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Recreational Use, Analysis and Toxicity of Tryptamines

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The definition New psychoactive substances (NPS) refers to emerging drugs whose chemical structures are similar to other psychoactive compounds but not identical, representing a “legal” alternative to internationally controlled drugs. There are many categories of NPS, such as synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones, phenylethylamines, piperazines, ketamine derivatives and tryptamines. Tryptamines are naturally occurring compounds, which can derive from the amino acid tryptophan by several biosynthetic pathways: their structure is a combination of a benzene ring and a pyrrole ring, with the addition of a 2-carbon side chain. Tryptamines include serotonin and melatonin as well as other compounds known for their hallucinogenic properties, such as psilocybin in ‘Magic mushrooms’ and dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in Ayahuasca brews.

Aim: To review the scientific literature regarding tryptamines and their derivatives, providing a summary of all the available information about the structure of these compounds, their effects in relationship with the routes of administration, their pharmacology and toxicity, including articles reporting cases of death related to intake of these substances.

Methods: A comprehensive review of the published scientific literature was performed, using also non peer-reviewed information sources, such as books, government publications and drug user web fora.

Conclusions: Information from Internet and from published scientific literature, organized in the way we proposed in this review, provides an effective tool for specialists facing the emerging NPS threat to public health and public security, including the personnel working in Emergency Department.
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Keywords: Clinical effects; Emergency Departments; Fatalities; Forensic Toxicology; Intoxication; New Psychoactive Substances (NPS); Tryptamines

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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  • Current Neuropharmacology aims to provide current, timely and comprehensive reviews of all areas of neuropharmacology and related matters of neuroscience. The journal publishes reviews written by experts and leaders in the fields of molecular, cellular, and systems/behavioural aspects of neuropharmacology and neuroscience. The journal serves as a comprehensive, multidisciplinary expert forum for neuropharmacologists and neuroscientists.
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