The terms empathogen and entactogen are used to describe a class of psychoactive drugs that produce distinctive emotional and social effects similar to those of MDMA (ecstasy). Putative members of this class include 2C-B, 2C-I(at 2-14mg), MDMA, MDA, MDEA, MBDB and 6-APB among others. The chemical structure of many entactogens contains a substituted amphetamine core, and most belong to the phenethylamine class of psychoactive drugs, although several (AET and AMT) are tryptamines. When referring to MDMA and its counterparts, the term 'MDxx' is often used with the exception of MDPV. Entactogens are sometimes incorrectly referred to as major hallucinogens or stimulants, which is often thought to be incorrect although their effects are often somewhat similar.
The term "empathogen" was coined in 1983 by Ralph Metzner to denote chemical agents inducing feelings of empathy. "Entactogen" was coined by David E. Nichols as an alternative to "empathogen", attempting to avoid the potential for improper association of the latter with negative connotations related to the Greek root "pathos" (suffering); Nichols also thought the word was limiting, and did not cover other therapeutic uses for the drugs that go beyond instilling feelings of empathy. The word "entactogen" is derived from the roots "en" (Greek: within), "tactus" (Latin: touch) and "gen" (Greek: produce) (Nichols 1986: 308). Neither term is dominant in usage, and, despite their difference in connotation, they are essentially interchangeable, as they refer to precisely the same chemicals.
These drugs appear to produce a different spectrum of psychological effects from major stimulants such as methamphetamine and amphetamine or from major psychedelic drugs such as LSD or psilocybin. As implied by the category names, users of entactogens say the drugs often produce feelings of empathy, love, and emotional closeness to others. However, there have been only very preliminary comparisons of these different drugs in humans in properly-controlled laboratory studies.
The chemicals below have a varying degree of entactogenic effects. Some of the chemicals have a minimal entactogenic effect while others may have a strong entactogenic effect. These substances possess other effects including serenic effects, stimulant effects, antidepressant effects, anxiolytic effects, and psychedelic effects.
- 4-Fluoroamphetamine ("Flux")
- 4-methylthioamphetamine (4-MTA; "Flatliners")
- 5-Methoxy-diisopropyltryptamine (5-MeO-DiPT; "Foxy" or "Foxy Methoxy")
- 6-APB ("Benzo Fury")
- alpha-methyltryptamine (αMT; Indopan)
- alpha-ethyltryptamine (αET; Monase)
- bk-MBDB (Butylone)
- indanylaminopropane (IAP)
- methylenedioxyaminoindane (MDAI)
- methylbenzodioxolylbutanamine (MBDB; "Eden")
- methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA; "Mellow Drug of America"; "Sassafras")
- methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDEA; "Eve")
- methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; "Ecstasy"; "E", "X", "XTC", "Rolls", "Pills", "Adam", "Molly")
- mephedrone ("Meow", "MCAT", "Molly's little sister", and "Shrimp")
- methylone ("Explosion", "Ease," and "Bubbles")
- methoxymethylamphetamine (MMA)
- Nichols, D.E., Hoffman, A.J., Oberlender, R.A., Jacob P 3rd & Shulgin A.T. Derivatives of 1-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl)-2-butanamine: representatives of a novel therapeutic class 1986 J Med Chem 29 2009-15
- Nichols, D.E. Differences between the mechanism of action of MDMA, MBDB, and the classic hallucinogens. Identification of a new therapeutic class: entactogens 1986 J Psychoactive Drugs 18 305-13
- Nichols 1986: Abstract and full text online
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