OPEN Foundation

A. Halberstadt

Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of 5-Methylpsilocybin: A Tryptamine with Potential Psychedelic Activity

Abstract

A novel analogue of psilocybin was produced by hybrid chemoenzymatic synthesis in sufficient quantity to enable bioassay. Utilizing purified 4-hydroxytryptamine kinase from Psilocybe cubensis, chemically synthesized 5-methylpsilocin (2) was enzymatically phosphorylated to provide 5-methylpsilocybin (1). The zwitterionic product was isolated from the enzymatic step with high purity utilizing a solvent-antisolvent precipitation approach. Subsequently, 1 was tested for psychedelic-like activity using the mouse head-twitch response assay, which indicated activity that was more potent than the psychedelic dimethyltryptamine, but less potent than that of psilocybin.

Fricke, J., Sherwood, A. M., Halberstadt, A. L., Kargbo, R. B., & Hoffmeister, D. (2021). Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of 5-Methylpsilocybin: A Tryptamine with Potential Psychedelic Activity. Journal of natural products, 84(4), 1403–1408. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jnatprod.1c00087

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Hallucinations Under Psychedelics and in the Schizophrenia Spectrum: An Interdisciplinary and Multiscale Comparison

Abstract

The recent renaissance of psychedelic science has reignited interest in the similarity of drug-induced experiences to those more commonly observed in psychiatric contexts such as the schizophrenia-spectrum. This report from a multidisciplinary working group of the International Consortium on Hallucinations Research (ICHR) addresses this issue, putting special emphasis on hallucinatory experiences. We review evidence collected at different scales of understanding, from pharmacology to brain-imaging, phenomenology and anthropology, highlighting similarities and differences between hallucinations under psychedelics and in the schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Finally, we attempt to integrate these findings using computational approaches and conclude with recommendations for future research.

Leptourgos, P., Fortier-Davy, M., Carhart-Harris, R., Corlett, P. R., Dupuis, D., Halberstadt, A. L., Kometer, M., Kozakova, E., LarØi, F., Noorani, T. N., Preller, K. H., Waters, F., Zaytseva, Y., & Jardri, R. (2020). Hallucinations Under Psychedelics and in the Schizophrenia Spectrum: An Interdisciplinary and Multiscale Comparison. Schizophrenia bulletin, 46(6), 1396–1408. https://doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sbaa117

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Chronic pain and psychedelics: a review and proposed mechanism of action

Abstract

The development of chronic pain is a complex mechanism that is still not fully understood. Multiple somatic and visceral afferent pain signals, when experienced over time, cause a strengthening of certain neural circuitry through peripheral and central sensitization, resulting in the physical and emotional perceptual chronic pain experience. The mind-altering qualities of psychedelics have been attributed, through serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor agonism, to ‘reset’ areas of functional connectivity (FC) in the brain that play prominent roles in many central neuropathic states. Psychedelic substances have a generally favorable safety profile, especially when compared with opioid analgesics. Clinical evidence to date for their use for chronic pain is limited; however, several studies and reports over the past 50 years have shown potential analgesic benefit in cancer pain, phantom limb pain and cluster headache. While the mechanisms by which the classic psychedelics may provide analgesia are not clear, several possibilities exist given the similarity between 5-HT2A activation pathways of psychedelics and the nociceptive modulation pathways in humans. Additionally, the alterations in FC seen with psychedelic use suggest a way that these agents could help reverse the changes in neural connections seen in chronic pain states. Given the current state of the opioid epidemic and limited efficacy of non-opioid analgesics, it is time to consider further research on psychedelics as analgesics in order to improve the lives of patients with chronic pain conditions.
Castellanos, J. P., Woolley, C., Bruno, K. A., Zeidan, F., Halberstadt, A., & Furnish, T. (2020). Chronic pain and psychedelics: a review and proposed mechanism of action. Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine., http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/rapm-2020-101273
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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

Abstract

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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Return of the lysergamides. Part V: Analytical and behavioural characterization of 1-butanoyl-d-lysergic acid diethylamide (1B-LSD).

Abstract

The psychedelic properties of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) have captured the imagination of researchers for many years and its rediscovery as an important research tool is evidenced by its clinical use within neuroscientific and therapeutic settings. At the same time, a number of novel LSD analogs have recently emerged as recreational drugs, which makes it necessary to study their analytical and pharmacological properties. One recent addition to this series of LSD analogs is 1-butanoyl-LSD (1B-LSD), a constitutional isomer of 1-propanoyl-6-ethyl-6-nor-lysergic acid diethylamide (1P-ETH-LAD), another LSD analog that was described previously. This study presents a comprehensive analytical characterization of 1B-LSD employing nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), low- and high-resolution mass spectrometry platforms, gas- and liquid chromatography (GC and LC), and GC-condensed phase and attenuated total reflection infrared spectroscopy analyses. Analytical differentiation of 1B-LSD from 1P-ETH-LAD was straightforward. LSD and other serotonergic hallucinogens induce the head-twitch response (HTR) in rats and mice, which is believed to be mediated largely by 5-HT2A receptor activation. HTR studies were conducted in C57BL/6J mice to assess whether 1B-LSD has LSD-like behavioral effects. 1B-LSD produced a dose-dependent increase in HTR counts, acting with ~14% (ED50  = 976.7 nmol/kg) of the potency of LSD (ED50  = 132.8 nmol/kg). This finding suggests that the behavioral effects of 1B-LSD are reminiscent of LSD and other serotonergic hallucinogens. The possibility exists that 1B-LSD serves as a pro-drug for LSD. Further investigations are warranted to confirm whether 1B-LSD produces LSD-like psychoactive effects in humans.

Brandt, S. D., Kavanagh, P. V., Westphal, F., Stratford, A., Elliott, S. P., Dowling, G., … & Halberstadt, A. L. (2019). Return of the lysergamides. Part V: Analytical and behavioural characterization of 1‐butanoyl‐d‐lysergic acid diethylamide (1B‐LSD). Drug testing and analysis., https://doi.org/10.1002/dta.2613
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Return of the lysergamides. Part IV: Analytical and pharmacological characterization of lysergic acid morpholide (LSM-775)

Abstract

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is perhaps one of the best-known psychoactive substances and many structural modifications of this prototypical lysergamide have been investigated. Several lysergamides were recently encountered as “research chemicals” or new psychoactive substances (NPS). Although lysergic acid morpholide (LSM-775) appeared on the NPS market in 2013, there is disagreement in the literature regarding the potency and psychoactive properties of LSM-775 in humans. The present investigation attempts to address the gap of information that exists regarding the analytical profile and pharmacological effects of LSM-775. A powdered sample of LSM-775 was characterized by X-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance stereoscopy (NMR), gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS), high mass accuracy electrospray MS/MS, HPLC diode array detection, HPLC quadrupole MS, and GC solid-state infrared analysis. Screening for receptor affinity and functional efficacy revealed that LSM-775 acts as a nonselective agonist at 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors. Head twitch studies were conducted in C57BL/6J mice to determine whether LSM-775 activates 5-HT2A receptors and produces hallucinogen-like effects in vivo. LSM-775 did not induce the head twitch response unless 5-HT1A receptors were blocked by pretreatment with the antagonist WAY-100,635 (1 mg/kg, subcutaneous). These findings suggest that 5-HT1A activation by LSM-775 masks its ability to induce the head twitch response, which is potentially consistent with reports in the literature indicating that LSM-775 is only capable of producing weak LSD-like effects in humans.
Brandt, S. D., Kavanagh, P. V., Twamley, B., Westphal, F., Elliott, S. P., Wallach, J., … & Halberstadt, A. L. (2017). Return of the lysergamides. Part IV: Analytical and pharmacological characterization of lysergic acid morpholide (LSM‐775). Drug Testing and Analysis. 10.1002/dta.2222
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Hallucinogenic Drugs: A New Study Answers Old Questions about LSD

Abstract

LSD induces profound psychedelic effects, including changes in the meaning of percepts. The subjective effects of LSD are fully blocked by a 5-HT2A receptor antagonist. LSD may alter meaningfulness by increasing activity in cortical regions responsible for processing personal attribution.

Halberstadt, A. L. (2017). Hallucinogenic Drugs: A New Study Answers Old Questions about LSD. Current Biology, 27(4), R156-R158. 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.058
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Hallucinogenic Drugs: A New Study Answers Old Questions about LSD.

Abstract

LSD induces profound psychedelic effects, including changes in the meaning of percepts. The subjective effects of LSD are fully blocked by a 5-HT2A receptor antagonist. LSD may alter meaningfulness by increasing activity in cortical regions responsible for processing personal attribution.

Halberstadt, A. L. (2017). Hallucinogenic drugs: A new study answers old questions about LSD. Current Biology27(4), R156-R158., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.058
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Pharmacology and Toxicology of N-Benzylphenethylamine (“NBOMe”) Hallucinogens

Abstract

Serotonergic hallucinogens induce profound changes in perception and cognition. The characteristic effects of hallucinogens are mediated by 5-HT2A receptor activation. One class of hallucinogens are 2,5-dimethoxy-substituted phenethylamines, such as the so-called 2C-X compounds 2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine (2C-B) and 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine (2C-I). Addition of an N-benzyl group to phenethylamine hallucinogens produces a marked increase in 5-HT2A-binding affinity and hallucinogenic potency. N-benzylphenethylamines (“NBOMes”) such as N-(2-methoxybenzyl)-2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine (25I-NBOMe) show subnanomolar affinity for the 5-HT2A receptor and are reportedly highly potent in humans. Several NBOMEs have been available from online vendors since 2010, resulting in numerous cases of toxicity and multiple fatalities. This chapter reviews the structure–activity relationships, behavioral pharmacology, metabolism, and toxicity of members of the NBOMe hallucinogen class. Based on a review of 51 cases of NBOMe toxicity reported in the literature, it appears that rhabdomyolysis is a relatively common complication of severe NBOMe toxicity, an effect that may be linked to NBOMe-induced seizures, hyperthermia, and vasoconstriction.

Halberstadt, A. L. (2016). Pharmacology and Toxicology of N-Benzylphenethylamine (“NBOMe”) Hallucinogens. 10.1007/7854_2016_64

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Return of the lysergamides. Part II: Analytical and behavioural characterization of N6-allyl-6-norlysergic acid diethylamide (AL-LAD) and (2’S,4’S)-lysergic acid 2,4-dimethylazetidide (LSZ)

Abstract

Lysergic acid N,N-diethylamide (LSD) is perhaps one of the most intriguing psychoactive substances known and numerous analogs have been explored to varying extents in previous decades. In 2013, N6-allyl-6-norlysergic acid diethylamide (AL-LAD) and (2’S,4’S)-lysergic acid 2,4-dimethylazetidide (LSZ) appeared on the ‘research chemicals’/new psychoactive substances (NPS) market in both powdered and blotter form. This study reports the analytical characterization of powdered AL-LAD and LSZ tartrate samples and their semi-quantitative determination on blotter paper. Included in this study was the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), low and high mass accuracy electrospray MS(/MS), high performance liquid chromatography diode array detection and GC solid-state infrared analysis. One feature shared by serotonergic psychedelics, such as LSD, is the ability to mediate behavioural responses via activation of 5-HT2A receptors. Both AL-LAD and LSZ displayed LSD-like responses in male C57BL/6 J mice when employing the head-twitch response (HTR) assay. AL-LAD and LSZ produced nearly identical inverted-U-shaped dose-dependent effects, with the maximal responses occurring at 200 µg/kg. Analysis of the dose responses by nonlinear regression confirmed that LSZ (ED50 = 114.2 nmol/kg) was equipotent to LSD (ED50 = 132.8 nmol/kg) in mice, whereas AL-LAD was slightly less potent (ED50  = 174.9 nmol/kg). The extent to which a comparison in potency can be translated directly to humans requires further investigation. Chemical and pharmacological data obtained from NPS may assist research communities that are interested in various aspects related to substance use and forensic identification.

Brandt, S. D., Kavanagh, P. V., Westphal, F., Elliott, S. P., Wallach, J., Colestock, T., … & Halberstadt, A. L. (2016). Return of the lysergamides. Part II: Analytical and behavioural characterization of N6‐allyl‐6‐norlysergic acid diethylamide (AL‐LAD) and (2’S, 4’S)‐lysergic acid 2, 4‐dimethylazetidide (LSZ). Drug testing and analysis. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dta.1985
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22 May - Delivering Effective Psychedelic Clinical Trials

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