What are Psychedelics?

In the realm of consciousness exploration, psychedelics have emerged as captivating agents that invite individuals to venture beyond the ordinary boundaries of perception.  As tools for unlocking the doors of perception, psychedelics have woven a complex tapestry of cultural, spiritual, and scientific significance.  But before we can get into all of that, we must first ask ourselves… what are psychedelics?


The Definition of Psychedelics

The term “psychedelics” often conjures images of colorful, mind-bending experiences or maybe the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. While this association isn’t entirely misplaced, it barely scratches the surface of what these substances are and what they entail. 


The Basics: What Are Psychedelics?

Psychedelics, also known as entheogens, are a class of chemical substances that can profoundly alter an individual’s perception, thoughts, and emotions in such a way that it can be beneficial to the individuals mental and physical state. These effects of these substances can induce hallucinations, altered states of consciousness, and a wide range of sensory and cognitive experiences.  While the term “psychedelic” is often associated with recreational use, these substances have a long history of use in cultural and spiritual contexts. Indigenous cultures have used plants and fungi containing psychoactive compounds for centuries in their rituals and ceremonies.


Historical Context: The Roots of Psychedelics

The use of psychedelics is far from a recent phenomenon. Many indigenous cultures worldwide have incorporated substances like magic mushrooms (containing psilocybin or ibotenic acid and muscimol), the peyote cactus (containing mescaline), and Ayahuasca (a brew made from DMT-containing plants) into their spiritual practices. These cultures often view psychedelics as a medicine used to connect with the divine, gain insights, and promote healing.  

In the 20th century, psychedelics made their way into Western society and played a significant role in the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Figures like Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley popularized substances like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), advocating for their potential to expand consciousness and challenge societal norms.  In the 21st century these substances are beginning to climb out of the counterculture and have become more and more accepted by the mainstream. 

The point is that these substances are nothing new. They have been used by indigenous cultures for their therapeutic benefits for ages. It is important to take the time to respect where these substances come from. 


Modern Significance: Therapeutic Potential and Research

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in psychedelics, primarily driven by scientific research and their potential therapeutic benefits. Studies have shown that substances like psilocybin, under the right conditions and with professional guidance, can have a positive impact on mental health. Psychedelics are being explored as a treatment for conditions like depression, PTSD, addiction, and anxiety. In the 1940, a scientist in Sweden accidently spilled a substance called LSD on his hand. We will talk about this scientist in detail later but this lead to a great body of research that has allowed for the renewed interests in modern psychedelic to begin.  This renewed interest has led to a reevaluation of the stigmatization and legal status of psychedelics. Numerous clinical trials are underway, and some jurisdictions have decriminalized or even legalized certain substances for therapeutic or personal use.


Three Different Kinds of Psychedelics 

The world of psychedelics is a realm of mind-expanding experiences and profound altered states, but it’s far from a one-size-fits-all journey. Within this diverse category of psychoactive substances, there exist three primary classes: tryptamines, phenethylamines, and dissociatives. Each of these categories presents a unique set of compounds, effects, and experiences. In this section, we will delve into the intriguing world of psychedelics, exploring the distinctions, effects, and examples of these three distinct classes, offering a glimpse into the kaleidoscope of the mind that each one can unlock.



In the world of psychoactive substances, tryptamines are probably the most popular today.  They are a fascinating and diverse class of compounds known for their ability to induce altered states of consciousness, mystical experiences, and profound insights. They are found both in nature and synthesized in the laboratory, and they have been a subject of interest for scientists, shamans, and seekers of altered consciousness for many years. 


What Are Tryptamines?

Tryptamines are a class of organic compounds that contain a specific chemical structure known as the “tryptamine ring.” The “tryptamine ring” could be considered the chemical backbone to many psychedelic substances.  The “ring” binds to 5HT2A receptor and increases the serotonin signaling.  This structure consists of two carbon atoms and three nitrogen atoms arranged in a specific configuration. Tryptamines can be found in both natural sources, such as certain plants, fungi, and animals, as well as in synthetic form.  The most well-known tryptamine is serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating mood, emotions, and various physiological functions. While serotonin is essential for normal brain function, other tryptamines can have powerful psychoactive effects when ingested or inhaled. Some of the most famous tryptamine-based substances include: DMT, LSD, Psilocybin. 

tryptamine chemical formula


The Experiences of Tryptamines

Tryptamines are renowned for their ability to induce altered states of consciousness. People who use these substances often report encountering profound insights, heightened emotions, and a strong sense of interconnectedness with the universe. These experiences can be deeply spiritual and have led many to explore the realms of consciousness, spirituality, and self-discovery.  Research into the therapeutic potential of tryptamines in the treatment of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD is also gaining momentum. Clinical studies have shown promising results, with some individuals experiencing lasting positive changes in their mental well-being after guided sessions with these substances.  While their effects can be profound and mystical, responsible use and caution are paramount. Always prioritize safety and legality when considering their use, and consider engaging with experienced professionals if you’re exploring tryptamines for therapeutic or personal growth purposes. Ultimately, the world of tryptamines remains a fascinating frontier for exploration, offering the potential for profound experiences and personal transformation.



Often overshadowed by their tryptamine counterparts, phenethylamines stand out as a captivating and diverse class of compounds that can induce altered states of consciousness, enhanced perception, and profound introspection.  Phenethylamines are a class of organic compounds characterized by the “phenethylamine structure.” This structure consists of a phenyl ring connected to an amino group (NH2) through a two-carbon ethyl side chain. Within this broad category, certain phenethylamines are known for their profound effects on perception, cognition, and consciousness, making them a fascinating subject of exploration for scientists, seekers, and those curious about the mysteries of the human mind. Some examples of well know phenethylamines are MDMA or ecstasy and Mescaline or Peyote. 

phenethylamine chemical structure


The Psychedelic Experience with Phenethylamines

Phenethylamine psychedelics offer unique experiences, distinct from their tryptamine counterparts. Users often report the following effects:

  1. Altered Perception: Phenethylamines can distort sensory perception, leading to enhanced colors, patterns, and sounds. Users may experience synesthesia, where sensory experiences overlap and merge.
  2. Emotional Intensity: These compounds often heighten emotions, leading to intense feelings of joy, love, or even fear. This emotional amplification can be a powerful catalyst for introspection.
  3. Introspection: Phenethylamine psychedelics can encourage deep self-reflection, allowing users to gain insights into their thoughts, feelings, and life experiences.
  4. Empathy: Substances like MDMA are renowned for promoting feelings of empathy and emotional connection, making them valuable tools for therapeutic and interpersonal exploration.

Phenethylamine psychedelics offer a gateway to unique and transformative experiences. While they may not be as widely recognized as tryptamines, they hold immense potential for personal growth, introspection, and even therapeutic applications. Always approach their use with caution, respect for legality, and a focus on personal safety. The world of phenethylamine psychedelics is a captivating realm waiting to be explored, offering the promise of profound insights and transformative experiences.



One category of psychedelics that truly stands out for its unique and often surreal effects are dissociatives. These compounds have the uncanny ability to create a sense of detachment from one’s body and surroundings, leading to profound, out-of-body experiences and a profound alteration of reality. 


Understanding Dissociative Psychedelics

Dissociative psychedelics are a class of psychoactive compounds that share the common feature of producing dissociation—a feeling of detachment from one’s body, thoughts, emotions, and reality. Unlike traditional psychedelics that often enhance sensory perception and induce vivid hallucinations, dissociative create a profound sense of disconnection from one’s immediate environment and a distortion of the self. These experiences can range from euphoric and introspective to bizarre and otherworldly. Ketamine is probably the most popular dissociative today and is currently being prescribed in the US for its psychedelic experience. 


The Psychedelic Experience with Dissociative

Dissociative psychedelics offer a range of unique effects that may include:

  1. Out-of-Body Experiences: Users often describe feeling as though they have left their physical bodies, observing their surroundings from a different perspective.
  2. Distorted Reality: Dissociatives can create a sense of unreality, where the boundaries between self and surroundings become blurred.
  3. Euphoria or Anxiety: Experiences with dissociatives can range from profoundly blissful to intensely anxious and dysphoric.
  4. Enhanced Creativity: Some users report heightened creativity and abstract thinking during dissociative experiences.
  5. Therapeutic Potential: Ongoing research suggests that certain dissociatives may have therapeutic applications, particularly in the treatment of mood disorders and PTSD., engage in integration practices to make sense of the insights gained. Journaling, meditation, or discussing your journey with a therapist can be invaluable.

Dissociative psychedelics offer a captivating and unconventional pathway to explore the mysteries of the human mind. While their effects may not be as universally embraced as those of other psychedelics, they hold immense potential for introspection, creativity, and therapeutic use. Always approach their use with caution, respect for legality, and a focus on personal safety. The realm of dissociative psychedelics is a surreal and enigmatic space, offering the promise of profound insights and transformative experiences that transcend the boundaries of ordinary reality.



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