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Empathogens or entactogens are a class of psychoactive drugs that produce experiences of emotional communion, oneness, relatedness, emotional openness–that is, empathy or sympathy–as particularly observed and reported for experiences with 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). This drug class is distinct from other classes such as hallucinogen, psychedelic, amphetamine, and stimulant. This class includes MDMA, MDA and MDEA, MDOH, MDDB, MDOH, MDOH, MDOH, MDOH, MDOH, MDDB, 6-APB, and methylone. While most entactogens include phenethylamines or amphetamines as the mainstays, some, like aMT, are also tryptamines. MDMA and its derivatives are often referred to as MDxx, with the exception of MDPV. Sometimes, entactogens are incorrectly called hallucinogens and stimulants. However, many entactogens like ecstasy have psychedelic or stimulant qualities.
Ralph Metzner, David E. Nichols, and David E. Nichols independently coined the term empathogen in 1983-84 to describe a therapeutic class that includes MDMA or phenethylamine-related drugs. Nichols rejected the original terminology and instead adopted the term entactogen (meaning “touching within”) to describe this class of drugs. He was concerned about the possibility of an improper association of empathogen with negative connotations relating to the Greek root pathos pathos (“suffering; passion”) Nichols also wanted to avoid any association of the term pathogenesis. Nichols felt that the original term was too restrictive and didn’t cover therapeutic uses of the drugs beyond empathy-inducing effects. The roots of entactogen (Greek, within), tactus and -gen (Greek, produce) are the origins of the hybrid term. Both terms are used interchangeably, even though they have different connotations.