Synthetic drugs have moved well beyond the 1980s where the term "Designer Drugs" was coined to identify drugs like MDMA, China White and methamphetamines. A University of California San Francisco (UCSF) research team has design a compound that yields the benefits of LSD without the hallucinogenic effects.
The compounds were designed to fit into the 5HT2a receptor, which is the main target of psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. The receptor is also activated by serotonin, a naturally occurring hormone that regulates mood, cognition and many other functions in the body. The 5HT2a receptor is thought to play a role in schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, as well as anxiety and depression, and a host of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs block its activity. The new molecules activate it, but in a very different way than psychedelics. Recent studies have found that when given in combination with psychotherapy, one or two high doses of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA can have significant long-term effects on depression, anxiety and PTSD. It's not known if the trip is essential to the treatment, or if drugs could be developed that alleviate symptoms without it.