Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 89, Issue 8, pp 1151–1173 | Cite as

The hallucinogenic world of tryptamines: an updated review

  • Ana Margarida AraújoEmail author
  • Félix Carvalho
  • Maria de Lourdes Bastos
  • Paula Guedes de Pinho
  • Márcia CarvalhoEmail author
Review Article


In the area of psychotropic drugs, tryptamines are known to be a broad class of classical or serotonergic hallucinogens. These drugs are capable of producing profound changes in sensory perception, mood and thought in humans and act primarily as agonists of the 5-HT2A receptor. Well-known tryptamines such as psilocybin contained in Aztec sacred mushrooms and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), present in South American psychoactive beverage ayahuasca, have been restrictedly used since ancient times in sociocultural and ritual contexts. However, with the discovery of hallucinogenic properties of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in mid-1900s, tryptamines began to be used recreationally among young people. More recently, new synthetically produced tryptamine hallucinogens, such as alpha-methyltryptamine (AMT), 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and 5-methoxy-N,N-diisopropyltryptamine (5-MeO-DIPT), emerged in the recreational drug market, which have been claimed as the next-generation designer drugs to replace LSD (‘legal’ alternatives to LSD). Tryptamine derivatives are widely accessible over the Internet through companies selling them as ‘research chemicals’, but can also be sold in ‘headshops’ and street dealers. Reports of intoxication and deaths related to the use of new tryptamines have been described over the last years, raising international concern over tryptamines. However, the lack of literature pertaining to pharmacological and toxicological properties of new tryptamine hallucinogens hampers the assessment of their actual potential harm to general public health. This review provides a comprehensive update on tryptamine hallucinogens, concerning their historical background, prevalence, patterns of use and legal status, chemistry, toxicokinetics, toxicodynamics and their physiological and toxicological effects on animals and humans.


Tryptamines Hallucinogens 5-HT2A receptor Toxicokinetics Toxicodynamics Toxicity 



This work received financial support from the European Union (FEDER funds through COMPETE) and National Funds (FCT, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia) through project Pest-C/EQB/LA0006/2013.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Margarida Araújo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Félix Carvalho
    • 1
  • Maria de Lourdes Bastos
    • 1
  • Paula Guedes de Pinho
    • 1
  • Márcia Carvalho
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.UCIBIO-REQUIMTE, Laboratório de Toxicologia, Departamento de Ciências Biológicas, Faculdade de FarmáciaUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.FP-ENAS, CEBIMEDFundação Ensino e Cultura Fernando PessoaPortoPortugal

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