What is 5-HTP?
In short it is the substance that is changed into serotonin in the brain. 5HTP increases serotonin levels; and serotonin is the neurotransmitter on which MDMA acts.
5-Hydroxy-L-tryptophan (5-HTP) is an amino acid that is the intermediate step between tryptophan and the important brain chemical serotonin. It is used as a mild anti-depressant and treatment for obesity, carbohydrate craving, bulimia, insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, migraine headaches, tension headaches, chronic daily headaches, premenstrual syndrome and fibromyalgia.
How does 5-HTP work?
5-HTP is the direct precursor to serotonin, so it boosts the levels in the vesicles (storage sections) of the axon terminal (nerve ending), this then passes across the synapse (gap between nerves) to the dendrite (second nerve) and its receptors. Check out the Dancesafe Slideshow by Emanuel Sferios to see how the process works.
When should I take 5-HTP?
It is really down to personal preference, although 5-HTP is metabolised into 5-HT quite quickly (less than an hour) so anything over a day before really won’t be helping much. Others will only take it after taking MDMA. Because of the nature of the subject there are no official guidelines but as a general rule 200mg after a night out and 100-150mg for a few days afterwards is the norm. You should adjust this as you see fit dependent on body size, etc.
What are the legitimate uses of 5-HTP?
As listed above, it is used to combat a variety of ailments so which ever you feel is the best excuse really.
Why is it not available in Australia?
This is because on August 31st 1998 the FDA confirmed backed up by research done by the Mayo Clinic that the impurities found in some 5-HTP and L-Tryptophan products may cause eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), the exact relationship between 5-HTP and EMS is still unclear. The impurities were in fact caused by a manufacturing error, which is now purported to be fixed. However many Australians still purchase 5-HTP through internet based suppliers. (See the Links Database for more information.)
Is 5-HTP harmful?
Researchers who have been using 5-HTP for over 25 years provide evidence that this natural source of 5-HTP does not cause EMS. They state that "EMS has never appeared in the patients of ours who received only uncontaminated L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxtryptophan (5-HTP)." Furthermore, researchers at the NIH studying the effects 5-HTP for various metabolic conditions have also not observed a single case of EMS nor has a case of elevated eosinophils been attributed to 5-HTP in these studies.
What advantages does 5-HTP have over L-tryptophan?
There are many advantages of 5-HTP over L-tryptophan. First of all, because it is one step closer to serotonin, 5-HTP is more effective than L-tryptophan. 5-HTP is also inherently safer. Although L-tryptophan is safe if properly prepared and free of the contaminants linked to severe allergic reaction known as eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, L-tryptophan is still produced with the help of bacterial fermentation (a situation that lends itself to contamination). In contrast, 5-HTP is isolated from a natural source - a seed from an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia). Obviously 5-HTP is not really in the same category as tricyclic anti depressants so
How does 5-HTP compare to other anti-depressants?
The most significant comparison is between 5-HTP and SSRIs. In the study, subjects received either 5-HTP (100 mg) or fluvoxamine (50 mg) three times daily for 6 weeks. The percentage decrease in overall depression scores was slightly better in the 5-HTP group (60.7% vs. 56.1%). More patients responded to 5-HTP than fluvoxamine and 5-HTP was quicker acting than the fluvoxamine.
What are the side effects if any?
The most common side effects with 5-HTP were nausea, heartburn, and gastrointestinal problems (flatulence, feelings of fullness, and rumbling sensations). These side effects were rated as being very mild to mild. In contrast, most of the side effects experienced in the fluvoxamine group were of moderate to severe intensity.
Very high intakes of 5-HTP have caused muscle jerks in guinea pigs and both muscle jerks and diarrhoea in mice. Injected 5-HTP has also caused kidney damage in rats. To date, these problems have not been reported in humans. "Serotonin syndrome," a serious but uncommon condition caused by excessive amounts of serotonin, has not been reported to result from supplementation with 5-HTP; in theory it could be triggered by the supplement. However, the level of intake at which this toxic effect might potentially occur remains unknown.
What's this about serotonin syndrome?
Well its true that the levels of serotonin in your brain will probably be higher as a result of taking 5-HTP but not to the extreme of serotonin syndrome. This does not mean that it is not possible that it could happen but it is usually an interaction between monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and things like 5-HTP and MDMA.
5-HTP should not be taken with antidepressants, weight-control drugs, other serotonin-modifying agents, or substances known to cause liver damage, because in these cases 5-HTP may have excessive effects. People with liver disease may not be able to regulate 5-HTP adequately and those suffering from autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma may be more sensitive than others, to 5-HTP. These people should not take 5-HTP without consulting a knowledgeable healthcare professional. The safety of taking 5-HTP during pregnancy and breast-feeding is not known at this time. It should also not be taken with:
Note: the above list only includes the generic or class name of a medication. And these are by no means the only drugs that should be avoided, just the ones that have been proven.
Psychiatry in Medical Practice SE.
Goldberg, Benjamin and Creed
Chadwick, Cartlidge, and Bates
Dictionary of Alternative Medicine
J. C. Segen
Links Database: Harm Reduction Products