Tryptamines and phenethylamines are two broad categories of psychoactive substances with a long history of licit and illicit use. Profiles of users of recently emerging tryptamines and phenethylamines are nonexistent, however, since surveillance studies do not query the use of these substances. This manuscript describes the types, modes of administration, onset of use, and context of use of a variety of lesser known tryptamines and phenethylamines among a sample of high-risk youth. Findings are based upon in-depth interviews with 42 youth recruited in public settings in Los Angles during 2005 and 2006 as part of larger study examining health risks associated with injecting ketamine. Youth reported that their use of tryptamines and phenethylamines was infrequent, spontaneous, and predominately occurred at music venues, such as festivals, concerts, or raves. Several purchased a variety of these “research chemicals” from the Internet and used them in private locations. While many described positive experiences, reports of short-term negative health outcomes included nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientations, and frightening hallucinations. These findings, based upon pilot study data, move toward an epidemiology of tryptamine and phenethylamine use among high-risk youth.

Keywords: hallucinogen, high-risk youth, injection drug user, phenethylamine, tryptamine

Research chemicals are chemical substances used by scientists for medical and scientific research purposes. One characteristic of a research chemical is that it is for laboratory research use only; a research chemical is not intended for human or veterinary use. This distinction is required on the labels of research chemicals, and is what exempts them from regulation under parts 100-740 in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR).[1]

Research chemicals are fundamental in the development of novel pharmacotherapies. Common medical laboratory uses include in vivo and animal testing to determine therapeutic value, toxicology testing by contract research organizations to determine drug safety, and analysis by drug test and forensic toxicology labs for the purposes of evaluating human exposure. Many pharmacologically active chemicals are sold online under the guise of “research chemicals,” when in reality they are untested designer drugs that are being sold for recreational use despite the compounds’ transitional or unclear legal status.


The use of tryptamines and phenethylamines among high-risk youth was discovered during a two-phase, three-city study examining health risks associated with injecting ketamine (see Lankenau, 2006; Lankenau et al., 2007; Lankenau and Sanders, 2007). Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has emerged as a drug commonly used in the dance/rave scene (Jansen, 2001) and among subgroups of young IDUs (Lankenau et al., 2007). Phase one comprised a cross-sectional, ethnographic survey of young IDUs recruited in New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Phase two consisted of a two-year longitudinal study of young IDUs recruited in Los Angeles during Phase one. Data described in this manuscript are largely based upon respondents recruited in Los Angeles; therefore, the discussion of methods primarily focuses on the Los Angeles site (see Lankenau et al., 2007, for a discussion of three-site methodology).

Agricultural research chemicals[edit]

Research agrochemicals are created and evaluated to select effective substances for use in commercial off-the-shelf end-user products. Many research agrochemicals are never publicly marketed. Agricultural research chemicals often use sequential code names.[2][3]

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