Background Information

What is a psychedelic medicine?

Psychedelics are a class of psychoactive substances that can produce altered states of consciousness characterized by major alterations in thought, mood, and perception. In clinical medicine, this large class of psychoactive substances was previously referred to as hallucinogens, as they may induce hallucinations. From the Greek, psychedelic has been translated as mind manifesting, but it can also be translated as soul (psyche) manifesting. There are many naturally occurring psychedelic substances that can be prepared from plant, fungal, and animal sources, some of which have been used traditionally for centuries and even, in some cases, for millennia.

Traditionally, psychedelics included two subgroups of compounds (although these categories continue to evolve): the phenethylamines and the tryptamines. The psychedelic phenethylamines include, for example, mescaline and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). The psychedelic tryptamines (closely related to Serotonin/5-HT, 5-hydroxytryptamine) include LSD, psilocybin derived from psilocybin mushrooms, and DMT (N, N-dimethyltryptamine) derived from plant sources and produced endogenously. The "hallucinogenic” activity of these substances is mediated by the serotonin-2A receptor in the brain . Continued research is further elucidating related neuroscientific mechanisms. For example, we are still learning about the mechanisms involved in the psychedelic effects of the disassociative anesthetic ketamine or the plant-derived tryptamine ibogaine.

Modern History of Psychedelics