Psychedelic fauna for psychonaut hunters

Laura Orsolini, Michela Ciccarese, Duccio Papanti, Domenico De Berardis, Amira Guirguis, John Corkery, Fabrizio Schifano

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review

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Background and purpose:
Humans have used a range of naturally occurring psychoactive substances to modify their minds, for recreational/mystic/spiritual/religious/psychedelic purposes, over millennia [1]. Many psychotropic chemicals, widely distributed in plants and animals, were discovered by ancient hunter-gatherers prior to the Neolithic agricultural revolution [2]. Most commonly abused natural drugs and, nowadays, novel psychoactive substances (NPS), cause changes in brain systems that alter consciousness or affect moods/emotions in some way [1–3]. Moreover, ritualistic/spiritual use of these psychoactive substances has a long history among ancient tribes/shamanic communities, by suggesting some evolutionary benefits related to the historical spread of plant- and/or animal-derived compounds possessing psychoactive properties, mostly entheogens/hallucinogens [3]. Despite many psychoactive substances/NPS have been easily found in plant sources, a variety of animal sources of psychoactive substances appear to be equally abused, potent and risky. The present study
aiming at providing an overview of the presence of some substances with psychoactive/psychedelic properties in fauna, by identifying their potential human abuse/misuse, their pharmacological and clinical effects on humans, in order to better qualify them.

Methods: Given the limitation of peer-reviewed data published so far, a preliminary nonparticipant multilingual qualitative study of a list of prodrug websites and other online resources was conducted to obtain a list of potentially representatives of the ‘psychedelic fauna’. A systematic Internet search was conducted on Duckduckgo ® and Google® which included the following keywords: “animal’s name” and/or possible acronyms, street names etc. plus “to buy”, “experience”, “trip”, “legal high”, “psychedelic”, “hallucinogen”, “psychoactive”. Within the time frame January–July 2017, data were collected from 12 unique prodrug websites. Some 2,900 fora threads were screened. After removal of those Web pages, which were either duplicates or nonrelevant to the aims of the study, 268 fora threads, were analysed and used to identify four main species implicated. Ethical approval for the study has been sought and granted by the Department of Pharmacy Ethics Committee at the University of Hertfordshire (December 15, 2010, reference code PHAEC/10-42), with a further extension of the approval granted in November 2013. Then, we combined the search strategy of free text terms and exploded MESH headings for the topics of
Psychedelic Fauna and Novel Psychoactive Substances as following: ((((Psychedelic OR hallucinogenic OR psychoactive) substances) [Title/Abstract]) AND ((various name of Animals) [Title/Abstract]))), as previously identified with the above-mentioned online search. All articles published in English without time restriction were selected. Studies published through to 15 September 2017 were included.

‘Psychoactive fauna’ is currently used to denote the group of animals whose body parts or excretions contain one or more substances which, in a sufficiently
high dose, have the potential to alter the user’s state of consciousness.Several species are implicated (i.e., ants, amphibians, fish). Routes of administration depend on the animal/substance included/metabolism/toxicity and individual/social/cultural variability.

Online purchase and access are easy through tourism-related search strategies (‘frog trip”, ‘help of charmer snake’, ‘religious trip’). Further researches should
be carried out in order to better identify the consume and dissemination of these ’new’ way to consume/misuse of these ’psychedelic’ animals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberP.691
Pages (from-to)S472-S473
Number of pages2
JournalEuropean Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue numberSupplement 1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2019


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