Wondering what empathogens are and how they affect the mind and body? If so, you’re in the right place. Check out our ultimate guide to empathogenic (entactogenic) drugs to learn the definition of empathogens, along with their risks and effects.
What Are Empathogens?
Empathogens are a type of psychoactive drug known to impact the emotional and social behavior of the user. They are often associated with party drugs because of their ability to increase feelings of love and friendliness in the user.
The term “empathogens” was first used in 1983 by American psychologist Ralph Metzner about the increased empathy and oneness many people feel when using these drugs.
These drugs come in a variety of forms, including pills, capsules, or crystals. They can be swallowed, snorted, or consumed rectally. The effects of the drug may kick in within 30-60 minutes after consumption, depending on the drug. Feelings of euphoria, energy, heightened senses, and oneness may last several hours.
The drug is often used recreationally at raves, clubs, and festivals. However, studies have been conducted to explore the potential uses for empathogens in healing, spirituality, and psychotherapy treatment. (More research is required to determine the viability of the drug in a clinical setting.)
Empathogens Drugs List
Ecstasy (MDMA) is one of the most commonly used drugs in this class, but there are many other types of empathogens. Other empathogenic drugs include:
- And more
Today, the terms are used interchangeably to reference drugs that produce greater empathy and feelings of connection to others.
Street Names for Empathogens
Many empathogenic drugs are known by nicknames when sold on the streets for recreational use. Common street names for empathogens include:
- Ecstasy (MDMA)
- Molly (MDMA)
- M&M (MDMA)
- Death (PMA or PMMA)
- Pink ecstasy (PMA or PMMA)
- Sally (MDA)
- Sass (MDA)
- Sassafras (MDA)
- Bath salts (ethylone)
- Plant food (ethylone)
How Do Empathogens Work?
Empathogens release dopamine and serotonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters send signals to the brain relating to learning, motivation, pain processing, and more.
Dopamine is sometimes called the “feel-good” messenger because it plays a role in perceiving pleasure and interest. Serotonin is known as a mood stabilizer, which affects sleep, appetite, and digestion.
Empathogens also block serotonin reuptake transporter, which causes additional serotonin to build up between the neurons leading to the feeling of love and connectedness many people feel when taking the drugs.
Empathogens affect users in different ways, depending on the dosage, strength of the particular drug, size of the user, how often they’ve taken the drug, and more.
High doses of empathogens can cause dopamine and serotonin levels to increase to a harmful level, causing serotonin syndrome (shivering, diarrhea, and more). Conversely, taking empathogens can also lead to low serotonin levels once the effects of the drug wear off. This can lead to hyperthermia, irritability, and sadness.
Here are some of the other common effects of taking empathogenic drugs:
- Feeling a greater connection to others
- Increased feelings of love and friendliness
- Increased feelings of loneliness
- Decreased ability to recognize facial fear
- Increased energy
- Boost in sexual desire
- Dehydration or overhydration
- Erectile dysfunction
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature
- Systolic hypertension
- Increased pupil size
- Increased oxytocin
Overall, empathogens like MDMA have been shown to boost empathogenic feelings like love and connectedness, but decrease other social cognition abilities.
For example, participants in one study felt greater love and friendliness toward others, yet had a more difficult time identifying threats and fear in the facial signals of others.
For this reason, recreational use of empathogens could affect social risk-taking decisions.
Risks of Empathogens
Though some studies explore the clinical benefits of empathogens, recreational use of these drugs presents many risks. Empathogens should never be taken in combination with other types of drugs or alcohol. Combining can present risks for those who have mental health disorders or are engaging in intense physical activity.
Frequent and large doses of the drug can lead to dependency, tolerance, and conditions like serotonin syndrome. Users who have low serotonin levels for an extended period may experience depression, mood swings, and chronic pain.
What Are Entactogens?
Entactogens or entactogenic drugs are other names for empathogens. American pharmacologist David Nichols created this term as an alternative reference to this drug class.
Nichols reasoned that the name “empathogens” was too limiting and may cause people to incorrectly associate the name with “pathogens,” which are bacteria or viruses that cause disease.
Entactogens and PTSD
In recent years, scientific research has shown promise for entactogenic drugs to treat PTSD, depression, and other psychological conditions. Though there are relatively few clinical studies to base evidence on, current studies show that MDMA can help minimize fear and anxiety and boost introspective thoughts.
MDMA is known to increase levels of serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and cortisol in the body. When used in conjunction with psychotherapy treatment, it can help patients find greater healing and boost trust between themselves and the therapist.
When prescribed in a clinical setting, MDMA does not create intense sensory changes or affect a patient’s ability to recall memories. Instead, it is used to help the user more fully engage in the therapy process and find inward healing.
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If you or a loved one are struggling with the effects of empathogens or any other type of drug addiction, Pinnacle Treatment Centers can help.
We understand that overcoming any addiction can be difficult, which is why we use the latest methods to combine medication, therapy, education, and support for those seeking recovery. Our customized treatment plans are made with each patient’s unique needs in mind.
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