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Hallucinogenic Fish (wikipedia.org)
148 points by ajaviaad on Feb 12, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments

I found this sentence entertaining:

> Hallucinogenic fish can be contrasted with psychedelic fish. Psychedelic fish do not produce hallucinations if eaten, but look as if they were the product of a psychedelic hallucination.

Eating hallucinogenic fish may cause all fish to appear as psychedelic fish.

I'm always reminded how delightful it is that Wikipedia didn't degenerate into a Stack Overflow. The sentence you mention is pure poetry.

Wikipedia has many similar problems to stack overflow and other different problems. The sites take different approaches to moderation yet “power users” on both feel like they are fighting back a torrent of low quality content. Wikipedia has the advantage of being run by a charity that is not trying to turn a profit.

Are you saying "feel like" because you don't believe that to be the case?

I thought it made sense from the context -- the moderators on both platforms have that feeling.

I could say "I feel like I spent all day doing code reviews," meaning that I probably did other things too, but the volume of code reviews was draining, so the small amount of other things that I did were less noticable.

Using "feel like" in that context is accompanying the hyperbole that follows. The mods aren't literally fighting a torrent of spam/bad content, but there probably is a lot of it, so it "feels" more extreme

Just asked because it was ambiguous to me, thanks for clarifying.

Never know when someone may not be a native English speaker, thought that might have been possible to get stuck on haha.

often when someone says "feel like" they mean "think that" - ie its not feelings per se.

The sentence is (afaict) accurate, relevant, and to the point, only incidentally being amusing. It should survive StackOverflow as well.

The problem with SO lately is that too much junk is survived there, and moderators are resigning in droves.

The whole article wasn't that well written, with some disjointed sentences it seems to me. Of course anyone can edit and improve it.

This fish is quite common on the markets in Tunisia. We actually avoid it in the hallucination season because it mostly causes bad trips. It tastes good.

"Hallucination season" is a wonderful phrase. Or band name.

What is a good trip on it like?

hallucination season is best season

> The active agent(s) that cause hallucinations in humans, and the origin of these agents, are not clear. Some authors think they could come from toxins associated with macroalgae that accumulate in the flesh of the fish.

does anyone know why we can't tell what substances cause the hallucinogenic effects? to a complete layman (i.e. me) this seems like the kind of thing modern science should be able to determine

When you're talking about a complex biological system like an animal or plant, there will often be dozens of alkaloids in your sample[0]. That makes it difficult to isolate the relevant ones and say with certainty that alkaloid x is the one responsible for the psychoactive effects, especially if the alkaloid in question is currently unknown. Then you'd need to isolate it and see if you can get the effects from the isolated alkaloid.

For a good example of historically what it took, check out the story of how Hoffman isolated psilocybin from psychedelic mushrooms:


So ultimately it comes down to whether people have put in the time to isolate the various alkaloids and then determine which ones are psychoactive.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echinopsis_pachanoi#Alkaloids In San Pedro cactus for example, there have been a dozen that were extracted, isolated and identified.

> Hofmann was aided in the discovery process by his willingness to ingest mushroom extracts to help verify the presence of the active compounds.

It sounds like Hoffman was eager to find more hallucinogens after discovering LSD.

In Hoffman's book "LSD: My Problem Child", he has a chapter (#6, entitled "The Mexican Relatives of LSD") where he talks at length about the process of isolating psilocybin and what his motivations were in participating. What you mentioned definitely played a role.

Here is a .pdf copy of the book from MAPS: [0] If you're interested in the history of this stuff, it's well worth a read.

More generally, I think many exceptional drug chemists have been willing to bioassay the novel drugs they make. Almost inarguably the most prolific drug chemist of all time, Alexander Shulgin, bioassayed over 200 novel drugs, making him the first human being to try almost all of them[1]. What is most interesting about Hoffman in this regard is that he didn't set out to be a drug chemist: he discovered LSD was psychoactive on accident[2]. So his temperament (with regard to his willingness to bioassay novel compounds) was a fortuitous coincidence.

[0] https://maps.org/images/pdf/books/lsdmyproblemchild.pdf

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Shulgin

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_lysergic_acid_dieth...

not necessarily a coincidence, but perhaps a result. Psychedelics increase openness to new experiences.

Haven’t spent the time and money on it yet :)

The researchers got high and abandoned the research?

There was an episode of Hamilton's Pharmaopoeia about hallucinogenic fish that was quite interesting. I can't find the whole episode on YouTube, but here is a clip from it:


I watched it. He only got confused, pained looks from people he asked about the fish and did not achieve any sort of mind alteration.

It's really surprising to me that psychoactive chemicals are so common in the natural world. Why do so many chemicals designed for pretty unrelated roles have effects on human brains? I would naively expect that to happen approximately never.

It's a combination of factors but it's mostly evolution converging on very similar systems across the plant and animal kingdom. Most neurotransmitters are relatively simple molecules while the ion channels on neurons are relatively complex. They have a high surface are for all those neurotransmitter, inhibitor, regulator, etc. molecules to bind to and the entire system is extremely sensitive to small changes.

Take cannabis, for example: the endocannabinoid system in our central and peripheral nervous systems effects a variety of things (memory, sleep, appetite, etc.) but it's also useful to plants, which evolved the system roughly 500 million years ago, independently of animals.

All known organic life shares something close-enough to a common ancestor that it all has a common set of inherited low-level intracellular signalling machinery based on very simple chemicals (e.g. sodium, potassium, calcium; nitric oxide; purines; etc.) All complex life (e.g. both prokaryotes and eukaryotes) shares some higher-level signalling machinery as well—even bacteria have dopamine receptors!

In higher lifeforms, e.g. animals, some of these intracellular signalling chemicals have been repurposed to become intercellular signalling chemicals within specific tissues. However, these molecules continue to act as intracellular signals within cells; it is often the reaction of the cell to the intracellular stimulus that is perceived by a larger group of cells as the intercellular stimulus.

Animals have developed advanced tissue isolation, circulatory, and xenometabolic mechanisms to prevent parasites and predators from injecting these "intercellular but actually intracellular" signals into arbitrary places in the body, because—sort of like every microcontroller having JTAG pins—every cell is "listening" for these signals, and might do something stupid/unplanned in response if the body wasn't evolved to ever emit them into such tissue. Best to put up some firewalls to hide all these open ports. This also allows you to use the same signal to mean different things in different componentized tissues (e.g. how serotonin acts in the gut vs. in the nervous system.)

But these firewalling mechanisms, e.g. the blood-brain barrier, are themselves simple, inherited from pretty early on in the multicellular tree of life. So they mostly just block the simple, active forms of these molecules—the ones the body uses itself.

So, in other words, for an organism to evolve a novel poison, it just has to take its own signalling molecules—which it already knows how to make, and shares in common with pretty much everything else—and then evolve some enzyme that "tags" that molecule in such a way that most evolved barriers won't stop it, and also in such a way that it will either break down on its own, or will break down in response to other molecules floating about in the target area, back into the signaling molecule. Boom—toxin.

It's also pretty easy to take the gene you use for creating a signalling molecule, copy it, and let the copy mutate so it now produces a deformed version of the signalling molecule—one that locks into the same receptor, but either doesn't activate the receptor, or is excitotoxic to the receptor, or isn't recognized by the various -lyzes and -ases which organisms evolve to garbage-collect signals.

Keep in mind, most of the time, these kinds of poisons will be maladaptive, because the produced toxin will end up attacking the host's own body; but if the gene happens to only get expressed in tissues of some gland (e.g. the salivary gland), then it has room to evolve into a venom.

Evolving to be poisonous is a bit harder, I think; it needs to coincide, or maybe be preceded by, the evolution of a barrier to similar toxins, e.g. skin that won't absorb the poison produced by your own sweat glands. Most poisonous animals probably preyed upon another poisonous or venomous plant/animal at some point, and evolved the defence first, before either harnessing that toxin from their food, or evolving something similar themselves.

That does rather put things in perspective. Thanks for the great explanation.

I read that human brain naturally produces DMT during sleep

> Ingesting the dreamfish Sarpa salpa can result in hallucinations that last for several days.

I wonder why this fish hasn't been 'mined' for its hallucinogenic properties yet. Surely some of the more adventurous drug users would jump at a chance to try something this powerful? The article on the fish itself seems to state that it was available in restaurants, so it's not exactly a rare find, I assume.

Almost all hallucinogenic drugs lasting for more than 18 hours are considered bad drugs. Eg the DOx series psychedelic amphetamines (excluding DOM, which people like for some reason), most of the benzofurans, the alkaloids of the Datura plant, etc. Even non-hallucinogenic drugs with long half-lives are considered not ideal (see the long lasting benzodiazepines especially).

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOx

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substituted_benzofuran

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura

Datura is known for lasting mental impact. It can can also be really dangerous for potential users due to extreme delirium and confusion. Most trip reports are also negative.

Unviable as a street drug.

From my experience, when used in moderation it doesn't cause any of the negative effects typically described in trip reports. To me it seems that people overdose by ingesting several hundred seeds in one go without having a clue what they're dealing with. I took 3 seeds the first time I tried it, which was enough to get a taste of the effect for me, and then gradually increased the dose by a few seeds at a time over several weeks until I reached a point (around 50 seeds) where it was pulling so hard on my mind that I didn't feel like going further. I haven't noticed any lasting mental impacts.

Drinking a liter of vodka in one go without having any experience with alcohol also potentially causes extreme delirium and confusion, yet people drink alcohol all the time and are mostly fine.

A lot of ethanobotanists report that peoples using datura traditionally or spiritually (eg in the context of Ayurvedic medicine) don't tend to experience as many negative effects as people using it recreationally:


But with that said, I would strongly caution people not to take tropane deleriants. Unless you really know what you're doing, there's a solid chance you are going to end up being high for way too long or end up in the hospital.

I'll also caution codr7 that seeds (especially from different sources) can have hugely different potencies, so be careful dosing anything via seed, especially something as serious as datura. It sounds like this works for you, so I don't intend to sound patronizing: I just want to make sure that I am spreading harm reduction everywhere I go, and datura/tropane alkaloids can be very dangerous.

I am aware, it's not like there's a lack of warnings out there. But 3 seeds aren't going to cause a bad trip for anyone, no matter how potent they are. The bad trips are from ingesting 100-300 seeds without prior experience, which is a very stupid and risky thing to do.

> I haven't noticed any lasting mental impacts.

What kind of instruments did you use?

I used my own experience, which I trust more than any external instrument when it comes to my mind.

Some of the benzofurans don't last that long and were pretty popular here in the uk at the beginning of the last decade. 5/6-APB and 5-MAPB in particular. Very MDMA-like.

Never did get around to trying 2CB-Fly...

Yeah, you highlight a good point; I really meant the substituted FLYs and HEMIFLYs (and Bromo-DragonFLY in particular). The empathogenic benzofurans are much shorter-lived.

Among the the empathogenic benzofurans, the APBs you listed seemed to be "gems in the rough" so to speak; most of the others ended up in flavor-of-the-month "Benzofury" blends and were quickly forgotten about.

I tried one or two exotics as I was plugged into the scene a bit back then 5-EAPB was effectively a fast acting laxative with a tiny hint of empathogen. 5-APB-NBOMe was inert as far as anyone could tell.

By the time I got my hands on any 2CB-FLY my life was moving on and I never did try it. Oh well, I had fun...

You don't want to trip for days. Even 8 hours can become quite tedious without it being a bad trip, if things go sideways or it starts out bad then days would be horrible. As a comment [1] in a recent thread I talked some about my past psychotropic use as a youth, including some of the bad experiences during trips that would last only minutes but seriously disturb me, being in that state for even 24 hours could spiral fast and just be horrible.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22225541

Even dolphins like to trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msx3BAhIeQg

This fish is eaten in some places in spain, I've tried it myself but never had hallucinations.

>Ingesting the dreamfish Sarpa salpa can result in hallucinations that last for several days.

As someone that did a lot of stuff in their youth [1], I strongly say no thank you.

[1] I mentioned some of the good and bad experiences recently in this comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22225541

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Blue trout eating Algae off the floor of the Ocean. I watched Seabass glitter in the moonlight near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to fly.

It's not especially relevant to this link, but I think this conversation needs a voice in favor of these "hallucinogenic" fish. All fish are living beings who should not be subject to exploitation for your personal benefit.

Wonder if their consumption by pirates led to Mermaid theories. <grin>

Quite possible. Other possible causes could be other sea life with various toxins/compounds, food poisoning, alcohol poisoning, sun poisoning. Toss in some inner ear issues and sea sickness from especially rough waves...

As a random aside, I dated a professional mermaid (kids parties, adult parties)/mermaid sex worker (cam mostly) briefly several years ago. scales tattooed on her face, had a few different tails... yeah, even if I was out to sea for months I don't think a real mermaid (or the hallucination of one) would get me all hot and bothered. The tails and general mermaid themed decor was a bit much.

^ relevant username!

So is yours: "Man Of Living Sausage" ^_^

String theory much?!

are we now on reddit, or what?

No wonder people enjoy living in Hawaii. Half of the fish in that list is in Hawaii

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