OPEN Foundation


Post-Marketing Safety Concerns with Esketamine: A Disproportionality Analysis of Spontaneous Reports Submitted to the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System


Introduction: Esketamine nasal spray received approval for treatment-resistant depression in March 2019.

Objective: Using the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) database (March 2019-March 2020), we analysed esketamine-related adverse events (AEs) to detect and characterize relevant safety signals.

Methods: We used the consolidated case/non-case approach to estimate the reporting odds ratio (ROR) and information component (IC) with relevant confidence intervals (95% CI) for esketamine-related AEs with ≥4 counts. Comparisons between serious and non-serious AEs were performed using non-parametric tests.

Results: The FAERS database contained 962 cases of esketamine-related AEs, with signals detected for several AEs, such as dissociation (ROR = 1,612.64, 95% CI = 1,354.63, 1,919.79; IC = 8.19, 95% CI = 7.96, 8.35), sedation (ROR = 238.46, 95% CI = 202.98, 280.15; IC = 7, 95% CI = 6.75, 7.18), feeling drunk (ROR = 96.17, 95% CI = 61.42, 150.57; IC = 4.84, 95% CI = 4.09, 5.36), suicidal ideation (ROR = 24.03, 95% CI = 18.72, 30.84; IC = 4.31, 95% CI = 3.9, 4.61), and completed suicide (ROR = 5.75, 95% CI = 3.18, 10.41; IC = 2.25, 95% CI = 1.23, 2.94). Signals for suicidal and self-injurious ideation, but not suicide attempt and completed suicide, remained when comparing esketamine to venlafaxine. Females and patients receiving antidepressant polypharmacy, co-medication with mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, or somatic medications were more likely to suffer from serious versus non-serious AEs (χ2 = 125.29, p < 0.001, χ2 = 9.08, p = 0.003, χ2 = 8.14, p = 0.004, χ2 = 19.48, p < 0.001, χ2 = 25.62, p < 0.001, and χ2 = 16.79, p < 0.001, respectively).

Conclusions: Esketamine may carry a clear potential for serious AEs, which deserves urgent clarification by means of further prospective studies.

Gastaldon, C., Raschi, E., Kane, J. M., Barbui, C., & Schoretsanitis, G. (2021). Post-marketing safety concerns with esketamine: a disproportionality analysis of spontaneous reports submitted to the FDA adverse event reporting system. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics90(1), 41-48; 10.1159/000510703
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Kinetic profile of N,N-dimethyltryptamine and β-carbolines in saliva and serum after oral administration of ayahuasca in a religious context

Ayahuasca is a beverage obtained from Banisteriopsis caapi plus Psychotria viridis. B. caapi contains the β-carbolines harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmine that are monoamine oxidase inhibitors and P. viridis contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) that is responsible for the visionary effects of the beverage. Ayahuasca use is becoming a global phenomenon, and the recreational use of DMT and similar alkaloids has also increased in recent years; such uncontrolled use can lead to severe intoxications. In this investigation, liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) was used to study the kinetics of alkaloids over a 24 h period in saliva and serum of 14 volunteers who consumed ayahuasca twice a month in a religious context. We compared the area under the curve (AUC), maximum concentration (Cmax ), time to reach Cmax (Tmax ), mean residence time (MRT), and half-life (t1/2 ), as well as the serum/saliva ratios of these parameters. DMT and β-carboline concentrations (Cmax ) and AUC were higher in saliva than in serum and the MRT was 1.5-3.0 times higher in serum. A generalized estimation equations (GEEs) model suggested that serum concentrations could be predicted by saliva concentrations, despite large individual variability in the saliva and serum alkaloid concentrations. The possibility of using saliva as a biological matrix to detect DMT, β-carbolines, and their derivatives is very interesting because it allows fast noninvasive sample collection and could be useful for detecting similar alkaloids used recreationally that have considerable potential for intoxication.

Lanaro, R., Mello, S. M., da Cunha, K. F., Silveira, G., Corrêa-Neto, N. F., Hyslop, S., Cabrices, O. G., Costa, J. L., & Linardi, A. (2021). Kinetic profile of N,N-dimethyltryptamine and β-carbolines in saliva and serum after oral administration of ayahuasca in a religious context. Drug testing and analysis, 13(3), 664–678.

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Toxicokinetics and Toxicodynamics of Ayahuasca Alkaloids N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Harmine, Harmaline and Tetrahydroharmine: Clinical and Forensic Impact


Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic botanical beverage originally used by indigenous Amazonian tribes in religious ceremonies and therapeutic practices. While ethnobotanical surveys still indicate its spiritual and medicinal uses, consumption of ayahuasca has been progressively related with a recreational purpose, particularly in Western societies. The ayahuasca aqueous concoction is typically prepared from the leaves of the N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)-containing Psychotria viridis, and the stem and bark of Banisteriopsis caapi, the plant source of harmala alkaloids. Herein, the toxicokinetics and toxicodynamics of the psychoactive DMT and harmala alkaloids harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine, are comprehensively covered, particularly emphasizing the psychological, physiological, and toxic effects deriving from their concomitant intake. Potential therapeutic utility, particularly in mental and psychiatric disorders, and forensic aspects of DMT and ayahuasca are also reviewed and discussed. Following administration of ayahuasca, DMT is rapidly absorbed and distributed. Harmala alkaloids act as potent inhibitors of monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A), preventing extensive first-pass degradation of DMT into 3-indole-acetic acid (3-IAA), and enabling sufficient amounts of DMT to reach the brain. DMT has affinity for a variety of serotonergic and non-serotonergic receptors, though its psychotropic effects are mainly related with the activation of serotonin receptors type 2A (5-HT2A). Mildly to rarely severe psychedelic adverse effects are reported for ayahuasca or its alkaloids individually, but abuse does not lead to dependence or tolerance. For a long time, the evidence has pointed to potential psychotherapeutic benefits in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders; and although misuse of ayahuasca has been diverting attention away from such clinical potential, research onto its therapeutic effects has now strongly resurged.

Brito-da-Costa, A. M., Dias-da-Silva, D., Gomes, N., Dinis-Oliveira, R. J., & Madureira-Carvalho, Á. (2020). Toxicokinetics and Toxicodynamics of Ayahuasca Alkaloids N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), Harmine, Harmaline and Tetrahydroharmine: Clinical and Forensic Impact. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 13(11), 334.

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The psychoactive aminoalkylbenzofuran derivatives, 5-APB and 6-APB, mimic the effects of 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) on monoamine transmission in male rats


Rationale: The nonmedical use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) is a worldwide public health concern. The so-called “benzofury” compounds, 5-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran (5-APB) and 6-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran (6-APB), are NPS with stimulant-like properties in human users. These substances are known to interact with monoamine transporters and 5-HT receptors in transfected cells, but less is known about their effects in animal models.

Methods: Here, we used in vitro monoamine transporter assays in rat brain synaptosomes to characterize the effects of 5-APB and 6-APB, together with their N-methyl derivatives 5-MAPB and 6-MAPB, in comparison with 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). In vivo neurochemical and behavioral effects of 5-APB (0.3 and 1.0 mg/kg, i.v.) and 6-APB (0.3 and 1.0 mg/kg, i.v.) were assessed in comparison with MDA (1.0 and 3.0 mg/kg, i.v.) using microdialysis sampling in the nucleus accumbens of conscious male rats.

Results: All four benzofuran derivatives were substrate-type releasers at dopamine transporters (DAT), norepinephrine transporters (NET), and serotonin transporters (SERT) with nanomolar potencies, similar to the profile of effects produced by MDA and MDMA. However, the benzofurans were at least threefold more potent than MDA and MDMA at evoking transporter-mediated release. Like MDA, both benzofurans induced dose-related elevations in extracellular dopamine and serotonin in the brain, but benzofurans were more potent than MDA. The benzofuran derivatives also induced profound behavioral activation characterized by forward locomotion which lasted for at least 2 h post-injection.

Conclusions: Overall, benzofurans are more potent than MDA in vitro and in vivo, producing sustained stimulant-like effects in rats. These data suggest that benzofuran-type compounds may have abuse liability and could pose risks for adverse effects, especially if used in conjunction with abused drugs or medications which enhance monoamine transmission in the brain.

Brandt, S. D., Walters, H. M., Partilla, J. S., Blough, B. E., Kavanagh, P. V., & Baumann, M. H. (2020). The psychoactive aminoalkylbenzofuran derivatives, 5-APB and 6-APB, mimic the effects of 3, 4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) on monoamine transmission in male rats. Psychopharmacology237(12), 3703-3714; 10.1007/s00213-020-05648-z

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Exposure-Response Analysis to Assess the Concentration-QTc Relationship of Psilocybin/Psilocin


Psilocybin is being developed for treating major depressive disorder. Psilocybin is readily dephosphorylated to psilocin upon absorption. The potential for psilocin proarrhythmic effect was assessed using a concentration-QTc interval (C-QTc) analysis from an open-label single ascending dose study of psilocybin. Psilocybin doses ranged from 0.3 to 0.6 mg/kg. This trial showed a significant but shallow C-QTc relationship. At the clinical dose of 25 mg, the mean psilocin maximum concentration is 18.7 ng/mL, and the associated mean (upper 90% confidence interval of mean) QTcF change is 2.1 (6.6) milliseconds. Given the short half-life of psilocin of about 4 hours, there would be no accumulation after monthly oral doses used in clinical trials. The upper limit of the 90% confidence interval of the model-predicted mean ΔQTcF crossed 10 milliseconds at a psilocin concentration of 31.1 ng/mL. At a supraclinical psilocin maximum concentration of about 60 ng/mL, ΔQTcF remains low, with a mean (upper limit of the 90% confidence interval) of 9.1 (17.9) milliseconds. This analysis enabled the characterization of the C-QTc relationship and prediction of QTc prolongation at the expected clinical and possible higher psilocybin doses.

Dahmane, E., Hutson, P. R., & Gobburu, J. V. (2020). Exposure‐Response Analysis to Assess the Concentration‐QTc Relationship of Psilocybin/Psilocin. Clinical Pharmacology in Drug Development.; 10.1002/cpdd.796

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In vivo effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its deuterated form in rodents: Drug discrimination and thermoregulation.



Recent clinical studies support the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as an adjunct treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite these promising findings, MDMA administration in controlled settings can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Previous studies indicate thatO-demethylated metabolites of MDMA contribute to its adverse effects. As such, limiting the conversion of MDMA to reactive metabolites may mitigate some of its adverse effects and potentially improve its safety profile for therapeutic use.


We compared the interoceptive and hyperthermic effects of a deuterium-substituted form of MDMA (d2-MDMA) to MDMA using rodent drug discrimination and biotelemetry procedures, respectively.


Compared to MDMA, d2-MDMA produced full substitution for a 1.5 mg/kg MDMA training stimulus with equal potency and effectiveness in the drug discrimination experiment. In addition, d2-MDMA produced increases in body temperature that were shorter-lasting and of lower magnitude compared to equivalent doses of MDMA. Last, d2-MDMA and MDMA were equally effective in reversing the hypothermic effects of the selective 5-HT2A/2C antagonist ketanserin.


These findings indicate that deuterium substitution of hydrogen at the methylenedioxy ring moiety does not impact MDMA’s interoceptive effects, and compared to MDMA, d2-MDMA has less potential for producing hyperthermic effects and likely has similar pharmacodynamic properties. Given that d2-MDMA produces less adverse effects than MDMA, but retains similar desirable effects that are thought to relate to the effective treatment of PTSD, additional investigations into its effects on cardiovascular functioning and pharmacokinetic properties are warranted.

Berquist, M. D., Leth-Petersen, S., Kristensen, J. L., & Fantegrossi, W. E. (2020). In vivo effects of 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its deuterated form in rodents: drug discrimination and thermoregulation. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 107850., 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.107850
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Correlation between the potency of hallucinogens in the mouse head-twitch response assay and their behavioral and subjective effects in other species


Serotonergic hallucinogens such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) induce head twitches in rodents via 5-HT2A receptor activation. The goal of the present investigation was to determine whether a correlation exists between the potency of hallucinogens in the mouse head-twitch response (HTR) paradigm and their reported potencies in other species, specifically rats and humans. Dose-response experiments were conducted with phenylalkylamine and tryptamine hallucinogens in C57BL/6J mice, enlarging the available pool of HTR potency data to 41 total compounds. For agents where human data are available (n = 36), a strong positive correlation (r = 0.9448) was found between HTR potencies in mice and reported hallucinogenic potencies in humans. HTR potencies were also found to be correlated with published drug discrimination ED50 values for substitution in rats trained with either LSD (r = 0.9484, n = 16) or 2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine (r = 0.9564, n = 21). All three of these behavioral effects (HTR in mice, hallucinogen discriminative stimulus effects in rats, and psychedelic effects in humans) have been linked to 5-HT2A receptor activation. We present evidence that hallucinogens induce these three effects with remarkably consistent potencies. In addition to having high construct validity, the HTR assay also appears to show significant predictive validity, confirming its translational relevance for predicting subjective potency of hallucinogens in humans. These findings support the use of the HTR paradigm as a preclinical model of hallucinogen psychopharmacology and in structure-activity relationship studies of hallucinogens. Future investigations with a larger number of test agents will evaluate whether the HTR assay can be used to predict the hallucinogenic potency of 5-HT2A agonists in humans.

Halberstadt, A. L., Chatha, M., Klein, A. K., Wallach, J., & Brandt, S. D. (2020). Correlation between the potency of hallucinogens in the mouse head-twitch response assay and their behavioral and subjective effects in other species. Neuropharmacology, 107933., 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2019.107933
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Neurochemical and Behavioral Profiling in Male and Female Rats of the Psychedelic Agent 25I-NBOMe


4-Iodo-2,5-dimethoxy-N-(2-methoxybenzyl)phenethylamine (25I-NBOMe), commonly called “N-Bomb,” is a synthetic phenethylamine with psychedelic and entactogenic effects; it was available on the Internet both as a legal alternative to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and as a surrogate of 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), but now it has been scheduled among controlled substances. 25I-NBOMe acts as full agonist on serotonergic 5-HT2A receptors. Users are often unaware of ingesting fake LSD, and several cases of intoxication and fatalities have been reported. In humans, overdoses of “N-Bomb” can cause tachycardia, hypertension, seizures, and agitation. Preclinical studies have not yet widely investigated the rewarding properties and behavioral effects of this compound in both sexes. Therefore, by in vivo microdialysis, we evaluated the effects of 25I-NBOMe on dopaminergic (DA) and serotonergic (5-HT) transmissions in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell and core, and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of male and female rats. Moreover, we investigated the effect of 25I-NBOMe on sensorimotor modifications as well as body temperature, nociception, and startle/prepulse inhibition (PPI). We showed that administration of 25I-NBOMe affects DA transmission in the NAc shell in both sexes, although showing different patterns; moreover, this compound causes impaired visual responses in both sexes, whereas core temperature is heavily affected in females, and the highest dose tested exerts an analgesic effect prominent in male rats. Indeed, this drug is able to impair the startle amplitude with the same extent in both sexes and inhibits the PPI in male and female rats. Our study fills the gap of knowledge on the behavioral effects of 25I-NBOMe and the risks associated with its ingestion; it focuses the attention on sex differences that might be useful to understand the trend of consumption as well as to recognize and treat intoxication and overdose symptoms.

Miliano, C., Marti, M., Pintori, N., Castelli, M. P., Tirri, M., Arfè, R., & De Luca, M. A. (2019). Neurochemical and Behavioral Profiling in Male and Female Rats of the Psychedelic Agent 25I-NBOMe. Frontiers in Pharmacology10., 10.3389/fphar.2019.01406
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Locomotor effects of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its deuterated form in mice: psychostimulant effects, stereotypy, and sensitization



There is a renewed interest in the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) for treating psychiatric conditions. Although MDMA has entered phase II clinical trials and shows promise as an adjunct treatment, there is an extensive literature detailing the potential neurotoxicity and adverse neurobehavioral effects associated with MDMA use. Previous research indicates that the adverse effects of MDMA may be due to its metabolism into reactive catechols that can enter the brain and serve directly as neurotoxicants. One approach to mitigate MDMA’s potential for adverse effects is to reduce O-demethylation by deuterating the methylenedioxy ring of MDMA. There are no studies that have evaluated the effects of deuterating MDMA on behavioral outcomes.


The purpose of the present study was to assess the motor-stimulant effects of deuterated MDMA (d2-MDMA) and compare them to MDMA in male mice.


Two experiments were performed to quantify mouse locomotor activity and to vary the drug administration regimen (single bolus administration or cumulative administration).


The results of Experiments 1 and 2 indicate that d2-MDMA is less effective at eliciting horizontal locomotion than MDMA; however, the differences between the compounds diminish as the number of cumulative administrations increase. Both d2-MDMA and MDMA can elicit sensitized responses, and these effects cross-sensitize to the prototypical drug of abuse methamphetamine. Thus, d2-MDMA functions as a locomotor stimulant similar to MDMA, but, depending on the dosing regimen, may be less susceptible to inducing sensitization to stereotyped movements.


These findings indicate that d2-MDMA is behaviorally active and produces locomotor effects that are similar to MDMA, which warrant additional assessments of d2-MDMA’s behavioral and physiological effects to determine the conditions under which this compound may serve as a relatively safer alternative to MDMA for clinical use.
Berquist, M. D., Leth-Petersen, S., Kristensen, J. L., & Fantegrossi, W. E. (2020). Locomotor effects of 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its deuterated form in mice: psychostimulant effects, stereotypy, and sensitization. Psychopharmacology237(2), 431-442;

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Metabolism of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): an update.


Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is the most potent hallucinogen known and its pharmacological effect results from stimulation of central serotonin receptors (5-HT2). Since LSD is seen as physiologically safe compound with low toxicity, its use in therapeutics has been renewed during the last few years. This review aims to discuss LSD metabolism, by presenting all metabolites as well as clinical and toxicological relevance. LSD is rapidly and extensively metabolized into inactive metabolites; whose detection window is higher than parent compound. The metabolite 2-oxo-3-hydroxy LSD is the major human metabolite, which detection and quantification is important for clinical and forensic toxicology. Indeed, information about LSD pharmacokinetics in humans is limited and for this reason, more research studies are needed.
Libânio Osório Marta, R. F. (2019). Metabolism of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD): an update. Drug metabolism reviews51(3), 378-387.
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