Does heaven exist? With well over 100,000 plus recorded and described spiritual experiences collected over 15 years, to base the answer on, science can now categorically say yes. Furthermore, you can see the evidence for free on the website allaboutheaven.org.

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This book, which covers Visions and hallucinations, explains what causes them and summarises how many hallucinations have been caused by each event or activity. It also provides specific help with questions people have asked us, such as ‘Is my medication giving me hallucinations?’.

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Serotonin imbalance

Category: Illness or disabilities



Introduction and description


see below for credits on all photos on this page

Serotonin - 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) is a monoamine neurotransmitter – a chemical messenger. It is biochemically derived from tryptophan, an essential amino acid. 

Serotonin regulates functions in the sense of any message. 

One function will trigger other functions in the systems of which it is a part, serotonin acts as the carrier of input and output between functions.  A detailed descriptions of the functions of serotonin are given in the suppression section - see the functions of serotonin.

And in some cases of serotonin imbalance a person can have spiritual experiences, often very extreme ones such as out of body experiences, and intense visions.

Symptoms of imbalance


Looking at individual receptors, looking at agonistic versus antagonistic action does not help in narrowing down the effects of imbalance.  

The pendulum of imbalance once it starts to swing can produce a whole gamut of symptoms whether the cause is deficiency or overdose.  This is because the body is trying to adjust to get back into balance, but may be defeated by constant adjustments to the dose from drugs and food or lack of food.  Thus although people try to classify symptoms, in practise symptoms may be mixed – overdose in one area produces deficiencies in others. 

The main systems and functions affected by serotonin imbalance are:

The function of the ego


Imbalance here causes untold problems and symptoms in the long and short term.  Either the person becomes completely egotistical – ego inflation - or the ego is deflated so much the person becomes subservient, ‘pathetic’, insecure, fearful and depressed, they lack the confidence or the will to live.  They may become paranoic or suicidal.  Ego inflation is manifest in a number of ways:

  • Delusional behaviour-  including forms of over confidence and over estimation of mental and physical abilities, self-destructive lack of fear, reduced sense of  insecurity
  • Aggression and dominant behaviour – including violent behaviour
  • Immoral or unethical behaviour -  in contrast a person with low ego may be amoral.
  • Uninspired – When a person is not in balance they are incapable of intuitive behaviour, inspiration, or sudden flashes of genius.
  • Impulsivity – Ego inflation brings with it the delusion of ‘quick-thinking’.  But ego inflation does not produce a wise person it simply produces stupid thinking done fast. 

Ego inflation is often accompanied by loud talking, the louder the person the more inflated the ego, this is a by-product of their feelings of self importance.

The functions of the appetite


An imbalance may cause excessive appetite or a lack of appetite – for everything not just food – sex, material goods, food, drink etc. 

It can result in various forms of compulsive behaviour. 

There may be insatiable desire – for all things material as well as a constant pursuit of ‘pleasure’ or ‘pain’ – high levels of stimulation. 

There is then a link with anxiety, it will produce an anxiousness derived from lack of contentment.  Violent Sexual behaviour may also be a by-product.

The nausea and vomiting function

Imbalance either produces excessive nausea and vomiting – as happens in morning sickness, or motion sickness or it may prevent vomiting [when it may actually be needed].

The Vasoconstriction function


Imbalance here leads to a whole series of knock on effects including:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias – as well as increased heart rate and high blood pressure
  • Heart damage –  any form of overdose levels the serotonin may promote a proliferation of myocytes onto the valves and cause heart damage.  An insufficiency would mean a damaged heart does not mend. 
  • Male impotence – both short and long term [caused by the vasoconstriction].  It is noticeable that some drugs acting to negate the vasoconstriction cause priapism
  • Hypoxia – it is through the hypoxia that spiritual experiences such as hallucinations, visions, OBEs, NDEs etc are obtained, more detail is provided below in ‘how it works’

The Intestinal movement functions

An imbalance may thus cause diarrhoea or constipation.

The integrated system of the body and message volume


In looking at this problem, what may not be at first clear is that the 'dose' - the number of serotonin' messages is all important.

Receptor damage and knock-out

One way in which the body tries to bring the system back into balance, if very high levels of messages are being experienced on a continuous basis,  is to reduce the number of receptors.  In this case, if any reduction of intake then ensues, the reduction in receptors will result in a complete lack of messages and almost total lack of function as a result.

The functional dependencies in an integrated system

In targeting drugs at one receptor in the hope of addressing one problem, medics actually cause a vast number of other problems.  Our body  is an integrated functional system – an increased input of any messenger to one function to boost its activity, may be an overdose to another function served by the same messenger and may so over stimulate it that it knocks it out.

Knock out doses

 The simple idea that increase of serotonin increases the ego, for example, in an almost continuous process of inflation also does not hold.  It appears that once an overdose level is reached [for example in the use of LSD or 5-MeO-DMT], the flood of messages to the function of the ego is of such intensity that it actually knocks the function out.

Thus as the levels of serotonin increase, the ego becomes more inflated, until a certain threshold level – dependent on weight, age and susceptibility – when the ego is deflated in a violent experience – which we classify on the site as a rebirth experience.

This has been shown in experiments with fruit flies and in experiments with people.  The same may be true of the other functions - appetite, intestinal movement etc.



Three main causes stand out:

  • Nutritional deprivation – especially a diet lacking or overloaded in tryptophan
  • Organ damage – damage to any organ that is contributory to producing serotonin
  • Pharmaceuticals – legal and illegal

Nutritional deprivation

One of the precursors to serotonin is the amino acid tryptophan.  If there is inadequate intake of tryptophan, then serotonin deficiency can occur. The opposite is also possible – too high an intake of tryptophan based foods may produce a serotonin overdose.

A diet overloaded in meat, cheese and eggs, soy, oats [porridge], bananas, salmon, cod, milks and chick peas for example might constitute a trypophan and hence serotonin overload.  It might also explain [might] why the so called 'western diet' produces such aggressive egotistical people, whereas a vegetarian diet produces relatively passive docile folk.

Surgery or physical damage


5-Hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) is the main metabolite of serotonin in the human body. In chemical analysis of urine samples, it is used to determine the body's levels of serotonin.  It is known that 5-HIAA levels can vary depending on the presence of tumors in the intestine, and small bowel resection.  Carcinoid tumours of the enterochromaffin (Kultschitzsky) cells of the small intestine, for example, release large amounts of serotonin.  In contrast if the small intestine is in any way damaged by surgery or similar, the serotonin release will decline. 

5-HIAA is also increased in untreated patients with malabsorption, and celiac disease. It is increased in those with chronic intestinal obstruction. All these are intestinal related problems. 

Thus we know that Intestine disease can cause serotonin imbalance, for what caused the Intestine disease we need to work further back, as the ultimate cause is still not known.  

But other organs are also users and suppliers of serotonin.  Thus any organ that supplies and uses serotonin - if damaged - is going to affect the balance - including the brain.



Perhaps the major cause of serotonin imbalance in the vast majority of people is drugs/pharmaceuticals – legal and illegal. 

For those who doubt the drug link – a glance at the eHealthme site in the section on the drugs that can cause aggression  [the site uses ADRs from SEDA and the FDA] will show that a whole host of serotonin based pharmaceuticals are associated with causing aggression - just one of the symptoms of too much serotonin.

Cocaine as an example of overdose - Imagine now, a man eating the western diet and also consuming high doses of Cocaine.  Cocaine acts by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, norephinephrine, and dopamine. This results in greater concentrations of these three neurotransmitters in the brain. It can easily cross the blood–brain barrier and may lead to the breakdown of the barrier.  This man would have an ego the size of a double decker bus!  Here we would have a man with aggression, a massive sexual appetite coupled with impotence, a complete lack of empathy or ethics, and a huge insatiable appetite for all things material - a potential  hedge fund manager, dentist shooting wild life or market maker [I jest - or maybe I don't].  He would also be a good candidate for heart failure.  His wife [if he had one] would be rich and completely sexually frustrated - a sobering thought!

Amphetamines as an example of overdose - Much the same would happen of the person was on amphetamines.  Amphetamines [according to Wikipdia] " increase  cellular communication or neurotransmission of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, histamine, CART peptides, acetylcholine, endogenous opioids, and glutamate"!


Types of drugs - A very large number of other types of drug act on the serotonin receptor, either through deliberate drug design or accidentally as a side effect of the drug structure.  Some drugs that are classified as illegal were once legal but withdrawn from the market due to safety concerns, some illegal drugs are based on legal ones.  In essence, the separation between legal and illegal is arbitrary in this area and many so called ‘recreational’ drug users know this as do the laboratories that serve this market.

Drug classes in general that act on the serotonin receptor include the following.  We have not listed the drugs because this area is so volatile, that the drugs in the list may very soon get out of date from name changes and removal or addition onto the market:

  • SSRIs -  selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors - the class of antidepressants of the same name. These all increase the dose of serotonin because they are classified as 'release inhibitors'.  
  • TCAs – Tricyclic anti-depressants, although not all have serotonin activity, most do.
  • SRIs - serotonin reuptake inhibitors, excluding the SSRIs, are found in cough medicines – many over the counter, in anti-depressants, anti-anxiety disorder and eating disorders, neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia, and even anti-histamines as an unwanted effect.  The full list is provided via the link to the science section.
  • Serotonin receptor antagonists – are used, for example, as anti-emetics.  5-HT3 receptor antagonists block serotonin receptors in the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. As such, they are used to treat post-operative and cytotoxic drug nausea & vomiting.  Atypical antipsychotic drugs like clozapine, olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone and asenapine are relatively potent antagonists of 5-HT2A as are some of the lower potency old generation/typical antipsychotics.  Other antagonists also exist.  Bufotenine is, according to the IUPHAR database an 5-HT1D and 5-HT2A antagonist.  For more details see Smoking toad venom!  For a full list follow the link.
  • Serotonin receptor agonists – can be selective and non selective agonists.  A serotonin receptor agonist is a compound that activates serotonin receptors, in a manner similar to serotonin.  The class includes a large number of legal drugs and an equally large number of illegal drugs.  The class also includes a very large number of pharmaceuticals that found their way to clinical trial, were rejected, were resubmitted for something else, were rejected and so it goes on.  Universities appear to be a primary area for the invention of new drugs.  Follow the link for more details.
  • SARIs - Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs) are used mainly as antidepressants, but also as anti-anxiety drugs. They act by antagonizing serotonin receptors and inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine. Some act as α1-adrenergic receptor antagonists.  Examples include Mepiprazole (Psigodal); Trazodone [whose side effects include cardiac arrhythmia and priapism] and Vortioxetine
  • Tryptamine acts as a non-selective serotonin receptor agonist and serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine releasing agent (SNDRA), with a preference for evoking serotonin and dopamine release over norepinephrine release.  As a consequence a whole host of legal and illegal drugs have sprung up that are based on this, not a few of which have caused deaths
  • SRAs are serotonin releasing agents.  These drugs induce the release of serotonin into the neuronal synaptic cleft.  They include a whole raft of legal and illegal drugs marketed as anything from appetite suppressants, to analgesic,’neuroprotectives’ [sic], and so called ‘recreational drugs’.
  • SNRIs are serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) - used for  major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain, obesity plus a number of other complaints, some are also anti-histamines.  Examples include Cocaine [illegal] and Cymbalta [legal]

 The only way ultimately to find out if the pharmaceutical you have been given has any serotonin activity – whether incidentally or deliberately is to look up a chemical database like the IUPHAR database which is constantly being updated.


One safe way in which serotonin levels can be supplemented in cases of deficiency caused by nutritional deprivation or serotonin receptor loss caused by overdose,  is to eat tryptophan containing foods such as bananas, seeds, soy beans, rice and drink milk –see the full list of foods containing tryptophan.  These foods do not contain serotonin, they contain the precursor – the amino acid – to make serotonin. 

How it works

If we look at some of the more extreme spiritual experiences from imbalance and summarise them, we find that users report

  • Synaesthesia – particularly sound to touch combinations
  • Visual Hallucinations etc –Those who consider themselves recreational users  “have reported visual distortion”. Visual distortions include open and closed-eye patterning, movement trails, and shifting colours.  Visuals are often geometric, wavy, and/or spiraled. Other visual distortions and hallucinations tend to be experienced in the peripheral vision. The self or the environment may take on a stylized cartoon-like look or feel. Flashes of light and sparkles are also common.
  • Out of body experiences/near death experiences -  Some of the drugs – legal and illegal have produced out of body experiences.  One or two NDEs.  These are accompanied by the usual feelings of body & muscle energy, and humming and buzzing
  • Auditory hallucinations accompanied by intense inner ear pressure (which can be very painful), leading to sound distortion. This may include a radical shift downward in perceived pitch. This shift tends to be nonlinear, in that the shift downwards varies in relation to the initial pitch. This can produce bizarre effects.  People may experience “pitch bend, volume distortion, and rate distortion” and a feeling that music is “dissonant and less harmonious”.  This ear pressure has led to permanent tinnitus and deafness in some people – another symptom.

What causes these?


Many of the symptoms of overdosing on serotonin are the same as those associated with an excessive stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, the flight or fight response mechanism and indeed may be caused by this as the body is effectively being poisoned. Thus the symptoms of poisoning and bodily distress are combined producing

  • Tremour – tremor can be caused by any number of pathogens including heavy metals, but serotonin at overdose levels also produces tremor.
  • Pupil dilation
  • Dryness in the mouth
  • Exhaustion and distress – which can include symptoms like headache, chills from slightly elevated body temperature with potential dehydration
  • Stress and extreme fatigue  - from the long duration of effects.
  • Histamine reactions – allergic like reactions such as skin problems, itching, breathing problems all of which are related to the body trying to deal with what it perceives to be a major pathogen
  • Jaw clenching – muscle rigidity, aching limbs, body fatigue

‘Excessive’ overdoses have caused clinical intoxication, characterized by nausea, vomiting, agitation, hypotension or hypertensive crisis, mydriasis, tachycardia, violent and terrifying hallucinations and other forms of acute psychosis, and finally Rhabdomyolysis and renal failure followed by death.


The real key here is that imbalance and particularly overdose produces vasoconstriction and in effect most of the so called spiritual effects are due to hypoxia – very severe hypoxia.  This is the brain shutting down by slow degrees.

There is a very serious side to this.  In the medium to long term hypoxia produces brain damage – permanent brain damage.

Elevated serotonin (hyperserotonemia) is one of the most common biological findings in various sorts of brain damage from autism to bipolar disease.  Exposure to high levels of serotonin over time causes brain damage in general.  Scientific research has shown that alpha-ethyltryptamine, for example, is a serotonergic neurotoxin.

References and further reading

All the photos on this page are by Katerina Plotnikova, her Facebook page can be accessed by followong the link.  They were chosen because they add beauty to an othewise rather depressing illness


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