Phenethylamine (also called PEA, β-phenylethylamine, β-phenethylamine, or benzeneethanamine) is a trace amine and influencer of many neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. Phenethylamine is an important molecule in the brain, but is not often used as a supplement because it is rapidly broken down into inactive components before it is able to reach and cross the blood-brain barrier.
Phenylethylamine functions as a monoaminergic neuromodulator and, to a lesser extent, a neurotransmitter in the human central nervous system. In addition to its presence in mammals, phenethylamine is found in many other organisms and foods, such as chocolate. It is also plays a role in feelings of affection, and this mechanism is perhaps partially responsible for its ability to enhance empathy, affection, and sociability.
When taken in combination with an MAOI such as hordenine, it can produce profound entactogenic effects similar to that of MDMA. However, the effects are notably shorter-lived and accompanied by more severe side effects. A thorough investigation of 179 phenethylamine compounds was published by Ann and Alexander Shulgin under the title PiHKAL.
Phenethylamine is comprised of a benzene ring attached to a mono-amine group via an ethyl side-chain. Orally ingested without a MAOI, phenethylamine goes through extensive first-pass metabolism by monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) and then aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which metabolize it into phenylacetic acid. This prevents significant concentrations from reaching the brain in low doses.
In the body, it is biosynthesized from the amino acid L-phenylalanine by enzymatic decarboxylation via the enzyme aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase.
Hydrogen atoms around the structure can be substituted for other functional groups to produce drugs of varying potency, affinity, efficacy, and half-life.
The psychedelic effects of phenethylamines are believed to come from their efficacy at the 5-HT2A receptor as a partial agonist. However, the role of these interactions and how they result in the psychedelic experience continues to remain elusive.
Several neurotransmitters are derived from phenethylamine such as:
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The effects listed below are based upon the subjective effects index and personal experiences of PsychonautWiki contributors. The listed effects should be taken with a grain of salt and will rarely (if ever) occur all at once, but heavier doses will increase the chances and are more likely to induce a full range of effects. Likewise, adverse effects become much more likely on higher doses and may include serious injury or death.
- Physical euphoria
- Tactile enhancement
- Spontaneous physical sensations - The "body high" of phenethylamine can be described as a moderate to extreme euphoric, soft, and warm tingling sensation that encompasses the entire body. It is capable of becoming overwhelmingly pleasurable at higher doses. This sensation maintains a consistent presence that steadily rises with the onset and hits its limit once the peak has been reached.
- Increased perspiration
- Temporary erectile dysfunction
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
The cognitive effects of phenethylamine can be broken down into several components which progressively intensify proportional to dosage. The general head space of phenethylamine is described by many as one of euphoria and feelings of love or empathy. It contains a number of typical entactogenic cognitive effects.
The most prominent of these cognitive effects generally include:
- Anxiety or Anxiety suppression
- Cognitive euphoria - Strong emotional euphoria and feelings of happiness are present within phenethylamine and are a direct result of serotonin release.
- Empathy, affection, and sociability enhancement - This particular effect is equally as pronounced, powerful, and therapeutic as that of MDMA or 2C-B.
- Thought acceleration
- Immersion enhancement
- Novelty enhancement
- Focus enhancement
- Increased libido
Toxicity and harm potential
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In most countries, phenethylamine is easily accessible. It is sold as a dietary supplement for purported mood- and weight loss-related therapeutic benefits.
List of substituted phenethylamines
- Phenethylamine (Wikipedia)
- List of naturally occurring phenethylamines (Wikipedia)
- Phenethylamine (PiHKAL / Isomer Design)