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Men hallucinate after eating fish

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Two men have suffered terrifying visual and auditory hallucinations after eating poisonous fish in Mediterranean restaurants.

According to a clinical study on the patients, which is due to be published in the journal Clinical Toxicology, the men started seeing and hearing things after contracting a rare form of hallucinogenic poisoning from the fish they were dining on.

Ichthyoallyeinotoxism, or hallucinogenic fish poisoning, is caused by eating the heads or body parts of certain species of herbivorous fish and has previously only been recorded from the Indo Pacific.

The effects of eating ichthyoallyeinotoxic fishes, such as certain mullet, goatfish, tangs, damsels and rabbitfish, are believed to be similar to LSD, and may include vivid and terrifying auditory and visual hallucinations. This has given rise to the collective common name for ichthyoallyeinotoxic fishes of "dream fish".

Indoles, with similar chemical effects to LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) are believed to be responsible and may be consumed when the fish eat algae or phytoplankton containing the chemicals.

indoles... i was under the impression 'indole' is a synonym for 'tryptamine' ?

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indole is tryptamine without the ethylamine side chain.

plenty of interesting secondary metabolites to be found in the marine environment. im doing a marine chem subject at the moment and some of the metabolites are crazy lol, i will ask my lecturer about it :)

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I have suffered mild hallucinations after eating a seafood dish with octopus and the likes. It was reasonably pleasant actually, stayed in bed half the day a bit ill and then went out, kept on seeing things shoot across my vision etc, I thought it was lysteria, but maybe not....

Indoles are a large group of alkaloids of which tryptamines are members as well as lysergides and a host of others alkaloids in the tabernaemontana's, iboga, Voacanga ec

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Just need to find someone with access to Clinical Toxicology:

de Haro Luc; Pommier Philip "Hallucinatory fish poisoning (ichthyoallyeinotoxism): two case reports from the Western Mediterranean and literature review." Clinical toxicology (2006), 44(2), 185-8

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Just need to find someone with access to Clinical Toxicology:

de Haro Luc; Pommier Philip "Hallucinatory fish poisoning (ichthyoallyeinotoxism): two case reports from the Western Mediterranean and literature review." Clinical toxicology (2006), 44(2), 185-8

Found it!


Ichthyoallyeinotoxism is a rare kind of food poisoning contracted following the ingestion of fish. The responsible toxins are unknown, and the clinical feature is characterized by the development of CNS disturbances, especially hallucinations and nightmares. As the implicated fish species may be also related to ciguatera poisoning, there may be possible confusion between the two fish-borne intoxications. In order to clarify this, the literature pertaining to "dreamfish" was reviewed and two cases are presented. A 40-year-old man experienced mild digestive troubles and terrifying visual and auditory hallucinations after eating a specimen of Sarpa salpa in a restaurant. As he had severe behaviour troubles, he was managed in the hospital and recovered 36 h after the meal. He was unable to recall the hallucinatory period. Another man, 90-years-old and previously healthy, had auditory hallucinations 2 h after eating a specimen of Sarpa salpa. The two following nights, he had numerous nightmares and recovered spontaneously after a period of 3 days.

Keywords Ichthyoallyeinotoxism; Ichthyosarcotoxism; Hallucinatory Fish Poisoning; Dreamfish

Full Text :COPYRIGHT 2006 Taylor & Francis Ltd.


Ichthyosarcotoxism is a type of food poisoning caused via the ingestion of fish. The most common and widely investigated form of ichthyosarcotoxism is ciguatera poisoning that affects the peripheral nervous system. It is due to contamination of fish flesh by various toxins produced by the benthic dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus. A less common form is ichthyoallyeinotoxism, characterized by development of central nervous system disturbances, especially hallucinations and nightmares. Ichthyoallyeinotoxism has been reported in many locations around the world (1,2). The purpose of this article is to describe two new cases of ichthyoallyeinotoxism that occurred in the Western Mediterranean after ingestion of Sarpa salpa, and to review the literature concerning this rare poisoning.


April 1994

A previously healthy 40-year-old executive began feeling weak and tired within 2 h after eating freshly caught baked sea bream (Sarpa salpa) for dinner while on vacation in Cannes on the French Riviera. Nausea and vomiting developed quickly during the night. The next day symptoms persisted and were accompanied by marked muscle weakness. He decided to shorten his vacation and drive home. At that point, he began to experience blurring of vision and hallucinations involving aggressive and screaming animals. Agitation and disorientation led him to seek medical assistance (he was not able to drive anymore as he was seeing giant arthropods around his car). Physical examination upon arrival at the hospital emergency room demonstrated no notable abnormalities: no fever, no sign of focalization or sensory-motor deficit, and normal hemodynamic status except for sinusal tachycardia linked directly to the mental disturbances. During hospitalization, the patient recovered rapidly with complete resolution of symptoms within 36 h post ingestion. He was unable to recall the hallucinatory period.


March 2002

A previously healthy 90-year-old retiree began experiencing auditory hallucinations 2 h after ingesting a sea bream (Sarpa salpa) that he had purchased from a professional fisherman in Saint Tropez on the French Riviera. He was used to eating this kind of fish, and had cleaned the fish after he had purchased it. Hallucinations were of a particularly terrifying nature (human screams and bird squealing), and he had numerous nightmares for the next two nights. Fearing that these symptoms might signal the beginning of a major mental illness, he did not tell his friends or attending physician. The manifestations abated three days after he had eaten the fish. Later, he recalled a warning that he had heard at the fish market concerning the hallucinogenic potential of sea bream and decided to contact the Poison Control Center in Marseille.


Clinical symptoms of ichthyoallyeinotoxism occur within a few minutes to 2 h after ingestion of toxic fish. The first symptoms resemble inebriety with loss of balance and coordination and generalized malaise (1-3). Sore throat and heartburn have also been reported in the initial phase. Within a few hours, specific signs of poisoning occur including delirium, visual and/or auditory hallucinations (often involving animals), depression, feelings of impending death with reactive tachycardia and hyperventilation, and disturbed behavior. If they are able to sleep, patients classically report terrifying nightmares (3). Gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea have been described in a few cases, but are usually low-grade (3). No specific treatment or antidote treatment is available. Appropriate management of transient behavioral disturbances (e.g., using benzodiazepine or neuroleptics), is important to prevent self-inflicted or other injury. Symptomatic treatment for gastrointestinal manifestation can enhance patient comfort. Symptoms generally abate within 24 to 36 h, but weakness may persist for several days (1-3).

Ichthyoallyeinotoxism is widespread in tropical and temperate areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. Toxic fish species belong to the 8 families detailed in Table 1. Most are herbivores or scavengers living in coastal areas. It should be noted that toxicity in all species varies according to fishing location, season, and way of preparing the fish (3). In the Mediterranean, most poisonings involving Sarpa salpa (eaten in Tunisia, France and Israel but considered as inedible in Italy and Spain), have been reported in spring and summer (4-7). A classically reported exacerbating factor is consumption of fish cooked without removing the head, and/or not immediately gutted after being caught (8). Although the toxic agents are still unknown, some authors have implicated toxic macroalgaes (caulerpaceae family) that are ingested and contaminate the flesh of fish (3,4). These toxins are probably heat stable since case reports have been described after ingestion of fried, boiled, steamed or raw fish (3,7). Most cases have been described anecdotally as unexpected, sporadic accidental food poisonings, usually occurring in endemic areas after consumption of fish considered as safe. However some cases of intentional consumption of "dreamfish" have been reported (810). Consumption of Sarpa salpa was reported for recreational purposes in the Mediterranean during the Roman Empire (1 1), and for ceremonial purposes particularly in Polynesian populations (8-10). The traditional names given to hallucinogenic species reflect their potentially toxic effect. Sarpa salpa is called "the fish that makes dreams" in Arab; Siganus spinus is called "the fish that inebriates" in Mascareignes (southwest coast of Reunion Island) (12,13); and Mulloidichthys samoensis is called "the chief of ghosts" in the Hawaiian Islands of Molokai, Kauai, and Oahu (8, 14, 15).

It should be emphasized that tropical fish species that cause ichthyoallyeinotoxism are also implicated in cases of ciguatera poisoning. In this regard, there has been some confusion concerning these two forms of ichthyosarcotoxism. Some cases of ichthyoallyeinotoxism reported in the western (11) and eastern Mediterranean (5-7,16) after ingestion of Sarpa salpa or Siganus luridus, have been described as ciguatera despite typical clinical signs of ichthyoallyeinotoxism, (i.e., hallucinations and nightmares lasting for a few hours). In this regard, it should be noted that the presence of Gambierdiscus toxicus, the dinoflagellate solely responsible for ciguatera, has not been formally documented in the Mediterranean. It should be emphasized that there are differences in clinical expression: ichthyoallyeinotoxism is characterized by central nervous system involvement, whereas ciguatera features peripheral nervous system involvement. The two diseases are also different with regard to potential severity and duration. Most patients with ichthyoallyeinotoxism recover within 36 h (1-3), while many patients with ciguatera die or present prolonged symptomatology for several months (17).


Ichthyoallyeinotoxism is a rare, poorly understood fish-borne intoxication. Its incidence is probably underestimated for several reasons. The first is that symptoms often occur at night and are short-lived. As a result, patients do not always seek medical advice, as was the case for our second patient. Another reason is that the disease occurs in remote geographical areas (islands and isolated archipelagoes), where there are few medical facilities able to document cases. Finally, voluntary ingestion by its very nature seldom leads to medical intervention. Great care is necessary to avoid confusing ichthyoallyeinotoxism and ciguatera that involve the same species in overlapping endemic areas.

Received 15 March 2005; accepted 24 March 2005.


(1.) Halstead BW. Poisonous and venomous marine animals. Princetown, NJ: Darwin Press Inc., 1988:683-686.

(2.) Chateau-Degat ML. Les toxines marines: problemes de sante en emergence. Vertigo 2003; 4(1): 1-11.

(3.) Helfrich P, Banner A. Hallucinatory Mullet poisoning. J Trop Med Hyg 1960; 1:86-89.

(4.) Chevaldonne P. Ciguatera and the saupe, Sarpa salpa, in the Mediterranean: a possible misinterpretation. J Fish Biol 1990; 37:503-504.

(5.) Spanier E, Finkelstein Y, Raikhlin-Eisenkraft B. Toxicity of the saupe, Sarpa salpa (Linnaeus, 1758), on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. J Fish Biol 1989; 34:635-636.

(6.) Raikhlin-Eisenkraft B, Finkelstein Y, Spanier E. Ciguatera-like poisoning in the Mediterranean. Vet Hum Toxicol 1988; 30(6):582-583.

(7.) Raikhlin-Eisenkraft B, Bentur Y. Rabbitfish ("Aras"). An unusual source of ciguatera poisoning. Isr Med Assoc J 2002: 4:28-30.

(8.) Helfrich P. Fish Poisoning in Hawaii. Hawaii Med J 1963, 22(5):361-372.

(9.) Roughly TC, Roberts BJ. Bounty descendant live on remote Norfolk Island. National Geographic Mag 1960; 116(6):575.

(10.) Cooper MJ. Ciguatera and other marine poisoning in the Gilbert Islands. Pacific Sci 1964; 18(4):411-440.

(11.) de Haro L, Treffot MJ, Jouglard J, Perringue C. Trois cas d'intoxication de type ciguaterique apres ingestion de sparidae de Mediterranee. Ictyophysiologica Acta 1993; 16:133-146.

(12.) Lebeau A. La ciguatera darts l'Ocean Indien: etude des poissons veneneux des bancs de l'archipel des Mascareignes et de la crete centrale de l'Ocean Indien. Rev Trav Inst Peches Marit 1979; 42(4):325-345.

(13.) Quod JP, Turquet J. Ciguatera in Reunion Island: epidemiology and clinical patterns. Toxicon 1996; 34(7):779-785.

(14.) Jordan DS, Evermann BW, Tanaka S. Notes on new or rare fishes from Hawaii. Proc California Acad Sci 1927; 16(20):649-680.

(15.) Banner AH. Hallucinatory mullet poisoning. A case from Oahu. Hawaii Med J 1973; 32(5):330-331.

(16.) Herzberg A. Toxicity of Siganus luridus on the Mediterranean Coast of Israel. Aquaculture 1973; 2:89-91.

(17.) de Haro L, Pommier P, Valli M. Emergence of imported ciguatera in Europe: report of 18 cases at the poison control centre of Marseille. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2003; 41 (7):927-930.

(18.) Randall JE. A review of ciguatera, tropical fish poisoning, with tentative explanation of its cause. Bull Marine Sci Gulf Caribbean 1958; 8(3):236-267.

(19.) Halstead BW, Cox KM. An investigation on fish poisoning in Mauritius. Proc Roy Soc Arts Sci Mauritius 1973; 4(2): 1-26.

Luc de Haro and Philip Pommier

Centre Antipoison, Hopital Salvator, Marseille, France

Address correspondence to Luc de Haro, Toxicovigilance, Centre Antipoison, Hopital Salvator, 249 boulevard Sainte Marguerite, 13009 Marseille, France. E-mail: [email protected]


Fish species described as hallucinogenic in the Literature


Fish Families Species distribution

Acanthuridae Acanthurus triostegus Indo-Pacific Ocean

Kyphosidae Kyphosus cinerascens 3 species in

Kyphosus vaigiensis Indo-Pacific Ocean

Kyphosus fuscus

Mugilidae Mugil cephalus Cosmopolitan

Neomyxus chaptalli Indo-Pacific Ocean

Mullidae Mulloidichthys Both species in

samoensis Indo-Pacific Ocean

Upeneus arge

Pomacentridae Abudefduf Indo-Pacific Ocean


Serranidae Epinephelus Tropical Indo-Pacific

corallicola Ocean

Siganidae Siganus argenteus 5 species in Indo-Pacific

Siganus corallinus Ocean, S. luridus and

Siganus luridus S.rivulatus settled in

Siganus rivulatus Mediterranean and

Siganus spinus Red sea

Sparidae Sarpa salpa Mediterranean sea


Fish Families Common names behaviour

Acanthuridae Convict surgeonfsh, Tang (USA), Herbivorous

Manini (Hawaii)

Kyphosidae Sea chub (USA), Nenue, Manaloa Herbivorous

(Hawaii), Dreamfish (Norfolk)

Mugilidae Common mullet (USA), Ama (Hawaii), Omnivorous

Haarder, flathead mullet (South Africa)

Mullidae Surmullet, goatfish (USA), Weke'a'a, Omnivorous

Weke-ula (Hawaii for M. samoensis),

Weke pueo (Hawaii for U. arge), Jome

(Marshall Islands), Tebaweina

(Gilbert Islands), Afolu i'a sina (Samoa)

Pomacentridae Damselfish (USA), Maomao (Hawaii), Herbivorous

Ulavapua, Alala saga, Mutu (Samoa),

Bakej (Marshall Islands), Tebukibuki

(Gilbert Islands), Palata (Philippines),

Sergent-Major (French Polynesia)

Serranidae Coral Grouper (USA), Gatala (Samoa), Carnivorous

Rero (Polynesia), Baraka, Kugtung

(Philippines), Coral Rockcod

(Australia), Vieille (Seychelles,

Mauritius, French)

Siganidae Rabbitfish (English), Poisson Lapin, Herbivorous

Cordonnier (Mauritius, Reunion,

French), Aras (Israel)

Sparidae Saupe (English & French), Salema Herbivorous

(Spain & Israel)

Described as

Fish Families hallucinogenic in

Acanthuridae Hawaii (8)

Kyphosidae K. cinerascens and K. vaigiensis

in Hawaii (8); K. fuscus in

Norfolk Island (9)

Mugilidae Hawaii (3)

Mullidae Both species in

Hawaii (3,14,18).

Pomacentridae Gilbert Islands (10)

Serranidae Gilbert Islands (10)

Siganidae S. argenteus and S. corallinus in

Mauritius (19).

S. luridus in Israel (7, 16).

S. rivulatus in Mauritius (19)

and suspected in Israel (5).

Siganus spinus in Reunion

island (12)

Sparidae Tunisia (4), France (11) and

Israel (5,6).

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Well that was interesting. This fish thing doesn't sound very recreational though, "frightening hallucinations and nightmares" oh my :wacko: , but it seems some people don't mind!

The only other place I have read of hallucinogenic fish is in this useless book i flipped through in the library, entitled "The Great Brain Robbery". but really, it was the most inaccurate drug related source i have yet found. Naturally according to the title i thought it would HIGHLIGHT all the negative aspects of drug use, eg. mental illness this, cost to society that, blah blah blah. However, a LOT of what this book had to say was simply WRONG. like, not even exaggerations. Some of the "facts" highlighted by this book included: ecstasy is sold as a sex drug, LSAs are NOT psychoactive, morning glory seeds contain ATROPINE AND SCOPOLAMINE, amanitas cause rage when ingested. Pure shit! and of course it didn't even have any references to back any of this nonsense up.

But i'm rambling and thread stealing. back to the point: Anyway this book claimed that, like morning glory and psychoactive toads (apparently), the hallucinogenic types of fish contained atropine, scopolomine and hyoscamine. Of course i don't think that this could possibly be it as: 1) tropanes rarely (if ever?) occur in animals and 2) that this book is full of it. well that was my 2 cents, or my $2 more like it :rolleyes: .

Edited by frank

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"frightening hallucinations and nightmares"
yeah well if you read the literature from the 60's to the late 90's on DMT youd not want to try that

anyway the difference between expected hallucination and suprise hallucination is profound

keep an eye outr for australian reports

Sarpa is found in south african waters and blallsat or natural migration might lead it here via teh indian ocean

we already have the Red sea bream in WA from ballast as well as the polychaete Mediterranean Fanworm (Sabella spallanzanii) in the bay of Bunbury

its a good little herbivore incl the toxic Caulerpa taxifolia


Fish which are able to eat C. taxifolia, such as the Mediterranena bream (Sarpa salpa), accumulate toxins in their flesh that make them unsuitable for human consumption (Meinesz & Hesse, 1991).
Edited by Rev
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If you read a bit further on in that article..... it actually says that Sarpa Salpa was consumed as a recreational drug........!!!!!!!

Sarpa salpa

The fish consumed by the men was a member of the Sparidae family and is commonly known as the Salema porgy.

The fish reaches a size of around 50cm/20" and occurs through much of the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean. You can view the distribution of Sarpa salpa on Practical Fishkeeping's Fish Mapper.

According to the paper, Sarpa salpa was consumed as a recreational drug in the Med during the Roman Empire.

For more details on the hallucinatory fish poisonings see the paper: de Haro L, Pommier P (2006) - Hallucinatory fish poisoning (ichthyoallyeinotoxism): two case reports from the Western Mediterranean and literature review. Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2006;44(2):185-8.

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the mention of Kyphosus fuseus having dmt is interesting too...

Aquahuasca, anyone? :D

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If you read a bit further on in that article..... it actually says that Sarpa Salpa was consumed as a recreational drug........!!!!!!!

yeah but id want to see how they are defining 'recreational"

The romans were a supertistious bunch with a complex view of the world where secularism wasnt what it is today

Their elite were stil initiated at Eleusis, Wine was still given supernatural associations, henbane and other psychoactives were widely consumed one way or another

certainly not the same world as today where the psychologically active eucharist is taboo

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The Aboriginals on the mid north coast nsw spoke of a fish that would make them dream too...  Black Bream, or Drummer if I recall was the English slangname for it.
Hamiltons Pharmacopeia was an interesting show, hope he does a second season.

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It seems possible that like humans, the pineal gland of fish has the potential to produce psychoactives....after all, we are both in the Animal Kingdom and thus share major physical traits.  This may be why eating the fish head is known to produce effects. 

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Black spinefoot, also known as black trevally, are rumoured to have similar properties. I caught 2 at Vaucluse once in winter but wasn't game to eat them.

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I hadn't read this thread before & still haven't watched the Vice vid, so apologies if this is discussed there, I'm just responding to the OP, which notes significant overlap between ichthyoallyeinotoxism and ciguatera in the fish known to cause those effects. Anyone who is interested in this please read up about how nasty (& potentially permanent) the neurotoxicity from ciguatera can be before you go experimenting with this.

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Yup.  I think it's safe to say there ain't nothing safe in self-experimentation!!!  All we can do is manage the risk!!!  Try Synthetikal for more detail where needed....https://www.thevespiary.org/rhodium/synthetikal/www.synthetikal.com/synthforum/index.html...


Can anyone suggest similar for biochemistry?  As in a biochemistry forum which is either geared towards for includes folk who self-experiment?

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On 07/08/2017 at 8:02 PM, Chrissy Star said:

Can anyone suggest similar for biochemistry?  As in a biochemistry forum which is either geared towards for includes folk who self-experiment?

You are in one right now

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Take a look at Synthetikal and consider the type of convo about these fish that would happen there....probably describing the molecule, it's synthesis etc etc.  The equivalent for a biochemistry forum would be detailing metabolism pathways, activation of neuro-networks, secondary metabolites etc etc.  It is this type of focus that I am querying after.  


I love this forum and have been a loyal member for years.  However it is an Australian plant forum above all else.  ANd by default of Australia's population will not have the same level of inputs.  ALso, by default of being a plant forum - it won't have the concentrated focus of a more "purist" titled forum.  


Yes, I'm in one - and yes, I go into many different forums all the time - for different reasons and different experiences.  And I was casually wondering if others who have similar interests could point me in the right direction (whether it's on this site or another). 

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I'm curious if anyone has an answer to Chrissy's question...but I won't be surprised if there isn't one. A common thread through all these forums is an interest in psychoactive & medicinal drugs. And since some people like to do things themselves, they start looking for ways to make these. And the methods they find are:


1. let plants do it for us (and so we get plant forums)

2. let fungi do it for us (mycology forums)

3. do the synthesis ourselves with traditional organic chemistry techniques (chem synthesis forums)


Option 4: synth using biochemistry - doesn't usually get a look-in. And I know that you were asking more about physiology than synthesis CS, but I'm talking about the practical side of things as a reason why these discussions may not be popular. Think about the education & equipment required to pursue each of those paths - it ramps up pretty quick from 1-4, as does the expense of setting it all up in your backyard. Anyone can shove a seed in the ground, but maintaining an array of cell cultures to determine the receptor-binding profile of novel plant (or fish, or dinoflagellate) alkaloids... that is a whole different kettle of psychotropic fish.


If you're just asking for more detailed pharmacological info (eg. receptors activated & enzymes involved in the metabolism of drugs), then the Nexus sometimes branches off into pretty detailed discussions of those things. Mostly about their DOC, but they do allow discussion of other things. The neuroscience-and-pharmacology section of bluelight (here) is also devoted to these topics.


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Thanx heaps for ur input, I appreciate it (many others will also, both now during authorship + in the future).  HI to all.  Respect!  ok, i diverge, focus!!! 


So, my original question was something along the lines of...

"Does anyone know the name of a biochemistry (or other medical field) forum where self-experimentation and/or patient use of

psychoactives, medicinals, "poisonous" fish + more is accepted in conversation?"


I would like to put this query out there - to any folks who are connected to the medical fields - to keep your eye out for such & when it is found, please share here...are maybe some (ex?) medical students able to help answer this query? 


It would be great to be able to understand from the biochemical level what is possibly happening when eating fish & chips - suddenly becomes a psychoactive trip!  It would also be FANTASTIC to be able to seek in depth knowledge on human metabolism of many substances via various delivery methods. 


When we are talking about "poisons" and unchartered territories - discussions on health are an integral part of the process.  I welcome them with an open heart!


P.S.  I would like to recommend "Why isn't my brain working?" by Datis Kharrazian = a revolutionary understanding of brain decline & effective strategies to recover your brain's health. 

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Despite this being about fish, to the best of my knowledge this is still an acceptable discussion within enthnobotany, and moreso because it slips into  ethnopharmacology (Have you read "serpent and the Rainbow" by Wade Davis) a valid discussion here..  thus i would have thought this forum is still an acceptable place for  discussion on cultural usage or the ethnopharmacology. otherwise as per AndyAmine, Bluelight or DMTNexus i would have thought would be the best alternatives.


Other than that if after specific knowledge then my advise would be to contact researchers who have published on the topic.


When i did natural products chemistry there were two focuses, plant chemistry and marine chemistry, and it was quite clear just how new and novel marine natural product chemistry was at the time. I would assume its still incredibly novel, especially when it comes to potentially pharmacologically active compounds.

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