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Most of the known and commonly used entheogens be- long to the tryptamine family. The list includes DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, LSD, Psilocybin/Psilocin, and Ibogaine. Chemically, these compounds share structural similarities, such as an indole ring and similarity to the amino acid tryptophan. Besides psychoactive substances, many neu- rotransmitters also belong to the tryptamine family.
Aside from LSD, which is created synthetically, these compounds are typically found in various species of plants and mushrooms and can be isolated by extraction proce- dures.

Traditionally, various tryptamines have been used in rituals of shamans for healing and spiritual purposes, where they are considered “plant teachers”. Today, shamanic use of tryptamines still persists, while scientists additionally investigate their usefulness in things like helping patients cope with death, anxiety, or overcoming addiction (among other medicinal applications). Individual use, though illegal in most countries, is generally based on healing, learning, exploring, spirituality, psychology, and/or recreation. Though the effects of each of these substances vary, some general signs and symptoms are common to most of them. None of these signs and symptoms, however, are guaranteed to occur.
2. Signs and symptoms of various substances
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Low Dose Medium Dose High Dose
Pupils slightly dilated, slight trembling, slurred speech, tear formation, yawning Pupils greatly dilated, slurred speech, incoherency, trembling, jaw clenching Pupils greatly dilated, strong incoherence (in- ability to form sentences), trembling and shaking, cold hands and feet, sweating, diarrhea, vomiting

Low Dose Medium Dose High Dose
Colors appear brighter, edges sharper. Light- headedness, muscle tension, nervousness. Altered thought-processes/internal dialog. Closed-eye visuals (patterns, colors), (Geometric) patterns ap- pear on uniform surfaces, walls seem to be breath- ing. Patterns and struc- tures may seem to shift or move. Things may ap- pear novel or more won- drous, events more intense. Difficulty in understanding how things work (e.g. Com- puters). Difficulty in follow- ing conversations. Thought loops. Loss of sense of time. Intensification of preexisting emotions. Closed eye vi- sions. Euphoria. Geometric 3-dimensional patterns appear, difficulty in focusing the eyes, Synesthe- sia, Visions, Intensification of emotions, insights, time dilation, inability to tell which position the body is in, mystical experiences, nausea

Tryptamines due to their structural simlarity to the neurotransmitter serotonin, bind mainly to the serotonin receptors or 5HT receptors. The serotonin receptors mediate both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission and are normally activated by the neurotransmitter serotonin, which acts as their natural ligand. They modulate the release of many other neurotransmitters, including glutamate, GABA, dopamine, epinephrine/norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, as well as many hormones, including oxytocin, prolactin, vasopressin, cortisol, corticotropin, and substance P, among others. The serotonin receptors influence various biological and neurological processes
such as aggression, anxiety, appetite, cognition, learning, memory, mood, nausea, sleep, and thermoregulation. The serotonin receptors are known to regulate longevity and behavioral aging in the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans.

Main importance is given to the 5HT2A receptor as the primary target of psychedelics. The psychedelic effects of entheogens are, in general, attributed to their interaction with this receptor. However, how these neuro-chemicals interact in conjunction and lead to the forming and alteration of thoughts and thought processes, visions, etc. remains a great mystery.

It is thought that 5HT2A activation by psychedelics leads to an increased release of BDNF, which is a protein that is active in the hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrainareas vital to learning, memory, and higher thinking. BDNF itself is important for long-term memory and nerve growth and preservation.
While not generally used as hallucinogens alone, harmala alkaloids such as harmine, harmaline, and tetrahydroharmaline, found in plants such as Peganum harmala (Syrian Rue) and Banisteriopsis caapi, are often used in conjunction with tryptamines, especially DMT.

They function by inhibiting the metabolism of monoamine compounds such as serotonin, which incidentally also inhibits the metabolism of DMT, allowing it to become active via oral ingestion, where otherwise it would be metabolized before reaching the blood brain barrier.

Harmala alkaloids are thus so-called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI). They differentiate themselves from other MAOI by being reversible and selective in their inhibition, lessening certain risks related to MAOI and tyramine-containing food, for example. Hence, they are more correctly referred to as RIMA - reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase.