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The terms empathogen and entactogen are different terms used to describe a class of psychoactive drugs that produce distinctive emotional and social effects similar to those of MDMA ("ecstasy"). Other putative members of this class are MDA, MDEA, MBDB, BDB, and AET. Most all drugs in this class are of the psychedelic phenethylamine family. When referring to MDMA and related analogs, the term 'MDxx' is often used, the exception being MDPV which is purely a stimulant. Entactogens are often incorrectly referred to as major hallucinogens or stimulants, though minorly characteristic of the two types, as is even marijuana. The chemical structure of most entactogens contains a substituted amphetamine core.

The term "empathogen" was coined in 1983 by Ralph Metzner to denote chemical agents inducing feelings of empathy.

"Entactogen" was coined by David E. Nichols as an alternative to "empathogen", attempting to avoid the potential for improper association of the latter with negative concepts related to the Greek root "pathos" (sympathy); Nichols also thought the word was limiting, and did not cover other therapeutic uses for the drugs that go beyond instilling feelings of empathy. The word "entactogen" is derived from the roots "en" (Greek: within), "tactus" (Latin: touch) and "gen" (Greek: produce) (Nichols 1986: 308). Neither term is dominant in usage, and, despite their difference in connotation, are essentially interchangeable, as they refer to precisely the same chemicals.

These drugs appear to produce a different spectrum of psychological effects from major stimulants such as methamphetamine and amphetamine or from major psychedelic drugs such as LSD or Psilocybin. As implied by the category names, users of entactogens say the drugs often produce feelings of empathy, love, and emotional closeness to others. However, there have been only very preliminary comparisons of these different drugs in humans in properly-controlled laboratory studies.

If MDMA is taken as a representative entactogen, the pharmacological mechanisms of this class appear to resemble those of methamphetamine. Extracellular dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are all increased by both MDMA and methamphetamine. However, MDMA tends to release greater amounts of serotonin proportionately, compared to methamphetamine, which might account for its different effects. It has also been noted anecdotally that the combination of IAP, a primarily serotonin-releasing amphetamine, and amphetamine, a primarily norepinephrine- and dopamine-releasing amphetamine, is remarkably similar in psychopharmaceutical effect to MDA. Entactogens other than MDMA have received relatively little scientific attention, making it difficult to draw conclusions about the mechanisms of entactogens in general.


  • Nichols, D.E., Hoffman, A.J., Oberlender, R.A., Jacob P 3rd & Shulgin A.T. Derivatives of 1-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl)-2-butanamine: representatives of a novel therapeutic class 1986 J Med Chem 29 2009-15
  • Nichols, D.E. Differences between the mechanism of action of MDMA, MBDB, and the classic hallucinogens. Identification of a new therapeutic class: entactogens 1986 J Psychoactive Drugs 18 305-13

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Empathogen-entactogen". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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