Arylcyclohexylamines (which due to nomenclature intricacies can also be called arylcyclohexamines or arylcyclohexanamines) is a class of chemicals that mostly includes analogues to ketamine and phencyclidine (PCP). Drugs in this class usually function as NMDA receptor agonists (making them dissociative or hallucinogenic) and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (making them euphoric, painkilling, and addictive). However, due to the number of designer drugs in the class of arylcyclohexylamines, some chemicals within it can have drastically different effects from the standard; for example, benocyclidine does not significantly affect NMDA receptors, and PCP is not as addictive as most other drugs in the class (though its effects are more potent and it is arguably more dangerous than most regardless).

Many drugs in this class are controlled substances in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. They enjoy wide use as recreational drugs, although some are distributed legally by legitimate pharmaceutical companies. Ketamine, for example, is commonly used by veterinarians as an anesthetic for operations.

Because arylcyclohexylamines are some of the easier recreational drugs to synthesize, they are relatively common and popular in metropolitan areas. Shady drug dealers commonly sell them as LSD to increase their profits from ignorant consumers. Weak analogues of PCP are sometimes added to marijuana to trick people into thinking it comes from a stronger strain of the cannabis plant.

The motivations for chemists to discover and experiment with arylcyclohexylamines are doubtlessly many and varied. As legitimate forays into the field of analgesia, they might be hired by an actual company. Some have shadier reasonings, however; like other stigmatized chemical classes, one finds chemists who enter the field for deeply personal pursuits, ignoring the concept of morality entirely. This is the case with one anonymous neurochemist interviewed by, who became obsessed with drugs and drug experimentation after losing his hand in an attack by the Irish Republican Army.

I discovered a long time ago that ketamine and cannabinoids helped my phantom [limb]. I’m quite convinced these classes work by distorting body image so severely that you phase out triggers for the pain ... What I feel is not hallucination or a distortion, I actually find dissociatives corrective ... they make the phantom disappear. This is not just an idiosyncratic response on my part; there are at least three articles published on the effectiveness of ketamine in treating phantom-limb pain.
    —M., an anonymous interviewee of

The potential for medicinal use of drugs normally considered purely recreational is a hot political issue for a reason: for those on one side of the fence, regardless of which, the other side might look insane. Phantom limb is a difficult enough condition for many to understand; when you start claiming you need street drugs to treat it, the subject can get emotional. Drugs are serious business to many people. It can seem equally ridiculous and insulting to the sufferer that people would consider their own outside opinion more worthy than theirs, when they are the ones in pain.

As with everything on the subject of drugs, the line between what is "genuine" and what's merely pleasure can be blurry.


  • Ahmadi, A. & Mahmoudi, A. "Synthesis and biological properties of 2-hydroxy-1-(1-phenyltetralyl)piperidine and some of its intermediates as derivatives of phencyclidine". US National Library of Medicine, 2005. Link.
  • Beagle, John Q. "Use and effects of PCP." Erowid. N.p., n.d. Retrieved 21 March 2012. Link.
  • Ries, Richard. Principles of addiction medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009. Pg 233.
  • Morris, Hamilton. "Interview with a Ketamine Chemist." VICE: The Definitive Guide to Enlightening Information. N.p., 18 March 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2012. Link.

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