Agmatine is an aminoacid you can buy over the counter at supplement stores and online. It is used as a workout supplement, to make weed feel stronger, and as a hangover prevention remedy. Agmatine has a high affinity for a number of receptors sites, and it is currently being debated whether it satisfies the criteria for being called a neurotransmitter.
Of particular note is agmatine’s high affinity to the imidazoline receptor, which according to Thomas Ray- who analyzed the receptor affinity of 30+ psychedelics- might be one of the keys to the “magic of MDMA”. On 2o to 80mg doses on an empty stomach, agmatine does have a nice and very mild positive effect on valence. Mild relaxation, akin to chamomile tea, and mild feeling of social closeness, akin to a glass of wine or a bit of Indica. According to some anecdotal data, and in line with Thomas Ray’s predictions, taking agmatine in conjunction with 5HT2A agonists gives rise to a subtle empathogenic effect.
Now, all of that is for background. If you buy a tube of agmatine you will see that the recommended dose is between 500 milligrams and up to entire grams. After all, it is in food and it has an extremely high safety profile. Somehow the general public has missed that on much lower doses it has a nice mild euphoric quality. Anyhow, at the doses typically consumed, agmatine has a distinct blunting effect. As described by people who have both taken SSRIs and agmatine, the effects of high-dose agmatine on pleasurable and noxious stimuli are of the general type of “blunted quality”. Emotions feel more fuzzy, music sounds more flat, thoughts seem less deep, philosophy is more boring, and orgasm is less intense. This type of effect (both cutting the top and bottom ends of valence) is what we expect to happen if you add *neural noise* into your nervous system. Like listening to white noise—it is good if the sound it masks is dissonant and unpleasant, but bad if you are trying to listen to a symphony, or to the voice of your loved ones.
It is the blunting effect of agmatine at 0.5 grams+ doses that makes it a great candidate to reduce the impact of brainwashing. Like an SSRI, but much faster and reversibly, agmatine will make whatever multilevel marketing pyramid scheme feelings of guilt and greed you were subjected to kind of melt away and feel more dreamy and less “real”. This psychological effect seems to last after the agmatine has been metabolized.
(1) We are trying to arrive at a metric like you describe at QRI. See: Quantifying bliss and a future for neuroscience for the big-picture idea. I think the suffering you describe is very relevant for instrumental reasons, but perhaps not very large in terms of absolute values (still sucks, obviously!).
(2) I think that another important update that people should make in EA is that hell-seconds are not only much, much, much worse than garden-variety pain and suffering. But also that they are *far more prevalent* than we realize. About 20% of people in the US live with chronic pain, of which 8% is “high-impact” (i.e. severe enough to interfere with life on many fronts). Kidney stones happen to 10% of people, migraines are equally as common, and about 2-3% of people who get fractures develop complex regional pain syndrome, which tops the scale (and worse of all, it is chronic and persistent pain rather than episodic like cluster headaches).
I suspect most people will be horrified when we get an accurate estimate of a country’s Hell-Index. Perhaps you don’t dip your toes into those realms often, but chances are that your neighbor or two houses down the line someone very close to you does.
For context, this post is motivated by the realization that pain-scales are logarithmic compressions of what is probably an exponentially-increasing capacity for pain and suffering in sentient beings. Here is a simple example, as told by the guy who stung himself with 80+ insects to put the pain on a scale:
4:28 - The harvester ants is what got the sting pain scale going in the first place. I had been stung by honey bees, old jackers, paper wasps, etc. the garden variety stuff, that you get bitten by various beetles and things. I went down to Georgia, which has the Eastern-most extension of the harvester. I got stung and I said “Wooooow! This is DIFFERENT!” You know? I thought I knew everything there was about sting insects, I was just this dumb little kid. And realized “Wait a minute! There is something different going on here”, and that’s what got me to do the comparative analysis. Is this unique to harvester ants? Or are there others that are like that. It turns out while the answer is now we know what’s later—it’s unique! [unique type of pain].
7:09 - I didn’t really wanted to go out and get stung for fun. I was this desperate graduate student trying to get a thesis, so I could get out and get a real job, and stop being a student eventually. And I realized that, oh, we can measure toxicity, you know, the killing power of something, but we can’t measure pain… ouch, that one hurst, and that one hurts, and ouch that one over there also hurts… but I can’t put that on a computer program and mathematically analyze what it means for the pain of the insect. So I said, aha! We need a pains scale. A computer can analyze one, two, three, and four, but it can’t analyze “ouch!”. So I decided that I had to make a pain scale, with the harvester ant (cutting to the chase) was a 3. Honey bees was a 2. And I kind of tell people that each number is like 10 equivalent of the number before. So 10 honey bee stings are equal to 1 harvester ant sting, and 10 harvester ant stings would equal one bullet ant sting.
Some EAs have already pointed this out, but I suspect that this has yet to make it into “EA Canon” and it thus hasn’t really given rise to novel interventions. Brian Tomasik, Jonathan Leighton, Manu Herran, David Pearce, and other “suffering focused ethics” people have been saying this for a while. Read more here.
I realize that it is always kind of depressing to look into how bad suffering gets, but it does seem important to know if one is indeed trying to reduce suffering as much as possible.