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Entactogens (also known as empathogens) are a class of psychoactive substances that produce distinctive emotional and social effects similar to those of MDMA.

The term "empathogen" was coined in 1983 by Ralph Metzner to denote chemical agents capable of inducing feelings of empathy. "Entactogen" was coined by David E. Nichols as an alternative to "empathogen," attempting to avoid the potential for an improper association of the latter with negative connotations related to the Greek root "pathos" (suffering).


The term empathogen, meaning "generating a state of empathy", was coined in 1983–84 independently by Ralph Metzner and David E. Nichols as a term to denote a therapeutic class of drugs that includes MDMA and phenethylamine relatives.[1] Nichols later rejected this initial terminology and adopted, instead, the term entactogen, meaning "touching within", to denote this class of drugs, asserting a concern with the potential for improper association of the term empathogen with negative connotations related to the Greek root πάθος páthos ("suffering").[2] Additionally, Nichols wanted to avoid any association with the term pathogenesis.[3]

Nichols also thought the original term was limiting, and did not cover other therapeutic uses for the drugs that go beyond instilling feelings of empathy.[4] The hybrid word entactogen is derived from the roots en (|within), tactus (touch) and -gen (produce).[2] Neither term is dominant in usage, and, despite their difference in connotation, they are essentially interchangeable, as they refer to precisely the same chemicals.

History and culture

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"Therapists used entactogens such as MDMA in their practice before it was criminalized in 1985. Since that time, much effort has taken place to conduct government-approved scientific research into MDMA's therapeutic potential, which has recently been demonstrated in placebo-controlled studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for subjects with chronic, treatment-resistant posttraumatic stress disorder."
—Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., MAPS

Subjective effects

Disclaimer: The effects listed below cite the Subjective Effect Index (SEI), an open research literature based on anecdotal user reports and the personal analyses of PsychonautWiki contributors. As a result, they should be viewed with a healthy degree of skepticism.

It is also worth noting that these effects will not necessarily occur in a predictable or reliable manner, although higher doses are more liable to induce the full spectrum of effects. Likewise, adverse effects become increasingly likely with higher doses and may include addiction, severe injury, or death ☠.

These effects are listed and defined in their own dedicated article below:

Alongside of these, a variety of secondary effects are often present. These generally include (but are not limited to):

List of entactogens

The compounds below have varying degrees of entactogenic effects. Some of the chemicals have a minimal entactogenic effect while others may have a strong entactogenic effect. Many of these substances possess other effects including stimulant effects and psychedelic effects.

See also

External links


  • 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.


  1. Metzner, Ralph; Adamson, Sophia (2001). Holland, Julie, ed. Ecstasy : the complete guide ; a comprehensive look at the risks and benefits of MDMA. Rochester, Vt: Park Street Press. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-89281-857-0. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nichols, D. (1986). "Differences Between the Mechanism of Action of MDMA, MBDB, and the Classic Hallucinogens. Identification of a New Therapeutic Class: Entactogens". Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 18 (4): 305–13. doi:10.1080/02791072.1986.10472362. PMID 2880944. 
  3. Colman, Andrew M. (2015). Dictionary of Psychology - Oxford Reference. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199657681.001.0001. ISBN 9780199657681. 
  4. Nichols, D; Yensen, R; Metzner, R; Shakespeare, W (1993). "The Great Entactogen - Empathogen Debate". Newsletter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies MAPS. 4 (2): 47–49. Retrieved 6 January 2015.