How You React to Psychedelic Drugs Is All In Your Genes

Medscape Staff

August 24, 2022

How persons react to or are affected by psychedelic drugs is determined by genetics, according to members of the American Chemical Society Chemical Neuroscience.

What to know:

  • Some people may be predisposed to how they react to the use of or treatment with psychedelic drugs because of common genetic variations in the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A, which is responsible for mediating the effects of these drugs.

  • Several naturally occurring, random genetic variations of the receptors, known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms, can affect the 5-HT2A receptor's structure and function through exposure to certain mind-altering drugs.

  • Seven gene variants were shown to uniquely and differentially affect the 5-HT2A receptor's response to four psychedelic drugs — psilocin, LSD, 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and mescaline.

  • Neuroscientists generally reserve the term "psychedelic" for those substances that bind to the serotonin 5-HT2A receptor and that can set off a cascade of effects that result in a variety of alterations of consciousness.

  • Determining the genetics of a person's serotonin receptors should help identify which psychedelic compound is likely to be the most effective treatment for regulating moods, anxiety, and depression as well as fighting other conditions, such as debilitating cluster headaches.

This is a summary of the article, "5-HT2A SNPs Alter the Pharmacological Signaling of Potentially Therapeutic Psychedelics," published by ACS Chemical Neuroscience on July 27, 2022. The full article can be found on

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