Psychonauts’ psychedelics: A systematic, multilingual, web-crawling exercise

This online study, using a web-crawler and then manual analysis of the data, found 994 previously unknown psychedelic molecules.


“Psychedelics alter the perception of reality through agonist or partial agonist interaction with the 2A serotoninergic receptor. They are classified as phenethylamines, tryptamines and lysergamides. These classes, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), account for an important percentage of the new psychoactive substances (NPS) current scenario. The paper aimed at: a) identifying and categorising psychedelic molecules from a list of psychonautwebsites and NPS online resources; and b) comparing the NPSfinder results with those from the European and United Nations databases. A crawling software (i.e. ‘NPSfinder’) was created to automatically scan, 24/7, a list of URLs and to extract a range of information (chemical/street names, chemical formulae, etc.) to facilitate NPS identification. Data collected were manually analysed and compared with the EMCDDA and UNODC databases. The overall number of psychedelic NPS detected by NPSfinder (November 2017-February 2020) was 1344, almost ten-times higher than that reported by the UNODC and EMCDDA combined. Of these, 994 previously unknown molecules were identified as (potential) novel psychedelics, suggesting a strong discrepancy between online and real-world NPS scenarios. The results show the interest of psychonauts, and maybe of the much larger community of ‘recreational’ drug users, towards psychedelics. Moreover, examining online scenario may help in assessing the availability in the real world of psychedelic NPS; understanding drug trends; and in possibly predicting future drug scenarios”

Authors: Valeria Catalani, John M. Corkery, Amira Guirguis, Flavia Napoletano, Davide Arillotta, Caroline Zangani, Alessandro Vento &Fabrizio Schifano

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