OPEN Foundation

Day: 5 July 2017

Hallucinogens and Serotonin 5-HT2A Receptor-Mediated Signaling Pathways


The neuropsychological effects of naturally occurring psychoactive chemicals have been recognized for millennia. Hallucinogens, which include naturally occurring chemicals such as mescaline and psilocybin, as well as synthetic compounds, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), induce profound alterations of human consciousness, emotion, and cognition. The discovery of the hallucinogenic effects of LSD and the observations that LSD and the endogenous ligand serotonin share chemical and pharmacological profiles led to the suggestion that biogenic amines like serotonin were involved in the psychosis of mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Although they bind other G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) subtypes, studies indicate that several effects of hallucinogens involve agonist activity at the serotonin 5-HT2Areceptor. In this chapter, we review recent advances in understanding hallucinogen drug action through characterization of structure, neuroanatomical location, and function of the 5-HT2A receptor.
López-Giménez, J. F., & González-Maeso, J. (2017). Hallucinogens and Serotonin 5-HT2A Receptor-Mediated Signaling Pathways. 10.1007/7854_2017_478
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The Effects of Hallucinogens on Gene Expression


The classic serotonergic hallucinogens, or psychedelics, have the ability to profoundly alter perception and behavior. These can include visual distortions, hallucinations, detachment from reality, and mystical experiences. Some psychedelics, like LSD, are able to produce these effects with remarkably low doses of drug. Others, like psilocybin, have recently been demonstrated to have significant clinical efficacy in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and addiction that persist for at least several months after only a single therapeutic session. How does this occur? Much work has recently been published from imaging studies showing that psychedelics alter brain network connectivity. They facilitate a disintegration of the default mode network, producing a hyperconnectivity between brain regions that allow centers that do not normally communicate with each other to do so. The immediate and acute effects on both behaviors and network connectivity are likely mediated by effector pathways downstream of serotonin 5-HT2A receptor activation. These acute molecular processes also influence gene expression changes, which likely influence synaptic plasticity and facilitate more long-term changes in brain neurochemistry ultimately underlying the therapeutic efficacy of a single administration to achieve long-lasting effects. In this review, we summarize what is currently known about the molecular genetic responses to psychedelics within the brain and discuss how gene expression changes may contribute to altered cellular physiology and behaviors.
Martin, D. A., & Nichols, C. D. (2017). The Effects of Hallucinogens on Gene Expression. 10.1007/7854_2017_479
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LSD treatment in Scandinavia: emphasizing indications and short-term treatment outcomes of 151 patients in Denmark


New research has suggested the clinical use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin in selected patient populations. However, concerns about the clinical use of LSD were advanced in a large Danish follow-up study that assessed 151 LSD-treated psychiatric patients approximately 25 years after their treatment in the 1960s.
The purpose of the present study was to give a retrospective account of the short-term outcome of LSD treatment in these 151 Danish psychiatric patients.
The LSD case material in the Danish State Archives consists of medical case records of 151 LSD-treated patients, who complained and received economic compensation with the LSD Damages Law. The author carefully read and reviewed the LSD case material.
LSD was used to treat a wide spectrum of mental disorders. Independent of diagnoses, 52 patients improved, and 48 patients worsened acutely with the LSD treatment. In a subgroup of 82 neurotic patients, the LSD dose-index (number of treatments multiplied by the maximal LSD dose) indicated the risk of acute worsening. In another subgroup of 19 patients with obsessive-compulsive neurosis, five patients later underwent psychosurgery. A small subgroup of 12 patients was treated with psilocybin. The long-term outcome was poor in most of the patients.
Despite the significant limitations to a retrospective design, this database warrants caution in mental health patients. The use of LSD and psilocybin in mental health patients may be associated with serious short- and long-term side effects. Until further trials with rigorous designs have cleared these drugs of their potential harms, their clinical utility in these groups of patients has not been fully clarified.
Larsen, J. K. (2017). LSD treatment in Scandinavia: emphasizing indications and short-term treatment outcomes of 151 patients in Denmark. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 1-7. 10.1080/08039488.2017.1336251
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Online survey – are you planning to use psychedelics?

psychedelic surveyResearchers at Imperial College, London have started an online observational study into the acute and long-term psychological effects of psychedelics. OPEN is a sponsor of this study.

The researchers aim to recruit individuals who are planning to take a psychedelic drug on their own initiative. You can sign up at their website and will subsequently receive several surveys before and after their psychedelic experience.
So, if you are or know anyone who has planned to take a psychedelic in the near future, please encourage them to sign up! More information on this study can be found at the Psychedelic Survey website, on facebook or on twitter.

27 June - Spiritual & Existential Dimensions in Psychedelic Care: Challenges & Insights