Updated: Oct 15, 2019
DMT - The Spirit Molecule?
With my dreams of metaphysical awakening still in their infancy, my intuition always gave me the feeling that all was not what it seemed. With an inescapable gut feeling and a quiet, subconscious whisper, I knew there was more to this dimension than what I was taught at school.
Years later, using the first dial-up speed home internet, I would spend hours researching the miracle that is "aware experience" or consciousness. Like Neo following the white rabbit in the Matrix, I was inevitably lead to a website that talked openly about a psychedelic substance known as DMT. While it’s still relatively rare to hear about it today, back then it was totally unheard of and being no stranger to the world of hedonistic rave culture I scratched my head and thought “How have I never heard of this?”.
I became fascinated reading people’s accounts of paradigm shifting DMT experiences, ’trip reports’ became my new obsession and source of online catnip. Tales of intense, neon, ultra-high definition hallucinations, contact with interdimensional entities and becoming one with the universe, were all reported on breakthrough, hero doses of DMT.
Next unfolded a decade of research, a journey of self discovery and a quest for the keys to the prison doors of reality. Here I share with you my curated findings on the bridge between dimensions, the gateway to the astral world and what is now widely regarded as the "spirit molecule", aka DMT.
What is DMT?
When it comes to psychedelic medicines, they don’t come more intense and profound than DMT. DMT and it’s big brother 5MEO-DMT (which I’ll be talking about in another article) really are the “big guns” when it comes to psychedelics. DMT is an abbreviation for N,N-Dimethyltryptamine. It is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter found in both animals and plants. It is found abundantly throughout nature.
It is the active hallucinogenic compound in the psychedelic brew “ayahuasca”, a tea which has been used for centuries for ritual purposes by the indigenous tribes of the Amazon. DMT can be inhaled, ingested, or injected and its effects depend on the dose. When inhaled or injected, the effects are very intense but relatively short acting, about 5-15 mins. When ingested orally along with an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor), as with the ayahuasca brew mentioned above, the effects can last for up to 5 hours or more. The chemical structure of DMT occurs within some important neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, making them structural analogs of DMT. Just an absolutely strange and incredible phenomenon - the world’s most powerful psychedelic exists throughout nature and is the basis of our most important neurotransmitters.
History of DMT Usage
Traditional and ceremonial use of DMT can be traced back as far as 700 AD, where it was used in its unprocessed form as an ingredient in various hallucinogenic snuffs. As mentioned above, DMT occurs naturally in various plants and seeds, and often, particular seeds were ground up and blown into the nostrils using a pipe. Of course other traditional preparations were made using DMT containing plants, including the famous ayahuasca brews.
It wasn’t until 1931 when DMT was first synthesized in a laboratory by chemist Richard Helmuth Fredrick Manske and it was 1946 when DMT was first isolated (albeit partially) from a plant. In 1959 DMT was officially identified as an alkaloid from a plant when Gonçalves de Lima provided American chemists a sample of Mimosa tenuiflora roots and it was extracted fully for the first time.
The first report on the hallucinogenic effects of pure DMT happened in 1956 when Stephen Szara, a Hungarian biochemist, synthesized the drug in his lab and injected it himself. He was forced to turn to DMT experimentation when the pharmaceutical Sandoz Laboratory in Switzerland rejected his orders for LSD. He was so enamoured with the results that he began a psychotropic study.
In the study he learned how DMT was metabolized in the brain in both healthy and schizophrenic volunteers. Through the study, Szara determined that the biological and psychological effects, while under the influence of DMT, served as a key to understanding the brain’s functionality in normal states of consciousness as well as under the influence of psychedelics.
After the first wave of DMT studies in the 50’s and 60’s it gained momentum in 1965 when Franzen and Gross discovered that DMT can be found in the blood and urine of normal human subjects. Although it seemed an exciting time ahead for the development of our understanding into psychedelics, the passing of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 meant research into psychedelics virtually stopped for many years.
It wasn’t until the 1990’s when Rick Strassman began investigating DMT and pioneered contemporary research into hallucinogens. He believed that the profound effects on human consciousness they produced warranted further exploration. Strassman conducted his research at the University of New Mexico Hospital Clinical Research Centre. He administered hundreds of doses of DMT to dozens of volunteers. He published a number of landmark studies and then later published the book "The Spirit Molecule" in 2000, which helped to popularize the substance. A feature length documentary was made in 2010 under the same name which helped to propel DMT to superstardom amongst the psychedelic community.
This renewed interest in the 1990’s continued with the publication of the book "Tikhal" by Alexander and Anne Shulgin (Tikhal stands for "Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved"). It was their magnum opus, a detailed study of the psychopharmacological properties of all of the tryptamine substances, including DMT. Since then interest in DMT has increased, mainly due to the advent of the internet which gives people unprecedented access to information and the exposure created by popular individuals such as Joe Rogan and Graham Hancock who publicly discuss it.
How does DMT affect brain chemistry?
All very interesting stuff but let’s get down to the nitty gritty - how does DMT actually work in the brain?
DMT is primarily a serotonin receptor agonist and, like many other serotonergic hallucinogens such as LSD and Psilocybin mushrooms, psychedelic effects are specifically mediated by activation of the 5-HT2A receptor. Essentially DMT competes with serotonin in the brain at the receptor site and binds with the serotonin receptors. This is what creates the powerful hallucinations and altered state of consciousness.
As mentioned above, DMT has been found in the bodily fluids of humans and mammals so it has been proven that this substance already exists inside of us and there are theories as to how and where it is produced, which will be discussed later in this article, although at present it is all conjecture.
This makes for a very interesting fact regarding DMT - It’s not a foreign substance for human biochemistry. All other substances (apart from 5MEO-DMT which is also endogenously produced) that one can ingest, smoke, or inject; be it a synthesised chemical or natural substance are foreign to our biochemistry. Our bodies have to break them down and then excrete them in order for them to be processed. In essence they are a poison.
Because DMT is not foreign to us, our body and brain know exactly what to do with it. The brain metabolizes it instantly and within half an hour of taking it, it is completely gone from our system. With all other substances there will be some kind of “comedown” after taking them. Even natural substances like cannabis and psilocybin mushrooms can make one a little tired and groggy the day after use as the body rids itself of the substance. This is not the case with DMT. There is no comedown whatsoever. Within 30 mins of the effects wearing off one is 100% back to baseline. This also explains why DMT is so short acting when it is used without an MAOI. It is broken down and metabolized very quickly, it’s like the brain is hungry for it and eats it up very quickly.
So far I’ve touched on some of the chemistry and discussed the history of DMT but what about the actual effects. What does it actually do on an experiential level?
The effects of DMT vary in duration and intensity depending on the route of administration. Those who inject or inhale the substance experience short but immediately psychedelic effects while those who ingest it orally with an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitor) usually experience longer, less intense effects. An MAOI is necessary for DMT to be effective when taken orally. We have an enzyme in our bodies called monoamine oxidase that breaks down neurotransmitters in the brain when they've done their jobs. DMT being a neurotransmitter is completely broken down by monoamine oxidase when it is taken orally, before it has a chance to be absorbed into the bloodstream. By taking a substance that inhibits this enzyme, called an MAOI, DMT becomes orally active. Ayahuasca is one example of this. It always contains at least 2 plants as it's base, one being the ayahuasca vine which acts as an MAOI and another plant that contains DMT.
The physical effects are generally very mild but it can cause an increased heart rate and blood pressure, chest tightness, agitation, dilated pupils, rapid rhythmic eye movements, and dizziness. It can also cause vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea when taken orally with an MAOI.
The psychedelic and hallucinogenic effects are incredibly profound and will vary depending on dosage. There’s 3 basic levels to the DMT experience. The experience can be broken down to an even more granular level but for the purposes of this article we’ll look at the 3 basic levels.
The threshold effects are enhanced sensory perception with barely noticeable open eye visuals and a body feeling that’s like a cross between anaesthesia and arousal. There may also be some positive emotional response felt at this level.
Closed eye visuals
At a higher dose the visuals become more vivid and one will begin to see visual hallucinations with closed eyes. Anything from complex, neon geometric patterns to more organic “jungle” type visuals can be seen here. At this dose the person generally knows where they are and that they have used DMT. At any time they can open their eyes and come back to normal reality.
Breakthrough (with possible entity contact)
At a breakthrough dose one becomes completely immersed in the experience to the point where they can actually "become" the experience. The boundary between the subject of the experience and the experience itself begins to dissolve. At this level the user will be completely entranced and may appear to be asleep. At a breakthrough dose, whether the person has their eyes open or closed will make no difference to the visions. At this level there are a wide range of experiences that have been reported such as:
Entity contact where one communicates with apparent intelligent entities.
A feeling of complete union and becoming one with God or the universe
Intense and fully immersive psychedelic visions. Often described as being experienced in more than 3 dimensions or with a hyperdimensional quality that completely surround the user.
At the higher doses of DMT the experience is often completely ineffable with users grasping for and failing to find words to describe the experience. Language simply fails to capture even a fragment of what actually occurred during the experience. It seems that DMT is showing us higher levels of consciousness and dimensions that are beyond the rational mind to explain. Deep healing can happen at this level.
Entity contact is commonly reported at higher doses. These hyperdimensional realms appear to be teeming with seemingly benevolent and intelligent life. As well as direct communication, a common experience describes these entities “working on” or healing the user in various ways, such as clearing trauma, removing negative energy and realigning the chakras.
Are these experiences just projections of one’s own mind or are users entering into higher dimensional, alien or spirit realms? No one knows for sure.
For a deeper look into DMT experiences I highly recommend Rick Strassman’s book “DMT - The Spirit Molecule” and the 2000 documentary of the same name. In Strassman’s experiments, he administered DMT via intravenous injection into volunteers and monitored them medically during their trip and recorded their experiences. Strassman administered 400 doses of DMT to 60 volunteers over a period of five years between 1990 and 1995. What followed would lead to him writing several books, perform subsequent studies, and even help produce the 2000 documentary. In his studies 50% of the volunteers experienced entity contact including aliens, insects, other humans, reptiles, elves and dwarves.
Many experienced rapidly moving images similar to kaleidoscopes resembling Mayan, Islamic, or Aztec geometric patterns. Strassman also hypothesized that DMT may be produced by the pineal gland in the brain which is also responsible for producing melatonin and serotonin and may be involved in the process of dreaming. He also suggested that the brain is flooded with DMT when we are born and when we die. This would help to explain the visions encountered with NDEs (near death experiences).
Early on in my research into DMT I discovered the American ethnobotanist, lecturer and author Terrence Mckenna. An experienced psychonaut and strong proponent and spokesperson for the use of psychedelics, especially psilocybin mushrooms, Terrence was absolutely fascinated by DMT. He has written many books and one only needs to type in “Terrence Mckenna DMT” into the YouTube search bar to find hundreds of videos and audio recordings of him talking about this magical substance.
Even though Rick Strassman’s research was a true landmark and the beginning of a renaissance of research into DMT and other psychedelics, no one is more well associated with and has more vividly described what happens on a DMT trip as Terence McKenna.
During his lifetime Mckenna worked with, studied, and had taken a variety of psychedelics. Through his extensive experience with DMT, he’s offered detailed explanations of what his typical DMT trip looks like. Mckenna coined the term “Machine elves” to describe the entities he came into contact with on his trips. Similar elf like entities have been reported by several different DMT users, including the subjects in Strassman’s experiments.
Mckenna also famously gave the advice of “Take the third hit!’ when describing how to breakthrough when vaporizing DMT. Users would often stop at the second inhalation, fearing that they had already taken enough and the experience was already strong. In one of his talks he describes this phenomenon and then goes on to describe the trip itself...
“Many people miss the point because after two hits you feel completely peculiar. You feel as though your body is undergoing some kind of strange anaesthesia. Like all the air has been pumped out of the room. This is the visual acuity thing I talked about last night, the colours jump up, the edges sharpen. At that point people say ‘Oh wow it’s coming on really strong” and then what you have to do is you have to take one more enormous hit and this separates the intrepid from the casual, believe me.
And you as the facilitator doesn’t want to lean on the person, but you’ll say ‘Come on damn it, take the third hit!' and the person will say 'No, I feel completely weird!'. You say 'I know you feel weird but take the third hit'. Well, if you can coax somebody into that then what happens is you close your eyes and you see the ordinary warm brown or black closed eyelids scenario, and then these colours begin racing together and it forms this mandalic, floral, slowly rotating thing which I call 'the chrysanthemum'.
This is a place in the trip that you want to see as you go by it. The chrysanthemum forms and you go by it for like 15 seconds. If it doesn’t give way; then you didn’t do enough and you have to do more, one more hit will usually do it. Well then what happens is like it physically propels your through this chrysanthemum-like thing and there’s a sound like a 'saran wrap' bread wrapper being crumpled up and thrown away, you know that crackle. A friend of mine says this is your radio entelechy leaving through the anterior fontanelle at the top of your head.
And then there’s this very defined sense of bursting through something, a membrane, and on the other side as you break through there’s a cheer. There’s a whole bunch of entities waiting on the other side and you know that Pink Floyd song, ‘The gnomes have found a new way to say hooray’, well it’s that place, it’s those gnomes. And you burst into this space and they’re saying, ‘How wonderful that you’re here, you come so rarely, we're so delighted to see you!'
These things are there and they're hammering at you and they come forward, they’re like jewelled, self-dribbling basketballs and there are many of them and they come pounding toward you and they will stop in front of you and vibrate but then they do a very disconcerting thing which is they jump into your body. They jump into your body and then they jump back out again and the whole thing is going on in this very high speed mode where you’re being presented with thousands of details per second and you can’t get a hold on it and you say ‘My God, what happening? And these things are saying ‘Don’t abandon yourself to amazement!” which is exactly what you want to do, you just want to go nuts with how crazy this is.
They say 'Don’t do that, don’t do that.....pay attention, pay attention to what we’re doing!'. Well what are they doing? Well, what they’re doing is their making objects with their voices, they’re singing structures into existence. What they’ll do is they’ll come towards you and you have to understand they don’t have arms so we’re downloading this into a lower dimension to even describe it but what they do is they offer things to you.
They say “Look at this, look at this!” and as your attention goes towards these objects you realise that what you’re being shown is impossible. It’s impossible. It’s not simply intricate, beautiful and hard to manufacture, it’s impossible to make these things. The nearest analogy would be to Fabergé eggs or something like that. But these things are like the toys that are scattered around the nursery inside a UFO or something. And the toys themselves appear to be somehow alive, the toys themselves can sing other objects into existence so what’s happening is that there’s this proliferation of 'elf gifts'.
And the elf gifts are moving around, singing and the whole thing is directed toward what they’re saying, which is 'Do what we are doing!'. And they are very insistent, they say ‘Do it, do it, do it!’ And you feel like a bubble, now this is subjective only 5% or so report this but it happens to me but you feel like some kind of bubble inside your body that’s beginning to move upward towards your mouth and when it come out it isn’t sound, it’s vision, you discover you can pump stuff out of your mouth by singing and they’re urging you to do this and they say ‘That’s it, keep doing it!’.
And now we’re at minute 4.5 with this stuff and you speak in a kind of glossolalia. There’s a spontaneous outpouring of syntax unaccompanied by what is normally called meaning. This is accompanied by a modality, something seen and they say ‘Yes, do it, do it!’ And then after a minute the whole thing begins to collapse in on itself and they literally begin to physically move away from you and usually their final shot is they actually wave goodbye and they say ‘Déjà vu, déjà vu’ which makes no sense at all if you analyze it.
And then you come down and you’re now at minute 6 to 7 and you come down and it’s like being more loaded than you’ve ever been. It’s like about a 700μg acid trip but you embrace it as totally down. You say ‘I’m totally down….you look like a termite from Artouris and the room is decorated in Amish quilts but I’m completely back’. And then over a minute or a minute and a half or so the room comes right back together and 4 minutes after that some people can give no account of it whatsoever.
They say 'I don’t know, it was the weirdest thing that ever happened to me and I can’t remember it now.'"
Mike Tyson discusses his DMT experience
World heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson discusses his enlightening spiritual awakening after smoking 5 meo DMT, a psychedelic drug that occurs naturally in some plants and animals. Tyson also shares how his ego has shaped his life, and he goes in depth about his relationship with the metaphysical.
A fascinating read, I think you’ll agree!
Because of the way McKenna has experienced the DMT trip fading from memory, he also thought DMT might have a role in dreaming. The experience of the DMT trip erasing from memory is reminiscent of the way a dream is harder to remember after you wake up.
DMT is a complete mystery. A wonderful, paradoxical mystery and we’re not even at the beginning of being able to understand what it is.
I hope you enjoyed this article, there will be plenty more to come about DMT and it’s big brother 5MEO-DMT.
Aho for now!
P.S If you're interested in learning more about how to heal with Kambo frog medicine, check out the link below for details on our upcoming training courses.