Could human-synthesized chemicals like LSD or Methamphetamine theoretically also occur in nature or are there structures/properties/materials irreplaceable?


Full disclosure I’m on a journey back from Meth addiction. I’ve just always found it interesting how people will smoke Marijuana or eat Mushrooms but will refuse to do a line of coke or a tab of Acid. The logic is always that some substances occur naturally and are therefore fine for human consumption.

But wouldn’t human-made compounds and chemicals also eventually occur in nature given enough time and the right environment? Or are these chemicals 100% unnatural?

In: Chemistry


There are naturally occurring substances that will totally kill you, hemlock comes to mind but I’m sure someone will reply with a list of 10 more poisonous plants.

Evolution selects for chemicals that provide benefit in excess of the cost to chemically form them. Nicotine is produced by the tobacco plant to kill caterpillars that are eating its big, soft, delicious leaves. Similarly, coniine, the poison in hemlock, is produced by the plant to keep mammals like bears from eating the tasty berries. Bears have tougher digestive systems than people, so enough to make them sick can kill a person.

If there was a “meth weed”, it would have to get some benefit that offsets the work to produce it. Addicting animals to eating it seems like, well, the opposite from what a plant would want. Barrenwort, sometimes called horny goat weed, produces a chemical that stimulates blood flow to sex organs to distract the animal that eats it from continuing to eat more. That sounds like a better sort of strategy.

LSD is from nature. I think it was originally discovered by isolating it from a certain wheat/grain mold/fungus, which explains the similarly with psilocybin/mushrooms.

LSD can be found in Ergot, meth was created by humans and cannot be found in that form in nature, but there are natural amphetamines like nicotine.

The argument that naturally occurring substances are good and man-made are bad is completely illogical.

The most destructive things we can find are completely natural. Humanity hasn’t even come close to replicating the killing power of nature. Similarly, a lot of most nurturing substances are natural too. You can’t eat snake poison, but you can eat yogurt just fine.

Technically any organic chemical, which drugs are, could somehow be produced by a plant. Most just wouldn’t because they have too little benefit for the evolutionary cost in the steps to be taken. Why kill mosquitos with meth, when nicotine does that just fine and is easy to produce.

For me it has nothing to do with natural or not, it’s purely based on how bad the substance has potential to be. It’s very easy to OD on many synthesized drugs, and even some non-synthesized drugs. Marijuana is for all intents and purposes, impossible to OD from.

Epehedra is an isolate from a herb called Mah Huang. Meth is based on Ephedra but through a process that changes it. Sudafed is Ephedrine Hydrochloride, with is why meth can be made from cold medicine.