental behavior by changing their self-construal in terms of an incorporation of the natural world, regardless of core personality traits or general propensity to consume mind-altering substances. Thereby, the present research adds to the contemporary literature on the beneficial effects of psychedelic substance use on mental wellbeing, hinting at a novel area for future research investigating their potentially positive effects on a societal level. Limitations of the present research and future directions are discussed.

Concepts: Future, Cannabis, Psychoactive drug, Big Five personality traits, Trait theory, Recreational drug use, Psychedelic drug, Psilocybin

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Psilocybin is the psychotropic tryptamine-derived natural product of Psilocybe carpophores, the so-called “magic mushrooms”. Although its structure has been known for 60 years, the enzymatic basis of its biosynthesis has remained obscure. We characterized four psilocybin biosynthesis enzymes. These include i) PsiD which represents a new class of fungal l-tryptophan decarboxylases, ii) PsiK, that catalyzes the phosphotransfer step, iii) the methyl transferase PsiM, catalyzing iterative N-methyltransfer as terminal biosynthetic step, and iv) PsiH, a monooxygenase. In a combined PsiD/PsiK/PsiM reaction, psilocybin was synthesized enzymatically in a step-economic route from 4-hydroxy-l-tryptophan. Given the renewed pharmaceutical interest in psilocybin, our results may lay the foundation for its biotechnological production.

Concepts: Bacteria, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Enzyme, Fungus, Psychedelic drug, Psilocybin mushrooms, Psilocybin

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The rise of the Internet as a trade platform has resulted in a shift in the illegal wildlife trade. As a result of increased scrutiny that illegal wildlife trade is receiving, there are concerns that the online trade will move onto the darkweb. In this preliminary study, we provide a baseline of illegal wildlife trade on the darkweb. We downloaded and archived 9,852 items from the darkweb, then searched these based on a list of 121 keywords associated with illegal online wildlife trade, including 30 keywords associated with illegally traded elephant ivory on the surface web. Results were compared with known illegally traded items, specifically cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Of these 121 keywords, only four resulted in hits, of which only one was potentially linked to illegal wildlife trade. This sole case was the sale and discussion of Echinopsis pachanoi (San Pedro cactus), which has hallucinogenic properties. This negligible level of activity on the darkweb, compared to the open and burgeoning trade on the surface web, may indicate a lack of successful enforcement against illegal wildlife trade on the surface web, although other hypothesis are considered and explored. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: All rights reserved, Copyright, Psychedelic drug, Echinopsis, Echinopsis pachanoi, Echinopsis peruviana, Echinopsis lageniformis, Hordenine