Francisco Suárez Castro Updated: Save Send news by mail electrónicoTu name *

Your email *

email *

The nature is the biggest camel of the planet. Without leaving your city will be able to find it on roadsides, wasteland and parks species of poisonous plants or poison as poppy , the jimsonweed and the same opium . The list expands if we look at fungi and animals, and would do even more if you travel to the Amazon . As you read this text, drugs that we did not even know they have gone due to the action of the human species on the great forests. A missed opportunity.

During a lecture on synaptic transmission, I was surprised that my students ignore the existence of these plants so close. As I ask you to note that all these species were targeted, the general laughter was heard for miles around. When I put in actual examples of accidents, some fatal, caused by the misuse and ignorance of the venomous species in our peninsula, the laughter is silenced.

The class was reassured to see that the poisons them were familiar in the medical practice . Substances such as the morphine , the atropine and scopolamine are extremely useful, in its fair dosage.

however, the stark reality is that the words “ poison ” and “ poison ” produce a shiver in the back that makes us think that we should eradicate all these species from the face of the earth. Just a few years ago, it would seem almost a joke to use the lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin, from the species of the genus Psilocibe for the treatment of depression.

The mockery would continue to show that our neurons synthesize dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and this same compound, or its methylated derivative, is found in many plant species native to the Amazon, as well as in some species of frogs .

Many of us will be surprised to discover that, at the dawn of the anesthesia, and organized a scientific project to search for the plants with which the aborigines were preparing curare, a mysterious substance that only the shamans could and knew how to prepare. We would move the hands to the head a lot more to know that the curare was used as an anesthetic, with some disastrous consequences, to produce respiratory paralysis and asphyxia, and that great scientists of the era, such as Claude Bernard , were big promoters of the use of curare in medicine.

DMT in the skin of toads

whether We like it or not, our species is in a continual love-hate relationship with the drug and, therefore, with the species that produce them. The well-known porn actor English Nacho Vidal is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter after participating in a rite in which the inhaled powder containing 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine , an analog of the DMT , which is found in the skin of species of frogs, as well as in some plants.

The DMT and analogues are potent agonists of serotonin receptors of type 5-HT2A, of wide distribution in the central nervous system. Many of the substances known as psychotropic drugs act by binding and activating this receptor type. Our neurons synthesize a compound called 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), better known by the name of serotonin .

This compound is one of the many neurotransmitters that synthesizes our nervous system. Fulfills a basic function: transmit information between cells . The pleasure that we feel when we eat or have sex, as well as the sadness that you feel when you die a loved one is due to the neurotransmitters released by our neurons in neural networks specific.

Many toxic substances can replace, block or modulate the receptors to those who join usually our neurotransmitters. Its effect is sometimes similar, while other is the opposite, always depending on the dose.

When the dose is high, these compounds can activate several types of receptors, such as if a master key is involved, triggered all the doors possible in a maze. In this sense, the DMT can act on the serotonin receptors of type 5-HT2A producing the effect psychotropic which in addition is enhanced by the environment in which they find the individual (chants, striking drums, lights, sound).

in Addition, the same DMT can act on receptors that are a the adrenaline (a hormone and neurotransmitter) in the heart. If you go up the concentration of adrenaline in the blood, our heart beats more times per minute and stronger, producing tachycardia . This effect is enhanced in many shamanic rites, because in the mix of plants known as ayahuasca also eat a type of compound called beta-carbolines. They are not neurotransmitters, but they allow the neurotransmitter (the key before), acting for much longer, not only on the serotonin receptors, but about the adrenaline rush.

Each one of us is a Pandora’s box with the same principles biochemical, but with different isoforms of many receptor proteins, as well as enzymes. This explains why the hallucinatory experience of DMT can last from minutes to hours. In addition, in traditional preparations of these compounds can’t control the dose.

mutual Protection

how then Should we slaughter all the species that contain DMT as toads and a few plants? As much as we want to, not. Life is an intrinsic value and has a useful pharmacological very interesting for us.

The DMT, unlike many psychoactive compounds, does not seem to have addictive potential , and that is because you do not activate the route mesolimbic cortical neural circuitry whose activation releases dopamine in the brain and produces pleasure. Most of the drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy and heroin base their addictive quality in the activation of this circuit.

Without being drug , also release dopamine in this circuit when we bet our savings on a slot machine, in the bag, we become addicted to work or practice sex. The activation of the path mesolimbic cortex releases tons of dopamine to produce pleasure to perform behaviors such as those listed in, or eating some drugs.

The world of drugs may seem eccentric, but it contains thousands of keys that will help us to know ourselves better and, surely, many weapons therapeutic.

Francisco Suárez Castro is a professor of Physiology, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

This article was originally published in The Conversation .