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What branch of chemistry is involved with indentification and characterization of drugs within plants?
Q: What branch of chemistry would someone choose as a major if their goal was to be able to isolate, manipulate, and synthesize the active components of psychoactive plants and chemicals? And what field of study would deal with how these chemicals interact with the chemistry of the brain?

A: The field of Pharmacognosy would probably interest you. This field is involved in the identification of medicinal plants and the attempt to isolate the active constituents from them. Many pharmacognosy departments are associated with a chemistry department, and thus also attempt synthesis of the compounds once they are identified. Another option would be to look at medicinal chemistry departments. While more chemistry oriented, these departments are often diverse, and may have labs doing plant compound identification/synthesis. Medicinal chemistry departments are often tied to pharmacology schools/departments, so labs in these areas will likely be studying interactions of the drugs on biological systems.

As to specializing in psychoactive plants or compounds, that may be difficult. It is still a somewhat limited field, and you may be better off getting your advanced degree doing an unrelated project that teaches you the skills you need, then focusing on what interests you once you have your own lab. I must warn you that studying psychoactive compounds, unless you are trying to further prove their evils, is equivalent to career suicide. You will likely have to fight for respect from your peers and your work will be mocked. There are minimal to no positions in the U.S. for a masters or PhD scientist to study psychoactive compounds in a positive light. You best be sure that this is what you want to devote your life and career to.

These problems are not speculative. The Erowid crew knows a number of chemists who have chosen to make the non-abuse-oriented professional study of psychoactives their career path and they have all experienced this to one degree or another. In many professional chemistry labs, if one is even suspected of being interested in psychoactive drugs the level of suspicion from management and co-workers can make for a very uncomfortable work experience or even to firing.



Asked By : Endra
Answered By : psilo,fire
Published Date : 2 / 13 / 2003
Last Edited Date : 2 / 13 / 2003
Question ID : 3032

Categories: [ Chemistry ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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