Nikita Obidin

Semi-professional swirler of test tubes, psychedelic safety, neurotech. CEO of Arcadia Medicine. MIT 2020

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Further explorations into naturally-occurring isoquinolines: the aporphines

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This week’s post will be a shorter one than usual but I wanted to do another medium-intensity dive into the mysterious ‘third’ or ‘fourth’ family of hallucinogenic substances, depending on your taxonomic preference. Like I mentioned in a previous post, isoquinolines are a relatively unexplored group of naturally-occurring molecules which are somewhat ubiquitous in many plant species. They’re understudied partially due to their relative abundance and partially due to a lack of interest in elucidating activity in humans. I specifically wanted to focus on a subfamily of isoquinolines, known as aporphine derivatives. I’ve already talked about one of them, namely glaucine! Glaucine is a 5-HT2A selective agonist with a number of other properties, including bronchodilating and anti-inflammatory effects. Okay everything makes sense so far. Selective 5-HT2A agonism is the bread-and-butter of...

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Phenethylamines I have feared and loathed

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In the course of a burgeoning interest in psychedelic medicine, one comes across two broad categories of similarly interested characters. You will find that some are neurotically obsessed with rigor and refuse to even discuss what these things do on a subjective level while others will insist you sit down and listen to their story of aligning a colleague’s moon chakra using an herbal intoxicant. While the two sides seem to disagree on pretty much everything, there does seem to be a common distaste for anything that’s not a ‘typical’ psychedelic like psilocybin or ayahuasca. Wait, no, you can’t move that hydroxy group from the 4 to the 5 position! Once the conversation drifts in that direction, they seem to conjure up images of underground drug labs in Ohio run by people named ‘toad pRofit$’ being raided by the DEA. On a cultural level, we’ve decided that if a therapy is run with a...

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Isoquinolines: structural analogues of the mysterious third family

Isoquinolines are a rather large naturally-occurring family of benzopyridines which find medical applications in everything from antihypertensives to anti-retrovirals to anesthetics. But they have an interesting hidden side which is to date pretty unexplored.

Those familiar with Alex Shulgin’s work will no doubt remember making their way through PIHKAL, first through the autobiographical chapters and then the synthesis portion where phenethylamines (a family which includes 2C-B, 2C-C, MDMA, and mescaline) are described in impressive detail. Some have also picked up TIHKAL, the continuation of the journey through the space of hallucinogenic compounds, this time covering tryptamines (psilocin, bufotenine, DMT, and LSD) with the same basic book structure.

Not including the various compiled studies and reports that Shulgin wrote over the course of his career, there is a third major...

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The neurobiological activity of hallucinogenic tryptamines

the full preprint containing a tryptamine index is available at


  • Hallucinogenic tryptamines appear highly effective against a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions

  • Central activity, including hallucinogenic properties, depends on functional selectivity at the 5-HT2A receptor

  • Neural correlates of psychedelic activity includes glutamatergic transmission in the cerebral cortex, inhibition of slow oscillations, increases in extracellular GABA, and an increase in spontaneous signal diversity

  • Central activity in humans is highly dependent on specific chemical functional group substitutions at the 4 and 5 positions on the benzene indole ring

Longer Abstract Summary

Tryptamine-derived compounds, many of them hallucinogenic, have been found to be potent pharmaceutical agents1. In particular, psilocin...

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Enantiomeric MDMA and Neurotoxicity

Some exciting research came out of Emory University a few years ago, though it was not widely reported at the time. Leonard Howell (who has since retired) and his group discovered that while racemic MDMA (a mixture of the R(-) and S(+) enantiomers) produced neurotoxic effects in mice, administering just the R(-)-enantiomer did no such thing.1,2

To give some background, the neurotoxicity of MDMA has been suspected for quite some time, going back a few decades. While the mechanism has not been fully uncovered, MDMA appears to produce damage to the serotonergic axon terminals in the striatum, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex.3 As a result, we seem to find lower expression levels of tryptophan hydroxylase (the rate limiting enzyme involved in serotonin synthesis) and 5HT (serotonin itself) in rodents after a series of heavy doses of MDMA, as well as lower levels of DAT and SERT...

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