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What is 5-HTP?
Q: What is 5-HTP, what are the forms/names it is sold under, etc., and when did it "make an appearance," so to speak? I had never heard of it until the recent experience reports on E.

A: 5-HTP is short for 5-hydroxytryptophan. This is a chemical precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine). It is converted to serotonin in the body. Many people believe that since MDMA works in large part by causing a massive release of serotonin, that taking 5-HTP before or with the MDMA will improve the high by creating more serotonin to be released. This is often called "pre-loading." Unfortunately, it doesn't work the way people think, and most of the results people report from 5-HTP pre-loading are simply placebo. The conversion process takes several hours from the time 5-HTP is taken, and the way most people pre-load, the 5-HTP will not turn into serotonin until after the MDMA experience is well over. Also, taking a single dose of 5-HTP will not produce large amounts of serotonin, probably not enough to have much effect on an MDMA experience. Those trying to raise serotonin levels before using MDMA would likely need to take 5-HTP every day for several days before using MDMA, in doses of around 100mg per day. Whether this has any noticable effect on the MDMA experience or not is questionable. Note, those who find that it DOES increase MDMA's effects would want to decrease their dose of MDMA to reduce the chances of negative side effects.

However, there is another reason for MDMA users take 5-HTP. MDMA may cause serotonin depletion, and taking 5-HTP in the days AFTER MDMA use may help re-build serotonin levels and may reduce the post-MDMA depression some people experience. Many users report that taking 5-HTP after Ecstasy use noticeably reduces the depression they experience in the days after.

5-HTP appeared on the market after an earlier supplement, the amino acid L-tryptophan, was removed from the market after a contaminated batch from Japan (which contained a mysterious contaminant known as Peak X) got a few people sick. They work in the same way. L-Tryptophan is an amino acid in foods such as turkey, bananas, mild, cheese, yogurt, and many others, but it is present in low amounts and probably is not directly psychoactive in these foods because it competes with the other proteins and amino acids. In the body, L-tryptophan is converted to 5-HTP, which is then converted to serotonin. Taking 5-HTP removes a step from this chain.

5-HTP is sold in many health food stores and even supermarkets. It is used by many people for depression, weight loss, and insomnia. Taken in nightly doses of 50-100mg per day, it is a quite effective medicine for these conditions. Unfortunately, it is also a little on the expensive side, so you might want to consider a nice turkey and cheese sandwich with a glass of milk instead.

[Revision History: minor edit, March 2005, removed 'turkey makes you sleepy because of tryptophan'.]

Asked By : tiamat
Answered By : murple
Published Date : 1 / 7 / 2001
Last Edited Date : 7 / 27 / 2010
Question ID : 1750

Categories: [ Supplements ] [ MDMA (Ecstasy) ] [ Tryptophan / 5-HTP ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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